Waw, waw, waw. This amplifier impressed me in all possible ways. Sure you might not love the way it looks but that’s personal. The Audiovalve Solaris doesn’t come cheap but in return you get a reference headphone amp, with a large number of in -and outputs that can handle low impedance, high impedance and even electrostat headphones all in one. If that’s not enough for you then there’s also the perfect build quality, the integrated phono module and the fact that you can use it as a speaker amp.
The Audiovalve Solaris is a prefect TOTL do-it-all amplifier, and yes, I love it.
Audio Valve Solaris-DAC – State-of-the-Art – more than just a headphone amp!
The latest 2018 version. Based on the concept of Audio Valve’s Luminare, the form and equipment of Solaris has been adapted to RKV 3. In addition to extended features like balance-control, more inputs and a remote control which has been integrated for volume, the front plate of Solaris now has the same connection options as Luminare while offering twice the performance on all outputs which on average is 8-12 watt per channel, depending on the headphones‘ impedance.
Solaris-DAC is the logical synthesis of Luminare and RKV 3 and reflects perfectly what the Audio Valve team defines as STATE-OF-THE-ART product in the premium class of headphone applications when talking to a number of customers worldwide.
The Solaris-DAC is more than just a headphone amp, it’s more like a Swiss Army Knife in the Audio World, a full-fledged desktop system. It provides inputs for all sorts of headphones including Stax, analog inputs, USB input for music server and computer, MM phono input, pre-amp out for power amps, direct speaker output for high sensitive loudspeaker…
..and THE ONE AND ONLY headphone amplifier on the market that is able to drive all standard headphone loads, starting from 3 Ohm up to 145 kOhm and speakers too.
BRAND NEW REVIEWS:
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
On each boardisthe model nameof the productandthe name of thetubesisset.So if youare not surewhichtubeyou need,pleaselook at thecircuit boardandwatchwhat is writtenthere(PCL805–orECL85(6F5P) In mid-2015has been changed fromPCL805onECL85that affects themodelsRKVall,LuminareandSolaris
Thewarranty is void ifthe top glassof the amplifieris takenwithin the warranty period. Alsovoid the warranty, if otherthanthat we offertubes are usedforthe so-called„tuberolling“. To buynew tubes, please contact your dealer, he has recommendedtubes on stock. IncidentallyTube Rollingis simplystupidin the modelsRKV, LuminareandSolaris. You canconvince yourselfbyknocking on thetubes, they willnot hear anyknocking soundsin the headphones.
we use a2channelRFremotecontrol for thevolume up and down function
Technical explanationsthat show whythis conceptprovidessuch goodresults
The lower picture showsthethehum and noisethatthe amplifierproduces–nothingproducesthe amplifier,it isabsolute quiet. (screen: 2mV/div.)
The picture below showsthe rectangleinOTLmodeat 10kHz–simply impeccable.Thepixelsare frommemoryscope
The picture below showsyouthemax.Output voltagebeforesoft clippinginOTLmodeat 220Ohmloadper channel–at 50Vrmsareon each channel11.3watts
The picture below showsyouthemax.rmsoutput voltagebeforesoft clippinginSTAXmode.
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 !
A u d i o V a l v e
Mr. Helmut Becker ( CEO )
Phone: +49 561 7013360
EORI - Zollnr. DE 5831563
CTO - Dr. rer. nat. H. Leutbecher
Production manager, A. Freiling
We are a member of: AAA ( Analog Audio Association )
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