Audiophiles are generally skeptical of multifunction high-end audio components that promise “convenience,” and who can blame them? Haven’t we all, at one point or another, had hopes raised and then dashed by products that promised to do many things, but wound up doing none of them well? I was a skeptic, too, until I plugged in Arcam’s sleek Solo stereo receiver/CD-player. This little unit looks great, is incredibly easy to use, and delivers sophisticated high-end sound—all for a manageable $1599. It also includes a raft of custom installation-oriented features, a built-in clock with sophisticated alarm functions, plus a front-panel jack where you can hook up an iPod. But the biggest news is that the Solo can be taken seriously as a vehicle for making music in your home.
The Solo is effectively three units in one—integrated amplifier, tuner, and CD player—but I will focus on its overall sound, and if I had to describe that sound in one word, I’d choose suave. For reasons I’ll explain below, I think that word fits this component like a glove.
First, through the broad body of the midrange, the Solo sounds smooth, cohesive, and self-confident, serving up purity of timbre, neutral tonal balance with a touch of gentle warmth, and rock-solid imaging. On Philip Hii’s classical guitar recording of the Chopin Nocturnes [GSP] the Solo demonstrated all three qualities, revealing the round, liquid tone of Hii’s guitar, underscoring the quicksilver speed of his playing, and placing the performer precisely at center stage. It was as if Philip Hii was playing directly across the room from my couch—a spooky illusion reinforced by myriad small details such as occasional string noises or the creak of Hii’s stool as he leaned over his guitar.