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This review first appeared in the July 2013 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of Arcam's FMK D33 in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Arcam- Ed.

Reviewer: Jochen Reinecke
Sources: iPod Classic 5 160GB with Pure i-20 dock, Pro-Ject Xpression III with Ortofon OM 30 Super , Audiolab 8200CDQ
Amplification: Audiolab 8200CDQ and Dynavox TPR-2 preamps, Trends Audio TA-10.2 SE, Yarland FV-34C III, Abacus Ampollo power amp
Loudspeakers: Neat Momentum 4i monitor, Nubert nuBox 101 with AW 441 subwoofer, DIY transmission line with F120A widebander
Cables: Goldkabel Profi interconnects, Ortofon SPK 500 and Real Cable OFC 400 speaker cables
Review component retail: €3.000

Labor party. One grows old and with it, milder or at least more open-minded. I used to love reviewing hifi that involved plenty of button twirling and pushing, feeding discs and messing endlessly with speaker positioning. In short, the tactile element of interfacing with gear was important. Needless to say, this made reviewing computer audio and DACs less interesting. Digital in, analog out. Where was all the fun?

Not MIA as I learnt with aging. The subjective sonic and objective measurable differences between DACs at sundry price strata and from different brands can vary surprisingly. Whether a DAC sinks or swims can, depending on setup, become the lynch pin upon which an entire system rises or falls particularly with more and more folks connecting their computer into the rig or tapping stationary and mobile players digitally. It's not farfetched that DACs have become the de facto switching centers of contemporary hifi systems. They'd better measure up then. Whether Arcam's FMJ D33 would is the focus of this test.

Though its owner's manual claims that it does, the FMJ D33 is not an analog-digital converter but goes the other direction – D to A. And that already covers all of its hard skills. Forget network streaming, Internet radio or volume control to work as digital preamp. But what it lacks in feature depth it makes up for in connectivity breadth.

The input array accommodates seven sources – two each optical and coax, an iDevice link, AES/EBU and a standard USB input where a switch selects between class 1 and 2 modes. Class 1 inserts galvanic isolation between PC and FMJ D33 and requires no driver for Windows but is limited to 96kHz. Class 2 extends to 192kHz but requires installation of the driver loaded onto the included CD and omits galvanic isolation. This USB input is exclusive to computer connections. Outboard hard drives and USB sticks may not apply. For outputs the Arcam goes triple - two RCA and one XLR which all may be used simultaneously to make for plenty of A/B ops. Upfront the D33 is understated but elegant. Well, British. The left third's six LEDs confirm the sample rate. This is followed by seven source selectors in the lower middle. Such direct access is far more practical than a single sequential button would have been . And one more control selects between three different digital filters – plus there's the mains switch to the far right.