Audio Valve Solaris-DAC – State-of-the-Art – more than just a headphone amp!
wenn Sie hier angekommen sind, hat Ihre Reise auf der Suche nach dem evtl. besten Kopfhörer Verstärkers der Welt ihr Ende gefunden. Mit SOLARIS sind Sie am Ziel dessen, was man technisch – musikalisch auf höchstem Niveu entwickeln und produzieren kann. Aber das werden Sie schon igrendwo gehört haben – sonst wären Sie nicht hier.
Die Vorgeschichte von SOLARIS reicht zurück bis ins Jahr 1982. Zu deisem Zeitpunkt entwickelte ich ( Becker ) des. sog. RKV2 und meldete ihn zum Patent an. Zum damaligen Zeitpunkt war diese Arbeit richtungsweisend in der HiFi Branche was die technische Umsetzung in eine Schaltung bei gleichzeitiger Verwendung von Röhren und Halbeitern in einer Symiose betraf.
Zu diesem Zeitpunkt was der Anspruch an gutes Hören seitens der Kundschaft allerdings noch nicht so ausgeprägt, dass ein jeder die musikalsichen Qualitäten des Konzeptes wahrgenommen hätte. So verstrichen weitere Jahrzehnte, bis der RKV auch im Audio – Olymp den wohlverdienten Einzug hielt, dass war so ca. 2010. Das Internet half dabei, das Konzept weit über die eigene Landesgrenze hinaus in die audiophile Welt hinaus zu tragen. Von da an ging es eigentlich nur noch vorwärts. Es folgten diverse Updates und Erweitungen und diese wiederum fanden dann in Produkten wie der RKV 3 und SOLARIS Ihren Höhepunkt.
Man spricht im Rahmen solcher Entwicklungen von sog. “gewachsenen Strukturen” , dabei handelt es sich um Entwickungen, die basierend auf dem Ursprung einer tollen Idee, einer ständigen weiteren Vollendung entgegen streben, ohne dabei jemals die Basis zu verlassen. So zumindest machen wir das bei AudioValve. In anderen Firmen hingegen, gibt man Konzepte komplett auf, weil sich deren technologische Fortsetzung, aufgrund veränderter Rahmenbedingungen, als nicht mehr zeitgemäß entpuppt und gipfelt dann in einem Modellwechsel.
Sie sehen also, es gibt zwei Lager, die einen die an dem festhalten, was schon immer zu gut war – so wie wir – und die anderen, die erkennen müssen, dass ihr Konzept sich als hinfällig erweist und nur durch einen radikalen Schnitt bereinigt werden kann, was soviel bedeutet wie – aufgeben und neu machen.
DAC`s z.B. sind solche Produkte, kaum sind sie fertig, sind sie auch schon wieder veraltet, so schnell lebig ist hier der techn. Fortschritt.
|Usermail vom 14.10.2019 … “Hallo Herr Becker, Ehre, wem Ehre gebührt !|
Ich höre mich seit Sonntag wieder einmal durch die geschätzte Kollektion meiner CDs von Ginger Baker, der am Sonntag leider mit 80 Jahren verstorben ist. Mit Susvara und Solaris sind etwa „Middle Passage“ sowie „Horses and Trees“ einfach ein Erlebnis, nie habe ich diese Aufnahmen dynamischer, natürlicher und transparenter gehört! Übrigens im Stax Betrieb, denn in OTL geht dem Solaris leider bei dieser Naturgewalt am Susvara wieder einmal etwas die Puste aus. Ich beglückwünsche mich jedenfalls mit jeder Hörsession neu zu diesem Kauf, jeder schwer verdiente Euro war es doppelt wert !”
“…After living with Solaris now for three weeks I am in love. It is a beautiful piece of work. The sound quality is astounding. My headphone enjoyment has gone up by a lot. I was able to listen to two electrostatics with it and have just ordered the MrSpeakers Voce which I preferred to the Stax 009. It also drives my 91db efficient office speakers to decent listening levels. I just wanted to again thank you for the great piece of equipment. I am now curious to hear your large 2-channel amps.” 🙂 – David – One more: I am using it now with MrSpeakers Ether C Flow dynamic headphones and they sound much improved in ways that my previouys amps from Woo Audio and Schiit could not achieve. I look forward to the upgrade to the Voce and will let you know what I think”.
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Audio Valve Solaris-DAC – State-of-the-Art – more than just a headphone amp!
BRAND NEW REVIEWS:
Dr. Martin Mertens about the Solaris w/DAC in the Ear-In magazine ( May 2018 ):
“…the Solaris DAC from AudioValve is a high-end headphone amp that boosts all headphones to a new level of sound reproduction. In addition, the Solaris is very generous with its connections, offering every type of standard connector. Best we’ve heard…”
CLICK HERE to read the entire review (in German)
Lieven of Headfonia.com wrote ( February 2018 ):
“…another thing I really love about the Solaris are the dynamics and speed with which it delivers your music, the Solaris has great PRaT. On top of all this from bass to treble you get a very high resolution, the level of detail just is impressive. A high level of detail doesn’t mean this amplifier is analytical, cause it is not. Think musicality over pure analytics but always with great clarity. If female vocals are your thing (they are for me), then you will love this amp, but in general the Solaris voices are exceptionally good, natural and romantic… the Solaris does everything so effortless, it is a pure pleasure to listen to. It’s musical, rich, extended, easy on the ear and completely non-fatiguing. What’s not to like?”
CLICK HERE to check out the entire review
technische Angaben …
consequence double mono design
2 * 0,15mm copper for top and bottom layer
multi VIA layer grounding basis, pcb design is based on the
theoretical principles of the “kelvin – wiring”
heavy 3 mm laser cuted steel case – couted
8 power tubes ( 4 per channel ) – ECL85 / 6F5P
2 x 12 watt rms ( 200 ohm load )
full automatic DC / AC servo biasing
multi match transfomers ( PIKATRON ) included
power output mode selector – OTL / match – transfomers
ALPS volume control
BALANCE pot. +/- 3dB
PRE-OUT for active speakers or power amplifiers
2 * NEUTRIK output combi headphone jackets – 6,3mm & XLR
5 * inputs; 2 * RCA & XLR; 2 * RCA only; 1* RCA phono MM out
1 * RCA – REC output, offer all connected soures and PHONO too for sec. line ( pre ) amps
1 * pair XLR jackets for “power out” for power amps ( OTL output ratio: 10:1 )
4 * isolated heavy gold plated stereo speaker terminals for speakers
green illuminated main power switch for power ON mode and iluminated front glass
heating and plate voltage “soft start” circuit
headphone protector circuit
reversible heating / plate current limiter
installed selected OPA 134
highly accurate implementated stereo MM phono modul – “old school design”
1 – case color: standard – black standard ( or silver )
2 – “limited EDITION ivory white colored case” – hand selected parts < 1% tolerances and a lot of more expensive specails ( also available in black at 2020 )
Technische Erläutertungen …
OTL – transformer outless tube amplifier ( Pat. – design 1982 )
double mono construction
power output: each channel 12 watt sin at 220R load in OTL mode
bandwide: 15 – > 100 000 hz
damping 3600 !
s/n ratio 100 dB
distortion 0,002 % at 1 Watt-200 Ohm load
max. OTL – mode: output 120 VAC eff
max. STAX – mode: output 480 VAC
Gain: OTL mode 34dB, STAX +12dB by output transformer ratio
Gain switch for all modes: + 8dB
input sensitifity. 0dBm, resistens 47k
Bias voltage: 300 + 580 VDC
IC – full autom. – controlled bias – class – a mode
patent full automatic servo tube biasing
power consumption min. 100 watt
size 360*320*140 mm (d.w.h.)
SOLARIS the ONE AND ONLY
headphone amplifier on the market that is able to drive all
standard headphone loads, starting from 3 ohm up to
Later in the text the controls are explained …
when the gain switch is activated, the green LED on the board lights up and indicates the increase in the gain using the reedrealis
Rear view of the built-in sockets in Solaris
we use a 2 channel RF remote control for the volume up and down function
The lower picture shows the the hum and noise that the amplifier produces – nothing produces the amplifier, it is absolute quiet. (screen: 2mV/div.)
The picture below shows the rectangle in OTL mode at 10kHz – simply impeccable. The pixels are from memoryscope
The picture below shows you the max. Output voltage before soft clipping in OTL mode at 220 Ohm load per channel – at 50 Vrms are on each channel 11.3 watts
The picture below shows you the max. rms output voltage before soft clipping in STAX mode.
Following some graphics for technically interested people …
The switch to the use of OPA 134 clearly shows the added value of the signal quality
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Neuer SOLARIS Testbericht in HIFI-STARS Ausgabe vom 28.August 2018
bitte auf den Link nachfolgenden klicken …
HiFi_Stars_40_Audio Valve Solaris DAC.compressed-ilovepdf-compressed
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REVIEW: HiFiMan Susvara Review from Amos Barnett
AudioValve, the music machine
You could seldom find a product which will be over 35 years continuous developed. This could only exist if the technology during all trends and fashions changes survives and the purpose of the product is timeless. It´s about the Solaris from AudioValve.
If AudioValve’s portfolio meantime includes now nearly each amplifier in the hi-fi segment – preamps, power amplifiers, phono preamplifiers and power amplifiers, all in tube technology, of course – headphone amplifiers are one of the company’s core products.
So began the AudioValve story with a tube headphone amplifier, short RKV, which Mr. Becker introduced in 1982. Now offers AudioValve the RKV in the third generation as RKVIII. New comes the Luminare, which with balanced connections and a connection for electrostatic headphones according to Stax specifications offers more connection options for different headphones, as well as the Solaris, which could combine RKVIII and Luminare and offers even more connection, so that it can also be used as a preamp or even as a power amplifier, the Solaris has inherited from the RKVIII also speaker outputs. A high-quality DAC board is available for all models, which adds a USB input to the devices – which is also included in our test device.
If you want more than already extremely high “series quality” of Audio-Valve, you can also order the Solaris as a “Limited Edition”. For these devices, all components are selected by hand to 1% tolerance, in addition to a few elaborate tuning measures are used.
The Solaris can therefore be described as the top model among the headphone amplifiers from AudioValve. The top position is mainly a result of its variety of the connection. The “heart”, the actual amplifier circuit, is the same for all headphone amplifiers from AudioValve. It’s about a tube circuit, with four ECL85 working in a Class A circuit per channel. The ECL85 is a relatively “modern” tube that came on the market in the early 1960s. It consists of two systems, a triode and a pentode, and was originally designed for use in televisions. The tube is quite common and in the nearest future, the availability of replacement tubes is in any case guaranteed. Whereby the probability, that the tubes have somewere to change, is very low. Helmut Becker has equipped each tube with a circuit that continuously monitors the quiescent current, so that the tubes always work optimally regardless of their aging state. The circuit itself is designed for transformerless operation (OTL) and delivers a power of 8 watts per channel – far more than ever a headphone needed. In the OTL mode, the Solaris can use the powerful output stages headphones with impedances between 25 and 1000 ohm drive and drive them both unbalanced and symmetrical. For balanced connection, a 4-pin XLR jack and two combi jacks are available, to which a balanced headphone with two 3-pin XLR plugs can be connected. Unbalanced, two headphones with 6.3 mm jack can be connected to the same combination jacks. For lower impedance headphones, there is the “low-impedance” mode.
This is used a step-down output transformer, which allows to operate headphones with an impedance from 3 ohms on the Solaris. At the same time, a signal and supply voltage for the normal (= not pro) headphones from Stax are available at the Stax connection socket. When switching to Stax mode, the Solaris provides the necessary voltages and signals for Stax Pro headphones.
Alternatively, a dynamic headphone with an impedance of 16 ohms can be connected. In all cases, for headphones with very low efficiency you can increase the amplification factor by switch. Also as far as the sources are concerned, the Solaris is easy to connect. Four line inputs, two of which can be balanced or unbalanced, allow the connection of DAC or CD player, tuner, tape machine or whatever. In addition, there is a phono input for MM pickups. Since such a variety of connections would suit a veritable preamplifier, the Solaris also has corresponding outputs. So you can operate a power amplifier or active speakers with him.
Passive loudspeakers can even be connected to the speaker terminals on the rear panel – the 8 watts that the Solaris can deliver, delivers amazing volumes. Incidentally, the volume can also be controlled using the enclosed remote control. Also noteworthy is the built-in DACBoard. This is anything but a simple off-the-peg solution or a standard component purchased in Asia. It was developed by Manfred Pfenning, who was also active in the field of digital technology for other well-known names such as Restek or BMC Audio. An XMOS processor receives via USB signals up to 24-bit / 384 kHz or DSD128 and leads them to further conversion, whose details AudioValve does not mention. The USB input is parallel to input 4. If a digital signal is present, input 4 automatically switches to the USB input; If no digital signal is present, the analog input 4 is active.
In the test, the Solaris DAC had a lot to do. The entire range of high-end headphones featured here – starting with the MrSpeakers magneton magnetostatic, with an impedance of only 13 ohms, marks the lower end of the test field via the conventionally dynamic AudioTechnica ATH-ADX5000 with an impedance of 420 ohms to to the electrostatic MrSpeakers Voce, which needs a supply voltage of 580 V and a corresponding processed music signal – was allowed to give an idea on the Solaris.
In addition came my familiar working headphones. Also as sources everything came from the laptop with JRiver over a high-quality external DAC up to the MM-equipped turntable for use. And how does Solaris DAC sound? Especially in any case. But it´s not so easy to explain. Tonally sound neutral many headphone amplifier or they bring the tonal tuning of the connected headphones to advantage, without imposing a noticeable own stamp on it. Of course the AudioValve behaves properly in this regard. Dynamicly it´s like a “pow”, as a headphone just could provide , as headphone amplifiers could.
Writing about resolution or detail rendering is just as idle. Rather, I wrote something about the different headphones. If there is one thing that distinguishes the sound of Solaris equally on all headphones, it is a truly remarkable accuracy, with which it seems to dedicate itself to every sound, every acoustic event. It’s like looking at a modern TV with the latest UHD and HDR technology from an old TV with PAL video standards. Similar to the pictures, every detail seems more sharply outlined, each (sound) color is finer and cleaner graded, dark parts of the picture (the bass) are darker and still show structures and gradations, where somewhere long ago indifferent deep gray prevails. Also, the lights, the heights, radiate in a way and still show gradations, where you have previously seen nothing but uniform white. The whole thing, however, only true, if you make it aware. Because in the beginning you are simply overwhelmed by the overall impression. That’s exactly what Solaris is all about. He presents his overwhelming sound characteristics as a matter of course. Not the details are in the foreground, but a clear, pure overall impression, which one without a magnifying glass.This is in my opinion the main difference between hi-fi (high fidelity) and high-end – no more questions.
May 2018 – Dr. Mertens, EAR-IN
original pdf review see below …..
Audio Valve Solaris DAC
That was my first thought as I unboxed the beautiful yet Industrial Audio Valve Solaris Headphone Amp/DAC. If you like your Audio equipment to be bland and understated, look elsewhere. This is big, funky, beautifully built, black metal, glass and chrome. An Audio Harley Davidson. If ever a piece of kit was oddly named, this was it.
It’s actually a fully featured Integrated Amp, 12w per channel, with 5 unbalanced and 2 balanced inputs, balanced pre-outs, 4 headphone outputs and a single USB input. Due to the complexity of my speakers, I’m only using the pre-outs and USB features for the main body of the review. The pre -outs are feeding my Audiomanufacture 4 channel DSP power amp.
I approached this review with a degree of scepticism. I’ve been seduced by valves before, their lush siren like mids with shimmering tops, but eventually return to the sturm und drang of Solid State.
I’m a drummer and a bass player, so the rhythm section and how the system keeps this tight and coherent is paramount to me.
After tracking down and installing the drivers, I let the Amp warm up for a couple of hours before starting any listening. Last month I spent 3 days at High End Munich, and was disappointed by the choice of music of many of the manufacturers, playing it safe with female vocals, at one point it was like an Eva Cassidy fest…..it sounded good but doesn’t challenge the system.
I started with the built in USB DAC with more challenging female vocals, early Joni Mitchell whose high register could break a glass and Aimee Mann, who with an inferior system can sound like she’s got the worst head cold ever. And then a firm favourite, “Inconsolable” off the Jonatha Brooke and The Story “Plumb”, where it can all fall apart when the piano and big kick drum come together in the final minutes.
I’m pleased to say it was a thumbs up, vocals were lively but not strident, huge, lush but not with overblown mids, with deep tuneful bass. As a drummer, tight and dynamic snares and sizzling cymbals are something I always demand from my system. So 2 choices seemed appropriate, “Trampoline” off the Joe Henry disc of the same name and the title track off the Ben Harper “Fight for your Mind”. The latter having not only drums with real snap but tight, punchy bass and sleigh bells….bring it on 🙂
Another win, it had almost all the snap of my solid state but without any doubt better mids.
I decided to finish off the digital test with a bit of speaker blowing Rock, the fab four, no….not The Beatles, Jimmy , Robert, John-Paul and Bonzo, the mighty Zepp.
I have a High Res 24/96 version of one of their greatest albums, 1975’s “Physical Graffiti” . Warming up with “Kashmir” Bonzo’s almost metronomic drumming unpinning what is actually a North African chord progression, the guitar and strings all well separated but gelling , with Percy giving it his trademark Yeas and Woos, quite a journey.
And to finish, may I recommend one of their under-rated but brilliant tracks, ” In my time of Dying”. It opens with Jimmy’s shimmering but edgy almost threatening slide guitar and then we are joined by Robert, quite subtle but with detail and nuance. It builds into speaker shredding crescendos, the slide cuts through like a chain saw, Robert howling like a Banshee, Bonzo is attempting to turn his Ludwigs into firewood and as always JPJ keeps it all together with fleet fingered nimble but tight and punchy bass.
This track has been the nemesis of many a system……but it rocked and never lost its grip and timing.
Mightily impressed for valves……
On to Vinyl, my OL TT/Arm , Shelter M/C and Perreaux phono stage linked via balanced cables into the Solaris. This can be a bit lean but not a bit of it here. The pre wrung out detail on LPs I’d not heard in 30 years. The debut LP from Joan Armatrading , suddenly Kenny Jones’s drums had a new dynamic and cymbal and snare drums, deep in the mix, would magically appear.
I must have got through 20 or 30 well-loved LPs and was bowled over by the new level of detail I was hearing. I’m close to thinking that the Solaris pre works better with my vinyl rig than my current solid state pre and that’s quite a statement.
There is one criticism, and it’s not audio based really…..the remote is truly awful. It’s basically a clicker you get with electric garage doors, button A for down, button B for up. It’s clunky, noisy and the steps are too big. I’m amazed that a company who spends so much time and effort on aesthetics would supply, possibly as an afterthought , such an awful remote.
I’ve been living with the Solaris for a week or so now and I am loving its detail, soundstage, and just sheer musicality. You start off listening to the HiFi but very quickly get drawn in and are soon just loving the music. This is an excellent and very well featured amplifier. It sounds and looks marvellous.
I’m extremely impressed by this valve amplifier and if Elite Audio were to ask me to try a standalone pre, I’d be very very happy !
Links / Mods
MOD 2020 für SOLARIS / Thema PRE GAIN SELCTION …
wir haben den Verstärkungsbereich des SOLARIS erweitert – um 2 weitere Stellungen auf nummehr insgesamt 4 Varianten. Bekannt was OTL plus 15 dB für STAX Pegel, hinzu gekommen ist eien Absenkung auf – 10 und – 15 dB und die Gesamtlautstärke und den Geräausch Teppich abzusenken.
MOD 2020 for SOLARIS / PRE GAIN SELECTION …
we have expanded the SOLARIS GAIN range – by 2 additional positions to a total of 4 variants. You know OTL and plus 15 dB for STAX level, added a reduction to – 10 and – 15 dB to lower the overall volume and the noise of the back ground.
SOLARIS update – 2020
( PRE GAIN SELECTION )
What is the purpose of this modification?
Implementation of a technical supplement (MOD) for the purpose of lowering the basic
amplification of the amplifier with the result of a better adaptation of very low-impedance
headphones to use and enjoy in OTL mode.
Reason: It has been shown in the past that despite mismatching of very low-impedance headphones,
OTL mode is often used, despite the restrictions of an audible carpet of noise and a very restricted
adjustability of the volume. So far we have always advised against this so as not to overload the
tubes. But it does not harm the tubes and does not shorten their lifespan.
In order to enjoy OTL even on very low-impedance headphones, it is necessary to reduce the GAIN
of the amplifier, also so that a good setting range on the volume potentiometer is possible,
especially the background noise that the amplifier produces itself.
The present MOD should take this into account and the enjoyment o.a. Make headphones available
in OTL without any restrictions.
In the versions from 2020, the GAIN switch on the SOLARIS will therefore be expanded by 2
further switch positions to the left, with which the GAIN can be reduced, gradually to 50% or 25%
of the standard OTL gain.
So we have now complied with this user request and expanded the GAIN setting by the rotary
switch by 2 positions to the left.
So far, the GAIN switch had only a 0 dB position (that was the 30-fold gain for standard OTL use)
and turned to the right, a further increase in gain for STAX headphones by +12 dB (approx. 3 x as
The SOLARIS from 2020 then have this rotary switch with 2 further positions – a total of 4
positions – to take the wishes of the users into account in every conceivable way.
The GAIN is then set as follows:
rotated from left to right:
-15dB -10dB 0dB + 10 dB,
or in other words, related to OTL:
25% 50% 100% 300%
The measure has already been tested on various products and is therefore ready to be launched on
the market available now. Retrofitting is also possible – if necessary for a small reimbursement of
The basic setting for listening to dynamic headphones is generally as follows:
MODE: OTL / GAIN: 0dB
if this is too loud for you because your connected headphones have a very low impedance – or because they are “high efficiency” headphones you can use the GAIN switch to lower the gain – but still have OTL, turn them to the left (1 x corresponds to -10dB) 2 x to the left corresponds to -15dB, you will see a green LED on the vertical circuit boards next to the tube – important information on both channels
die Basis Einstellung zum Hören dynamischer Kopfhörer lautet generell erst mal folgender maßen:MODE: OTL / GAIN: 0dB
wenn Dir das zu laut ist, weil dein angeschlossener Kopfhörer eine sehr niedrige Impedanz hat – oder weil er ein “high Efficency” kopfhörer ist kannst du mit dem GAIN schalter die Verstärkung absenken – hast aber trotzdem noch OTL, drehe ihn dazu nach links (1 x entspricht -10dB ) 2 x nachlinks gedreht entspricht -15dB, du siehst auf den vertikalen leiterplatten neben den Röhre jeweils eine grüne LED leuchten – auf beiden Kanälen
Jan Sieveking, Chef von HIFIMAN bei AudioValve auf den SDHT in Stuttgart …
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Verstärker muss unter Netzspannung sein, bitte nur mit einer Hand an der grünen FB Leiterplatte hantieren. Andere Hand auf den Rücken.
Obere weiße Taste auf dem Empfänger drücken, bis obere LED blinkt.
Dann rechte Taste am Sender drücken – man hört ein Relais klicken, als Quittung.
Das selbe mit der unteren Taste, jetzt aber am Sender die linke Taste drücken – wieder klick ein Relais als Quittung.
Jetzt testen, ob das Poti links / rechts dreht beim Drücken der Sender – Tasten ( links / rechts )
Wenn der Motor falsch herum läuft, Stecker an der Fernbedienungsleiterplatte abziehen, um 180 Grad drehen und wieder aufstecken.
AWARD der Zeitschrift EAR-IN – bester DAC – Kopfhörer Verstärker 2019