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Audio files - Al Di Meola, Flesh on Flesh, Telarc, HDTracks, FLAC 24/96; Brian Eno, Craft on a milk sea, Warp Records, WARPCDD207, 2 x 180g LP + 2 x CD + 24/44,1 WAV; Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC; Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-0004, Ultimate Master Vinyl, 4 x 45rpm 180g LP + CD-RIIα + 24/192 WAV; Mikołaj Bugajak, Strange Sounds and Inconceivable Deeds, Nowe Nagrania 001, 45rpm LP+CD+WAV 24/44,1; Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, Verve, 24/96 FLAC.

For me listening to the Soulution 745 was an extraordinary experience. As always with top players I learned some new things, verified others and broadened my perspective about digital media and audio in general. I will try to show how this is a truly fantastic completely different player from any other although sonically it is a bit similar to the three-box Jadis JD1 MkII+JS1 MkIII but pushes even farther upward that virtual 'top high-end' hill. It's not a perfect player. Regardless of price there is no such thing. Yet the balance of pros and cons definitely works in Soulution’s favor. It's so easy to fall in love with this sound. I should add that since I had a chance to listen to the 540 first I already knew what to expect. That’s because as a manufacturer Soulution is very predictable. The 540 was created on the basis of the 745 design with some cost-based simplifications of power supply and output stages so I could realistically expect a similar sonic character.

To describe the sound of the 745 it is easier to compare it to a great turntable. I'm not going to call it ‘analogue’ as that might mislead you. I'm merely saying that it goes about creating its sound in a similar way, without any aggression, with a fabulous soundstage and with amazing coherence. Just as with a great turntable, with the Soulution you will never hear any annoying artefacts or subliminal distortions that can be so irritating with digital players in general. It's a somewhat mellow relaxed sound. It also delivers incredible resolution but different from how I usually describe digital sources.

It's tonality is quite easy to identify: clearly warm, with a saturated midrange so ripe that it momentarily becomes nearly a tad fulsome and an exceptionally powerful deep very well differentiated bass. The latter is extremely impressive. Very few other players can deliver similar (among those I listened to there are only the Jadis JD1 MkII+JS1 MkIII, the Ancient Audio Lektor Grand SE and Lektor Air, the Linn Klimax DS digital streamer and to some extent the SACD Soulution 540 and perhaps also the C.E.C. TL1N+DX1N).

The 745 takes at least one more step up the high-end hill by now adding something I also hear with my Harbeth M40.1 Domestic speakers. This something feels like a soft resilient cushion that is placed underneath the entire presentation. Whilst high quality turntables offer a similarly saturated and buoyant sound, many otherwise very precise resolute digital players lack this special … let’s call it ‘soul’. So it becomes this great bass and warm slightly round treble which define the sound of this machine.

I mentioned resolution. In this regard too the Soulution sounds more like turntables - part of the same parallel I began establishing a few paragraphs up. With its richness and differentiation this sound is not based on precise attacks, punch and an overwhelming number of details but very rich nuanced tonality. It is a profound difference which to my ears defines the core gap between ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’ sound. This Swiss player proves once again—well, to me at least—that ‘analogue’ is not synonymous with playing vinyl records. The best digital players can deliver it too and the 745 in particular. I'm not claiming that the Soulution sounds like a turntable, only that its focus of resolution is similar to what I know from vinyl rather than analogue tape. Because when it comes to dynamics and microdynamics in particular, the 745 still sounds like a very good digital player, i.e. it can't dig as deeply into the recording as a turntable can. It won't handle the expressive shadings and hues as well as a turntable which makes the latter’s sound almost like life.

Because of its warm tonality and slightly laid-back character, the Soulution might seem nearly a bit too relaxed. That actually might be true. I ran most of my listening sessions with my headfi rig where this quality nearly seemed like an advantage as every recording sounded interesting. On the other hand most of them sounded slightly alike. Tonality and timbres were shown off beautifully and finely differentiated to have me appreciate many familiar recordings in a new light. The point simply is that there were very few recordings I didn't like - and I knew there should have been more.