ARCAM Solo Mini

High quality sound with modern conveniences.

ARCAM Solo Mini
  • ARCAM Solo Mini
  • ARCAM Solo Mini
  • ARCAM Solo Mini
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Quality internal amplification, fast and quiet CD player

Cons

  • Expensive

Bottom Line

For an all-in-one music, radio and digital audio receiver, the Solo Mini functions admirably. In all modes it is easy to navigate and control music, and sound quality is fantastic whatever the volume level.

Would you buy this?

Arcam’s Solo Mini music system follows the tide of other hi-fi companies entering the digital age by embracing USB and iPod connectivity. To the Solo Mini’s credit, these additions work well and do not detract from the high standard of CD and radio reproduction.

The British company has existed since 1972 and prides itself on creating the highest quality audio and video components possible, rather than including any gimmicky features.

Arcam’s efforts have not gone to waste on the Solo Mini; a beautifully minimalist front is not broken up by the inclusion of a slot-loading CD drive, 3.5mm input and output jacks and a USB host port. The two-line LCD is not able to display many characters but it does not need to; realistically all the info you will need is CD track number, track time and volume level.

Just above the player’s screen are all the necessary control buttons. Along with a source toggle, the left side is home to track skip and stop buttons. The all-important power button resides in the centre, while volume control and play buttons are on the right side. The controls are well-marked and incredibly simple to use; there are no jog dials or scroll wheels to be found here.

The best thing about the Solo Mini is that all of these features — CD, USB and radio playback and all the associated circuitry, as well as an integrated power amplifier — are stuffed inside a chassis half the width of a standard hi-fi component. This means it will happily fit wherever a stack of DVD cases might; alternatively it is stylish enough to be out on display for all to see.

Despite a few front connectors, the rear of the receiver is where the party gets started. Four pairs of stereo RCA inputs mean other devices can be connected and fed out through the Solo Mini’s amplifier. The binding posts for speaker connections are proper banana plug connectors rather than cheaper spring clips — a sign of quality construction. There is also a set of pre-outs for connecting an active subwoofer or routing the signal out to an external power amplifier and speakers.

The device’s power plug is a standard IEC lead so you can even use your $13,000 "audiophile" power cable if you so desire.

The Solo Mini can output 25 Watts to each channel, so you will be able to connect a wide variety of speakers as long as they are not too power hungry. We found Yamaha’s Soavo 2 a good match, with the efficient speakers’ balanced and measured nature a good match for the detailed qualities of the Arcam unit.

CD playback is quiet and track skipping is very speedy; the experience is utterly trouble-free even with scratched and fingerprint-marred CDs. USB playback is also simple, though there’s no folder navigation; MP3 and WMA files are supported with a wide range of bit-rates.

Sound quality from the integrated amplifier is great; it's definitely up to the quality of Harman Kardon’s HK 3490. Despite the absence of an equaliser, sound is consistently lively and engaging without losing detail. When matched up with the Soavo 2 bookshelf speakers we were able to find a lot of detail within recordings with complex orchestral recordings, benefiting from the high quality components.

If you can justify the price, Arcam’s Solo Mini is a great all-in-one CD and radio playback unit when teamed up with some efficient, high quality speakers.

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