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GeekDad Evaluation: Solis SO-8000 Stereo Bluetooth Vacuum Tube Audio System

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Studying Time: 4 minutes

With regards to audio, from many music followers there are two conflicting forces at play: the comfort of wi-fi audio and the nostalgic appreciation of analog sources like turntables. The Solis SO-8000 is a compact stereo system that tries to play it each methods. It has the comfort of Bluetooth streaming mixed with the retro attraction of a vacuum tube amplifier.

The Solis SO 8000 vacuum tube amp with audio system. (Picture by Brad Moon)

The whole lot You Want, In One Field

Solis features a full audio system within the field. Which means the amplifier, together with a pair of bookshelf audio system. Additionally included are speaker wire, a advantageous brush, and white gloves. The gloves and brush? They’re for dealing with the glass vacuum tubes (which come preinstalled) and in addition occur to be mud magnets. So is the shiny, piano black end on the amp and audio system. They give the impression of being unbelievable, however be ready for an ongoing battle in opposition to mud and fingerprints.

Setup may be very easy. Place the audio system, join them with the included speaker wire (with banana plugs), plug within the energy cable.

What’s the Deal With the Vacuum Tubes?

Solis SO 8000 review
Audio doesn’t get far more classic than vacuum tubes. (Picture by Brad Moon)

I’ve to confess, my expertise with tube amplifiers is minimal. They largely fell out of favor when amplifiers began utilizing transistors, and by the point I used to be shopping for my first actual stereo system within the ’80s you solely actually noticed vacuum tube amplifiers at storage gross sales. However many audiophiles and musicians have had a choice for tube amps, that are alleged to have a hotter sound.

After many years of digital audio, a number of years in the past I started transferring again to analog, with a turntable hooked as much as a classic receiver and an ever-expanding file assortment. I used to be anxious to check out the Solis SO-8000 to see if the vacuum tubes actually have been sport changers.

The place issues appeared somewhat dicey to me was the Bluetooth connectivity. Specifically, I used to be curious concerning the finish results of beginning with a digital file, compressing it, then working it by way of a vacuum tube amplifier. Does one cancel out the opposite, or how does this work, precisely?

These tubes definitely look cool. Hearth up the amp and the 2 smaller tubes glow a heat orange (throwing off a bit of warmth within the course of). The cool issue is upped by a 3rd tube holding a VU meter that reveals the amplifier output. In response to Solis, the tubes are rated for five,000 hours and a fast look on-line reveals replacements may be discovered simply sufficient beginning at round $15 every.

The amplifier can also be very compact. At 10.24-inches large, 6.3-inches deep, and eight.7-inches excessive, it’s a fraction of the dimensions of the Pioneer receiver driving my turntable.

Bluetooth Sounds… Fairly Good

I wasn’t satisfied that the audio sounded any “hotter” nevertheless it was free from distortion and the Bluetooth connection was strong. The amplifier places out 17W per channel, which isn’t rather a lot, nonetheless, it was sufficient to fill a medium-sized room properly. The included audio system are bookshelf-style items with 5-inch polymer woofers and 1.25-inch mushy dome tweeters. They’re okay. Even with so-so audio system, having two of them makes for a stereo listening expertise, which goes to be superior to a single transportable speaker. That being mentioned, as an alternative of a heat, retro sound, I discovered that if something Bluetooth audio streaming on the SO-8000 sounded brighter than I like and bass response was skinny.

And with out bass or treble controls on the amp, you’re caught with that.

In comparison with a transportable Bluetooth speaker this method sounds fairly good, however there’s room for enchancment.

To Actually Rock, Swap Out the Provided Audio system, Add a Turntable

The Solis amplifier additionally has two RCA auxiliary inputs. Utilizing one was the beginning of the system dwelling as much as after which exceeding my expectations. First, I plugged in a turntable that has its personal pre-amplifier (there’s no Phono enter), a Fluance mannequin I reviewed a number of years again. With an analog supply, the audio misplaced a few of its brightness and the occasional crackle from a file slot in with these glowing vacuum tubes completely.

Solis SO 8000 review
Moreover Bluetooth, the Solis amp has two AUX inputs. (Picture by Brad Moon)

The SO-8000 made the leap to audio I wished to maintain listening to after I determined to swap out the included audio system for a pair of cheap bookshelf audio system I’ve right here for an additional overview. The distinction was evening and day. The brightness was gone, and the lacking low finish put in an look. There was significantly extra vitality from music and I might truly get a way of that heat I’d been hoping for from the vacuum tubes. Information sounded the way in which they need to and the Bluetooth streaming audio improved dramatically.

Since making that pairing, I’ve had the Solis SO-8000 taking part in just about continuous in my workplace for the previous week. Will probably be a disgrace to ship the overview unit again—I’m going to overlook the orange glow of these vacuum tubes…

Ought to You Purchase It?

Solis SO 8000 review
There’s a critical classic cool issue to the Solis SO-8000’s vacuum tube amp, however sound improves dramatically in the event you change the included audio system. (Picture by Brad Moon)

On the $529.99 MSRP, the Solis SO-8000 isn’t outrageously priced for a compact stereo system. And it has an plain cool issue. Nevertheless, you’ll be able to presently choose it up for about $370 on Amazon. If it have been me, I’d be tempted to try this and in addition spend $200 on the Fluance bookshelf audio system (additionally on Amazon) I’ve been utilizing as replacements for the pack-in audio system. That finally ends up being $40 greater than the MSRP and doesn’t have the whole piano black look, however the result’s a really cool tube amp together with audio system that may actually exhibit its capabilities.

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