Let's say this once: yes, the Sooloos music server is incredibly expensive. But you know what? Very few products have got every member of the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision team quite so ready to cash in a kidney just to get one.
You might also like to know that Sooloos has just been bought by high-end specialist Meridian – read the full story here.
The essence of Sooloos is simple. It's designed to marry the best possible server interface with audiophile sound. As such, it has no truck with notions like compression: here, your music is stored at optimum-quality Flac for playback through your hi-fi.
Sooloos will preload your CD collection (up to 2500) for free, and usefully it will also make a 192kbps MP3 file of the same tunes for transferring to your iPod.
Sooloos' silence is goldenThere are various Sooloos products, but the combination on test is the top of the range, comprising three key components.
More after the break
The first is the Control:One, a glorious 17in touchpanel that displays all you need to drive the system, and which also includes a CD drive for ripping discs.
It's a fanless, silent device – poised to take pride of place on your coffee table. Naturally, you can put together a system based on multiple zones, each with a Control:One – but if you prefer, the interface can also be ported on to your iPod Touch or iPhone.
The Control:One links via Ethernet to a single Source:One, which is effectively the system's preamp. The line outputs of this connect to the line-ins on any hi-fi amp, just like a CD player would, so you'll need Source:Ones in each zone you want music in.
Finally, there are two Store:One Network Attached Storage boxes: one holds the music; the other is a back-up. Our test unit came with one terabyte of storage, enough for around 2500 albums in Flac, but up to 3TB can be installed in each mirrored pair (7200 albums in total) – and more Store:One components can be added.
Incredibly rapid access to your tunesWe never thought we'd find a music interface that made iTunes look slow, but this is it: Sooloos writes its own software, and it really is as fast as you can think.
The touchpanel makes operating the system child's play too, while info from the All Media Guide gives you sleeve art, album credits, release dates and even reviews.
In sound terms, we struggled to find fault either. It's an agile, articulate listen, its onboard digital-to-analogue conversion proving more than up to the task of relaying the music signal both accurately and energetically.
With the likes of Led Zeppelin II, it punches through each crashing riff in forceful style. This is a brilliant product, and the very fact that it exists is cause for celebration.