I’d probably spent as much time reading in bed and listening to a marginal sound system as sitting in the listening room immersed in note-by-note perfection. The time recently came to change all that, but how? Could one component do it all? The simpler and smaller, the better… multiple boxes of electronic gear in the bedroom bring no joy, as Marie Kondo might say.
I immediately realized that there was another problem afoot. You see, I love CDs, which, as you might know, have greatly diminished in popularity, giving way to streaming technology with music angelically residing in the clouds. Are we finally too lazy to pop a disc out of its jewel case and into a CD player? The compact disc, once considered the luxurious convenience that liberated us from the tedium of handling vinyl phonograph records, has itself become simply too much trouble for even committed audio nuts to bother with.
Of course, consumers still have many CD players from which to choose, the best of which outperform any streaming scenario and give even excellent turntables a run for their money. But few, I soon discovered, are integrated into a single-box system that includes pre- and power-amplification! While there are plenty of great little integrated amps with DACs and streaming capability, try to find just one that spins a CD into the bargain. I finally did.
This outlier—a unicorn of sorts—is the Quad Artera Solus ($2,495), an elegant 25-lb box the size of a thick novel, and built like a mini-tank, with a textured aluminum front panel in silver or black, and a thick, stylish glass top. It even comes boxed with a pair of white gloves. Compact but with ample power, it delivers 75 wpc from a hefty dual-mono Class A/B amp. Of course, the DAC section supports digital files up to 32-bit/384kHz, and streaming via Bluetooth is a breeze. The Artera features two RCA inputs for upstream analog sources, balanced preamp outputs for running outboard amplification, and a ¼-inch headphone jack with dedicated amp. Or keep it simple—just slide a silver disc into the narrow slot on the facia of the Artera Solus, and it’s bed-time music, elevated.