In keeping with their usual product style of high-end sound at mid-range prices, Arcam have introduced the Solo Bar Plus. It’s an update to the UK manufacturer’s first venture into the sound bar market, and they have jumped right in at the deep end…
As with all premium audio equipment, when unboxing you are immediately overwhelmed by the quality of the unit. It’s hardly an exact science, but grab hold of any Arcam product and it’s obvious that they haven’t cut any corners here, despite the very competitive price.
Hiding behind the grills you will find four 4″ mid/bass drivers plus two 1″ tweeters dishing out 100W of power, as well as a main display screen and control sat neatly in the centre. Arcam have focussed at improving a great soundbar with this Plus incarnation. In essence, the boffins in its design labs have improved the firmware, making this “tuning” update also available on earlier versions.
The unit, while a little large (coming in at 130mm high and 1000mm wide), does feature an IR repeater for if it were to block the TV’s sensor, and sits right at home underneath a 55″. In my opinion, it would look a little silly crammed underneath a 40″, but each to their own.
The Solo Bar comes equipped with all the usual suspects you expect to find on a more traditional home cinema amp, including 4K supporting HDMI inputs, and an ARC-enabled HDMI output, offering hi-res Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD master decoding for the best experience when watching Blu-ray.
There is also an optical input and of course a subwoofer input if you feel the need to introduce a little more “oomph” to your cinematic experience – Arcam also have the Solo Sub (subwoofer). For this particular test I focused on the soundbar alone, without the introduction of the subwoofer.
Initial set up of the unit is very straightforward and easy to understand. There is no on-screen interface during this process, all of the information is displayed on the bar itself. Set up involves selecting ‘auto setup’, plugging in the supplied microphone and essentially allowing the unit to take it from there. As you sit watching, the bar will make a variety of clicks, whistles and other such whimsical test sounds in order to calibrate itself perfectly to your room. Once completed, unplug the mic and enjoy. Of course, there is an EQ included, should you wish to have a tinker and adjust accordingly, but the auto setup is incredibly accurate and quick.
We rigged our Solo Bar into a Panasonic TX65CX802 paired with a Cambridge Audio 752BD.
I personally wanted to make sure that Arcam had cut no corners here and still clung on to that something special that they are so widely known for. I popped in a copy of “Frantic” by Metallica and to be honest, I was not expecting a particularly enthralling rendition. I could not have been more wrong.
When pushed, the Solo Bar does have that ‘oomph’ that I mentioned earlier. Even without the sub, it is still well balanced. For instance, I moved in a different direction and listened to Adele‘s latest number, “Hello“. I was blown away with the clarity and balance. This is a serious contender for any music aficionado torn between buying a hi-fi or AV system.
After being so impressed with its performance of music, I put on Transformers: Age Of Extinction and was impressed by the sound quality within the first few scenes: the speech is well rounded and perfectly clear when it needs to be.
While the bass was more than enough for music, I wasn’t as taken aback by the sound of a giant robot exploding as I would have liked, but maybe I’m asking too much. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a more than suitable roar, but didn’t give me that stomach rumble I was craving. Though I’m sure if I introduced the optional Arcam Solo subwoofer, it would have been a different story.
Overall this unit seems to be one of the ideal choices for someone who’s after a fantastic cinematic experience of a weekend, but still likes the idea of tapping their foot to some music during the week, and can’t decide which way to spend their money.
Author – Garrett, Plymouth store