The trouble with most home cinema systems is that in order to construct anything with the kind of quality most audiophiles and videophiles demand, you’re going to have to dedicate four feet of cabinet space to fitting in all the various components. Surely part of the appeal of flat screen TVs is that they take up a lot less space than old CRTs did – so why then have all that saved space dominated by a stack? That is precisely the question Arcam is trying answer with the Solo Movie 5.1 – a one-box system that should handle almost every demand your home cinema system has while still maintaining the acoustic and visual quality Arcam prides itself on.
Inside the closely packed innards of the Solo Movie, Arcam has some how managed to squeeze a 50w rms x 5 channel amplifier, a disc drive capable of playing DVDs, DVD-Audio discs, CDs and SACDs, and a DAB radio, as well as all other circuitry, transformers and coolant systems you also need, all without compromising on quality – certainly no mean feat.
Connectivity is firmly set in the HD era – output is made via HDMI and the box also has two HDMI inputs. Alongside these, you’ll also find a plethora of component, composite, optical and stereo inputs as a well as space for Arcam’s rDock for the iPod.
Although Arcam built its reputation firmly on its excellent audio standards, it has met with no small amount of success in the video market as well. However, running through the Solo Movie demo, it was clear that audio is still where Arcam’s heart lies. And it is also extremely keen to offer a single unit capable of producing great stereo sound for ordinary music listeners as well as great surround sound for movies – something which has always been a thorn in the side home cinema stacks.
We were played music from all of the types of media that the Solo is compatible with. Using the rDock you can hook up and control your player from directly from the Solo and reap the benefits of the huge leap in sound quality offering a much better defined bass and treble.
But if you were under the mistaken assumption that the iPod could produce sound even remotely comparable to a good old CD, the difference rapidly became apparent once the disk was inserted and you could soon make out the enhanced range of sound you get from a CD recording. Needless to say, it only went upwards from here as we tried out SACDs and DVD-Audio.
This is something that should appeal to casual listeners and audiophiles alike. Where as the former can chill out with the dramatically enhanced quality of sound, apparent even in their iPod, more obsessive listeners will also like being able to clear distinguish between the different format qualities.
For the video side of things, Arcam has used its experience in manufacturing DVD products to provide an excellent DVD-upscaler that will convert your old standard definition products into glorious 1080i. Arcam claims its video upscaling processing rivals or betters that found in pretty much any HD-Ready TV and you can see why – the upscaled pictures were beautifully well defined and did not suffer from one hint of digital noise or artefacts. I’m not quite convinced that upscaled DVDs do compare that well to proper HD formats, but it is no longer as huge a difference as some manufacturers would wish.
The princely sum of £2000 will bag you an Arcam Solo Movie 5.1 and of course you’ll need a decent HD-Ready TV and surround sound speaker system to go along with it. Basically, it is pretty much out of reach for most ordinary people without a spare kidney or two to flog. But at least it will compare pretty favourably to buying all its various components as separates, not to mention how much easier it would be to set up…