I have often preferred the sound of open-back headphones and the T+A Solitaire P-SE are a beautiful-sounding example of the design approach. As the baby brother to the uncompromising £5,000 T+A Solitaire P which I described as the Rolls Royce of headphones back in the summer last year, the P-SE version make a considerable saving but still cost £3,000. They use circumaural ear coupling to completely cover the outer part of the ear along with planar magnetic technology to deliver a frequency range that claims to span from 8Hz up to 45kHz, which is way beyond anything anyone can actually hear but gives a sense of their sonic capabilities.
Inside each earcup, the Solitaire P-SEs employ elliptic-shaped planar-magnetic transducers measuring 110 x 80mm. In general terms, planar-magnetic headphones have a flat surface over which the usual dynamic driver magnetic windings are spread out. This makes them often larger and heavier than normal full-range drivers in a conventional headphone. Additionally, PM headphones generally consume more power because they are activating the magnetic windings across a greater diaphragm area than is typical of regular drivers.
T+A has used its considerable research capability to address these and other issues associated with PM technology, such as low impedance. In doing so T+A has come up with a new transducer called the TPM 2500 that is related to the basic design found in the Solitaire P. Using new neodymium magnets, T+A’s transducer ensures a laminar airflow to the ear and is engineered to minimise weight and ensure a more effective sound is delivered to the listener.
The open construction of the Solitaire P-SE, as with other open-backed headphones, avoids the resonance problems of closed designs, and this allows the diaphragm to vibrate unimpeded, contributing to the overall sense of soundstage.
The cables provided with the T+A Solitaire P-SE are ultra-pure copper conductors that have a silver outer layer, and the four conductors are encased in cotton to minimise electro-magnetic interference. The overall cable outer construction contributes to effective mechanical noise reduction as well.
Two cable sets are supplied with the headphones as standard: one with a standard 6.35mm barrel connector, and the second with a symmetrical 4.4mm Pentaconn connector, which is fast becoming a more regular connector owing to its balanced construction. A four-pin XLR can alternatively be chosen.
These T+A Solitaire P-SEs come in black with a black metal open-back structure so you can see the back of the transducers and the cable connections. The larger earcups fit around the ear so, for me, they are extremely comfortable indeed. The headband is soft and made of allergen-free synthetic leather and velour. I feel as if the headphones are not unduly heavy. A shake of the head retains the headphones in place and the overall grip is suitably good.
In using the T+A Solitaire P-SE with the XLR terminal to my Questyle CMA 400i headphone amplifier. I am using the Questyle with Atlas Mavros (with Grun earthing system) USB A-B connection from my laptop running Qobuz desktop, Tidal and Roon.
I also still have the Chord Hugo 2 so I have used that quite a bit as well, it is in fact clearer and more revealing than the Questyle. I am using an Atlas Zeno 6.35mm adapter with the XLR connection in this case.
Qobuz and Roon
I am getting to grips with Roon (full review coming soon), but I’m struggling with building playlists using the software so I’m using my Qobuz and Tidal desktop apps here.
I usually listen to the ‘earthiness’ in Calexico’s What Heaven’s Left (Qobuz 24-bit/96kHz) then Radiohead’s Subterranean Homesick Alien (also Qobuz 24-bit/96kHz) to start with as I love both of the production of both tracks and they give me an initial feel for where I am with a new bit of kit.
Calexico’s What Heaven’s Left comes over perfectly – the acoustic guitar in the left ear is wonderfully soft, the vocal comes over front and centre, the drums are clear and crisp and seem to have the right timbre – I‘m no drummer, but they do sound great. The rhythm of the track rolls through to the tambourine, as clear as being there in the studio, at the end of the track.
I am finding the headphones quite forgiving and easy on the ear as I recall I did from the more costly Solitaire Ps. Added to this the comfort and grip are unnoticeable, and I am really enjoying the space and tapping away on my computer while wearing the headphones. There is no sense of headphone fatigue or a need for me to rest for any periods of time. I just carry on luxuriating in the sound of the music.
I was minded to listen to Nils Lofgren’s track Keith Don’t Go for its incredible resolution. The track has stunning acoustic guitar clarity on top of being a live track and heard through these headphones, there is nothing left behind. The T+A Solitaire P-SE come across as transparent, meaning I feel as if I am hearing everything intended in the production, or in this case the incredibly vibrant live performance.
It is true to say, these headphones will be a bit bass light for some listeners but for me the balance is right. With tracks like Moby’s Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? the low end is well controlled and does not dominate or overpower in any way. Post Malone’s bass heavy Better Now has such fantastic control, these really are exceptionally high class headphones.
I often go to Some by Nils Frahm for a bit of headstage/soundstage atmosphere and the headphones are fizzing with the energy from this beautiful track.
A bit of Daft Punk usually finds me in the rhythm department. Their Random Access Memories is nicely produced and the album’s go-to track, Get Lucky, sounds fantastic on these headphones – punchy, rhythmic, fast and effortless. A quick check in with Skrillex’s Bonfire with its thumping attack and fast exits, further confirms the great rhythm in these P-SEs.
On Naim’s NAC N-272 preamplifier
I conclude the headphones are very forgiving and easy to drive, as well as being remarkably comfortable to wear
I thought it would have a listen to the P-SEs with my Naim NAC N-272 preamplifier, the sort of place where I may indulge myself in the evening with some luxury headphone listening. The key point is that the Naim is not a headphone amplifier.
My much-maligned headphone output from the NAC-N 272 does a decent job of presenting the T+As with a good signal from the Class A output. The headphones though are doing a great job with whatever they are given and I find myself reappraising the headphone output from the N-272. I have not always been entirely happy with it, however, the bass control playing Post Malone’s Better Now track is well delivered and I conclude the headphones are very forgiving and easy to drive, as well as being remarkably comfortable to wear and I am delighted with the presentation from the Naim in the end.
I’ve previously loved the time I’ve spent with Focal’s Utopia headphones (£3,250) and Meze’s Empyrean (£2,799) – both are sublime open-back designs. If you are spending this sort of money, it’s a good idea to find a decent retailer where you can spend time listening to each of these options (once the restrictions allow) and make your own mind up – with an appropriate headphone amplifier or source.
It’s always a good idea to think about how you intend to listen to any headphones; with a dedicated headphone amplifier or other? If you are spending this sort of money, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best possible performance from them. As an aside, I would not look much further than T+A’s HA200 headphone amplifier as the perfect partner to this terrifically fun and vibrant model. They are comfortable to wear for long listening sessions and get out of the way of the music to deliver one of the best headphone experiences I have ever experienced.
Easy to listen to for longer periods.
Black with black style
Nothing I can think of if this is your budget
From the Site:
Solitaire P-SE Headphones
Transducer principle – Planar-magnetostatic
Impedance – 45 Ohms
Frequency response – 8 Hz – 45 kHz
Distortion – < 0,015 % @ 100 dB Maximum sound pressure level – > 130 dB
Transducer size – elliptic 110 x 80mm
Type of construction – Open, over ear
Connectivity – Wired transmission, unbalanced 6.35mm, balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn or
Material – Thermo plastic, steel, allergen-free synthetic leather and velour
Weight – 440g excl. cable