Really, I shouldn’t have been as surprised by the T+A Solitaire T’s performance as I was – many of my reviewing peers in the industry, near and far, had already waxed lyrical about them. What Hi-Fi? may often get in front of new products days or weeks after (or before!) they are launched, but sometimes internet or in-person industry noise draws you to something you haven’t yet experienced but now absolutely must.
That’s how these high-end wireless headphones came to be on my head more than six months after they’d hit shelves, the emphasis here being on ‘high-end’ – they cost £1200 / $1600 / AU$2399. And no, that price doesn’t include a spare pair for weekends or a lifetime entry to CanJam. You likely wouldn’t guess they cost akin to a budget separates system just through sight and feel – I no doubt would’ve come up pretty short, as did the handful of people I asked to throw a figure at me (though one did amusingly liken the white-finished Solitaire T’s oval, red-in-white earcups to the ears of cartoon rabbit Buster Baxter from the TV show Arthur). Against the half-the-price Apple AirPods Max in a pageant, they wouldn’t get much of a look in, in my mind.
So having heard and been impressed by the AirPods Max and similarly priced Bowers & Wilkins Px8 and Focal Bathys, plus the only other (but cheaper) around-a-grand wireless pair from Mark Levinson (the No.5909) which held the current Bluetooth headphones benchmark, here I was ready to be proven that, yes, these were worth their rather impolite asking price. I wasn’t convinced but, as you probably have anticipated, I would be very soon. In two tracks’ time.
My surprise wasn’t anything to do with the Solitaire T’s maker – the reputation of German electronics brand T+A quite rightly precedes it – but the unprecedented quality of their Bluetooth delivery and, furthermore, how close it was to the wired performance when running in HQ mode (which you can read about in our T+A Solitaire T review). Prior to wrapping my ears around their explicitly natural, dimensional and clear – ‘mature’, in a word – sound, I would’ve passed the company’s following statement off as marketing hyperbole: ‘Previous generations of wireless phones could not begin to match the quality of wired types, but the Solitaire T… offers virtually the same quality with a wireless connection.’
The ability to close that gap and replace the typically soft, smoothened ‘wireless sound’ with one laden with crispness and dynamic punch has undoubtedly come from the approach of T+A’s 15-strong engineering team: to construct headphones that first and foremost prioritise physical acoustic engineering, just like the brand’s wired offerings – unlike many wireless pairs which rely more on digital processing corrections to compensate for such physical compromises made in order to hit a price point.
The Solitaire T may have, in relative terms, a niche audience – after all, how many people can afford to spend four figures on headphones, full stop? And of that minority, how many will be doing so to acquire true (inherently wired) home or pro/studio headphones? It’s here I should note for those unfamiliar with the Solitaire T that they can be listened to in true passive wired mode, via balanced or unbalanced cabling – they will just struggle for all-day comfort and soundstage openness against the best dedicated wired (often open-back) bunch.
But they’re still a boon both for the head-fi and portable audio market – proof that a multi-scenario audiophile headphone is attainable. And they have me excited for (fingers crossed) next year’s wireless headphone innovation, where we could well witness a new generation of wi-fi-powered pairs with the potential to be smarter and superior sounding than the current Bluetooth crop, despite how impressive T+A has shown that can be.
Read our full T+A Solitaire T review
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