Clef Soloist - 50
Just like most audiophiles out there, I love a giant killer product. Something that fights well above it's price point. Brands like Croft , Trichord Research, Jas Audio and Audio Synthesis are known for their high value for the money. I am happy (very happy) to add "Clef Audio" to that list.
Enter the Clef "Soloist-50" integrated amp. The little marvel has a power rating of 50 watts at 8 ohms and doubles the power to 100 watts @ 4 ohms. The first 10 watts (the most important watts in my book) operate in pure class A. The amp is very well built, with beautiful curving lines of the casework certainly easy on the eye. The operation is simple and logical; there are 4 inputs in total, 3 RCA and 1 XLR. The Soloist-50 is a dual mono design with a real balanced input which means that the noise floor should be very low.
Out of the box, the Soloist-50 sounded very good indeed, however after a week of keeping the amp cooking away on the rack, the sound has become considerably better. The slight brightness that was there first day has now completely gone and bass has become fuller and faster.
Adam (my technical guy) wowed by Clef Audio’s detail, swiftness, transparency, and intelligibility that’s normally only associated with integrated amps that cost around £5000 (and more!). The midrange is how the Clef Soloist-50 won me over the most. The ability to probe directly into the heart of the music, to uncover the essence of a performance, is made starkly apparent with the human voice. Play a well recorded album like Diana Krall – Live in Paris and the sound is very natural and genuine with Diana’s voice coming through with clear, concise articulation.
I tried the Clef with a fairly wide variety of speakers from under £4,000 Boenicke W5, all the way through to Maxonic TW1300 (£68,000), the sound has been consistency musical. The shocking moment came when we hooked the Soloist -50 up with Magneplanar MG 3.7i, the Maggies do like a lot of power, normally around 200 watts upward but the 50 watts - Clef was able to drive the flat panel speakers to a crazy level without any sign of bottoming out. The only note about speaker matching is the Clef has quite a high gain so a very high sensitive speaker owner may have some problems adjusting a suitable volume for a late night listening but I am talking 108 dB Maxonic horn speakers here! If your speakers have sensitivity of 94dB and below, I can confidently say that you will not have this problem.
In my opinion and experience, you will have to spend close to five thousand UK pounds to find an integrated amp will compete with, let alone best, the Clef soloist-50 in overall terms of lack of coloration, coherence, and utter musical clarity. The ability to drive most real world speakers to their potential is an added bonus, all of this quality for £1,295, Can you afford not to demo it?
Benchmark DAC 3 HGC
Reimyo CDT 777 / DAP 999
Magneplanar MG 3.7i
Maxonic TW 1300
Vertex hirez Taga
Vertex Solfonn interconnects
Ziro Audio Disclosure Main and Speakers cable