T+A Solitaire P

General Information

Specifications

Transducer principle
Planar-magnetostatic
Impedance 80 Ohms
Frequency response 5 Hz - 54 kHz
Distortion < 0,015 % @ 100 dB
Maximum sound pressure level > 130 dB
Sensitivity 101 dB @ 1 kHz, 1V
Transducer size elliptic 110 x 80 mm
Type of construction Open, over ear
Cables Unbalanced 6,35 mm, balanced 4,4 mm Pentaconn or XLR
Material Aluminum, steel, allergen-free synthetic leather, Alcantara
Weight 530 g excl.cable

Price

T+A Solitaire P
: €4800 / £5000 / $6400
T+A HA200: €6400 / £6600 / $8000

Latest reviews

DarginMahkum

Headphoneus Supremus
T+A Solitaire P - The calm power over your ears (and comparison to D8000 Pro)
Pros: - Spectacular instrument separation, speed and detail
- Excellent bass detail, clarity, speed.
- Lean upper mids, that make it ear friendly
- Very comfortable earcups
Cons: - Lean upper mids and attenuated air frequencies may not be everyone's cup of tea
- Both balanced and unbalanced cables are 3m, and no shorter cable in the T+A inventory
Disclaimer: I bought both headphones from my own pocket, no freebie advertisements here. I am not a reviewer, but decided to give it a try. So take my subjective writing with a pinch of salt, as you might not find what you are looking for in a usual review or comparison. But I can try to improve it based on comments .

Test sources: T+A HA200, Hiby R8.

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Inside the box

(Photos maybe later) Inside the box, you have your headphone, one balanced cable of your choice (XLR or 4.4mm) and one unbalanced. Both are 3 metres long - which is quite long. I wish there was also a choice for a 1.5 meter cable. Frankly, I never needed a 3 meter cable in my life.

The connectors are the same as HD800 but are longer and need to be inserted deeply inside the ear cup (photo later). So, your HD800 cable may not work if the connector is short. The following photo has been provided by @ducanh712 and here we see custom cable connectors compared to the original ones. Notice the insertion depth:

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Comfort

They are not feather light but weight distribution is very good. The cups are wide and long and have a lot of space for your ears. The drivers also don't stick to your ears. Clamping force is just the right amount but moving your head too much or fast might affect the position of the headphones. But nothing out of the ordinary. One thing maybe with the headband design. Out of the box the headband curvature is a bit tight for a larger head. I got used to it in time, but didn't want to try to bend it at this point.

Sound

I have been listening to the Solitaire P with Hiby R8 and HA200. Hiby R8 is one of the most powerful DAPs out there with excellent mids - but it just doesn't do the justice for Solitaire P, especially after listening to what it can do under the control of HA200. Solitaire P can be driven from a less than TOTL source well, but in oder to appreciate it to its full potenttial, it needs a good source - meaning it scales well. I noticed that the reviews that praise the Solitaire most are with HA200. With R8 the mids lose the focus a bit and a bit more blurry. On HA200 it is at a complete different level. Of course, it is unfair to expect a similar performance from a portable player that costs one quarter of HA200 desktop DAC / amps price.

The imaging and separation is incredible on HA200. The sound room of Solitaire is big. Tall and deep. It is a whole different level of experience! At least for me it neither lacks mids, nor the treble. Because the sound room is big, you don't need the intimacy or the push, it is right there in its own space.

Frequency spectrum

Right off the bat, I need to mention a very important thing: These are not your usual harman target headphones. T+A, which is a high end manufacturer from Germany, has its own idea about how the music should be conveyed to the listener. So, don't expect a Focal Utopia style exaggerated upper mids and pushed forward vocal image here. You have to give this time. It will not try to convince you with fatiguing treble resolution with winds flowing between the instruments. It will not compress the music for you making the mixing issues more acceptable, so choose your testing music carefully.

These headphones will guide you through a new way of appreciation of music, with its thicker, velvety mids, one of the most extended, clearest and tallest bass walls you have ever met, and warm but very detailed treble, a big 3D sound image and extraordinary instrument separation. For that you need to let the Solitaire P take you to that journey. You need to give them some time.

Another piece of advice is, make sure you are testing a burned in headphone, at least 100 hours, as recommended also by the manufacturer. Otherwise there is a subtle bass bleed into mids. Burn in will help a lot with the bass performance.

So let's get to the point what is mostly criticized about these headphones: Leaner upper mids around the 3 kHz region. You can take a look at the measurements from Nomax here. There you will also see a comparison to Utopia. I have to mention, I _never_ liked Utopia. It was way too aggressive and forward for my ears. I never found it suitable for listening for more than 5 minutes before receiving ear fatigue. It is not about the amount of detail, but more the aggressive way of trying to impress and convey information. Well, this is my opinion and there are many out there that don't agree with me. For me, additionally, this overshadows the neighboring frequency information, and causes an incoherent mids presentation.

This is not the way Solitaire P follows. So, if you put it on right after a similar signature, you maybe underwhelmed. But if you let your ears rest and listen to these, and let the music sink in. You will notice that this signature will give you a more comfortable listening, and that you actually don't need the extra push.

Another important point is that its cups are huge, with a lot of room for your ears. And there is space between the drivers and ears. As said, it is all about comfort. This also gives a larger 3D room presentation. Tall and deep.

But all these causes some issues which I which I will mention later.

Bass is one of the most impressive points about these headphones. It is tall, deep, clean, fast and well textured. I love bass and I listen to bass players. Last time anything that impressed me was a Stax 009s + T8000 setup. For sure, it is not a Stax but it took me to that moment when I heard it. Subbass is present whenever it is available and it well under control without being boomy. Very precise. I haven't noticed any mids bleed after burn in.

Same story with the treble. Comfortable, fatigue free listening. Clean and detailed, but not as airy as, for example, D8000 Pro.

Comparison against Final Audio D8000 Pro

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Final Audio D8000 Pro is the only other open back I have and many have the D8000 Pro already, so I will cheat here and turn it into a comparison writing.

- D8000 Pro wins on percieved relative clarity and resolving airy presentation. It is easier to drive and can be driven acceptably well from a portable source. It sounds good with whatever you throw at it, especially as it sounds a little bit more compressed. D8000 Pro can be driven well from a less than TOTL source fairly well. The space is smaller, which gives the advantage of sharper envelopes of instruments in a smaller space, with denser textures.

- Solitaire wins with the massive 3D sound space and the bass. This can even be considered a bass heads planar wet dream. Instrument separation in this 3D space is spectacular. But the larger space plus the meatier lower mids and bass makes it very recording picky. The mids might sound more distant due to the larger sound space and leaner presentation. So you will easily notice the mixing inconsistencies. I will give examples later. It is also warmer of the two.

- Mids are thicker and fuller with Solitaire P. After continuously listening to Solitaire P in the recent days, I realized that I got used to the thicker mids and prefer it over the D8000, especially for vocals. The thinner vocals / mids of D8000, also with a bit more intimate presentation and more air frequency components, sound clearer. Also with the size of the image being not as tall helps that. But on Solitaire they are not less detailed or technically lacking anything. They are both of the same detail level. Solitaire has better instrument separation.

- The treble, excluding the air frequencies (>12kHz), sounds pretty similar, to my ears. D8000 has more airy presentation, which gives it an impression of being clearer. For example, cymbal texture and depth is better on D8000 Pro. Solitaire P has a tight grip on treble.

- They are about the same weight. I like the headband design of D8000 and the cup design of Solitaire.

- If you want a single HP that sounds good with nearly everything and most sources, go with the D8000 Pro. With Solitaire P, you need to make sure it plays well with your source and the type of music and recordings you have. You might still prefer it over D8000 Pro for everything, but I would not recommend a blind buy, unless you like this kind of a signature.

A few sound samples I used for testing and comparison

I guess one of the reasons why I liked Solitaire so much is the bass, the majestic bass that goes growling low and fills the room. But at the same time does not take away from the rest of the frequency spectrum, as it has so much space to move and control. I do love bass players. So that was my starting point for testing

Let's start with Alain Perez, who was the bass player for Paco de Lucia. His albums are all (especially ADN and the last one) excellent productions in every way. Let's check "El cuento de la buena pipa" from the album with the same name.


This production and mix is just top notch, and listening to it with Solitaire P is a jaw dropping experience, and that starts right at the beginning (0:12) with the baritone sax. It is just about to shake your chest - if it wasn't a headphone. It is so clear. The horns sound so realistic, not scratchy. It is a whole orchestra that you can pinpoint everything, every little nuance. Listening to this album is what makes me feel lucky that I am in this hobby and have the Solitaire P.

Next I wanted to check this time my other favorite "bass player" albums, Golden Striker Live from Ron Carter, and Oriental Bass and Mediterranees from Renaud Garcia-Fons.

One issue with Solitaire is that, as you have such a big 3D sound room if you immediately hear the incoherence between the recording rooms of different instruments and their reverberation. Same with vocals. With other headphones you notice it, with Solitaire it can become annoying. Listening to the start with the majestic 5 string double bass of Garcia Fons, then accordion comes in which is just weak and off, but it sounds more acceptable with D8000 Pro.


Then you might think that it is something to the with the frequency response of Solitaire P, but it is not, as accordion mix is well done in the whole Mediterranees album and it sounds excellent in the mix:


But switching to Golden Striker from Ron Carter, that massive sounding reverby bass is gone and you have a very controlled and tamed bass, with less subbass. And it is depicted perfectly, nothing overpowered. Mids and upper frequencies are dancing perfectly over the bass.


I think if you are targeting Solitaire P, you should keep these in mind:

- It is brutally accurate, nothing more, nothing less, so you better have good recordings if you are sensitive. It will not try to fix it for you - unlike D8000 Pro.
- It needs a good accompanying source - but still nothing like a speaker amplifier like Susvara.

D8000 Pro it is an excellent HP but Solitaire P is something else when it comes to depicting a 3D image with dead sharp imaging and separation. Especially after listening to a recording where the percussion and bass is not shy to fill in the space, or there is a "cacophony" of instruments like the Alain Perez albums.

There are scenarios (and temporary preferences) that doesn't benefit much from the large space and might make some instruments sound iffy, in which case I prefer the more tight envelope of D8000 more. It gives a better texture feeling, but actually in real life and live listening one would rarely have this intimacy and tight enveloped texture. Also there is a bit of more "air" with D8000 which I can imagine might be a preference in certain cases, but this is also something more nitpicking which is more noticeable if you switch back and forth between the HPs, but the feeling subsidies in seconds.

For example this little piece from Alain Perez & Omara Portuondo album ADN, one might prefer the D8000 sound with more air, as it does not benefit from the space (but I personally find it excellent with Solitaire P, especially with the thicker mids) (side note, I cannot believe Omara was over 80 as she recorded this and have this control over her voice):


How the vocals will sound? I tried different well made recordings of Cecilia Bartoli, Ghada Shbeir, and female vocals actually rendered extremely well which does not need the unnatural extra push of Focals. Rich, round, clear. One of my favorite female vocalists is Feryal Öney with a very special voice color. I listened to this album so many times, I never heard the instrument separation and her voice wonderfully rendered, in this impeccable psychedelic recording (I would prefer to share some unknown music, so it is also fun to check and find some new music):


But these are all excellent productions. If the vocals are not properly mixed, you may miss the intimacy. Solitaire P is not a "throw whatever you want at it and it will sound as good" HP like D8000 Pro. Take this piece, for example:


Here you have a bass that has space and can become muffled, vocals with a distant mix (even side / back vocals can become as powerful) and there is a shaker right on your right ear. With Solitaire P, the shaker is in the room, not in your ear. But so is the vocal. If you are coming from something like Utopia where the vocals are standing next to your ear, it might sound still dark, and lacking energy. Then you start increasing the volume to catch a similar distance and the bass comes into picture which might overpower the rest.

For the treble and air frequencies. Below the air frequencies, as I mentioned, Solitaire P is very similar to D8000 Pro and and for studio recordings the difference, although noticeable, can easily be adapted by the ear. But, especially for live recordings it might mean a loss in depth (meaning 3D volume) information. Take this recording of Aydin Esen, for example:


There is anyway not much information on the air frequencies. One prominent Solitaire P "feature" you will have hear is the constant tickling of your ear by the e-bass line during the piece, which sounds also a bit closer. But on D8000 bass is on about the same plane as drums. But if it is a live recording, compared to D8000 Pro Solitaire loses part of depth and reverberations due to the lack of air frequencies. Do you need that information? I don't know, if you are focusing on the music, yes, it sounds nice to have them. If it is in the background, you don't really notice it. For example this recording here, the loss is noticeable:


One last comment, for the heavy gain music. Here the subtle compressed and closer rendition of D8000 Pro helps. For example, this piece from the last album of Nile, Vile Nilotic Rites. Guitars sound disconnected from the bass and drums (which are overly bloated during the mix):


It is again a problem with the mix: Strong kicks, very 3D drums and bass, massive sounding splashy cymbals, but very flat guitars. But it does not have to be, just as in the original mastering of the Megadeth's Train of Consequences. It sounds awesome with Solitaire P:


So, if you want to be mix independent for high gain music, my first choice would not be Solitaire P.

Orchestral music, everything with horns, drums, bowed instruments sound spectacular. Maybe I will add some samples for them later.

Conclusion: Solitaire P needs more attention

Although there are the usual big names floating around, like Susvara, LCD-4, HE1000, D8000, Utopia etc., Solitaire P has still not received much attention from the high end community, although it is a jaw dropping concert hall experience for non-stop listening. The price of course, is a big challenge here. Also that it is not the usual harman target tuning which is set as the market standard tuning right now.

Last point to mention is, I tested it with T+A HA200, which is a product of the same company. It is also my only amplifier. They are supposed to be the perfect couple. How it will sound on another DAC and / or amp? Well, I would highly recommend to give it try on your setup. Or even with HA200, if you are looking for a high end DAC amp, too.

Possible EQ improvement

I tried to create a template EQ profile for Solitaire P, using the Pro Q3 VST3 plugin on JRiver Media Center. I used the slope parameter (dB / oct value in the screenshots, which creates the flat bell tops). It can also be applied to PulseEffects parametric EQ on Linux, which also can modify the slope.

You can disable the 4th point, if you like but I wanted to tame the treble a bit more. Just to be on the safe side, I tried to the keep the 9-10 kHz region flat, then a constant rise for the air frequencies, closer to flatter D8000 air frequencies.

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I tried to keep the tonality unchanged with thicker mids but add a little bit of air and mid clarity. It improves the piano sound and vocal clarity. But a bigger bump in the upper mids - treble region might make the drum bell sound to disintegrated from the rest, so kept the change subtle. As said, this is a template. Feel free to adjust it to your liking...

Here are the single EQ settings from left to right:

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Note

Last week T+A announced the more affordable Solitaire P-SE which is going to be released end of January.

Other notable reviews
Last edited:
Benny-x
Benny-x
You should take up reviewing, that was amazing. Nice work.
dsrk
dsrk
Excellent review. Benny-x is right, you should write more reviews.
DarginMahkum
DarginMahkum
Thank you all! Now that I have the P-SE with me, I will try to write also a small comparison of the two - hopefully soon. Cheers.
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