Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear Quick Review
Thanks to Graham Slee for the loan.
Brief: Teeny amp, giant name.
Price: £670 or circa US$1020
Specification: Lots, see here http://www.gspaudio.co.uk/soloultralinear.htm
Accessories: Err none really, power supply if you count that.
Build Quality: Good. It’s a big block of aluminium which you can see the screws holding it together. It’s sturdy and practical.
Aesthetics: Pleasant, plain, perhaps a little utilitarian.
Sound: Open, detailed, transparent and I could see some thinking it contradictorily either bright or valvey. Bright because it’s so very detailed and this heightened clarity in the uppers makes the highs more articulated and readily distinct. Rather than the smearing you get when there is a lot going on up top, the clarity retains all the detail making it more noticeable and hence could be interpreted as bright. It’s valvey in the sense that the initial impact of metallic edges are a might soft. The highly fluid smooth detail you get pervades everything and offers a hyper liquid presentation. There isn’t any abrasiveness or harshness despite its very open and clear nature. Normally you see, that “clarity” is enhanced by cranking up the abrasiveness so it “feels” more clear. The Solo Ultra doesn’t do that, it does it the hard way by actual giving you more detail rather than just trying to trick your ears in to then thinking there is. It’s pretty awesome. The enhanced clarity is everywhere, from adding a certain vigour to the lows, they do reduce the tendency of headphones to bloom a little so you get a more well sculpted bottom. It firm and luscious. Mids share the same nudging, highly detailed, highly detailed pushing towards detail and nuance. It does a little over do vocals which suit a more creamy presentation. I can’t fault it for being too detailed but Nora likes a more rich and creamy experience, yes her vocals are super fluid but she isn’t about extracting every last detail she’s about melting away. The Solo Ultra enjoys being desperately detailed and nuanced, not so much melty. Highs are super good too. Supremely detailed so feed it good quality stuff, while it does do a little valve esq softening of the metallic edge of a clatter but only a hint of it, feed it crap and it’ll try not to cheese grater your ears but if you buy this amp and feed it rubbish, it will assume you know what your doing and dish it up.
Value: Eek. It’s the best part of £700 here for a headphone amp. So we are well into diminishing returns but….. if you’ve got some first class, kick ass headphones already and you want to see just how well they can shine, you may well want to get your wallet out and give them a bash. It’s pretty damn fine.
Pro’s: Sounds exquisitely good. Eeks out every last drop of performance form your headphones.
Con’s: Your wallet may not be best pleased.