The general audiophile consensus is that iPods killed the world's love for hi-fi, and that for every pitiful 128Kbps iTunes download sold, Apple kills a kitten. But now, with better DACs, Apple Lossless encoding and the iPod classic (160GB discontinuation notwithstanding), iPods are appealing more to audiophiles.
Arcam aimed to harness this with its audiophile-grade rDock. Now, with the launch of its Solo Mini, it hopes to bring iPod and rDock together with hi-fi circuitry to create an all-in-one amp, CD player and iPod system, and show the world that separates aren't the only way to experience true hi-fi performance. It's on sale now for £650, with the optional rDock at around £100.
At roughly half the width of a regular hi-fi separate, and effectively incorporating three separates-worth of functionality (amp, CD and tuner), the Solo Mini redefines compactness -- it's the studio apartment's hi-fi.
The Solo Mini doesn't come with the rDock in the box. It must be purchased separately for about £100, but it's well worth the money. It's by far the best dock on the market and reflects the Mini's superb, sold design and construction.
As if all that British-built construction wasn't appealing enough, the smashing dot-matrix display is clear and easy to read. And since with the rDock attached it'll display your iPod's contents and song titles, this is a significant plus point.
In addition to all this, the Solo Mini's integrated stereo amp packs 25W of oomph per channel, plays MP3s and unprotected WMAs from CD-Rs and USB sticks, and in the UK, DAB radio accompanies an FM/AM tuner. Sadly -- and surprisingly -- there's no love shown for AAC, FLAC, Lossless WMA or WAV. And we'd love to have seen SACD support, though we're picking hairs here.
With four gold-plated RCA inputs to the rear, and a 3.5mm line-level input up front, hooking up your Blu-ray disc player, Xbox 360, PC and even your Betamax or HD DVD player isn't out of the question. And neither is wiring up speakers with decent speaker wire, thanks to some chunky 8-ohm output terminals.
But the real trick of the Solo Mini comes when hooking up an iPod with the rDock. The uninspiring-but-useful remote control lets you navigate iPod contents extremely simply. Browse by artist, album, genre, playlist or song.
Should you want to add a separate amp to the setup, Arcam offers a pre-out and a fixed-level output. This is a good bonus, but this setup is mostly aimed at people who will never use such bonuses.