Arcam – irDAC-ii
Being the first company to offer an outboard DAC in 1987, you could say Arcam have a more than experience in this market, and it definitely comes across in their latest version of the rDAC.
The new irDAC-ii features 2 optical and 2 coax inputs, USB type A for connecting to a PC or MAC, aptX Bluetooth, support for DSD128, 24 bit ESS Sabre DAC chip, headphone output and also a remote control. The remote feels a little on the cheap side compared to the main unit, however it’s still perfectly usable with a simple layout.
Styling is consistent with the new Arcam Solo Music and Solo Movie, with suitably high quality build and reassuring weight.
If you’re interested in getting a pre / power combo the irDAC-ii can be used as a pre amp thanks to the volume control that’s been added (primarily for the headphone amp section) and the fixed line out.
Chord Electronics – Mojo
Designed more as a mobile DAC than for use in a full system (use a jack to phono cable to use with an amplifier), the Mojo simply has to get mention on this comparison for being so insanely good, and for bringing that unique Chord styling to the sub £500 category.
So what does £399 buy you in the world of Chord Electronics? Well you get one of the most outrageously styled audio products on the market. Chord Electronics are known for their off the wall styling, and complete lack of input labels on higher end products, giving you the added bonus of learning on the job as to what goes where. Boring Displays? No thanks, have a look through the porthole style display on the £1400 Chord Hugo DAC, the Mojo’ big brother, and you could be forgiven for expecting to see exotic fish swimming inside.
The Mojo continues with this bonkers styling, rather than having buttons the Mojo has glowing spheres that light up in a different colour to indicate battery status and sample rates. Slightly baffling at first you will need to keep referring to the manual until you get used to what colour means what, but these quirks are all part of the Chord Electronics experience
You can connect 2 sets of headphones, and inputs include optical, coaxial and USB.