Soulution 710

Jonathan Valin -- Wed, 12/17/2008 - 04:01


 
I first heard about the solid-state Soulution 710 about a year ago. This hefty (176 lbs., uncrated), 240Wpc (into 4 ohms) Swiss-made stereo amp had already won a number of prestigious awards in Europe and Japan from magazines that are persnickety. What was more surprising were the superlatives that accompanied the awards. Several of these magazines outright declared it the "best amp EVER," which was definitely out of editorial character.
 

 
Anyway, I did a little research, took a look at Soulution's Web site (www.soulution-audio.com/english/e_710.html), and was surprised to see Soulution talking about combining the virtues of tubes and transistors. (A hardcore, ultra-high-tech, Mega-Hertz-bandwidth transistor outfit conceding that tubes had virtues that solid-state didn't was, to say the least, unusual.) Intrigued, I decided to give the stereo amp, the 710, a listen, which is what I've been doing over the past two or three months. (I now also have Soulution's 740 CD player and am expecting its 720 preamp this week or next.)
 
Since I'll be spilling the beans about this amp in my review of the MartinLogan CLX (in Issue 190), I might as well just say it here: This is the most transparent transistor amplifier I've yet heard. It is to amplifiers precisely what the CLX itself is to transducers--a paragon of fidelity to sources. Unlike the CLX, however, it is not limited in the low end or in ultimate dynamic range. It does what MartinLogan's great loudspeaker does everywhere. It doesn't sound darkish and liquid like an MBL or a LAMM amp and it doesn't sound whitish and brightish like a Spectral or a Boulder. It just doesn't sound. I've never heard a solid-state amp like it, and I've heard a few. In fact, I've never heard an amp like it. It is so delicately detailed that it can rightly be compared with the very best tubes, and yet it has no tube colorations. It is so fast and clear and unlimited in extension that it can rightly be compared with the very best solid-state, and yet it has not a trace of astingency or grain or bottom-heaviness or top-tippiness. It is the first solid-state amp I've ever heard that has made me rethink my bias toward glass audio. It's so damn realistic (provided, of course, that the recording is realistic).
 
While I'm not ready to give up tubes quite yet, I'm not willing to give up the Soulution 710 either, which is just a new kind of animal I've never heard before. The only other time I've had an experience like this one was when I first heard the belt-drive Burmester CD player about ten or twelve years ago, which didn't sound like any other CD player I'd ever listened to and opened up a whole new realm of possiblities. That's what this amp does. 
 
I wish I could tell you I knew why the Soulution 710 sounds the way it does (or rather doesn't sound the way other amps sound). But I don't know why. Look at its site and you'll find a good deal about DC to 1MHz bandwidth, short signal paths, error amplifiers, fixed-gain buffers, and current amps with a potential of 200 amp outputs. Some of it is familiar and some of it is mind-boggling. All of its bespeaks a fanatical attentiveness to every element of design. Soulution's motto is: "Do not add anything, do not omit anything." I'd say it has come close to making that something more than an advertising slogan.
 
I've been quite irritated by certain other reviewers proclaiming that the sound of Product X or Y can't be described because it has no signature that the reviewer recognizes (i.e., it doesn't sound like anything else that came before it). Every product has a signature, but I'll be damned if I've got a handle on the 710's yet. I'll work it out over the next few months of listening, but for the time being the best I can do is tell you that it simply sounds like what it is amplifying--like what comes ahead of it, good, bad, or in between. Through things that are themsleves as transparent as the CLX and the AAS Gabriel/Da Vinci 'table with Da Vinci Grandeeza tonearm and Da Vinci Grandeeza cartridge and Audio Tekne phonostage, it is like peering over the shoulder of the mastering engineer.

fooman -- Wed, 12/17/2008 - 19:09

Can't agree more... but wait till you try the pre-amp with it!

 
 

Jonathan Valin -- Wed, 12/17/2008 - 20:47

 Uh...nice system.
 
The preamp is on its way. I've been using the MBL 6010D, which has proven to be a match made in heaven.

WDII (not verified) -- Tue, 03/31/2009 - 10:24

Fooman,nice setup. Who makes the stands you are using? Especially the wide wooden table your souce pieces are sitting on? I would like to do the same with my setup. Have the CD player,pre and amp on the floor and have a wooden table over them as you do to support the Flat screen. Great WAF (wife acceptance factor).

Jonathan Valin -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 00:20

I guess I should note that Soulution will be well represented at this coming CES--now a mere three weeks away. Not only will Soulution be showing with Magico speakers at the Venetian in Room 29-124; Magico itself will be showing its new much-anticipated M5 (which I hope to review) with Soulution amplification and preamplification--which means, I think, that the Switzers have gotten the seal of approval from ultra-perfectionist designer (and CEO of Magico) Alon Wolf. Quite a coup for the young Swiss company.

Cemil Gandur -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 03:13

I had heard the Soulution 710 at a friend's. It was paired with the Magico V3 and sounded pretty impressive, though a bit dry and hard. At the time, it left me impressed but not in love. The amp was just out of the box however.
My friend now reports that the amp is now smoking. According to him, it is fast, dynamic, punchy with tube-like mid-range and silky highs and is highly recommending that I give it another listen. He seems to be in love :)
I look forward to hearing them again at CES, however imperfect the conditions.
 
 
 

Jonathan Valin -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 04:38

 I thought the 710 was a little dry and analytical sounding the first time I unboxed it, too! 
 
But, as in your friend's system, it rapidly morphed into the utterly transparent amplifier I've described (and your friend has told you about). I've heard that the Soulution monoblocks are even better than the stereo amp, which is hard to imagine. I'll hear them at CES, where I hope we'll meet up for that drink you owe me.

Elliot Goldman -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 09:42

I thought I invited both of you for a drink now you are telling Zeb he "owes" you one? LOL
I would like to hear these amps myself amybe we can meet there and all take a listen,
 

Jonathan Valin -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 14:22

<< I would like to hear these amps myself amybe we can meet there and all take a listen,>>
This sounds swell, as does the Bloody Mary (Stoli, black olive, a little horseradish, please) I will be having. Since I'm planning to have more than one Bloody Mary, we should time this for after-hours. I'll contact you privately to work this out.

Elliot Goldman -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 15:32

I think my Russian Girlfriend is coming with me and she loves to drink Vodka.!!! 

Jonathan Valin -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 16:28

 <<and she loves to drink Vodka.!!!>>
 
My kind of woman!
 
My wife will be there, too. So we can all get--what's the Russian for "sloshed"--together.

Elliot Goldman -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 17:15

Nestrovia! Nestrovia!

Jonathan Valin -- Thu, 12/18/2008 - 19:59

For specs, distribution, and pricing on the Soulution 710, see the end of my blog at http://www.avguide.com/blog/best-amp-ever-soulution-710-amplifier.
 

Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 12/19/2008 - 16:54

 
Good news. The Soulution preamp (pictured above) has just arrived. If it proves to be as good as the 740 CD player and 710 amp (and as good as or better than the MBL 6010D linestage I am currently using), I may just have a new reference. After break-in and substantial listening, I will report on the 720 in a new thread. (I will also report on the 740 CD player.) In the nonce here are a couple more photos of the 720--rear panel and inside.

Mike_Dee -- Sat, 03/17/2012 - 19:27

The price of the 710 seems steep for it's power output. :(

Elliot Goldman -- Sat, 12/20/2008 - 09:28

Lokis kind of plain, or is it just the pictures?

Jonathan Valin -- Sat, 12/20/2008 - 14:16

<<Lokis kind of plain, or is it just the pictures?>>
 
I wouldn't call it plain exactly. More like Bauhaus industrial design--simple, elegant, functional. The amp and the CD player look precisely the same, save for the size of their boxes. All three of them are stupefyingly heavy for their types: The single-box linestage preamp weighs 66 pounds!

Elliot Goldman -- Sat, 12/20/2008 - 15:56

UMMMM gonna pump u up!  Hopefully the price per pound is wrth it

Jonathan Valin -- Sat, 12/20/2008 - 16:52

It's definitely worth it for the 710 amp (which weighs a paltry 176 pounds!). I haven't listened long enough to the 721 preamp to have any kind of informed opinion. (It just arrived yesterday and I plugged it in for the first time last night.) It is certainly promising.

Jonathan Valin -- Sat, 12/20/2008 - 17:19

 Btw, Elliot, drop me a note and let's work out a time for our drink with Zeb.
 

Cemil Gandur -- Mon, 12/22/2008 - 09:47

Indeed, I look very much forward to that :)

Jonathan Valin -- Sun, 12/21/2008 - 01:25


 
And here is the 740 CD player (with its outboard power supply). 

I've spent more time with the 740 than with the 721 and can already say that it seems to be on a par with the amplifier--in other words, it's extraordinary. I will start separate threads on both the 740 and the 721 when I've had more experience with each.
 
 

Anonymous (not verified) -- Mon, 12/22/2008 - 16:54

I listened to Soulution lineup in Munich and it was kind a hard, but they were using some plain Jane silver plated IC and SC.

Jonathan Valin -- Mon, 12/22/2008 - 18:46

 Could be. I didn't hear it at Munich. It certainly doesn't sound hard in my system, with Tara Labs Omega Gold SC and Zero Black IC and Audio Tekne's marvelous (and oh-so-affordable) ARC-500 interconnect ($550/m. pair)--the best low-priced interconnect I've ever heard.

Halcro -- Tue, 12/23/2008 - 06:50

There seem to be more than a few technical similarities betweeen these amps and the Halcro preamp and monoblocks Jon?
Did you ever get to listen to the Halcros in your own system?

Jonathan Valin -- Tue, 12/23/2008 - 14:56

Yes, Halcro, I did get to hear the big monoblocks in my system about seven or eight years ago. And I had a mixed reaction. Low-level resolution was standard-settingly high for the time--phenomenal. But timbres were a bit on the cool and lean side and the amps were highly sensitive to different speakers and speaker-loads. (Other folks at TAS who heard the amps had the identical reaction.)
 
As to the Soulution's sonic kinship to the Halcro...I'd have to hear them side-by-side on the same speakers to judge fairly, but going on memory I'd say that the two might, indeed, be alike in their resolution; however, (broken-in) the Soulution 710 is not a notably cool or analytical sounding amplifier (as I felt the Halcro was or could be with a number of speakers). It doesn't seem to have a sound of its own, where the Halcro rather did.
 
Let me re-emphasize that it has been the better part of a a decade since I've heard Halcro amplifiers in my home, so...I really don't have an informed opinion any longer about how Halcro's products sound, either stand-alone or vis-a-vis Soulution.

Elliot Goldman -- Tue, 12/23/2008 - 17:36

How does the Cd player stack up with the Scarlatti?

Jonathan Valin -- Tue, 12/23/2008 - 20:33

 I'd have to compare them side-by-side, which I will do when I get the Scarlatti (or Puccini plus clock) back after CES. I can tell you this, comparisons aside, the 740 is a VERY strong contender, with the same sonic character (or lack of it) as the amp--an exceedingly neutral and transparent device with phenomenal low-level resolution of dynamic and timbre.

Elliot Goldman -- Tue, 12/23/2008 - 17:38

BTW did you get Zeb on board with the time and place?

Jonathan Valin -- Tue, 12/23/2008 - 20:35

 Nope.
 
Zeb, I think (repeat think) we will be getting together for a drink at the bar of B&B Italia (in the Venetian) on Saturday around 6pm (right before dinner). Is this OK?

Cemil Gandur -- Thu, 12/25/2008 - 04:52

Yes, got your mail.
Looking very much forward to it.

Elliot Goldman -- Wed, 12/24/2008 - 09:39

Sounds like a plan now that you have announced it for all to see! I hope you are paying for the crowds LOL
I look foward to seeing and hearing the gear at the show, and I hope to hear the Pans as well as some other devices I have never had the opportunity to hear. I hope that there are some other people there besides us but my expectations are for a very poor turnout! The hotel deals are crazy!!!!

Elliot Goldman -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 10:30

I hope it sounds a lot better than it looks!  They certainly did not waste money on the cosmetics!
 

stargaze -- Sat, 12/27/2008 - 04:02

The soulution + Magico V3 combination has been around for quite some time already in ASIA. It seems that the asians have far better appreciation abilities of new brand names and the ability to match components tastefully rather than being cynical than the audiophiles in the USA.

stargaze -- Sat, 12/27/2008 - 04:29

I think the soulutions looks great

stargaze -- Sat, 12/27/2008 - 04:53

hear it for yourself

stargaze -- Sat, 12/27/2008 - 04:54

The soulution sounded so good and that is why Alon Wolf chose them to match with his speakers

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 12:59

It will be so nice to hear what JV says about the 740 CD player. He hasn't reviewed a big-time reference CD player in over five years - the last one being the Goldmund. Yes, he did review the Audio Research CD-7 and this was a great review...but I would like his thoughts on something more cutting-edge, like the Soulution, assuming it *is* cutting edge....

Elliot Goldman -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 12:59

he reviewed the dCS gear including puccini cd this year

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 13:02

I mean Red Book only - a dedicated system for the format. Still the best way to go.........

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 13:07

But I'm sure that the Esoteric was great...

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 13:10

Sorry for the repeats but I'm having problems loading these pages and I thought they weren't loading...

Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 18:55

That's one helluva fine system, cybwiz!
Simply ignore Elliot's poor-mouthing of Soulution aesthetics...as if an ARC Ref 3 or (or anything ARC) is a paragon of gorgeous industrial design! I think it looks great. More importantly, I'm quite sure it sounds great. The Soulution gear is simply a step or two above any solid-state I've yet heard, save for the MBL 6010D, which holds its own alongside it. As for the 740 CD player, it is the best Red Book-only CD player I've ever heard (keeping in mind I haven't heard the Spectral in my own system). 

SundayNiagara -- Sat, 12/27/2008 - 18:30

"as if an ARC Ref 3 or (or anything ARC) is a paragon of gorgeous industrial design!"
 
I'll second that motion and I'm a HUGE ARC fan!

Cemil Gandur -- Mon, 12/29/2008 - 04:07

"as if an ARC Ref 3 or (or anything ARC) is a paragon of gorgeous industrial design"
I don;t know ... the 610Ts have quite the air of no-nonsense butchiness about them coupled with a unique birthday cake aesthetics :)

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 21:57

Glad to hear this, JV. Your sonic descriptions are always first rate and I can't wait to hear just how good these systems are.
 
To think that Soulution has outperformed the 6010D will be big news...as will the performance of the 740 CD player. *Now* we will know just how good Red Book CD could get. And you'll be the first one to tell us........
 

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 21:59

I guess we have here a new Goldmund.....
 

Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 22:15

 Didn't say the Soulution 721 outperformed the 6010D, kiddo. 

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 22:35

Mmmm....okay, but it still must be awesome. I'm more interested in what the 740 can do with Red Book, anyway. And how this monster compares to the best LP you've heard - the Walker reference system.

Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 22:48

The great Walker AND the AAS Gabriel/Da Vinci with Da Vinci Grandeeza arm (as you will see in Issue 191). Frankly, no CD player I've ever heard has the top-octave air and extension and treble-range transient response and detail and duration of vinyl. That just ain't in the cards with digital. BUT what the 740 does have--and this is a first--is the very-low-level midrange delicacy and transparency of timbre, dynamic, and texture of great vinyl. Indeed, in a side by side comparo with the most transparent-to-sources analog source I've ever heard (the AAS Gabriel/Da Vinci with Grandeeza arm and Grandeeza cartridge) on the same album on LP and CD, you would be very hard put to tell them apart, and THAT is downright weird. Something's lowering noise and raising resolution and transparency in all the Soulution gear I've heard, including the 740.

JPH-22 -- Fri, 12/26/2008 - 23:40

Very exciting, JV. I agree that digital (so far) has had issues in the top octave, as great LP proves. *But* I would think that digital has superior bass, better pitch accuracy and greater dynamic range. "Dynamic range" means that details should be heard at lower levels and this was not happening with digital, until recently. I refer to your description (of detail) in MBL's reference digital gear: "until now, much of it unheard of". I guess we're making progress....
 
Maybe Red Book was "good enough" after all. I mean, if we examine what happens to LP cuts from digital masters (over the years), we would hear that the LP version had superior bloom, immediacy and greater "ease" than the CD version. My point is that the playback, not so much the format, was the problem. Do you agree ?

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