Roger Poulussen | 07 oktober 2014 |  <   > |
TAGS: Recensies |

Soledge and Concrete Audio at Dune Blue

On 26 and 27 September, the introduction of a few new brands in the Dutch hifiworld took place at Dune Blue. The French brand Soledge, which is in the digital audio market, and the German speaker brand Concrete Audio were center of interest.

Dune Blue is located in Kijkduin and brainchild of Michael and Jessica Wongso Meijer. The company started at the beginning of 2014 and is specialized in audio combined with architecture. The product range is therefore slightly less conventional, with brands such as NACSound, Aurelia, Belles, Acurus, Audel and Albedo Silver. Now Soledge and Concrete Audio are added to the list. Leading within the product range is design and good sound.

I met Michael for the first time at the Café Engels show in March 2014, where he showed the Italian NACSound Omni, which is an omni-directional speaker. On Michaels invitation, creator of this speaker Francesco Pellisari was present to talk about the concept and the idea behind it. 

On the initial invitation I received from Michael and Jessica, the presentation was focused on Soledge Audio equipment and Concrete Audio loudspeakers. Guido and Roland of Concrete Audio and Raphael Bini of Soledge were also present at the introduction. Unfortunately we were a bit late. When we arrived at Dune Blue the people of Concrete Audio just left to make the trip back to Weimar Germany.

To begin with Soledge, because the presentation was initially about that. Soledge is a French company based in Montpellier, which has launched 3 products into the market at this time. The Maestro music server, the little Alto streaming device/DAC and the Tenor amplifier/streaming device/DAC.

Raphael Bini started in 2006 with the Canto concept. A single device that is easy to operate via smartphone or tablet, using simple tools without using extra cables. Soledge therefore has chosen for Power Line Communication (PLC). This means that Soledge uses the residential mains line in order to get its data from and to the streaming device. An audiophile does not like this kind of data transfer because it messes up the mains. And as any audiophile knows, mains needs to be clean to get the best result for music reproduction. But Soledge has found a solution. Through an ingenious filter Soledge separates the data from the mains and leads it to the streaming part of the unit. The power transformer then will get only the pure mains power, so there is no contamination of the PSU and the audio signal. The downside of this concept is that you cannot used a power strip that has a mains filter build in, because the data will be filtered out of the mains power before it gets to the Tenor or Alto. With low resolution files, it will probably still be OK, but with high resolution files does not work ideal, as we noticed during set up.

All Soledge devices belong to the Canto range. Canto is also the name of the software that operates the devices. Canto supports AirPlay and DLNA.

The Maestro is the music server with built-in hard disks. By default it comes with two 1TB drives and can be extended with a radio receiver, digital outputs (AES and SPDIF coaxial and optical), fixed and variable analog outputs, headphone jack and analog and digital inputs.

The design is simple and modern. IMHO it's very nice, but in a classic interior will be less appropriate. For me it is a little bit too big. I think it could be smaller, but the design makes it worth watching.

The Tenor is the center of the whole Canto system. It is a receiver/amplifier, which is also built digitally dual mono. All so far known formats are supported. The Tenor is available in two versions: the Tenor 160 is entirely mono and Tenor 260 is stereo, but also can be bridged to get a more powerful mono amplifier. Hence the digital dual mono, so you can keep the distance between speaker and the Tenor very small. In fact, you can put a Tenor next to each speaker. One Tenor only does the left channel (including digital), and the other only the right (including digital). 

The amplifier section is a conventional class AB, with a conventional power supply unit, using a toroidal transformer. The nice thing about the Tenor design is that just one Tenor 260 is enough for getting the most out of the Canto concept. You can hook up a PC or NAS for playing music. The control unit would then be a smartphone or tablet.

The Alto is actually no more than a DAC with playback capability, but that would be too easy. Actually it is a little bit more. With the Alto you'll have the full advantage of the Tenor, but without the main amplifier part. If you have already a good audio set at home and you don't need an amplifier built in, you just hook up an Alto to enjoy music Solegde wise. 

Another advantage of the power line communication is that you need no additional wiring. An Alto with one or more Alto or Tenors in other rooms give you a multiroom solution. It is very easy to synchronize them, so you'll hear the same music anywhere in the house. But you can also use it separately, so you hear this in one room and another room something else. You can also control the volume of each unit separately without being in the same room where the device is placed.

During the presentation, there were two rooms equipped with the Soledge equipment. In the living was a Maestro, two bridged Tenor 260 and a pair of Concrete Audio N1. In the other room there was a Tenor 260 driving a couple NACSound Omni and on the other side of that room an Alto with a Belles Soloist integrated amplifier, which was connected to a pair of Aurelia Cerica.

Although both areas were difficult due to the lack of acoustic attenuation, it sounded very well. The small room with the two set-ups would still have a small problem related to reflections, but you could hear the great potential of the equipment. I knew the NACsound Omni from the Café Engels show and here they did the same ‘trick’ again. Producing a roomfilling soundstage. With the Aurelia Cerica connected, it even was a step further. De Aurelia's gave a more pinpointed soundstage.

However, the set up in the living room was amazing. The Soledge equipment with Concrete Audio N1 was a match made in heaven. It sounded so easy, smooth and with excellent timing and depth I have rarely heard before. Impact, energy and dynamics were superb, in spite of the quite cave like sound of the room itself. I do not like opera, and especially I have an aversion to sopranos, but Maria Callas was very, very impressing.

Our editor said it well: "This is opera, isn't it? Normally I can listen to it for like a minute, but then I need to get out. But this is really great, I can listen to this for hours and, enjoy it!...".

In addition, the 3D image remained great even at a very low volume. Something that characterizes a good set-up and match I think.

In my opinion we have a couple of new brands of excellence. The other brands in this segment may begin to get very concerned.

Through this way I want to thank Michael, Jessica and Raphael for the invitation.