My head’s metaphorical size is open to question, but I am confident there’s nothing unusual about its literal size. I’m an average height and average weight, and I reckon my head is of pretty average dimensions.
So, when the most immediately notable thing about the Solitaire P-SE headphones by T+A is just how swamped they make my unremarkably sized head feel, I can’t help but worry for those people blessed with smaller heads than mine. Presumably T+A hasn’t set out to exclude whole swathes of the population from Solitaire P-SE ownership. However, unless “must feel large” is high on their list of new-headphones requirements, I fear lots of prospective customers will reject the Solitaire P-SE when they put a pair on (or, more accurately, over) their head.
Rejecting the headphones, however, would be a dreadful pity because in pretty much every other respect the T+A Solitaire P-SE are brilliantly accomplished headphones that are an unalloyed joy in listening, which is just as it should be, given the asking price.
Before we even get to the sound they make, though, T+A has done its utmost to make that price seem perfectly reasonable. As is unerringly the case with this German manufacturer (whose company name stems from ‘Theory and Application’, and most certainly not from any baser Miss World-related derivation), the Solitaire P-SE are painstakingly conceived, specified and manufactured. By the time T+A has explained the processes behind these headphones, three grand feels almost like a bargain.
Indeed, the £3,000 P-SE seems a bargain compared to the £5,000 Solitaire P headphones T+A has used as a jumping-off point. Everything’s relative, after all. T+A has replaced the aluminium elements of the Solitaire P with a “high-quality synthetic compound” alternative on the outside. It’s chamfered the ear cups. But as far as compromises are concerned, this seems as far as T+A is prepared to go.
The Solitaire P-SE are a planar-magnetostatic design, just like the Solitaire P. The 110 x 80mm oval transducer is based on the single-row magnet array of the Solitaire P’s TPM3100 transducer – but here it features entirely new filters and membrane. Dubbed TPM2500, the transducer’s neodymium magnets are carefully shaped and matched in length to suit the shape of the diaphragm – the intention is to negate air turbulence and maintain consistent airflow. Also, the gnat’s-ass tolerances of the design of its retaining rings and magnet mount mean the diaphragm’s position is always accurately maintained – so very high (and distortion-free) sound pressures should be achievable.
The earcups behind which the TPM2500s do their thing are (like every other component part of the Solitaire P-SE) designed, developed and hand-made in Germany. At the point of contact, they’re made of allergen-free velour and synthetic leather. The result is an extremely comfortable experience for the wearer right up until the moment they become uncomfortably warm. Some headphone ear cushion designs seem able to dissipate body heat almost indefinitely; the Solitaire P-SE’s ear cushions seem to absorb body heat and then give it right back, with interest.
The detachable connecting cable runs to both earcups, and it’s of oxygen-free copper with a silver layer – the sheath shielding the line is robust, and about as resistant to tangling as these things ever get. As standard, the Solitaire P-SE comes with both a cable terminating in a 6.3mm barrel jack and an alternative ending in a 4.4mm Pentaconn connector. If that doesn’t suit your purposes, the 4.4mm cable set can be swapped for a lead terminating in a four-pin XLR connector.