In addition to voices, violin also tended to sound incredibly realistic with the rendering of micro-dynamics allowing subtle characteristics to be revealed. On Diabolus in Musica: Accardo interpreta Paganini [Deutsche Grammophon], Salvatore Accardo’s virtuosity was on full, fiery display: natural instrumental harmonics, attacks, body, and textures emerged from a quiet backdrop as he tore through flights up and down octaves. In “La Campanella” the tiny tinkling chime in the right channel registered clearly, convincingly placed farther upstage. A palpable sense of the orchestral choirs’ presence, scale, and positions came through as well. And I liked the virtual impression of where I was “sitting in the hall,” several rows from the stage, not too close, not too far away.
The Soulution also reproduces bass to satisfying levels, here pushing the MBLs to reach for those deeper octaves—be they doublebass or Fender bass, electronic dance music, or even organ. No, the MBLs didn’t plumb the deepest depths or rumble my room (maybe I need to bring back some subs, ha!) but I generally didn’t feel I was missing out. Some electronics perform better with, say, classical music than with hard rock. As described, the Soulution impressed with whatever genre or medium I threw at it.
Among the 330’s greatest strengths were how it (somehow) seemed to convey musicians’ and singers’ individual styles and performances realisically with a high degree of detail and nuance—and it did so with greater consistency than I’d ever experienced in my listening room. On The National’s Sleep Well Beast LP [4AD], at the very end of the title track my ears picked up on what sounded like horns running rapid-fire through rehearsal scales; I hadn’t heard that before. “Carin at the Liquor Store” seemed to carry more weight of expression—even sounding closer to live—than I’d experienced in its playback on other systems. Higher resolution and textural details revealed compelling insight into the sad, slow waltz’s finer points, from Matt Berninger’s slightly raspy, throaty baritone to Aaron Dessner’s somewhat subdued yet deftly searing Fender guitar solo, which cuts through the bittersweet moodiness of Bryce Dessner’s slow-burn, slow-build piano chords.
High-end audio is so often about compromises, trading one quality for another. What sets the Soulution 330 integrated apart is its ability to strike just the right balance of musical and technical elements within a winning feature set, and to manage to deliver the sonic goods beautifully across so many recordings and styles. Moreover, the company has succeeded in keeping so many of its best sonic characteristics while paring down parts and pricing. The integrated gets out of the way of the music in the right ways but delivers the right stuff. This exquisite Swiss integrated might still cost a pretty penny but if you have the coin, I’d highly recommend auditioning it. For those yearning for Soulution’s Swiss sound and tech built-to-last, with the 3 series there’s never been a better time to invest in some of the finest solid-state around.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Integrated amplifier (phono board and/or DAC optional)
Power output: 120Wpc into 8 ohms, 240Wpc into 4 ohms, 480Wpc into 2 ohms (dynamic)
Analog inputs: 2x XLR, 2x RCA, 1x phono mc (optional)
Digital inputs (DAC option): USB-B, SPDIF, AES/EBU, Network/LAN
Outputs: 2 pairs of loudspeaker binding posts
Phono (optional): Impedance, 20–1260 ohms; gain, 60dB
DAC (optional): SPDIF impedance, 75 ohms; AES/EBU impedance, 110 ohms
Frequency response: DC–800kHz
Dimensions: 430mm x 142mm x 490mm
Weight: Approx. 30kg/66 lbs.
Price: $22,500; add’l. options include phono board, $3500; DAC, $4800
AXISS AUDIO (U.S. Distributor)
17800 South Main St. Suite 109
Gardena, CA 90248
ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT (system for this review)
Loudspeakers: MBL Corona Line 126 Radialstrahler omnidirectional speakers
Analog sources: Acoustic Signature’s Double X turntable, TA-2000 tonearm with Air Tight PC-7 mc cartridge, and Tango Reference phono preamp; Clearaudio’s Performance DC Wood turntable, Tracer tonearm with Stradivari V2 cartridge, and Balance V2 phonostage
Digital sources: MBL N31 DAC/CD Player, MacBook Air running Tidal via Roon
Amplifiers: MBL N51 integrated amplifier; Soulution 330 integrated amplifier with phono board
Power conditioners: AudioQuest Niagara 1000 conditioner; Ansuz Acoustics DTC box
Cables: AudioQuest power cord; Ansuz Acoustics DTC and D2 cables and interconnects
Accessories: Stein Music H2 Harmonizer boxes
Room treatments: Zanden Audio
Equipment racks: Critical Mass Systems Maxxum