Hi-fi nostalgia is on the rise. Vinyl, despite its undeniable lack of convenience compared to streaming services, is becoming more popular every day — audiophiles love the tactile experience and warm sound. Turntables aren’t the only way to experience the audio tech of yesteryear, however — vacuum tube amplifiers add just a bit of pleasing distortion to the sound. The Solis SO-8000 is a compact speaker amplifier with a tube preamp section and, in addition to two analog inputs, also allows streaming over Bluetooth.
In the box you’ll find everything you need for a bookshelf system — a set of dual-driver rear-ported 4ohm speakers, speaker cables, RCA cables, a brush for cleaning dust around the tubes, and a pair of gloves for handling the tubes. The SO-8000’s amplifier has a distinctively un-modern look, with its two 12AX7 tubes and transformer tube exposed. In front of the preamp tubes is one thing that wasn’t featured in 1970s amplifiers — a single 6E2 tube that features a VU meter that responds to bass frequencies. All the components are clad in a gooey gloss-black finish.
The SO-8000’s amplifier is rated at 17 watts of power RMS. On paper, the amp may seem underpowered, but it’s plenty for a near-field setup, especially its bundled speakers. Pairing lossy Bluetooth streaming (SBC, aptX) with a tube amp is an unusual choice, but it works as it should. We were not terribly impressed by the SO-8000’s bundled speakers, however. These feature a familiar 5-inch woofer and 1.25-inch tweeter, but their bass extension is lacking even compared to speakers of similar size; out of the box, they sounded bright and at times, nasal. Compromises are to be expected in any bundled system, but the good news is that they can be upgraded down the road — swapping in our KEF Q300 substantially improved things.
You’ve heard of ‘home theater in a box’ — the Solis SO-8000 is a starter hifi system in a box. You could easily spend many multiples of the SO-8000’s price on higher-end tube amps and speakers, which will put out more power and sound better — but we think this bundle could be a nice starter pack for those looking to add a little tube glow to their living room.
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