We're rather fond of convenience at Stuff and, clearly, so is hi-fi master Arcam. Its Solo has long been our favourite one-box combination of CD player, DAB radio and amp, and now it's taken an axe to the unit to produce a more compact, cheaper version called the Solo Mini.
That downsizing pitches the Solo Mini straight into the micro-system territory ruled by the likes the Onkyo CS-515DAB – a pretty respectable unit costing just £300, complete with speakers. So can Arcam's cheeky whippersnapper convince us to drop another three tons?
If we're judging on looks alone, yes. Only the Onkyo's mother could love it, and that goes for most of the micro crowd: they tend to be boxy and cursed with overcomplicated fascias.
But the Mini is a far classier product – it's cool and understated with an obvious nod to Apple's very own Mac Mini, particularly a discreet and effective slot-loading CD mechanism.
Build quality is excellent and the front-mounted connections are well thought-out: there's a USB port, headphone out and 3.5mm jack in.
Round the back, every square centimetre is studded with one connection or another, including no less than five separate stereo analogue phono inputs and a plug for Arcam's excellent rDock iPod dock, which gives full functionality over your player through the Mini's remote control.
And the audio outs are equally well-specced. Small as it is, the Mini could form the heart of a formidable hi-fi set-up.
Punching above its weight
Internally, the Mini uses a number of components from more expensive Arcam products, including the digital-to-audio converters and high-precision clock from its standalone CD player, the CD73.
Sonically, this results in a highly assured, detailed and solid performance. All musical genres sound precise and punchy, with a degree of midrange depth and insight that makes it a great all-round performer.
The radio section is also very impressive. DAB stations ring out with useful midrange solidity, with the treble never getting out of control, and FM stations sound equally good.
The Mini's sound might not be the very last word in detail and realism, but its style, functionality and performance add up to a fantastic package. If space and budget dictates a micro system but you want something better, classier and prettier than most models out there, the Solo Mini is the only choice.
More after the break...
Arcam Solo Mini
Classier than the micro system mob, and well worth the Arcam premium