T+A Elektroakustic is one of those incredibly well-known German audio brands that typifies the ‘silo’ thinking that dominates some parts of the audio world. To most, the brand makes electronics and nothing else. Some might know it as a maker of loudspeakers and a few might recall it even makes a turntable. Now, with its Solitaire P headphone system and the HA 200 headphone amplifier, the brand can and should be recognised as a ‘nose-to-tail’/’soup-to-nuts’ company. And in setting out its store this way, it chose to enter the personal audio space at the very top of the tree; both its Solitaire P planar-magnetic headphones and the HA 200 headphone DAC/amplifier are true cost-no-object designs.
Starting with the Solitaire P, once you get past the impressive presentation case you are met by a very high-grade pair of open-backed planar magnetic headphones, with the sort of luxurious feel top-end German tech is so good at doing. The headphones have that classic slightly back-swept oval over-ear cup and headband appeal of popular Sennheiser and HiFiMAN models, with a strong accent on ‘understated luxury’. OK, so a cup milled from a solid 35mm thick billet of aluminium that takes an hour to mill, and the synthetic leather ear and head cushions both match and manage to feel ‘right’ even after a lengthy listening session in humid London summer conditions, take ‘understated luxury’ and run with the concept, but you get the drift. This is the real deal.
Planar drive units are not a new thing for T+A; the company first used a planar-electrostatic driver in its active Solitaire OEC loudspeaker from 1983, and that echoes to this day in the trio of Solitaire CWT range-toppers. However, in the Solitaire P headphones, the company went for a planar-magnetic design. Having those years of working with planar transducers helped T+A produce a transducer that addresses some of the planar-magnetic’s main limitations – low efficiency, low impedance and comparatively high mass.