The Arcam Solo Yellowknife NT
The Arcam Solo
January 1, 2006 By Steve Guttenberg
Jack White, the guitarist and singer-songwriter half of rock’s reigning power duo, the White Stripes, records his music the old-fashioned way—on analog tape, and then edits his tapes with a razor blade. No computers are used recording and mixing the White Stripes’ music, and when asked why he stubbornly avoids the benefits of digital technology, Mr. White sums up his approach this way: “It’s all about soul.” For him, the immediacy of the sound is what matters most. Methinks Arcam’s all-in-one CD player/radio/stereo amplifier, the Solo, was conceived with a similar mindset. I have no doubt that an A/V receiver and a DVD player would offer more techno doodads and convenience options for the same dollars, but they would be no match for the Solo’s musicality or soul. The Solo has oodles of soul.
The Solo can be purchased on its own or in a package with a pair of Arcam’s Alto speakers. Each has a 4-inch woofer and a 1-inch fabric-dome tweeter. The Alto is built in Denmark, home to many well-regarded speaker companies. (Click image to enlarge)
No one will ever confuse the svelte Arcam with a generic audio appliance. The Solo’s satin-finished, cast-aluminum faceplate and large, easy-to-read display give it the look and feel of a bona fide high-end component. That said, the gently rounded design is more feminine in its appeal than your average brutish megabuck amplifier or run-of-the-mill A/V receiver. The Solo’s sophistication is also reflected in its intuitive ergonomics. I have no need to consult the user’s manual to operate the Solo; the controls are intuitively laid out, and the remote is eminently logical. My only quibble is that it is not backlit. High-end components rarely offer amenities such as bass and treble controls or headphone jacks, but the Solo is a lot friendlier than your average high-end component. And since the Solo is just 3.3 inches tall and a sensible 14 inches deep, it will fit inside cabinets or on shelves that are out of bounds for most of today’s behemoth electronics.
The Solo is offered, logically enough, à la carte or paired with Arcam’s very first speaker system, the Alto. Standing just 10.3 inches tall, the speaker is small enough to qualify as a bookshelf model, albeit one designed to complement the Solo aesthetically and sonically. The stunning cherry or maple wood speakers are beautifully crafted in Denmark, and every detail of the design, including the heavyweight gold-plated speaker wire connectors, is built to a very high standard. Since the Altos are bass-challenged like most small speakers, the Solo provides an adjustable bass boost control to fatten up their sound (the boost will also work its magic with other brands of small speakers). No, it is not a crude “loudness” effect—it is more subtle than that, and it works like a charm with the Alto speakers. True, even post-plumping, the Altos still lack deep, room-shaking bass, but their sound is surprisingly we...