ARCAM Solo Movie 5.1
Worth the pennies.
- Superb 5.1 surround sound, impressive video up-scaling, user-friendly on-screen menu, exhaustive format support (except for Blu-ray), AM-FM radio
- No inbuilt Blu-ray support, stupidly expensive, remote could do with a redesign
Arcam’s Solo Movie 5.1 is the ideal AV hub for serious videophiles. It will allow you to hook up everything from your speaker system to your game console, with the quality components ensuring everything runs on top form. Just bear in mind that you'll need to connect an additional player to enjoy Blu-ray movies.
Price$ 5,498.00 (AUD)
The Arcam Solo Movie 5.1 is a one-piece home cinema system aimed at serious audio/visual enthusiasts. It combines a universal disc player with a five-channel Class G amplifier and throws in an AM-FM radio to boot. It sports a high-end Zoran audio engine (with Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding modes), an optional iPod docking station, 1080i video up-scaling and more connectivity options than you can shake a stick at. It will make an ideal centrepiece for any self-respecting videophile’s lounge room, but with that being said, $5498 is a very high asking price; especially in the absence of inbuilt Blu-ray or DVD recording.
As it stands, this product will only appeal to dedicated AV hobbyists with bags of disposable income to burn. Thankfully, that just so happens to be the Solo’s target demographic.
Arcam is billing the Solo Movie 5.1 as an ‘all-in-one home cinema system’, a moniker that is slightly misleading. To get the most out of this product, you’ll need to source the external speakers, subwoofer and relevant cables yourself, as none are included in the sales package. (Though to be fair, the average Solo buyer will probably own this kit already.) Rather than supplying everything in one box, the Solo Movie 5.1 will form a hub for your existing home theatre — or the backbone that connects everything together.
Whether you have a sprawling audio/visual setup to rival a James Bond villain or simply want to get the most out of your widescreen TV, the Solo Movie 5.1 definitely has you covered. (Just take a look at all those inputs in the picture above!) Along with a pair of component and composite video connections, the system comes equipped with three HDMI ports, analog and SCART sockets, a DVI connector and a full range of speaker binding posts. The component and composite ports are gold-plated to ensure maximum fidelity.
The Arcam Solo Movie 5.1 looks suitably elitist without being obnoxious about it. Weighing more than a chubby human baby (7.75kg to be precise) and sporting monolithic dimensions of 430x350x79mm, there can be no doubting its high-end credentials. A glossy black version is available for hi-fi traditionalists, though we quite liked the graphite-inspired finish on the model we tested. The sense of class is bolstered by the blue LED display, which is crisp and reasonably spacious. Equally impressive was the onscreen display, which is well laid out and easy to navigate, especially when it comes to audio setups.
We were less enamoured with the design of the remote controller: it feels overly flimsy and would look right at home next to a cheap DVD player. But looks can be deceiving. Beneath its tacky surface lie some great features, including programmable macro buttons (which can be used to memorise multiple key strokes), backlighting/illumination and the ability to ‘learn’ commands from other devices. This makes the remote as essential as the player itself — shame it looks a bit rubbish really.
Alongside its quintet of powerful 50W amplifiers, the Solo Movie 5.1’s main drawcard is probably its exceptional picture quality. The device comes with two dedicated video circuit boards, while the inclusion of an inbuilt video scaler ensures your DVDs look as crisp and vibrant as possible. There are options for 1080i, 720p and 768p (!) up-scaling, which should take care of every TV set on the market.
In addition to all major DVD formats, the player recognises CDs, DVD-Audio discs, SACDs and most MPEG/JPEG/MP3/WMA files, including DivX-encoded movies. Yet, despite its ‘universal’ status, the Solo Movie 5.1 is not compatible with Blu-ray media. For this, you’ll need to hook up a dedicated high-def machine (two HDMI inputs are included for this purpose). It also lacks support for HD 7.1 audio, which is a pretty significant omission for a top-shelf system such as this. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most comprehensive standard-def disc players on the market.
Naturally, the quality of the Solo’s audio output will depend on the speakers you elect to use. We hooked the device up to a pair of cheap Parrot DS1120 speakers as well as JBL’s ES900 Cinepack surround-sound system. In both cases, audio was wonderfully clean with excellent volume output; indeed, listening became quite painful long before distortion entered the fray.
The system’s amplifiers are passively cooled via a large heat sink, which makes for a pleasantly silent operation. However, the top-mounted vents are alarmingly wide — so much so that you can clearly see the components beneath. This could prove problematic for exceptionally dusty households, so cattle drovers and the like may want to steer clear.
The unit includes both digital and analog radio tuners, which should keep new age hipsters and old school dads equally happy. Arcam also offers a custom-built iPod dock that sits on top of the system (RRP: $398). We advise haggling with the store manager to try to get this goodie thrown in for free — after all, it’s not every day that someone buys a $5498 receiver!
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