back to article Arcam Solo Mini combo hi-fi

Not far from the horizon is the Solo Neo from Brit hi-fi specialist Arcam. Last year, the company’s Solo Music had a baby and it was called the Solo Mini. While we wait for Neo make an appearance and no doubt wow minimalists and audiophiles alike, a review of the Solo Mini seemed in order. Arcam Solo Mini System Arcam's Solo …


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  1. Mike Brown


    it dosent even have wifi! or flac! and you give it 80%? are you bonkers?

  2. Giles Jones Gold badge


    Why would anyone bother with sound quality if they're playing compressed lossy files?

    It seems pretty stupid that you get more advanced audio on bluray now than CD.

    16-Bit 44.1Khz was just something possible in the early 80s. Why are we still constrained by such low standards?

    24-bit 96Khz should be standard across the board now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'll give you 24 bit - wasted on modern pop that's mastered for extreme loudness, but probably useful for orchestral recordings and stuff with genuine dynamic range.

      But why 96KHz for domestic audio? I don't think 'Now That's What I Call Dog Whistles Vol. 3' is a big enough seller to warrant it.

      High sample rates are handy at the recording stage to enable you to use cheaper anti-aliasing filters, but it's not like you are going to be able to buy hi-fi speakers capable of reproducing anything much over 20KHz, let alone 48KHz, even if you could hear it.

      1. hexx

        if you hear it you understand

        I happen to hear proper 24bit 96kHz recording and once you do it all start to make sense - how much is lost when it's downsampled to CD 16bit/44.1kHz.

        World should move on to sell lossless 24bit/96kHz audio and in addition also LP ;) and if you want also crappy lossy version for your portable device.

    2. Scott Mckenzie


      One of the better high end audio folk in my opinon, now offer 24Bit downloads of tracks on their label... you can buy, at differing prices, different file type versions of each album.

      As for actual 24Bit, in the tests i've tried, the majority of people genuinely can't tell the difference... and you do need a certain level of equipment for a real difference - all in my opinion of course... i'm perfectly happy with my Naim CD player, it blows most other units out of the water, and it doesn't play MP3, AAC, Ogg or Flac - yet still i survive. God only knows how.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What no support for Flac in supposedly audiophile kit? but it does play MP3? They've got to be kidding.

  4. Christian Berger

    I'm sorry, but that seems to be a tad expensive

    Well it's nice to see that they are using a better than nessesary D/A converter, but considering that even the best audio converters are less than 20 Euros, one wonders what exactly makes that device so expensive.

    The electronic parts of "High-End" are amazingly cheap.

    1. NogginTheNog

      Maybe, but

      The audiophile engineering knowledge of an outfit like Arcam isn't.

    2. Les Matthew

      @Christian Berger

      Fools and their money...

      1. Neill Mitchell


        That just about sums up audiophile madness. Made my day :)

  5. jason 7

    So where......

    ...does the internal 2TB HDD go for ripping all my CDs?

    Oh there isnt one?

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Scott Mckenzie


    Oh dear lord, please never review a piece of hifi again!!

    As for the price, it's a bargain for the relative performance in my opinion, but sadly in modern times people thing MP3 is hifi and that anything more than £50 a rip off.

    Try partnering with some Focal Chorus 705v though, a significant improvement on the Arcam speakers - around the same price too. A speaker cable such as QED Qunex Silver adds a little more zip if you prefer, but personally Chord Odyssey is my preferred with that system. (and yes, thats REALLY expensive for just a piece of speaker cable too....)

    1. The Flying Dutchman

      Anyone prepared to pay more than a few quid per metre...

      ...for speaker cables automatically disqualifies him/herself from being taken seriously when discussing audio gear.

      The single requirement for speaker cables is that the conductor cross section be sufficient such that the series resistance can be considered negligible. For a 5 metre run, 2.5 sq mm is quite sufficient (having a total series resistance of about 0.07 ohms), even considering the fact that some of the more idiosyncratic speaker systems may have impedance dips as low as 3 ohms. Reactive effects (inductance and capacitance) can be safely neglected since the circuit impedance is very low, unless you're looking at *very* long runs. If one wants to be picky, one can use 4-conductor jacketed cable (with the conductors laid up in the shape of a square) so as to obtain a star-quad configuration. 3-phase mains cable works very well, and is very cheap.

      Everything else (hyper-pure linear-crystal oxygen-free copper etc) is 100% hype. Copper used in run-of-the-mill electrical conductors is pretty pure as a matter of course, and the "linear crystals" are automatically obtained when the copper ingots are drawn to progressively thinner wire strands.

      As a matter of fact, I dare anyone to distinguish the snake oil speaker cable of their choice from a run of suitably robust but very common and dirt cheap mains cable in a double blind test.

      All those who worship at the altar of "high end" audio, I've got news for you.

      The signals that make up your most prized recordings have travelled through tens of metres of cable that would cost a quid a metre at most, and often much less. On their way, they've encountered untold numbers of industry standard connectors that cost no more than a few quid apiece, and they've been routed through a truckload of top-of-the line recording gear whose signal path contains such diabolical things as op-amps, (gasp!) and electrolytic capacitors (aargh!). Lots of 'em.

      Now ask yourself: Is spending 500 quid for a pair of hyper-duper "interconnects" with alleged magical properties, to carry the signal the last few feet from your CD player to your amp, really going to make one iota of difference?

      1. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

        Amen, brother

        Could not have said it better myself. It's funny how otherwise intelligent men (and it's always men) succumb to the electronic equivalent of astrology or crystal healing when it comes to stero equipment.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ The Flying Dutchman

        "The signals that make up your most prized recordings have travelled through tens of metres of cable that would cost a quid a metre at most, and often much less. On their way, they've encountered untold numbers of industry standard connectors that cost no more than a few quid apiece"

        There's also a high probability that your chosen listening material was mastered by someone listening to it on a pair of Mackie HR824* NF monitors (~1100 quid a pair), and/or a pair of Bayer DT100/150 cans (~100 quid).

        If it's good enough for mastering the material, then (in my book) it's good enough for listening to it with...

        (*or a pair of Yamaha NS10, if they're inclined to be passive)

      3. The Unexpected Bill

        High end audio....

        There's low end audio, mid-range audio, high end audio and then there is audiophoolery (the pejorative term for those who buy $500 (or higher!) patch cables and suchlike).

        High end audio doesn't always come for a high price. I've seen plenty of what would be very, very good audio equipment (clean internal design, built to do what it says on the tin) sold under house brands, less than totally well known brands or for a very low price. (Right now, if anyone's asking, a Sherwood RX-410x stereo receiver is an astounding value for the money, especially as one model still has a turntable input...and I think you can find them sold in much of the world.)

        That said, I do agree wholeheartedly with what you said, and I too would definitely like to see some proper experiments against Obscenely Expensive Stereo Wire and decent quality cable. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that as long as any speaker wire, power cord or interconnecting cable is able to do the job and of reasonable manufacturing quality, it will sound as good as the Obscenely Expensive Stereo Wire. (Monster Cable fits very closely to the Obscenely Expensive Stereo Wire category. I certainly wouldn't buy it!)

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          A little illustration.

          Many years ago I aquired an Arcam Alpha 7 Amp and CD and a pair of KEF Coda 7 speakers. I still have 'em, very nice they are too and entirely adequate in a non acoustically perfect environment IMHO.

          A mate of mine turned up for a listen and having had his ears educated went off for a think. A while later I went round to his place to find 800 quids' worth of Amp, 500 sovs of CD, a pair of AR100 speakers and several metres of sodding expensive cable. A quick listen later:

          "Very nice, but there's something wrong with the right-hand speaker".

          "<VAPOURS> No there isn't, it's all perfect!"

          One shufty round the back later:

          "Got it. You've biwired 'em but left the links on the right speaker, try it now.". Some listening later: "Yup, that's got it, spot on now!"

          ".........!!..............I can't tell the difference......."

          The most important component in a HiFi system? Decent ears.......

          1. Scott Mckenzie

            Decent ears!

            Indeed... and you can see every technical explanation you like, but if, in a properly conducted blind test you can tell the difference between an expensive cable and a cheaper cable - does that make the expensive one wrong? A waste? Or do the aforementioned decent ears actually show that maybe, just maybe the difference is there.

            As for the above where the source has travelled through metres of crap cable to get to there, that kinda depends on the component in question. If it's a 'cheap' unit - you're right.. but decent hifi does, surprisingly, use decent internal wiring also.

            As for someone referencing Monster Cable, now that's just scary.... utter shite, i wouldn't use it if you gave it away. To reiterate, if you can hear the difference, who's place is it to criticise your decision? And further, by a proper blind test, i mean all placebo effect removed - listen to several, without knowing what is in use at the time and decide what works for you. Many won't hear the difference, many will.

  8. IanPotter

    Oh Gods

    Oh here we go, if you want to start an argument there's nothing quicker than audio quality (well except for religion, politics or vi vs emacs) Unless you can prove it in a double blind test I take any claims of the superiority of lossles vs lossy, bit rates and formats with a pinch of salt. Far too much of this is dominated by total oneupmanship and twatdangle. (Yes I archive in FLAC, what's your point...)

    If there's a gripe to be had about the Solo it's that it doesn't have a digital input to that 24 bit DAC. That means if I want to hook my Squeezebox to it I need to either make do with its own DAC or run it through an external one. For that matter does the Arcam iPod dock pass the digital signal from the iPod to the Solo's DAC or do you get the iPod DAC's output?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A valid point for once

      My cloth ears were perfectly satisfied with my ancient audio system until the volume control started to get noisy. Then I started reading hifi equipment reviews again - ye gods what rubbish!

      In modern high quality equipment, bandwith, noise and distortion figures etc etc may now be in the inaudible region, just as the difference between lossless v lossy encoding etc can be, but in a technical review at least these parameters should be explicitly confirmed.

      Treating hifi amplifiers like guitar amps is clueless posing as is missing out a really valid point like the omission of direct access to the input of the high quality DAC.

      Please, in a technical journal, can we have equipment reviews by qualified engineers.

      End of rant, I'm off to get my soldering iron.

  9. Herby

    Price and "audiophiles"

    When it comes to "Audiophiles", the price they pay is equated to "quality". For those who actually understand electronics, price does NOT mean as much. Usually the vendor will charge what the traffic will bear, and when you stick an "audiophile" sticker on it, you can increase the price 3x or more. Obviously there are some people who will (foolishly in my opinion) pay the outragous price for such kit, but please count me out.

    As for silly things like 24 bits and 96 kHz sampling rates, please! You can't hear it, so why bother. Even if you could hear 24 bits, getting ALL the circuitry to work at that level (144 dB signal to noise ratio) is a task in itself. Simple things like resistors that cost pennies (and are used in 24 bit systems) have more noise than that. It is VERY difficult to get circuits to work THAT quietly. As for the sampling rate, our old friend Mr. Niquist says that twice the highest frequency is enough, and more is a wasted effort, so why bother. Yes, we can build supersonic cars (and they will cost big bucks!), but when reasonable speeds are under 100 MPH, why waste money on useless things (but one of those Buggati Varons would be nice in my garage!).

    Bottom line: Price is what you can get for the kit. No more, no less. If they can get £1000, I wish them well. They just won't get it from me!

    1. Jim 4

      Why 96kHz?

      As Nyquist discovered, with perfect anti-alias filters, the maximum recoverable analogue signal frequency is half the sampling frequency of the digital stream. There is no such thing as a perfect analogue filter so the major cost of a good DAC is the anti-aliasing filter. Given that a young human ear can fairly easily hear 22kHz, filter designs fo 44.1kHZ can be very complex to give the very sharp rolloff without sacrificing a flat response in the pass band. Upping the sampling frequency to 96kHz means that rolloff becomes less critical so the filter becomes cheaper. For the consumer, 96kHz should mean same quality cheaper or better quality for the same price.

      With regard to 24 bit, it will lead to better dynamic range but, obviously, you wont hear it if your kit is made with 5%, carbon film resistors. That is why audiophile DACs (and other components) don't use these cheap, crappy resistors but choose better (more expensive) technologies that are less susceptable to noise, have lower parasitic reactance, etc. I have heard a side-by-side comparison of 'cheap' and 'audiophile' kit and you can hear significant differences. Having said that, I couldn't justify the exponentially more expensive price to the wife...

      1. TWB

        @Jim 4

        'Given that a young human ear can fairly easily hear 22kHz, filter designs fo 44.1kHZ can be very complex to give the very sharp rolloff without sacrificing a flat response in the pass band.'

        A yes but if you resample - by interleaving samples between those 44.1Khz samples the lowest frequency you need to then filter of becomes doubled - do it again and it doubles again and so on - designing your roll off filter then becomes piece of piss - a simple RC network would do it.

        Not sure where you got 22Khz from - the 44.1Khz sampling is from 2.2x max frequency (20Khz) and the little bit more was so it could be recorded onto (analogue) video tape as you got 3 bits per line IIRC for PAL or NTSC as line rate is very close.

        1. Thomas 4

          I'm not an expert on sounds systems

          ...but I am an audiologist with a fairly hefty knowledge of the human ear and its auditory capabilities. Most people will struggle to hear anything above 16kHz, so anything above 20kHz is pretty much undetectable.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Jim 4

        Well Jim 4, in the seventies and eighties I worked for two different sound mixer manufacturers.

        One used 5% carbon resisters and TLO72 op-amps the other used 2% metal oxide resistors and NE5534 op-amps.

        Which had the better noise and THD specs? Oddly enough it was the one that used the lower quality components. I know because in both cases it was me that had to measure and document the specs of every sodding input and output channel.

  10. Dan 10

    This is up there with...

    PC vs Mac

    Windows vs Mac

    Android vs iPhone

    My god, you're all simple.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      no, it's worse than that...

      'audiophiles' have opinions about which digital cables are better than others!

      1. Scott Mckenzie


        surprisingly enough fibre optic cables do come in different levels of quality for light reflection, thus meaning noise can be added to a signal over a length of time/distance.

        And coax cables aren't all 75ohms.

        HDMI cables on the other hand just need a bit of gold plating and you're all set for up to 10metres... above that, you may want something a little better.

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