You know that you’re test driving a classy product when it comes with white gloves. But Solis’ SO-7500 and SO-8000 come with such an accessory, so you don’t mar their glossy surfaces. (Although let’s be realistic; you’re probably don’t going to don them every time you handle the speaker systems.)
If you’re a true music lover, these are two reasonably (well, relatively) priced compact stereo systems featuring a pair of speakers and a hybrid tube/solid-state amplifier that supports wireless streaming. The centerpiece of both models is a retro-styled integrated amplifier finished in gloss black and accented with a pair of 12AX7 preamp vacuum tubes (yes! vacuum tubes!) with a rated life of 5,000 hours. Both models support aptX-enabled Bluetooth streaming and have two RCA inputs. Think of ‘em as “futuristically nostalgic.”
The SO-7500 system ($400) has a rated power output of 2 x 12 watts and includes a pair of 9-inch-tall two-way speakers, each with a 3.5-inch woofer and 1.25-inch soft-dome tweeter. The SO-8000 system ($550) is rated at 2 x 17 watts and includes a “Magic Eye” tube VU meter that indicates power output and a larger set of speakers, also two-way, but with 5-inch woofers in 12-inch-tall cabinets.
Each speaker comes with two 6-foot speaker cables with banana plugs, a six-foot stereo RCA cable, a soft brush, and the previously mentioned gloves.
Both the SO-7500 and SO-8000 pair a tube preamp section with a solid-state power output stage to provide clean, crisp highs, warm, natural mids and the bass power and control of solid-state outputs. The 2-way bass reflex speakers each hold a woofer and a tweeter that offers pristine sound. That said, I didn’t think the audio was any better than that of Apple’s HomePod (see my review here), which is also easier to set up for those of us tied into the Apple ecosystem, though the Solis audio may be just a tad warmer.
Speaking of the woofer and tweeter, they’re not magnetically shielded, so you’ll have to keep ‘em away from your television. But my biggest problem with the SO-7500 and SO-8000 is their Bluetooth capabilities — or lack thereof.
They boast Bluetooth v4.0 with aptX for high fidelity audio streaming. Strangely, it took repeated attempts for the SO-8000 to show up under Bluetooth devices on my iMac, iPhone, or iPad Pro, but the SO-7500 paired immediately. Thankfully, the banana plugs work fine, though they’re a bit finicky when it comes to connecting them.
You should also note that the power output on the SōLIS SO-7500 only kicks a max of 12W RMS and the SO-8000 only packs a max of 17W RMS because these size vacuum tubes are generally limited in their power output to speakers. Typical amplifiers with modern transistors are capable of pushing out near 100W with compatible speakers.
Compared to other high-end audio devices for similar audio quality, the Solis speakers have a price that will be attractive to audiophiles. And those folks will prefer a wired, not wireless connection, anyway.
Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★