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Review: Green Solo & standard PSU

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DonutsAreGood View Drop Down
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    Posted: 14 Mar 2008 at 7:20pm

My main reason for buying a Green Solo amp is the poor headphone output on the NAD amplifier. I was almost tempted to buy a cheaper alternative, such as the Little Dot III, but in the end decided to go for what could be the best possible sound at a fairly modest price.

The equipment here is:

NAD C521 BEE CD Player

NAD C350 integrated amplifier

Sonus wireless music system + subscription to Napster (great for checking out albums before buying CDs)

Sonic Link Red interconnects

Sennheiser HD 555 headphones. I also have a pair of HD 565 Ovation phones. These are a lot better than the 555's but are out of action due to a broken cable. A replacement is on its way.


Buying a Green Solo ain't easy. If you want to buy say, an Arcam amplifier, you'll trundle down to your local hi-fi showroom, have a listen to it and then take it home. You can also order it online and wait a day or two for delivery.

For a start, I couldn't find any word of the Green Solo on Graham Slee's website. I only found out about it by reading posts on the Rock Grotto forum. It turned out that the Green Solo was being offered at a discount because it was the company's new 2008 model built under the guidance of European Community directive 2084C, page 5523, paragraph 34, subsection 10c (or some other Euro claptrap).

Because it has a new design, Graham Slee offers this new amp at a reduced price and asks if you would tell him what you think of it. Hence this review.

I therefore rang the company and spoke to a man who was very chatty and enthusiastic about the new amplifier.

"It's yours for 297 quid, including postage", he said. "Just send an email with your details and we'll send you a PayPal invoice and we'll get the thing built for you. It should take about a week."

The PayPal invoice duly arrived and was paid using a credit card (you don't need a PayPal account to complete the transaction).

If there's one thing that needs to be fixed, it's the ordering process. There was no acknowledgment of the payment and no email to say it had been dispatched. The amp arrived out of the blue exactly two weeks later. Chaps, if you could give a reasonable estimation of the dispatch date and then email the customer if it changes, this would be good. On the other hand, the friendly and responsive nature of your company is to be admired.

THE PACKAGING

Excellent. Lots of padding. Very secure. There's no way the amp can move around inside the box whilst in transit.

THE AMP'S APPEARANCE

About the size of a small paperback book. Looks a quality item and is well built. It looks identical to the regular Solo. Only a sticker underneath reveals it to be the Green version.

THE SOUND

The instructions state the amp's sound will improve over several days and at first it may be "slightly bright with reduced bass output". Therefore, I wasn't expecting too much to start with.

The first thing that was evident was the lack of noise. When it's switched on and no CD is being played, it's almost silent. Only the faintest hiss can be heard when the dial was past four o'clock. In comparison, my NAD amplifier headphone output noise level is similar to a pit of rattle snakes. Angry ones at that.

Another revelation was the volume. Crank it up and the sound doesn't distort; it simply becomes louder. I found the Senns 555 phones gave a realistic volume with the dial at ten or eleven o'clock.

On the first day, I listened to about ten albums – mostly rock & indie stuff – sampling two or three tracks from each one. The bass was deep and only slightly flabby. Treble was somewhat harsh. Midrange was fine – vocals, piano and saxophone sounding especially good. The best bit, though, was the sound stage. It was wide and incredibly precise.

Fast forward to a week later and the amp sounds even better. The shrill treble has been tamed and the bass has tightened up. The sound stage is about the same (impeccable).

I have listened to a ton of music. This little amplifier has caused a wholesale reappraisal of my music collection. Some CDs never used to get much play because I thought they were poorly recorded. With the Solo, the superb stereo separation transforms them into gems. For example, The Velvet Underground aren't famous for leaving behind a legacy of hi-fi recordings. Their album 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' is a masterpiece of 1960's hiss and distortion. Despite the sonic shortcomings, however, the Solo separates everything in a way that allows the music shine through.

Even some tracks that previously made me puke have been enjoyed. For instance, my wife likes dance music. One track I particularly despised was “Baby Cakes” by 3 of a Kind. If enough people played this, I'm sure it would invoke the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Nevertheless, the Slee amplifier & NAD CD spinner served up a performance close to what I'd imagine the sound engineer heard when the song was mastered.

This past week, I have listened to many vintage CDs. Be they Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, or even ancient Roy Orbison tracks, it's no longer tiresome to listen to older recordings.

Talking of dodgy recordings, I have a number of MP3s on CD which have been downloaded from Napster. These ain't exactly high end audio and are probably only 192kbps or less. Now I was expecting the Solo to reveal these tracks as the pile of trash that would be expected. However, the bass has plenty of meat to it, the treble is a only a bit compressed, and the sound stage is a tad more narrow. Clearly, the overall sound is of lower quality than a regular CD, but the focus of the sound stage is quite superb. I now understand why Ipod fans are raving about Graham Slee's Voyager amp: It's clear that MP3's do sound a lot better with good amplification.

Therefore, after a week's use, I'm VERY impressed. My wife isn't. I've listened to so much music that she mentioned the words “pig”, “selfish”, “amplifier”, “wheelie bin”, and “divorce” in several outbursts. A trip to the local perfume shop has sorted her out for the moment, but it cost £50!

The sound of this amp may well change over the next week or two. The superb Sennheiser 565's will be brought back into action when the replacement cable arrives. If anyone's interested, I'll update this soon.

Photo%20of%20my%20hi-fi%20gear

That's no power amplifier to the right of the Graham Slee Green Solo. It's the perfume I had to buy the missus. Below are the Sennheiser HD 555's and Sonos wireless music streamer.


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Charley Phogg View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Charley Phogg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Mar 2008 at 3:13am
Nice write up man. The sound will indeed change, have patience with the little beast. It made an ass out of me and I didnt even have to buy the missus perfume Thumbs%20Up

Oops, hope your Solo brings you as much pleasure as mine has me, and welocome to the forum.


Edited by Charley Phogg - 18 Mar 2008 at 3:15am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Charley Phogg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2008 at 8:31pm
Man, my Solo os probaly pushing well over a 1,000 hours on it.  I'm still mesmerized by it. Keep on keeping on.

Some stuff is hard to listen too, but that's due to my masters, no fault of the Solo. I tried my 555's on it to, whoda thought!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DonutsAreGood Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2008 at 8:03pm
My HD 565 Ovation 'phones are now back in action. These are one of Sennheisers top headphones from about fifteen years ago. Although they are old, they are quite superb. They have a lower bass and sweeter treble than the HD 555's plus the presentation is more natural and less "in yer face".

So, how's the Green Solo doing? Well, had this amp for around three weeks. It's been switched on since it arrived and I've listened to around 75 hours of music. By the way, I don't know if true burn-in time includes the many hours when it's simply switched on and left idle, or if it is counted when the amp is, er, amplifying music.

I've encountered no technical problems with the amp during this time; no undue noise or distortion. Maybe my hearing is duff (I'm 47 years old), but I've noticed no big improvement in its sound since the day after it arrived. It started off good, became excellent the next day and has sounded about the same ever since.

In fact, it has been a revelation and I can understand Charley Phogg's enthusiasm. With the HD 565's, the wonderful controlled bass is now more apparent. Be it bass guitar or a double bass, the Solo provides great clarity.

Drums and other percussion instruments sound realistic. Offered as evidence is K T Tunstall's CD album "Eye to the Telescope". I urge everyone to go out and buy a copy of this (even if you don't like her music!) - I've seen it in Woolies for under a fiver. This album sounds COMPLETELY different through the Solo when compared to the headphone output of my NAD amplifier. The percussion drives each song along in such a way that is lost on inferior hi-fi. The Solo handles it with ease.

If I were Robert Mugabe, everyone in Great Britain would be ordered to buy a copy of any album by Beck and listen to it on a Green Solo. I like Beck Hansen. I reckon he's a headphone nutter as his tracks sound best through a good set of cans. The countless instruments and samples on just about every one of his tracks provide a very demanding test for any hi-fi equipment. The Solo separates everything, revealing the genius of the sound engineer(s). Oh, and there's that wonderful bass and percussion again...

Another interesting listen is the album by The Fugees called "The Score". This really should be renamed "The Vomit Inducer". I challenge anyone with a Solo to listen to the track "Ready or Not" without feeling seasick. The constant swirling of sounds from left to right was previously no problem through the NAD amp. However, the Solo's ultra-precise stereo separation will have you reaching for the sick bag.

Well done, chaps. You make a great headphone amp. It's refreshing that it's made in Great Britain. Shame that UK PLC is now woefully obssessed with service industries and is neglecting manufacturing and engineering, but that's another story.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Charley Phogg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Apr 2008 at 6:41am
Well, once again I get the Censored award for the month award. I was swapping out my 555's and 580's to give Donut  as accurate impression as I could. Seeing how those are the only headphones I've owned. Well, I listened to the 580's, Pligged 555's in, Then went back to the 580's, but no sound!!!! Guess which pair I had on my mellon???

 Anyhow Donut, even that step up is a big improvement , the 555's were, not sure how to phrase it, but constrained, muffled. Even the 580's were open, being the only other ones I've heard, I'd say the cover the full spectrum fairly well. Other  people know better.

 No person can tell you what can would suit you. Just dig around and try and find someone that seems to have similar needs as you , or if preferably, litesn to other models, whic would be preferable.

  I think when, ok, I'm certain when I compared the 555 to the 580's is when my adapter was only playing 1 channel out of the 580's Embarrassed
 

Embarrassed ,hell, I can't even get my emoticons to cooperate. Anyhow, you really should upgrade ur can's when you get the chance. You'll get so much more out of the Solo.

 Enjoy

 P.S. I'm working on my typing and it's improved for now. LOL


Edited by Charley Phogg - 04 Apr 2008 at 6:44am
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