T+A Solitaire P

Headphone Test

T+A Solitaire P Review

T+A has taken a bold leap into new territory by presenting the Solitaire P planar magnetic headphones – the first of their kind in the company's history. Thanks to new technical approaches, they are immediately competing with the absolute best in sound quality...

| Michael Lang

"We may not be the first, but we will do everything to become the best", seems to be what the Germans from T+A must have thought last year when they set about putting the idea of a state-of-the-art headphone into practice. Keeping with the company's philosophy, the engineers around CEO Siegfried Amft did exactly what they have been internationally and nationally known for over the last four decades: they did their job carefully, thoroughly and provided the result with a generous amount of musical inspiration.

A Bold Leap

T+A Solitaire P
7 Bilder
T+A Solitaire P Magnets
T+A Solitaire P pentaconn connector
T+A Solitaire P aluminum ring
T+A Max Kirschke, Siegfried Amft and Conradin Amft
T+A Solitaire P Plug

The result is a planar magnetic headphone of the highest price and quality class that is entirely and flawlessly manufactured in Germany. In terms of sound is not only another small step, but rather a bold leap towards even more enjoyable listening compared to the extensive competition.

The expense and attention to detail applied to the 530 gram heavy private listener is obvious even at first glance: the elliptical aluminum shells in which the drivers are embedded are manufactured from solid blocks of material using a highly precise five-axis milling machine in a very time-consuming process. Any replacement of the soft, leatherette-wrapped ear cushions can be done in a few moments, even by untrained hands. The connection panel for the exchangeable cables, which can be connected to the amplifier with the classic 6.3 millimetre jack plug or with the pentaconn plug is also included in the scope of delivery and is easy to handle. The attention to detail is also reflected in the bracket and the connection piece to the shell – all aluminum, all solid, all made in Germany.

Still, all of this effort would be a waste of time if the technical side couldn't keep up.

High Efficiency, Low Impedance

After the decision was made to develop a planar headphone, the development team, which was led by two engineers who had been working exclusively on the Solitaire for more than a year, was particularly challenged by the set goals of achieving high efficiency yet with a matching low impedance. After all, T+A wanted their first headphone to have outstanding dynamic capabilities, while still being compatible with a wide range of source devices.

In order to lift the efficiency to the extreme, the company decided to use the strongest neodymium bar magnets available on the worldwide market and arranged them in such a way that the force is applied absolutely uniformly over the entire conductor surface of the ultra-thin, extremely precisely coated membrane. A total of almost 10 metres of conductor tracks have been applied here. The bar magnets of varying lengths, which were precisely adapted to the oval shape of the membrane and precisely calculated in their circular segment shape, allowed to provide a previously unattainably homogeneous magnetic field. The result of these huge efforts is the total absence of sound damaging modes and thus an extremely distortion-free driver. Furthermore, it is therefore no longer necessary to arrange magnets on both sides of the diaphragm, saving considerable weight and at the same time allowing the diaphragm to move unimpaired towards the ear.

Acoustic fine tuning with the asymmetrically installed magnets was also a time-consuming task, especially since the shape, thickness and material of the ear pads also affect the sound. "It was a time of intense learning," the Germans of T+A freely admitted. Even though headphones seem to do little more than a loudspeaker, the requirements in headphone construction differ fundamentally in many respects from those of their colleagues who have to provide sound for entire rooms. After all, do you know anyone who has successfully built a headphone themselves?

Even the padding for the headband and the ear cushions are made of anti-allergenic synthetic leather and Alcantara, which T+A does not buy from somewhere in the Far East, but from a specialized German company.

With the two connection cables supplied, each 3 metres long, also a special solution had to be found, since the developers wanted a symmetrical cable with low capacitance and an impedance matched to the drivers. In addition, the cable had to be flexible, easy to clean and durable. Of course it should have a maximum of microphone resistance. Long-term stability also had to be ensured, which is why the entire cable is cast and sheathed in a single operation. The material chosen was high-purity copper with a precisely specified ultra-thin silver coating. Of the 20 or so suppliers who contribute to the success of this total work of art, the cable supplier is incidentally the only Far Eastern supplier, because despite intensive research and best contacts, T+A could not find a German comapny who could have fulfilled all there conditions.

Perfect Fit

The first impression of wearing the Solitaire P – for Planar – was positive: the pressure on the head as well as on the ears was between low and moderate, the position was comfortable but still pleasantly firm and individually adjustable via fine click-stops in the headband. The weight was evenly distributed. In addition, the Solitaire has a feel to it that one must have experienced. Nothing creaks and cracks, the quality of touch makes you think about visiting an expensive watch dealer. Everything seems to be built for eternity, and the open construction and the breathable padding prevented heat accumulation.

The matching HA 200 headphone amplifier was not yet ready during Siegfried and Conradin Amft's visit to our editorial office, who were accompanied by project manager Max Kirschke.

Spacecraft

So we used the T+A with a number of headphone amplifiers we were familiar with, and tested its wearing comfort for several hours at a time. Once again Charlie Byrd was the first to take his turn, as this recording is in many respects an excellent way of getting to the bottom of a device's sonic characteristics. Sometimes the guitar of the master can sound somewhat thin and metallic, but via the Solitaire it was full-bodied, yet without a trace of being bloated. The double-bass is of an exquisitely dry character, placed as a large-volume wooden resonator, deeply offset into the lefthand side of the stage, while the drums on the right are unquestionably recognizable as such. Also the occasional unevenly faded clapping of the audience takes place on the entire, unusually large imaginary stage. A great pleasure is the tenor saxophone played by Seldon Powell, which is reproduced in great detail and yet full of warmth and grace – just as it should be.

Outstanding, too, how meticulously Roger Waters' bass on "Radio Waves" is distinguished from the other instruments, however without neglecting the important aspect of homogeneity. This holistically convincing reproduction with complete freedom from discontinuity over the entire frequency range, and at the same time excellent speech intelligibility, is perhaps the greatest of the abundant qualities of these headphones.

The next test had to be mastered with orchestra and piano: incredibly clean and structured, however not indifferent at all but rather emotionally engaged and gripping. When we talk about emotionality, the name Eva Cassidy is often mentioned even many years after her death. Her version of "Fields of Gold" easily tips over to becoming annoying in her Sibilants. If there is a fault somewhere in the system, she occasionally sounds very "skinny". The Solitaire P also took this challenge with amazing easy.

During their visit to our editorial office, the T+A crew promised that the Solitaire P would play dynamically with almost no limits. We put it to the test with Peter Gabriel's "Come, Talk To Me" – and were astounded. The way the synthetic bass sounded perfectly dry and mighty was what finally convinced us that T+A had by no means come up with a "me too" product, but rather that they have reached for the absolute limits in terms of sound as well as materials and effort.

Despite the price tag, the "want to have" effect is absolutely present! T+A has achieved the almost impossible, and has developed a reference headphone from scratch. Congratulations on this magnificent entry to a new market!

Back

STEREO Magazine Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and don't miss a new issue anymore!

Register now