It was going to be a matter of time before the high-end audio business got serious about high-end, luxury headphones and 2022 was that year. With audiophile headphone products like the Sennheiser Momentum 4, Bowers & Wilkins Px8, Focal Bathys, Mark Levinson No. 5909, and many others doubled down on this exciting, profitable new category. Powered by more audiophile-level performance thanks to the latest updates to Bluetooth 5 and packing more and more luxury perks, the high-end world of over-the-ear headphones has become a much cooler place to shop.
Add to the list of high-end players in the wireless, over- ear headphone market: German audiophile company T+A. Their Solitaire headphones are currently the highest priced on the market at $1,600 per pair and have many unique features and over-the-top design elements that help justify the cost. With the aforementioned players known as high-end mere months ago now priced at 50 percent below the T+A, one can’t help but wonder what you get for the big bucks. We will tell you…
What Makes the T+A Solitaire Headphones Special?
- T+A uses its own robust audiophile grade speaker drivers versus off-the-shelf components. Making relatively low volumes of high-end drivers is exactly what drives the cost of high-end audiophile speakers.
- The audiophile grade amps inside of the T+A Solitaire headphones are a more traditional design when other brands tend to use less expensive, OEM-sourced, Class D solutions.
- Until the last year or so, other audiophile companies couldn’t deliver the sort of ANC (active noise cancelation) you’d typically see from more mainstream manufacturers like Sony or Bose, who dominated in the headphone space for decades. The T+A Solitaire headphones use multi-mic technology from Sony, who really had the ANC market cornered for a long while. Now other companies can share in the wealth (at a cost, of course).
- Like some other headphones in the space, you can run the T+A Solitaire headphones in a fully balanced analog mode or use wireless connections as most would with such a headphone.
- The Solitaire works for taking and making phone calls or Zoom calls. More and more clients are buying premium headphones for just these work applications, which opens a whole new market to audiophile companies that make headphones.
- The build quality of the T+A Solitaire headphones is just as good as you should expect from a German-made, uber-audiophile brand. Think of that satisfying sound that you get when you shut the door on a new Mercedes S-Class. You get that same kind of feeling when you put these T+A headphones on your head. The metal work is simply excellent. The buttons aren’t plastic and have a responsive feel. The ear cups have a leather that doesn’t get hot even after hours of wear. You don’t need 10 seconds with the T+A Solitaire headphones in your hand to realize that they are truly a luxury goods item.
- The battery life on the T+A Solitaire is pretty long. Is it the longest on the market? I can’t tell anymore because most headphones in the high-end, big-dollar range have at least 30 plus hours of performance and I always charge them long before they run out of juice. Even with ANC on (which uses more battery) you can fly literally around the globe without needing a recharge. The T+As, much like many of today’s best headphones in the high-end space, also recharge very quickly. Connect it to a USB-C cable and you will be topped off for power for longer than you should be listening to headphones, really.
Why Should You Care About the T+A Solitaire Headphones?
By no means do you have to spend as much or even half as much as T+A is asking for their Solitaire headphones, as there are many excellent options on the market today that look good, perform fantastically, and sound pretty damn strong for less money. Why do you care about $1,600 headphones? You care because you are looking to take your audiophile system with you to the gym or to the office. When you fly, you don’t fly coach. Your audio system isn’t an entry level rig either. What you are looking for is a mobile facsimile of the audio performance that you have at home but in a package that can travel with you easily.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the T+A Solitaire Headphones
- T+A was a little late coming out with a full feature App for these headphones but it is out now, thankfully. Now there is one for iOS and Android that allows firmware updates and EQ like others in the class. They were a little late to the game with launching the app but better late than never.
- I found that I had to crank the volume quite high to get the listening levels I wanted from the T+A Solitaire. You’ll likely run them at say 70 or 80 percent of total volume on your MacBook, iPad, or iPhone to get the levels that I wanted. You can control the volume on the left ear cup with a gesture but I didn’t find that very intuitive as I just used my devices, which worked just fine for me.
Listening to the T+A Solitaire Headphones
Let me cut to the best trick I found with these headphones. which was to use the left-earcup button for “mode” and select High Quality Mode, because whatever they are doing there is the best sounding by a long shot. There are other ANC modes, but I pretty much couldn’t live without the High Quality Mode. Call me a snob if you must (I’ve been called worse, trust me. I mean, I am from Philly, you know?)
On “Running on Faith” from Eric Clapton’s iconic 1992 Unplugged record for MTV (CD resolution – AIFF 1440) (buy at Amazon on vinyl) you get to hear a real acoustical treat with the T+A Solitaire. Having heard all of the best in the high-end Bluetooth, over- ear headphone category, I can say that the openness that I got in HQM from the T+A Solitaire headphones was quite notable. The backup singers had a warm-yet-detailed layering that was just sonic delicious. There are a few numbers where Slow Hand nails some exclamation point notes that also dance above the mix. You don’t hear that level of detail on lesser audio system or on lesser headphones.
Sticking with an Eric Clapton-inspired vibe and to test the bass of the T+A Solitaire headphones, I cued up “I Shot the Sheriff” from Bob Marley’s Legend compilation record (CD resolution AIFF 1440) (buy at Amazon). There is solid bass reproduction on the T+A Solitaire headphones, but it isn’t nearly as pronounced as what you will hear on, say, the Focal Bathys, which is far more bass-forward in its voicing. The T+A headphones are much more balanced and polite sounding. The wonderfully burning sound of the Hammond organ jams in the mix, with excellent layering of the backup vocals to support Mr. Marley. The groovy, walking bassline is tight, extended, and low. It is anything but bloated, it just isn’t going to rock your world as you will hear on other headphones, even in this very high-end space.
Modern recordings sound even better than the legacy recordings that I have cited already. A good example of that is “Smoking Out the Window” from Silk Sonic (CD resolution AIFF 1440) (buy at Amazon) which shows deep but tight Booty Collins bass work. The Andersen Paak drums have a taut sound as a background, and again the vocal layering sounded so very good. There’s lots to listen for in the very complex chorus sections of this new-school jam, but the T+A Solitaires never really lose any control over the musical details. This is what you should expect from T+A electronics. Add this level of control to the list of what you can expect from their $1,600 Bluetooth headphones.
Does the T+A Solitaire Headphones Have Any Resale Value?
With a high price, the T+A Solitaires will have plenty of room to come back down to the high-end pack price-wise, but I do question if the person who invests in these headphones ever really sells them.
The simple answer to resale value on these clubhouse-leader-for-price Bluetooth headphones is… I just don’t know. I don’t think you will ever see a pair on eBay or Audiogon.com, and if they are, they will sell very quickly because these headphones do not suck. They are the opposite of suck and people will figure that out and snap them up for their collection.
Who Is the Competition for the T+A Solitaire Headphones?
The Mark Levinson No. 5909 ($999) (buy at Crutchfield) is the best head-to-head comparison for the T+A Solitaire. Both the T+A and Mark Levinson headphones are a bit utilitarian in their industrial design as compared to, say, the Focal Bathys or Bowers & Wilkins Px8s. In terms of measurements, the Mark Levinsons (make by Harman) are the closest to the Harman Curve from the two sets of measurements that I have done with these headphones to date. I think the T+A Solitaire headphones are a bit more comfortable, as Harman went for that Nth level of bass performance with a tight fit, and on my fat head, I liked the fit of the T+A incrementally better.
The Focal Bathys ($699) (buy at Crutchfield) is an excellent choice. Like T+A, Focal makes excellent audiophile products as well as excellent audiophile-grade wired headphones. Their Bathys are super fun to listen to and gorgeous looking. Are they as accurate as the Mark Levinson or the T+A’s? The measurements suggest not, but I still keep a pair around. The Focals have big bass and a great soundstage. Put on some Snoop or No Doubt or Rob Zombie and you are in for a treat with the Focals.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8s (buy at Crutchfield) are extremely comfortable and simply gorgeous-looking headphones that might be the most fashion-forward in the space. While the Px8s measure far better than the lower priced Bowers & Wilkins Px7s, they are more like the T+As in terms of total bass (meaning controlled but not overly bassy) which is good. The fit and finish of the T+As is topnotch, but the Bowers & Wilkins might be even one increment better, as both are fine examples of luxury good products.
Final Thoughts on the T+A Solitaire Headphones
Thank God that there is a high-end market for wireless headphones. I travel too much to have to drag around wired headphones with fancy DAC-dongles and extra cables. The T+A Solitaire headphones deliver a very high-end audio system in a self-contained package. They are comfortable. They are built like they should have a Maybach logo on the ear cup. They have a few odd quirks, like the lack of physical buttons for volume control, but none of that is enough to exclude them. If you are going to make a purchase in this ever-changing world of high-end Bluetooth, over-the-ear headphones, you need to make the effort to find a pair of T+A Solitaires, click them into High Quality Mode, and put on a dozen or so of your favorite jams. You will be glad that you did.