T+A Planar-Magnetostatic Solitaire P Headphone and HA 200 Amplifier/DAC

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by ufospls2, May 5, 2022.

  1. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    T+A Solitaire P

    Hi Guys

    Today we are taking a look at T+A (Theory and Application) of Germany’s flagship headphones, the Solitaire P. This is a headphone I have been incredibly interested in since its release back in early 2020. Since its release, T+A have also followed up with the Solitaire PSE, which retails at roughly half of the price of the Solitaire P. I hope I can get ears on a pair of those someday as well, as the Solitaire P itself is an incredibly compelling headphone overall.

    The Solitaire P, which for the rest of this review I will refer to as the “SolP” is a planar magnetic headphone, with a sensitivity rating of 101db/mw and 80 ohms impedance rating. Overall, they are quite an easy to drive headphone, and will play well even from lower power source equipment. With that being said, they do seem to enjoy a healthy supply of power behind them, and scale well with an increasing quality of source equipment. The reason I note that they play well from lower output power equipment, is that generally speaking, top of the line planar magnetic headphones have been fairly difficult to drive in the past. There are obviously a few exceptions, but things like the Hifiman Susvara and Abyss 1266TC, are both difficult to drive, the Susvara notoriously so. I was worried the Solitaire P would not play at the level of the very upper echelon of planar magnetic headphones, especially given its $6900USD MSRP ($6200USD at launch.) Thankfully, they absolutely do play at the very top level, and also manage to do some things I have not heard before.

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    The bass of the SolP’s has been the most surprising element of its sound signature. In terms of overall level, they are perhaps very slightly elevated, but it is the technical performance of the bass that has stood out to me. They are the most similar to the Abyss 1266TC’s bass response that I have heard from a different headphone, and for myself and many others the 1266TC’s bass is their absolute reference point. The SolP’s bass response has a similar quick, impactful, “slam” heavy response. It is not exactly the same as the 1266TC, and I would say sort of bridges the middle ground between the more laidback response of the Hifiman Susvara, and 1266TC. This works incredibly well with electronica, rock, and metal – those sorts of genres. However, in the low end, things like upright bass in jazz, or perhaps a baritone saxophone are also conveyed incredibly well. Overall, the bass response of the Solitaire P has been its most surprising element, as it is the best I have heard in an easier to drive model, and comes the closest that I have personally heard out of any other headphone to my favourite headphone in terms of bass response, the 1266TC.

    The midrange of the SolP is mostly in line with my preferences. The lower mids are what I would consider fairly neutral. My personal preferences have shifted over time as I used to prefer warm and thick sounding headphones. Nowadays I favour a more neutral, or sometimes even “colder” midrange response. The lower mids of the SolP never came across as thick, or warm to me. At the same time I never found myself wanting to boost the low mids as if they sounded sucked out and hollow. The lower mids of the SolP are well tuned in my opinion. The upper mids in the 2khz region might be a bit relaxed for some listeners preferences. If you listen to lots of female vocals and really prefer that region to be forward, you might want to boost it slightly via EQ. In the stock tuning, it reminds me of the Hifiman Susvara slightly, and I totally enjoy it without any tweaking. I largely listen to electronica/IDM, jazz, and metal (though I do listen to a wide variety of other genres, those are just my usual go to’s.) For these genres, a slightly relaxed upper midrange works very well.

    The treble of the Solitaire P is likely its most controversial tuning decision. Overall, in the stock tuning, I find them a bit blunted and dark sounding. If you are a treble sensitive listener, I would highly, highly, recommend checking these headphones out. Now, in the stock tuning, the SolP lend themselves to very long relaxed listening sessions. However, if one is open to using EQ (which I absolutely am) a simple high shelf from about 4Khz upwards increased by a few dB really opens up what these headphones can do. I think the stock treble response may artificially disguise how truly technically capable and detailed these headphones are. In the same vein that boosted treble can convey a somewhat fake sense of “detail” that isn’t really there, I think the SolP’s stock treble response may be doing the exact opposite. With that slight treble increase, you really get a thoroughly satisfying, incredibly capable sounding treble. *To note: T+A has released a pair of alternate pads that supposedly increase the highs and pull back the mids slightly, I would like to try these eventually, and if I do I will edit this review and update it with my impressions of those pads.*

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    So, that is how I hear the overall frequency response. It is actually the other parts of the SolP that add up to make it such a compelling package. In terms of technical performance – soundstage, detail, dynamics, it is up there with the best in my opinion. The fact it plays at that level technically whilst also being easy to drive, is also part of what makes them special. I would say they are very very close to being as detailed as the Susvara and 1266TC, perhaps lagging behind by about 5%. It is such a small amount of difference in overall detail levels, both micro and macro that you would have to be intently listening for any differences. The SolP’s drivers are very quick, and as such seem to convey dynamic swings with ease. As I mentioned in the bass section, the SolP also do “slam” and impact very well. The soundstage of the SolP is slightly wider than what I would consider a “natural” sounding soundstage, leaning more towards a “wide’ soundstage. Although not as wide as the cavernous soundstage of the HD800 and 1266TC, the SolP give a large sounding image. The imaging and precision of the drivers is again up there with the best I have heard, but always seemed to be more obvious with the slight boost in the treble, vs the stock tuning.

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    In terms of build quality, the SolP’s are very substantial, and feel very well put together. They are mostly aluminum, with Alcantara Pads. They aren’t the comfiest or lightest headphones I have tried, but I have not struggled with comfort at all. I have read a few impressions of listeners struggling with the fit of the headband. As it lacks the suspension strap seen on other models in the marketplace, I think that it may be a case of “it fits” or “…it doesn’t.” I have a fairly large head, and have not had any troubles thus far, but if you can try it personally I would highly recommend doing so, just in case. The ear pads, being alcantara, have a really nice plush feel to them. The weight of the SolP is enough that you notice that you are wearing them, but not troublesome like some Audeze (700g+) models for example. The fit and finish is pretty much impeccable, and I have no complaints about it. One thing that I’m still undecided on is the connector choice. The SolP use a recessed HD800 connector. I understand that the HD800 connector is a high quality option, and the recession protects it, but it does make aftermarket cable options a bit more difficult. This is simply something to note, as if you are getting an aftermarket cable made, you will need to specify longer heat shrink so that the cable can be inserted and removed. Perhaps something like the Audeze/Meze 4pin XLR option would have been a bit more universal, allowing existing cables in someones collection to be used.

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    The recessed HD800 connector
    Compared to the Hifiman Susvara, the SolP has slightly more bass, similar mids, and is darker in the treble (without EQ.) I would say the Susvara is very slightly more detailed and delicate sounding, but the difference is slight. The SolP does have more impact or slam in the low end than the Susvara, and does sound slightly wider in terms of soundstage. The Susvara is more comfortable, but the SolP’s build is more impressive, and feels far more substantial. In terms of sensitivity, the Susvara is 83db/mw and the SolP is 101db/mw. In practice, this makes the SolP so much easier to use day to day, as it doesn’t need a nuclear reactor to sound at its best.

    Compared to the Abyss 1266TC, the SolP actually reminds me of the 1266’s bass more than any other model I have heard, though still not exactly the same. There is slightly more mid presence in the lower mids on the SolP, and the SolP is darker in the treble (no EQ) than the 1266. The 1266TC has a wider soundstage and overall a larger sonic picture, but again the detail levels between the two are quite similar, with the SolP only slightly trailing behind. Both feature impressive aluminium builds, but the SolP is slightly more comfortable due to its lighter weight and more conventional shape.

    Compared to the Meze ELITE, the SolP is more detailed, and more technically accomplished overall. The Meze does have more presence in the treble, a bit more euphony in the mids, and slightly more mid bass. The Meze is still the comfiest headphone I have ever tried, and has a build that I think all headphone companies can aspire to equal. Still, the SolP bests it sonically for my personal preferences.

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    Overall, the Solitaire P from T+A is an incredible first effort at a TOTL headphone. The more I think about it, the more I think it might be the most “complete” package in terms of a top of the line planar magnetic headphone options currently available. I say “complete” in the sense that it is almost as technically accomplished as the other TOTL planar magnetics (incredibly close) but is also a comfortable, and most importantly, easy to drive headphone. More and more I have come to appreciate having a headphone that plays in the top league in terms of detail etc…whilst also being able to drive that headphone from even standard portable gear (something like the iFi Gryphon worked incredibly well,) something unthinkable with a headphone like the Hifiman Susvara. I do think the current $6900USD MSRP is a bit much, simply based upon the other options in the TOTL arena. However, if it is within your budget, the Solitaire P is very much worth considering. If you want a headphone which can be used day in day out, from a multitude of source options, but also plays at the highest technical level, the T+A Solitaire P is absolutely worth looking into.
     
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  2. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    I don't know what to say. Looks kinda clumsy/ugly. At first glance I thought this was a DIY project, not a +$6k TOTL
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Lots of questions, inquiring minds want to know:
    1. What did you use to drive them?
    2. Are those pads comfortable? They remind me somewhat of the HE90 pads.
    3. How is the weight balance, one of the things I disliked about the Susvara has weight distribution toward the cups, like dumbells.
    4. Are they as laid-back in the upper-mids as Audezes?
     
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  4. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    I met the T+A US Rep at my local audio store once. Nice guy, he lives near the GA/FL border. He told me T+A target audience are those who can spend TOTL on their stuff since stuff is made in Germany.

    My local audio store is also of course a T+A dealer. Listened to T+A other gear....and personally I thought they were average. But what do I know....I was in an audio store and the store owner couldn't convince me to spend close to $10k on a T+A DAC.
     
  5. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Lots of stuff. First thing I tried was the Fiio Q3, and even that got them to a "loud" level no problem though not the best sounding pairing I tried. Then I tried the iFi Gryphon, which I actually really liked. That was a good pairing. Also tried the iFi iDSD Pro Signature, which was better than the gryphon. The best I tried was my Boulder 866 but it absolutely 100% does *not* need a speaker amp.

    The pads feel super comfy and are somewhat similar in feel to the old Audeze Vegan pads. Less thick and plush, but a similar material. It's also the same material as the pads that come with the Empyrean and ELITE, alcantara. I'd be curious what they would sound like with leather pads? Maybe there will be an aftermarket option some day. The only thing Alcantara has against it I think is that it can feel a bit warm over time, vs leather.

    The cups are definitely heavier than the headband area, but a little bit less than the Susvara, but I'm not entirely sure if I'm interpreting the question correctly.

    No, upper mids are not as laid back as the LCD-3 and LCD-4 from memory at least. Treble might be a bit darker in stock tuning with stock pads than the LCD-4. Granted, that's entirely going off of memory, so take it with a pinch of salt.

    I'm going to look into getting those other pads, so I can report back on the changes.
     
  6. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Yeah, they aren't as good looking as something like the Meze ELITE or similar. With that being said, the build quality is really solid and well put together feeling.

    Did you get a chance to try the Solitaire P's? Or just their other amps and stuff?
     
  7. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    I saw a pair of T+A planar headphones that look just like the Solitaire P's. Store owner first told me I have to use the other T+A equipment to try it out...then my GF called and wanted to "hang out." I got my T&A later and I haven't been to the audio store ever since.

    @Dash: It's that Jax Audio store, Bill sold the shop years back so it is no longer near SS/JTB.
     
  8. Dash

    Dash Friend

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    Oh, its still open?
     
  9. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    Yeah but on Beach Boulevard but only sale to rich folks.
     
  10. Dash

    Dash Friend

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    I cannot see Beach Blvd as the center of wealthy audio, but I barely recognize parts of town now.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
  11. eskamobob1

    eskamobob1 Acquaintance

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    Have a set of Solitaire P as well and I think this review does a pretty solid job explaining what I hear as well. I will say though that I don’t really find my set all that dark overall. They are clearly recessed up to about the ear gain region but I don’t find them dark after that point instead having some pretty solid total extension even If not the most energetic al la HD800S/Utopia.


    A feature I don’t feel was covered quite enough in the review though is talking about the way in which they stage. IMO, there the stage background can be split up into two groups. One which stages within pitch blackness. I picture this as the kind of dark club environment where sound comes from all around but in a fairly dense fashion and stage often feels kind of enclosed. I usually find it easier to define stage boundaries with this kind of staging. While some headphone with wider stage do this (susvara) I find it most common with narrow but deep stages (Diana V2, Utopia, HD580/600, most LCDs).


    The other staging form is like staging within the environment. I picture this kind of a nice sunny day in the park. Terms like airy, light, and maybe even ethereal come to mind for this one. That is not to say that the background isn’t black though (“blackness of background” isn’t a term I like very much tbh but plenty of stuff with this airer staging has extremely black backgrounds while stuff like HD600 and some LCDs don’t really). Cans that do this well are HD800, D80000 Pro, and most stax. Sometimes this has defined stage width (D8kP) but sometimes it can also mean that images become more diffuse with distance leading to an extremely vast sound regardless of ultimate stage size.


    IMO, the solitaire P are the panicle of the latter with estats on WES being the only thing that even competes. When listening to ambient music, while it doesn’t give you the “is that in the room with me?” feel, the stage often feels limitless because of this. So far the Solitaire P are the best headphones I have ever used for ambient music (playlist linked below) and extremely high up the list for lofi as well. They spent quite a long time as my go-to headphone for work music because of this trait.


    Ambient Music Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWZeKCadgRdKQ?si=46ae983dd0db4f08
     

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