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If high-end audio is to remain relevant into the 2030s and beyond, it will be thanks to products like T+A Elektroakustic’s Solitaire T headphones. Admittedly, a pair of $1700 headphones (all prices in USD) is not something the average consumer has been crying out for. But let’s say you’re nominally into hi-fi and often listen to music on a modest desktop system while working virtually for The Man. The tunes you stream as a keyboard jockey are interrupted by frequent calls from colleagues aimed at driving process improvement and client satisfaction. To decompress, you wander outside for a walk, eager for a change of scenery—but not so eager for the sound of cars buzzing by or the din of construction in the distance. Your evenings are punctuated by doing the dishes, prepping a kid’s lunch, and wiping down counters to the soundtrack of a favorite podcast or YouTube video. Maybe, if you’re really motivated, you’ll stay up late to watch a TV show on your iPad or play a videogame on your preferred gaming system. Rinse. Repeat.


Until recently, no single earphone or headphone design could fulfill all these duties in audiophile-approved style. But having recently reviewed T+A’s Solitaire S 530 loudspeaker and previously reviewed their PA 2000 R integrated amplifier and MP 2000 digital player, I knew the German firm was onto something when they announced their pricey Solitaire T headphones back in 2022. These high-end ’phones purportedly do everything well. Jim Shannon, T+A’s press guy—and one of the best professionals I’ve met in this industry—kindly obliged when I asked if I could borrow a pair. I felt that I embodied the target audience for this product. My white review headphones (they also come in black) looked and felt terrific out of the box—their brushed-aluminum earcups were a decidedly upscale departure from mainstream equivalents like Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones ($398).

The T+A Solitaire Ts are a veritable Swiss Army knife, so it’s important to lay out everything these headphones can do. For hi-fi purists, the Solitaire Ts can run in passive wired mode like a traditional pair of cans and come with the expected accoutrements, including multiple audio cables and adapters, as well as a USB-C charging cable. On the wireless front, you get three modes: ANC On (for active noise cancellation), ANC Off, and High Quality. The first two rely on a Sony chip to handle ANC and D-to-A conversion, while High Quality mode leverages an audiophile-grade ESS Labs ES9218. Note that you can’t use ANC with High Quality mode engaged. The T+A Solitaire Ts use Bluetooth 5.1 and support all major codecs, including aptX HD. They sport a 1200mAh battery that T+A claims allows the headphones to play music wirelessly for 35 hours in High Quality mode and a whopping 70 hours in ANC Off mode. Predictably, play time is shorter with active noise cancellation engaged. The T+As ship ensconced in packaging that befits a luxury $1600 product, so you won’t feel shortchanged during the unboxing experience. A square carrying case safeguards your investment during travel.


Inside each earcup is a 42mm dynamic driver with a cellulose diaphragm. It’s more than full-range, with a frequency response of 4Hz–22kHz in active mode and 4Hz–45kHz in passive mode. Their 64-ohm passive impedance allowed the Solitaire Ts to easily partner with my various Apple devices. They should prove an easy load for any consumer device or headphone amp. T+A also provides Solitaire, a companion app for iOS and Android, which works well, mirroring most of the Solitaire Ts’ functionality onscreen and providing a means of updating the firmware and EQing them by way of a few preset options. I confirmed that the presets worked but did all my listening with no EQ engaged.

In hand, the Solitaire Ts feel terrific; their brushed aluminum frame and their soft leather earpads and headrest reek of quality. The earcups swivel roughly 180 degrees and fold to make their footprint smaller. Headphones are rarely beautiful, but the T+As looked professional enough that I, a corporate stooge, would not look out of place wearing them on video calls with colleagues. On Teams and Zoom calls through my work laptop and personal calls through my iPhone 14 Pro, the Solitaire Ts sounded fine in ANC Off mode. Voices had decent definition and good center fill, but there’s only so much you can do with low-quality source material. Engaging ANC helped when I took personal calls while washing dishes or doing laundry, or with my office space heater blasting during a chilly Pennsylvania winter. I will say that my second-generation Apple AirPods Pro earbuds seemed to reduce noise across a broader frequency range. But given their differing passive noise attenuation, comparing over-ear headphones to earbuds is hardly fair.


If you want to carry on a conversation while wearing the Solitaire Ts, you can tap the touch-sensitive button on the right earcup to engage the Transparency mode. Sounds picked up by the microphones will be played through the headphones. This feature allowed me to wander around my home office and kitchen while multitasking without having to take the headphones off—to talk with my better half, for instance. And the battery life was truly liberating. I went weeks between charges via the included USB-C cable. In ANC On and ANC Off modes, the T+As were faultless in day-to-day use.

High Quality mode was interesting. Pivoting from ANC Off to High Quality mode yielded unquestionably clearer, more articulate sound. Voices tended to have greater edge definition and three-dimensionality, while music had better spatial definition, both between and around instruments and vocals. It was subtle enough that I couldn’t quite make it out while A/B testing the two modes for the first time, but after a week of switching between the two, I definitely found myself favoring High Quality mode. And I appreciated having the option of turning off the ESS DAC to double the Solitaire Ts’ battery life. The only wrinkle I experienced with High Quality mode was that during calls or while watching YouTube videos on my iPhone, I occasionally heard shots of static when changing the volume or using onscreen controls. I didn’t experience this while listening to music on Tidal or watching shows or movies, and it wasn’t an issue in the other modes.


I spent most of my listening time with the T+A Solitaire Ts operating passively, wired via the included 3.5mm stereo miniplug-terminated cable to my modest desktop system consisting of a Drop + THX AAA 789 headphone amplifier, an SMSL DO100 DAC, and a Chromecast Audio dongle running as my Roon Endpoint. I could use these headphones for 15 minutes or five hours and they were equally comfortable, helping me focus on my work. The Solitaire Ts delivered a step up in sound quality compared to my modest reference headphones, AKG’s affordable K371 ($185). They were more forward-sounding than the Harman curve–following K371s, but not objectionably so, with the T+As offering superior transparency to source material and greater clarity on vocals and solo instruments. Bass-heavy tracks highlighted the Solitaire Ts’ taut, extended bass, which never became boomy; and the T+As exhibited greater mid-bass punch than my AKGs. Their top end was also wonderfully extended, imbued with plenty of energy and sparkle. The voicing on the Solitaire Ts was terrific. Exciting, but never fatiguing. Detailed, but never soulless.

I reveled in the ability to unplug the headphones, engage ANC On mode, and make a phone call for work without having to take them off. I could throw them on to watch some of my favorite tech or car YouTubers while cleaning my kitchen late at night after putting my kid to bed and then turn on something from the Max streaming service while eating a late dinner, all in posh comfort and high fidelity. Yes, Bluetooth is lossy, but not once did I care. What I cared about was the big sonic improvement the Solitaire Ts delivered over my Apple AirPods Pro and their ability to traverse every usage scenario I could imagine. Are they designed to accompany Netflix comedy specials on an iPad while lying in bed? Probably not. Was anyone else in the world using them the way I did, in passive mode with my desktop stack to play Counter-Strike 2 and Halo Infinite on my gaming PC? Definitely not. Yet the Solitaire Ts excelled in each scenario.


I don’t doubt that for the $1700 you’d spend on T+A’s Solitaire T headphones you could find purely passive headphones that are technically superior. And there are a multitude of consumer earbuds and headphones available for a few hundred dollars that are surprisingly good on both the sonic and feature fronts. But only the $999 Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones spring to mind as something that injects a truly hi-fi pedigree into the Bluetooth headphone category and—with apologies to Mark Levinson and Harman International—they look like cheap gaming headphones. From my perspective, the Solitaire Ts are in a class of their own given their combination of performance, flexibility, and fit and finish.

Living with the T+A Solitaire Ts was eye-opening—they proved to be a no-fuss, high-quality partner everywhere I used them. These truly are do-it-all headphones that do everything well. The biggest compliment I can pay them is to say that they became a valued tool in my day-to-day arsenal, one that just worked and that I never had to fuss with. I could use them for hours every day without having to troubleshoot or be overly careful with how I handled them. For the right buyers, T+A’s Solitaire Ts may be the only headphones they need to own. Indeed, they may be the only audio product they’ll need, full stop.

Hans Wetzel
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!