Arcam rDock

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I archive all my music files in uncompressed WAV format (terabytes are cheap) on a ReadyNAS box.  As an experiment, I transcribed several assorted WAV tracks into 128-Kbps mp3 format. (Like many people, I use 128-Kbps on my iPod to squeeze in as much music that I can, and mp3 for device portability.)

I did a back-to-back comparison between the 128-Kbps mp3 files and corresponding WAV files using a roll your own HTPC, which is hooked into my audio rig via a Sunfire TGIII receiver. My HTPC system also has an audiophile grade sound card from RME Audio that features almost jitter free S/PDIF output.

I already knew what to expect. The mp3 tracks wilted away like ice cream on a hot Baghdad sidewalk. And at the 320-Kbps setting it was still sticky awful. Both music types ran runny in comparison to their uncompressed WAV versions.

So what does all this mean for the rDock?  For the vast majority of users, not much, as the number of people using iPods as their sole source component in a high-end rig is probably zero to none. 

As for those who have become conditioned to hearing low bit rate compressed audio as the norm, they likely won’t notice any difference, except that via the rDock it sounds, god help us, much “better” than competing dock products.

So we have a review paradox.  We have a great “sounding” piece of gear in the rDock that will only sound great to those who don’t know what great sound is. 

In the land of the deaf, the man with one ear is still a pauper.


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