Recording - March 2017 - 46

RHA

Dacamp L1
Portable listening made...
well... glorious
REVIEW BY MIKE METLAY

R

HA (Reid Heath Acoustics) has been providing the world
with fantastic in-ear monitors from its factory in Scotland
for several years, combining elegant machining and
innovative designs with exquisite sonics. I've reviewed a number
of RHA products over the years, and the T20i is still my go-to
in-ear monitor when I don't have access to my custom-fitted in-ears.
Everything about RHA exudes quality from the moment you open
the package, so when I learned last year that the firm was about
to release its first portable D/A converter for high-definition listening,
I was excited to hear the results.

One sexy little box

The Dacamp L1 comes in a magnetically-fastened display/
storage box with neatly arranged packets that hold its manual
and various accessories. These include two connection cables-
one USB A to Micro-B for use with a Mac or PC, one USB
Micro-B to Micro-B for use with Android devices-and a soft
cloth and two silicone bands to strap the Dacamp L1 to your
smartphone or audio player without scratching either one.
The Dacamp L1 itself is about the size and shape of a
smartphone, 118 x 73 x 20 mm, weighing a solid 233 grams
due to its beautifully machined aluminum body. One end has
its headphone outputs, one minijack and one 4-pin mini-XLR,
and a roller-style volume thumbwheel with a red/white status
LED. The other end has a minijack for a Line input (using the
Dacamp L1 strictly as an amplifier with no D/A conversion);
this jack also accepts a miniplug-style optical digital connector.
There's also a minijack line output, and two USB jacks (one A,
one micro-B) with a selector switch for the input source.
Along the side are three click-knobs protected by an
aluminum guard. Two are EQ controls for Treble and Bass.
The third selects Lo/Mid/Hi gain range, or a special setting
where the Dacamp L1's internal battery can be used to charge
a smartphone or other device. It's important not to set this
accidentally while using the Dacamp L1 for listening, and my
only ergonomic gripe with the unit is that it's relatively easy at
first to accidentally switch from Lo gain to charger mode when
you meant to switch to Mid gain.
There's a downloadable audio driver available for Windows
PCs; for every other device, the Dacamp L1 works without
drivers at sample rates up to an astronomical 384 kHz,
handling bit depths of 16, 24, or 32. It also works as a DSD
46

RECORDING MARCH 2017

playback converter at rates from 2.8 to 11.2 MHz (DSD64
to DSD256). I confess that I only tested it out to 24/192 and
DSD128, not having any handy audio at greater sample rates
or resolutions. Sorry about that.
Some specs: frequency response of 20 Hz to 100 kHz
(no tolerances given), distortion < 0.0018%, maximum output
of 300 mW into a 16Ω load and 28 mW into a 300Ω
load, impedance range of 8Ω to 600Ω (meaning it will handle
anything from tiny earbuds to audiophile high-impedance
headphone designs), with a maximum input level of 1.5Vrms.
The 4000mAh Lithium-Ion battery is rated at 10 hours of
continuous battery life and takes about 4 hours to charge;
that's easily enough to give most smartphones a full emergency charge before running out of juice. RHA reports that the
Dacamp L1 supports its high-quality output with zero crosstalk
by providing a completely separate D/A converter chip (an
ES9018K2M) and class AB amplifier for each output channel.
The two EQ controls range from -3 dB to +9 dB with a
clearly marked flat setting; no corner frequencies or filter
characteristics are given anywhere in the literature, but I
assume these are conventional stereo-listening "tilt" or shelving
controls. They add a huge amount of bass boom or treble
tizz if that's what you want, but for virtually all of my listening
sessions I left them flat and wouldn't miss them if they were
omitted. (Something for RHA to think about: move the gain/
charger control, omit the row of knobs, and make a D/A
that's smaller and less fiddly!)

In use

Using the Dacamp L1 is as easy as plugging in your sound
source and turning it on. The two provided cables allow for
connection to everything but iOS devices, which use the USB
A port and a standard Apple Lightning charging/sync cable.
Once that's done, there's nothing to do but listen... and that's
where the fun begins.
Nothing beats a great D/A and amplifier driving great
headphones when it comes to pure listening delight, but what's
particularly interesting is how this converter improves almost
anything you connect to it at either end. On the input side, it's no
surprise that a great converter can provide great sound from a
PC or Mac, but many users aren't aware of how good a smartphone



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - March 2017

Contents
Recording - March 2017 - Intro
Recording - March 2017 - Cover1
Recording - March 2017 - Cover2
Recording - March 2017 - 1
Recording - March 2017 - 2
Recording - March 2017 - 3
Recording - March 2017 - 4
Recording - March 2017 - 5
Recording - March 2017 - Contents
Recording - March 2017 - 7
Recording - March 2017 - 8
Recording - March 2017 - 9
Recording - March 2017 - 10
Recording - March 2017 - 11
Recording - March 2017 - 12
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Recording - March 2017 - 18
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Recording - March 2017 - 27
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Recording - March 2017 - Cover3
Recording - March 2017 - Cover4
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