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Soulution’s 510 is a fantastic CD player. I loved it. It showed me what about my own Ancient Audio Air player could be improved. The Polish player retained some advantages like delivering a better soundstage with more precise imaging. But these differences were quite small, far smaller than when I usually compare the Ancient Audio with others. Despite these advantages the 540 offered the more satisfactory sound. With high-resolution material this player worked very well but not as spectacular as with regular CDs. Players like Linn’s Klimax DS (with files) and the Accuphase DP-800/DC-801 or Luxman D-08 (with SACD) offer better performance by sounding more natural and more resolved. But remember that these are very expensive devices at the apex of what’s possible. ‘Better’ refers to slight differences. I would treat the Soulution 540 as an absolutely amazing CD player with certain bonus features that also allow it to play SACD and streaming files.

Description. The Soulution 540 is a SACD player. The Swiss consistently call it a CD/SACD player which in my opinion is redundant since an SACD player by design also plays CD. But after my audition I began to appreciate why Soulution emphasizes ‘CD’ in the nomenclature. It points directly at the machine’s core competence. Size and weight of the machine are significant. With its enclosure made of thick milled aluminum plates the 540 looks sexy and very modern. The knob in the middle of the face plate might suggest an amplifier inside but it’s simply a Sony-style controller. You use it to operate the player's main functions like play, stop, pause and skip and access particular setting in menu mode. which is quite advanced. There you can select signal source, display brightness, absolute phase, output mode (fixed or variable), set a fixed volume level and so on. Next to this master control are three push buttons. ‘Open’ also operates ‘stop’ just like on the remote. On the left is a quite large red dot-matrix display. One thing I would really appreciate is if it displayed song titles from SACD and CD text. If you stream individually tagged files, that lack of display information becomes really annoying. The same applies to input signal resolution which many machines will display. Since these items are all software managed, I really hope Soulution will add that functionality with a future update.

The slot drive with aluminium tray is placed on the right side and sourced from Esoteric. I mentioned functional limitations in regard to the display but the central knob works really well and there’s an impressive number of i/o ports with analogue XLR and RCA outputs; coaxial, AES/EBU and optical digital outputs; and coaxial, AES/EBU, optical and USB digital inputs. The former three accept 24/192, the latter 24/96. There is also a remote to slave multiple Soulution machines or interface systems like Creston. The power inlet has a mechanical power switch.

The insides are as impressive as the casing. I was truly impressed with Soulution’s build quality from the first moment I saw their gear. Everything is executed properly. Here the signal starts with the high-quality VRDS NEO from Teac. Its main body is made of some type of composite but all supporting elements including the tray are aluminum which makes the entire sled very rigid. This assembly bolts to thick aluminum bars which couple to the very  thick bottom panel. Two PCBs with controls are integrated with the drive. The key element is a DSP processor which converts DSD to PCM. The signal next encounters a large high-quality PCB mounted near the back panel. The key element here are digital filters (including upsampling) hidden in a large can emblazoned with the Edel logo and described as ‘S2 Powered by Anagram’ made by Swiss company ABC PCB. This firm has an impressive list of customers including Audio Aero Design, Audiomeca, Aurum Acoustics, darTZeel, Harman/Kardon, Hifi Winkel, Jean Maurer, Lyncee Tec, Manley Labs, Soulution, Talk Electronics and Wadax.

This circuit is the heart of the machine so let's go into some details. The S2 platform runs the famous Q5 upsampling circuit designed by Anagram Technologies. It contains distribution algorithms to many converters and actual converters. Soulution bypasses the latter for separate PCBs for their D/A circuits and output stage. An upsampler converts the incoming signal to 24/384 in a DSP Blackfin chip. It seems the same circuit is responsible for the digital volume control and also supports DSD signal, hence Soulution converts that to PCM before it arrives here. The output connects to Burr-Brown PCM1792, one stereo chip per channel. The output stage is quite advanced and distributed over multiple PCBs. There are no capacitors in the signal path and an input LM6171 chip covers I/V  conversion. Burr Brown OPA134 amplify and buffer the signal. The output stage shows more chips with heat sinks accompanied by a complex power supply. Special achievements of Soulution designs are impressively low levels of noise and TDH. This is achieved with an innovative ultra-fast negative feedback system.

The power supply is quite intricate and situated on two PCBs. The lower one shielded by a metal plate includes an SMPS for the drive, digital section and display. A larger linear PSU on the upper PCB delivers separate current for the analogue circuit and D/A converters. This is built around a huge Noratel transformer and large Rubycon capacitors. The chokes ahead of the voltage regulators are a very rare solution for transistor circuits devices. A large Schurter filter follows the AC power inlet.

The USB transceiver is a Tenor TE7022 chip as is also used in Ayon Audio players, the Stello DA100 Signature 96/24 USB, ADL’s GT40 and Burson Audio’s DA-160. This is a USB 2.0 Full Speed 24/96 receiver. Here it works in classic adaptive mode. I would have preferred had Soulution gone all the way and applied ABC PCB’s special USB solution which supports full 24/192. The footers appear sourced from Finite Elemente. The remote control is nicely functional. In toto, this is a beautiful deck and a great performer. In my opinion a few elements could still be improved – additional display information, the USB chip and perhaps DSD signal conversion could be accomplished in the DAC.

Technical data (according to the manufacturer):
Power consumption (standby/on): <0.5W/50W
Output voltage (XLR/RCA): 4V RMS/2Vrms
Peak output current: 0.2A
Output impedance (XLR/RCA): 10Ω/10Ω
Frequency response: DC-100kHz
Distortion (THD): <0,002%
Noise floor: -140dB
Volume range: 0...-80dB
Balance range: <- 9...0...9 ->dB
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