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Crutchfield: Focal Arche headphone amp & DAC
Our take on the Focal Arche by Crutchfield's Jeff Miller
The all-metal Focal Arche includes an aluminum headphone stand to display your headphones proudly (Focal Utopia headphones not included).
Purpose-built for some of the world's best headphones
When Nicolas Debard, the head of Focal's audiophile headphone division, visited Crutchfield with the premium closed-back Stellia headphones, he also brought this treat from France. The Focal Arche headphone amp/DAC was designed to push Focal's super high-end headphones to their full sonic potential. Of course, with built-in Class A amplifiers and high-grade DAC chips under the hood, this heavy-duty desktop amp can help improve the performance of almost any set of 'phones.
But when you turn the metal dial and scroll through the menu settings, you'll find some special presets. Focal has included a customized sound setting for each of their top-shelf headphones, including the Stellia, Utopia, Clear, and Elegia. And Nicolas told us that they would create new presets for any future headphone releases, and make them available via a firmware update.
Why is this amp a good match with Focal headphones?
In the photo carousel at the top of this product page, you'll find a video where Nicolas breaks down the key features of the Arche amp/DAC. One part of the interview that ended up on the cutting room floor was a discussion about the advantage of "closed systems." I asked why a Focal amp and Focal's headphones would make a good combination. Is this just a match in name alone?
"Since we are driver and speaker manufacturers," he said, "we know what type of amplification our drivers need."
He explained that on the design side, they keep hyper-detailed records of each driver's measurements and characteristics. "Essentially, we know the driver's DNA," he said, "looking at that, we know exactly what the drivers can do — and precisely what they would need in terms of power."
Dual-mono design maximizes stereo separation
All DACs are only as good as their, well, DAC chip. Focal chose one of the best out there for the Arche: the high-grade VERITA AK4490 DAC chip. These are stereo DAC chips, so Focal could've used one and called it a day. But by using two in a dual-mono configuration, Focal was able to reduce noise and crosstalk compared to using a single chip.
In fact, the Arche uses dual-mono balanced circuitry throughout. There are dedicated Class A amplifiers for both the left and right channel for potent sound with well-defined stereo imaging.
The ins and outs
Focal designed the Arche to get the best from all your music sources. The back-panel offers digital and analog inputs, including optical and coaxial digital, and even a USB Type B input. That means you can connect everything from disc players, streaming audio devices, a computer, and more.
On the front panel, you'll find a 1/4" unbalanced output and a balanced 4-pin XLR output for headphone listening. On the back, there are unbalanced stereo RCA outputs and balanced stereo XLR outputs. So you can use the Arche as a standalone preamp or DAC with compatible gear.
- metal housing protects against signal interference and vibration
- built-in class A headphone amplifier
- customized presets for each of Focal's high-end headphones
- compatible with headphones from all brands
- requires impedance between 16-600 ohms
- preamp mode with balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outputs for connection to an outboard power amp or self-amplified speakers
- engineered in conjunction with fellow French audio company Micromega
- balanced circuitry throughout reduces noise and distortion for maximum sound quality
- high-performance AKM VERITA AK4490 digital-to-analog converter for precise playback of digital music files
- plays PCM digital audio files up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD files up to 12.3 MHz
- selectable amplification modes
- "voltage" mode uses a pure current amplifier that enhances dynamics
- "hybrid" mode increases impedance and slightly emphasizes bass
- sound presets for Focal Utopia, Elear, Clear, and Stellia headphones
- presets for future Focal headphone releases will be available via firmware update
- digital audio inputs: one optical (Toslink) and one coaxial
- USB (Type B) input for connecting a computer
- 1 pair unbalanced RCA inputs
- 1 pair balanced stereo XLR audio output
- 1 pair of RCA stereo outputs
- 1 balanced 4-pin XLR output
- 1 unbalanced 1/4" headphone jack
- Type B USB input supports up to 32-bit/384kHz resolution for PCM; DSD files up to 12.3 MHZ
- Toslink optical digital input supports up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution for PCM-based files
- digital coaxial input supports up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution for PCM
Other Info and Specs:
- dedicated Windows® USB Windows driver required for playback on a PC
- no driver required for MacOS (latest version recommended)
- includes detachable solid aluminum headphone stand
- detachable AC power cord
- THD: less than 0.001%
- frequency response: 10 to 100,000 Hz
- 7-15/16"W x 2"H x 12-5/8"D
- weight: 10.25 lbs.
- warranty: 2 years
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee