Pros: Unlocks iDevices and delivers unparalleled Sound to the portable mp3 Generation
Cons: Might be out of some people's budget
I Have spent some days with the new Algorhythm Solo and felt I could honestly give my impressions. I could probably do it in two words but where is the fun in that?
Starting off I would like to say that I have been on an incredible portable/digital journey since the ipod was released. A huge lover of music has always caused me some trouble with traveling as much as I do. I am a musician/producer & writer. I spend months away from home. Prior to having an iPod I used a CD player with countless cases full of CD’s. I went down the Minidisc route as well. Which I loved but I thought for some reason the SQ was not that exciting. Let me say this is well. I was never a hugh fan of CD’s either. I grew up listening to vinyl and still I love it. The sound, the feel, the experience. For me CD’s were a better alternative to cassettes :). After owning an iPod I came to love and appreciate CD’s. :). My experience with an ipod is that I was able to carry lots of music with me while traveling but found myself always examining how bad the quality was. I had a hard time enjoying the music I was listening to. My thought was that if I improved my headphones then I would improve the SQ of the ipod. So that journey began and I will not bore you with the details of that. It was not until a few years ago I discovered Headroom. I wanted to try the AKG701 which I was told would require a headphone amp. Hmmm I thought great, that is a brand new direction... So started that journey. On my third or fourth pair of Headphones the guy on the phone asked me if I used a LOD. “No I replied. What’s That?” He sent me one and I thought Wow I have uncovered the secret to having a great portable set up with an ipod. I am finished searching... The next day I went on line to see if I could find a nicer LOD than the one they had sent.... I discovered ALO. Ken has been an unbelievable source of great information and inspiration for me. Many emails, phone calls and the chance meeting at Can Jam when it was in LA. Since then my game was uped for sure. Many cables, Headphone amps, Headphones, Re-cabled Headphones and a couple of iMod’s later here I am and now I am saying my search is over :). Remind me I said that next week when I am after a new cable :)
Opens up whole new sonics for us iPod/idevice users. I want to say before I go on that I am comparing my now set up of Solo>RXMK2> LCD2 (re-cabled with a Silver & Copper 8 Weave ALO from ALO) & a set of ALO custom Solo interconnects. Prior to the arrival of the Solo I went from an iMod>RX1>LCD2 re-cabled with the flat weave by ALO.
There was about a month that I switched to the ipod Touch>RXMK2 & The LCD-2 re-cabled with the flat weave. I wanted to break in the RXMK2 and see if the iPod Touch would work for me as I had to give up a lot of real estate after having the 240GB iMod. So my ears had adjusted to the iPod with no mod :)
The Solo is without a doubt leaps and bounds ahead of anything out there that any of us have heard of. These guys have hit the nail squarely on the head. The build quality is great and I love that they matched up the RXMK2 to make it a nice little package. The layout is great and still remains very, very portable. The case really is a nice surprise I have to say. I was trying to figure out how to move this all around without banging it up.
Starting it up for me was very exciting. Ken had been telling me it was going to kick the iMod’s ass. I had a little trouble getting mine to work at first as the sound kept coming out of the ipod. Once I got the sequence from Ken. It worked perfectly. (ipod on and set for music then solo on). No problem, no worries.
My Library of Music is Massive. I have a good handful of my favorite records (Albums) ripped to Lossless, A majority of my music is ripped at 256 AAC. A very small portion at the old protected 128 from iTunes. I am looking at 44 Thousand+ songs.
I started listening to some Pop/Rock stuff from the 70’s ripped at 256. WOW! If you were wondering what the solo would unlock the SQ for a regular old MP3 you will be blown away. The Soundstage is so good. It was like listening to my old Hi-Fi set up in the late 70’s. Smooth, Velvety. The highs were greatly improved and smoothed out. This area is always a thorn in my side. Even the best headphones have had problems here. I think the LCD-2’s hands down are the best thing out there to date. Way ahead of the pack. The Solo just shot them through the Stratosphere! Mids are muscular. Guitars are quite happy here. The Low end is so rich and natural. I am talking about 70’s production on a record that was a one hit wonder. That all said it was very neutral and natural. Not hypey and not colored.
I moved on to Electronica, some alternative records. A bit of Classical. All these things were still applying.
I made the leap and started listening to the records I have ripped with Lossless. I started with Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Raising Sand. I use this as a reference all the time. It is very natural and organic. I know the process T-Bone goes through to make his records. He still uses tape. He is an a big fan of Analogue. This records sounds like you are in the room with the Musicians. THis is the Solo at work. Once again the Soundstage was huge but appropriate. The EQ on all levels was sweet beyond belief.
I also noticed that I have a little more wiggle room with volume from the RXMK2 using the Solo.
The biggest joy of the Solo is that you stop analyzing how the music sounds and you simply enjoy it. There is no better way to put it for me. I could try to get rather technical about all of this but really what I want to get across is that. If you have the desire to listen to better sounding music out of your iDevice. This is the way to go. It is not cheap and it is not expensive. The whole rig yes will cost but the people reading these forums are interested in a higher quality listening experience and that is what the Solo will give you. I do not see how you could be disappointed with this product. It does what it says it will do and then some. We all have different preferences for how we like our music to sound and I think this device allows for that. Which is not an easy thing to do. It simply allows your music to sound as good as it was recorded for better or worse. Everything goes into play and that should be understood. Your Headphones, Your Amp, your cabling. These are all things to experiment with to find what works best for you.
Overall: If you are an mp3/AAC listener you will hear great improvements. The Solo removes some of the graininess you used to hear. It smooths out the highs that are often harsh coming off these kinds of files. As for Lossless I noticed great openness, putting the air back in the recordings, reverbs became open and with liquid effect.
The overall tone of the machine is like unplugging your ears. You will want to re-listen to everything you own, well almost everything :).
Hats off to all at Cypher and those before and after that take the time to enrich all our lives by returning the sound quality to the iPod Generation!