Meet Arcam’s rplay. It’s a compact, wireless-router-resembling streamer that can turn even the most traditional system into a plug-and-play-almostanything network streaming set-up.
That’s thanks to the DTS Playfi streaming platform, built into the rplay. It unlocks the ability to stream music wirelessly from smartphones, tablets or laptops to speakers throughout the home, and from a range of music sources.
With Playfi’s impressive music streaming inventory comprising Amazon Music, Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, Napster and Deezer, as well as expanding to internet radio, Apple Airplay and compatibility with NAS drives on the same network, you’re pretty much covered.
Download the dedicated DTS Playfi app (there’s no physical remote) and you’ll be able to stream services on up to eight rplay devices connected to the same network simultaneously. Did someone say multi-room?
That asks some multitasking of the app, and while flaky software joins internet drop-outs and video buffering in our list of pet hates, the Playfi is consistently stable, as well as intuitive to use. It isn’t fazed by dashing through our NAS drive’s lengthy library and, in our week with it, we aren’t subject to dropouts or meltdowns.
The rplay supports PCM files up to 24-bit/192khz – the DTS Playfi app has a ‘Critical Listening’ mode that allows native streaming up to 192khz without downsampling.
In typical Arcam fashion, careful consideration has been taken with the internal architecture of the box itself to reduce noise and distortion. The four-layer circuit board reduces interference between components, and the use of multiple low-noise power supplies aims to deliver the cleanest signal to the output stage.
Connecting an rplay to an amplifier or external DAC can happen either by one of its two line-level outputs or via its single coaxial output.
Our choice of amplifier for connection to the rplay is Onkyo’s multi-awardwinning A9010. On the surface it looks pretty ordinary. Its appearance is neat in a wholly functional way, lacking anything in the way of overt design flourishes. It’s clear that pretty much all the creative effort has gone on optimising the electronics.
There are defeatable tone controls, a decent array of line-level inputs, a moving-magnet phono stage and a headphone output. And we feel it finds a great match in Q Acoustics’ 3020 standmount speakers. The 3020s have a cabinet made mainly from 15mm MDF panels but with a double-layer 30mm top plate and similarly layered 24mm front baffle. This structure is then braced in specific places to control resonances and help with stiffness. All this work pays off in an enclosure that feels immensely solid and provides a good, rigid foundation for the drive units to work from.
The 3020s are single-wire only. Though apparently a retrograde step, at this end of the market it’s much better to have a single length of decent cable than two sets of inferior alternatives.
We need to talk about Kevlar
As for drivers, the 12.5cm mid/bass unit’s cone material has changed from a paper/ mica mix in the 2000 series to one that combines paper and aramid fibre, more commonly known as Kevlar. This strengthens the paper cone and makes its behaviour more predictable, leading to what Q Acoustics describes as a “more natural tonality”. The 25mm tweeter uses a diaphragm that aims to combine the best qualities of ring-radiator and dome designs: the aim being to deliver highs with low distortion and wide dispersion. Its motor system uses a dual ferrite magnet, and the whole assembly is decoupled from the main cabinet structure by butyl rubber to isolate it from the vibrations of the cabinet.
True to type
Over the years, Q Acoustics has developed a specific sonic character for its products. They tend to be refined and subtle, but with enough in the way of dynamic punch and rhythm drive to satisfy. And so it is with the 3020s.
Their innate refinement means that any harshness or edge in the partnering electronics isn’t emphasised – ideal if you’re using the rplay to run less-thanstudio-quality Spotify streams – though they’re also well capable of digging out a quality performance from something of higher resolution.
It all makes for an energetic, exciting performance without sacrificing the kind of maturity you’d expect from a system costing eight-tenths of a grand. Expert timing and impressive dynamic range keep music interesting as well as entertaining, and there’s plenty of insight for those deep listens as well as the ability to power a party.
So many entry-level products seem keen to over-egg certain aspects of sonic performance, as if attempting to trick the listener into thinking they’re getting more bang for their buck, but these three components share a refreshing sense of transparency that will serve you well whatever upgrades you end up making in the future.
If ever a system added up to more than the sum of its parts, it’s this one. It’s versatile, entertaining and deftly belies its budget status.
“Download the app and you’ll be able to stream services on up to eight rplay devices connected to the same network. Did someone say multi-room?”