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Broadband noise is now below 10μV RMS unweighted and integrated over the entire bandwidth to be yet more optimized for high-efficiency ear-canal headphones. DC offset at the output is below 3mV and max allowable input level a stout 5V RMS. Channel tracking at each value of the custom stepped attenuator is better than ±0.2dB. The new dimensions are 4.25 x 2.85 x 0.585" LxWxH.

The AlgoRhythm Solo is compatible with any integrated amp (headphone or otherwise, just use a mini to RCA cable for the latter) or DAC with S/PDIF input. But given the deliberate cosmetic pairing and Matt MacBeth's involvement in designing the Rx as well, these two components were clearly meant for each other like Romeo and Juliet or peanut butter and jelly.

A review of one would seem incomplete without the other. The only hold-up with the Solo launch was the Apple certification process. If you remember MSB's $2.375 iLink (iPod included), it relied on a hacked iPod.

Whether due to then unavailability of a certification process for copasetic iPod models or no desire to finance it, this precedent does illustrate that the digital-direct iPod feature we've previously seen in Wadia's 170i, then the iDecco and since in docks by Cambridge Audio, Onkyo and Pure and machines by Naim, T&A and Teac carries a very real penalty for any maker offering it with Apple's authorization. There's the not inconsiderable investment of a licensing fee. Possibly worse, there's the potentially glacial approval process that can wreck havoc with a firm's product launch dates. It probably explains why there are still so few solutions with this so very desirable feature. Cypher Labs' contribution looked to be the first portable and self-powered solution to match the iPod's go-anywhere appeal. Cleverly it includes high-quality internal D/A conversion—which the Wadia, Onkyo and Cambridge docks so strangely lack—and a path for external conversion to embrace $10.000 DACs if desired.

"About RMAF 2010 where we rolled out the RxMkII, it was great. I shared a room with Red Wine Audio and used my Bamboo component racks, ALO interconnect and Corset speaker cables. Instead of making the latter an unadvertised 'private reserve' product, I should probably make them public now and list them on my website. There was somewhat of a stir over them at the show which is very good since breaking into the home audio cable market has been eluding me for years for some reason. Vinnie's Li-ion Phosphate battery stuff is a different animal from before, much improved over the lesser SLA packs. It too was very warmly received with an always packed room. This was good exposure for a small cable maker trying to bust into home audio.

"I mostly stayed in the CanJam room however where I shared a table with Audez'e. They were running Vinnie's new LFP-V Isabella/Mac Book front end into their Audez'e LCD-2s which sounded incredible. People really were awestruck by that setup. I used an iPod/RxMkII/Audez'e LCD-2 and iPad/Solo/RxMkII/LCD-2 combo [right] and those too were stellar. Overall the show was bigger and busier than last year. I hope all of us will be pulling out of this economy soon. I should be able to send out an AlgoRhythm Solo review loaner by the end of the year. It is quite an astonishing performer especially with the S/PDIF out into a home system. Vinnie has made many revisions to Matt's initial work and in fact took over the project on the board. We are all very excited by the Solo's potential."

Vinnie Rossi: "I am most impressed by the Solo's digital output. How it extracts USB data from Apple devices in deslaved asynchronous mode and generates a pristine reclocked S/PDIF output via coax really makes the iPod, iPhone and iPad into serious high-end transports (assuming lossless or WAV files are installed of course).  iPod and serious high-end transport no longer are an oxymoron with the portable Solo. Portability of course is primarily geared toward the headfi crowd but we will make the high-end home audio crowd aware that connecting the Solo to their home audio converter will be an ear opener. The analog output of the Wolfson chip is a standard 2Vrms out and we're not using any opamps in the output stage. Zout is ca. 100Ω to drive anything downstream with ease. And with Li-Ion power, there's no SMPS involved except for the battery charger."

Under the right conditions, the AlgoRhythm Solo could revolutionize the portable audio market. Some attendant requirements simply seem insurmountable. For one, it'll require uncompressed files. Most of my civilian friends with iPods tend to load theirs with MP3s. The even bigger question is, will a sufficiently large percentage of the iPod nation ever learn of the Solo's existence?
Original Rx

The desire for better sound relies on exposure. Were the Solo sold where cell phones and iPods are, it might have a chance at the big time. But demonstrations under such conditions are unlikely. Finally there's the $579 price tag. To audiophiles spending a lot more on a power cord, it's a trifle. To the MP3 nation it's a small fortune because you'll still need the $449 RxMkII amp (or something equivalent) plus cable links ($195 for the ALO Audio OCC LUX-FEP set). Most of them are happy enough with a thin headphone straw stuck directly into the iPod. Lastly, running fashion ear buds of dubious quality instead of high-resolution headphones could render the entire proposition mute. Little good is a fine front end if you strangulate it with miserable transducers at the end. Reader Robert Gaboury thinks that "Apple failed to understand the appeal of the iPod as a high-resolution machine. This is surprising from the inventors of the genre—or second proponent if we include Sony as the true mother—but perhaps they just outgrew their own personality. Judging from the sheer number of HD portable media players offered at the Hong Kong electronics show (players with FLAC support and compatible with almost any other AV format you can think of), I think the iPod  will open the door to a new generation of non-Apple portable devices just as the Sony Walkman paved the way for the original iPod."

Perhaps. But will the millions of iPod users learn more readily of those players than the Solo? Why expect someone to transfer their existing music collection to a different carrier? The more interesting approach would be converting the best-selling hifi machine of all time to deliver better digital conversion. That way a percentage of mainstream music consumers already owning it could upgrade to superior sound. That's why I remain excited by machines that address the iPod, iTouch and iPad. Rotel's new CD receiver does. It offers a digital USB input for class 2 devices including iPods. Bravo.