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Focal Arche

Headphone amp/DAC/preamp

Item # 091ARCHE

When Nicolas Debard, the head of Focal's audiophile headphone division, visited Crutchfield with the...

When Nicolas Debard, the head of Focal's audiophile headphone division, visited Crutchfield with the...

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Item # 091ARCHE

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About the Focal Arche

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. 
Focal Arche and Utopia headphones

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, UtopiaClear, 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. 

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Product highlights:

  • metal housing protects against signal interference and vibration
  • built-in class A headphone amplifier
  • 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
Audio Features:
  • 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
Inputs:
  • digital audio inputs: one optical (Toslink) and one coaxial
  • USB (Type B) input for connecting a computer
  • 1 pair unbalanced RCA inputs
Preamp Outputs:
  • 1 pair balanced stereo XLR audio output
  • 1 pair of RCA stereo outputs
Headphone outputs:
  • 1 balanced 4-pin XLR output
  • 1 unbalanced 1/4" headphone jack
File Compatibility:
  • 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
  • MFR # Arche/EDACCAS101

What's in the box:

  • D/A converter/headphone amplifer
  • Headphone stand
  • 6' AC power cord (US 3-prong IEC plug)
  • 6' AC power cord (Euro 3-prong IEC plug)
  • 4 Silicone pads
  • 2 M2 x 10mm hex-head screws (for headphone stand)
  • 1.5mm Allen wrench
  • Spacer for headphone stand
  • User Manual

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More details on the Focal Arche

Mark G.

Product Research

Features

Overview: The Focal Arche is a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier that can drive high-fidelity headphones, and includes presets for each of Focal's lineup of headphones. Arche can also be used as a pre-amplifier to supply an audiophile-grade signal to your power amplifier or powered speakers. The DAC/headphone amp comes with a unique solid aluminum integrated headphone stand inspired by the Focal logo, to store and display your headphones above the component. Arche is fully designed and manufactured in France.

Dual Mono Design: Arche features dual mono audiophile construction from the digital signal input, through the processing, and to the output. Two AK4490 digital-analog converters, one for each channel, and with an extended range of 768 kHz - 32-bit, provide pure and accurate reproduction of your high-resolution audio files. Two amplification channels operate in pure Class A mode with headphones with impedances from 16 to 600 ohms. Two amplification modes (voltage and hybrid), designed especially for headphones, let you choose the best tonal balance from your specific headphones. Separate presets are also provided for each model in Focal's headphone lineup.

Headphone Stand: Arche comes with a solid aluminum headphone stand that needs to be installed inside the vents on the top panel. The 2-3/8" wide shaft has a locating stud at the bottom that slips into the center of three holes in the bottom panel. The included 1/2" spacing key helps you locate the screw holes. Two included hex-head screws are attached through the chassis to hold the stand in place. Once assembled, the top of the headphone cradle stands just over 9" directly above the top panel of the DAC.

Menu: The front panel features a 2.5" (diagonal) display that lets you change the settings of the DAC. Using the large multifunction button, you can make the following adjustments:

  • Volume: Turning the multifunction button lets you raise (clockwise) or lower (counter-clockwise) the volume. The level ranges from 0 to 100 and is displayed on the screen as you adjust it.
  • Input: You can select the desired input: USB, Coax, Toslink, or Analog.
  • Gain: Two gain modes are available: High or Low. The Low setting is recommended for Focal headphones, and with any headphones with an impedances of less than 150 ohms.
  • Phase: You can adjust the phase of the audio signal, setting it to Normal for in-phase signals, and Reverse for out-of-phase signals.
  • Amplifier: This setting lets you select from different amplification modes, or a specific mode for each model of Focal headphones:
    • Voltage: provides the technical features of a voltage amplifier
    • Hybrid: combines the features of a voltage amplifier and a current amplifier.
    • Focal Headphones: separate settings are provided for Utopia, Elear, Clear, Stellia, and Elegia headphones.
  • Display: You can choose from the following display settings: On (always illuminated when powered on), Auto Off (display goes off 30 seconds after the last adjustment), Low (reduced brightness), Normal brightness, and High (increased brightness).
  • Sleep: Activates the DAC's sleep timer. If there is no adjustment or audio for more than 15 minutes, the unit automatically enters standby mode. You can choose to Enable or Disable the sleep timer.
  • Reset: Allows you to restore the factory settings.
  • Info: displays the serial number and firmware version
  • Back: takes you back to the home screen

Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 100kHz
  • Max Power: 2 x 1W @ 1kHz under 32 ohms
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.001%
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: > 116dB @ 32 ohms (Class A)
  • Audio Inputs: Unbalanced RCA, Digital S/PIDF coaxial (RCA), Optical digital (Toslink), USB Type B (USB 2.0/USB 3.0 compatible)
  • Maximum Sampling Frequency:
    • USB: 32-bit, 768 kHz PCM; DSD 256
    • Optical: 24-bit 192 kHz
    • S/PDIF: 24-bit 192 kHz
  • Audio Outputs: Unbalanced analog RCA (pair), Balanced analog XLR (3-pin)
  • Firmware Update: via USB drive
  • Power Requirements: 85V to 265V AC / 47-63 Hz
  • Dimensions: Width 7.877", Height 2.491", Depth 13.79"
  • Weight: 10.25 pounds

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