UNBOXED: Reviewing the Solis SO-8000 Vacuum Tube Amplifier
Let me start by saying this is not a debate about tube amplifiers vs solid state. There is an overwhelming amount of information available that argues both are literally the greatest gift to audiophiles, so let's just move past it and look at vacuum tube amps in singularity.
Solis is a company built "by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts" focusing on a variety of different audio solutions that are all underscored by WiFi or Bluetooth offerings. Their latest product, the SO-8000, is a Bluetooth capable, all-in-one tube amplifier package that also supplies a pair of speakers to boot - all for a marginally above entry-level $549 price tag.
Right out of the box, the Solis impresses. The all-black, glossy piano finish really accentuates the tubes, giving an over-all really well thought out appearance. The whole system is pretty compact, including the 7-inch speakers with stylish crescent-shaped grilles.
From a technical standpoint, the Solis amp sports one magic VU amp, flanked by two 12AX7b tubes that run 17W RMS (root mean square), or about 28W of actual output. While the VU amp doesn't push any additional power, it sure looks nothing short of stunning as it comes to life and bounces with the music. On the other hand, the power is on the low end and not quite a home theater anchor or even a super strong amp, but it was never really advertised that way. The Bluetooth 4.0 APTX is snappy and pairs quickly, with no real loss of quality between the wireless option or the auxiliary port.
My main complaint was a lack of headphone options. I have a few pair of high-end headphones that I'd love to put through the ringer but simply can't because the option is not available. The speakers are, for lack of a better word, okay. They didn't impress and felt a bit bright, but I can agree to disagree that all music palates are subjective. Of course, you can hook the amp up to your own pair of speakers but that's not really the intended purpose of the product.
It wouldn't be fair of me to be too harsh on the bottom-line performance because everyone that listened, myself included, were impressed. Vacuum tubes really do have a unique sound to them and Solis is able to capture that nostalgia in a beautiful package. So for that reason, we give the Solis SO-8000, 4 out of 5 boxes.