Arcam Solo Mini - £750

Solo was one of the first one-box systems on the market and still holds its own against the newcomers

Arcam didn’t invent the all-in-one system, but it gave the breed a lot of street cred with the original Solo (still available) and this, the half-width version. Despite its diminutive size, it does a lot of stuff, so excuse a slightly telegraphic rundown of its features...

CD’s there, of course, a slot-loading mechanism that’s fuss-free and quiet in operation. Radio is also built in, one small module handling FM and AM while another, even smaller, handles DAB. Five line inputs are available, four on phono sockets at the rear, one on a mini-jack at the front, and next to the latter is a USB socket for portable players and memory sticks. A matching iPod dock is available, but basically you connect via the phono sockets. Preamp and recording outputs are available in addition to the speaker terminals and front headphone mini-jack. Only a digital input is missing. Top-mounted buttons and a very friendly display make operation simple.

Arcam’s claim to audiophile credibility is supported by the use of decent components internally and remarkably good construction for the price. There’s a large toroidal mains transformer, the absolute biggest that could be fitted in the available volume, while the output department shows the nearest thing to evidence of compromise with integrated-circuit power stages – but these have been known to give very good results.

Sound quality

Everyone likes to hear a bit of detail, and on that basis our listeners were very taken with the Solo Mini. ‘Ooh – detail!’, wrote one, going on to wax enthusiastic about the way the player handled both complex rhythms and complex instrumentation. It’s not just good at resolving this stuff, though, it’s also very good at communicating it effectively, and rhythmic involvement was rated as good too.

Tonally it’s confident, with good bass extension and weight, though the treble can be a touch harsh as times. Imaging has both width and depth, with the sound extending out into the room. Just occasionally the sound can thicken up a bit when the treble is busy, but on the whole the detail remains very good. These results seem to hold up well with other sources, including the onboard FM tuner which is very enjoyable.

LIKE: Neat, tidy and well specified; good detail and bass
DISLIKE: No digital input, slight treble harshness at times, limited power
WE SAY: An excellent way to enjoy the most music from the smallest space, at a competitive price

DETAILS
ORIGIN: China
WEIGHT: 5.3kg
DIMENSIONS: (WxHxD) 230x90x350mm
FEATURES:
• CD transport; DAB, FM, AM radio
• Inputs: 5x line plus mini-jack
• Outputs: 1x headphone; 1x preamp; 1x record
• 25-watt output
DISTRIBUTOR: Arcam
TELEPHONE: 01223 203200
WEBSITE: arcam.co.uk