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Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo

Posted

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 :) 

 

The Solo:

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!

 

Michael Lockwood

 

Solo

Posted

Pros: sound, build quality, customer service

Cons: None for my usage

I have been listening now for a number of hours to the Solo and thought I would pen a few words on it.

 

It is quite the brick! Larger by a small margin than the iPod classic and much bigger than my Stepdance it feels substantial, the case work is very well done, very professional, it feels like it is built to last and take the knocks of portable use. The three supplied straps are perfect to stack the whole lot together, one being longer so as to reach around the whole pile and keep things nice and stable! I know I shall get the higher quality cables in the near future so as to tidy things up a bit, at the moment my set up looks like Medusa's head!

 

To the sound. I was just using the 160G classic before, ALO LOD into my Stepdance. I really liked the sound of that set up and found nothing lacking really. The addition of the Solo has made me alter that point of view!

 

I guess the best way I can describe the Solo effect is to say that music becomes alive, it breathes, fills the headphones. The layers and textures that are shown with the Stepdance are ones I just did not hear with the classic (and I thought I heard layers and textures with the classic!). Textural is a good word to describe the sound, organic is another. It reminds me of the days long ago that I would listen to my vinyl record collection.

 

Vinyl engages the listener on far greater emotional level, this is what the solo brings to the table. Emotion from the performer is palpable, like one is privy to the inner thought just before they emote it in the performance.

 

Bass is tighter, deeper and more resonant, mid's move forward slightly but that is not the whole story, any sense of graininess is gone, velvet smooth yet able to portray the gravel in say Leonard Cohen's aged voice in the live from London set. Female vocals like Alison Krauss show her vocal maturity and at the same time the combined innocence that makes her voice remarkable. I have heard this all before with my previous set up, just not to the level, texture and emotion that the solo brings to the table!

 

Treble has no grain whatsoever, crystalline and detailed yet not fatiguing or grating, The sound of wooden stick hitting cymbal, one can hear the woodiness turning into metallic sheen as the sticks energy is transferred into the cymbal.

 

Julian Breams guitar is beautifully portrayed, resonance of the strings, fingers plucking or stroking the strings can be easily defined, the vibrations through the body of the guitar can be felt, really quite remarkable and one has to keep reminding ones self that this is all coming from a portable set up!

 

In conclusion. This is one of those landmark defining moments in HiFi I feel. It changes the playing field and what is thought Possible. Yes it is expensive but like a great many things that are the expense cannot just be thought of in terms of building and parts costs. When one brings into the equation that this unit's capabilities enable one to relax into the music more, forget about everyday worries or troubles then the initial cost pales in comparison I feel.

 

It is a bit like driving a Rolls Royce, one can get all the toys and quietness much cheaper in a Mercedes or BMW but one just won't get the level of feel good factor or bespoke feeling that you get in a Rolls. This is the same for the Solo..You just feel good with it in the chain, it makes music come alive, live and breath.

 

To Ken and the team, you did an outstanding job, it is worth every penny!

 

Equipment used: iPod Classic latest generation, Meier Corda Stepdance amplification, Interconnects, standard USB/LOD supplied with the solo, 3.5-3.5mm interconnect that came with the Stepdance.

Headphones (all fully burned in) Denon AH-D5000's with V3 Jmoney pads, Etymotic ER4S, Ultimate Ears Triple.fi10.

algorythm and porto 015.JPG

 

 

Posted

Pros: Extended

Cons: Clunky ... will wait for next iteration

Bought used and sold within a week ... kept the 801 ... great detail and frequency extension but just did not speak to me - especially since it was clunky - not very portable ... it sounded quite good ... but just did not speak to me ...

 

Will wait for similar products that do function like it but are smaller and cheaper ...

Posted

Pros: Excellent, clean DAC, great build quality

Cons: Pricey, can't double as a stand-alone USB DAC

I recently invested in a pricey set of UE in-ear monitors because I listen 3 hrs/day while commuting and to allow me to mix and master on the go.  I after listening to the output of my iphone and MacBook Air I realized I'd need a DAC and amp to do any critical listening.

 

I did some research and didn't find much that was both truly portable and bypassed the iphone's DAC.  I read about the AlgoRhythm Solo and it sounded like just what I needed and since ALO and Ken had such a great reputation I went ahead and pre-ordered back in January.  Just received the Solo and a matching Rx Mk II Amp.

 

The Solo uses a proprietary Apple chip that allows it to bypass the internal DAC of the iDevice (it works with all iPhones, iPods and iPads) in order to let it's internal Wolfson higher end DAC do the decoding.  To my ears, the difference in SQ from my iPhone 4 is subtle.  An improvement to be sure, but a very subtle one.  I've read that the DAC chips used in later iPods are of lesser quality so I expect this is where the Solo really pays off.  I'm planning to pick up a 160gb iPod Classic to pair with this rig because banding my phone together with two boxes makes it a bit tricky to play Angry Birds or switch gears suddenly to take a picture or take a call.

 

The bigger improvement is coming from the Amp itself, IMO.  This little amp really opens up the soundstage and makes the source material more lively.  Dynamics are more evident and the transient response allows me to hear the leading edge of each drum kick, vocal and note, making the overall sound punchier and more coherent.

 

I am dying to pair this rig with a high-end set of cans like HD 650's as I imagine they'd make my ipod really sing.

 

I am a bit disappointed to learn that although the Solo has a USB input it won't function as a straight USB DAC so it can't double as a DAC for my MacBook.  I'll ask Ken if this is possible to achieve with an upgrade or firmware update.

 

Overall, high marks!

Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo
Description:

Cypher Labs LLC is pleased to offer the AlgoRhythm Solo, which delivers uncompressed, high quality audio from an iPod, iPhone or iPad to portable or home audio DACs and amplifiers, via both digital and analog outputs. Long lasting lithium-ion batteries mean your CD library is now portable and can go where you go.

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