T+A Hi-Fi Solitaire Series
It is not a coincidence that our headphones bear the name Solitaire. Back in 1983 our founder developed T+A’s first planar-electrostatic transducer: the mid-high range unit for the Solitaire OEC active loudspeaker, which remains a legend to this day. Since that time we have continued to exploit this principle for our High-End speakers. The current Solitaire CWT range employs a planar-electrostatic mid-range / treble unit whose frequency range extends up to and beyond 50,000 Hz, and which is capable of generating sound pressure levels above 120 dB. The diaphragm of these transducers consists of a special ultra-thin film, driven by a powerful electrical field.
This principle was the obvious choice for our first headphones, based on the exceptional qualities of this type of planar transducer and our thirty-five years of experience in the development and manufacture of film transducers. Planar-magnetic transducers are very similar to electrostatic devices, as their diaphragm also consists of a thin film driven by a strong magnetic field. For that reason it was therefore natural to start our headphone division by developing open planar systems for our first headphone series, and build them here in Herford. The fundamental designs of planar magnetic systems are ideally suited to High-End headphones, and are inherently superior to dynamic alternatives.
Our flagship model bears the name of the Series: The Solitaire P was introduced in March 2020 and quickly became a references level headphone, cherished by critics and customers alike. The Solitaire P-SE brings the spirit of the Solitaire P to a new and exciting price point.
Headphone Design Philosophy
In every transducer – regardless of whether a loudspeaker or headphones – the diaphragm needs to be driven as evenly as possible. To a limited extent dynamic systems based on voice coils are partially successful in this, but planar systems – such as electrostatic or magnetostatic devices – are much more effective in this regard, since the driving force in both these processes is distributed over the whole of the diaphragm, rather than being localised at the coil position. In principle the actual transducer of our magnetostat consists of rod-shaped high-performance neodymium magnets of varying length, with an innovative pole geometry. These magnets are held in a precise, accurately manufactured mount which guarantees the positioning of the magnetic poles to an accuracy of a few hundredths of a millimetre. This design generates a totally linear magnetic field, in which the special ultra-lightweight diaphragm moves. The diaphragm itself is only a few µm thick, and consists of a structurally stable High-Tech polymer material; it also bears an array of very light conductors – also only µm thick – which are applied in a sophisticated, highly precise photo-chemical process. This unique technology ensures that the entire surface of the diaphragm is driven absolutely evenly, thereby eliminating the partial oscillations which are unavoidable with localised drive systems. The net result is a series of transducers with an enormously wide dynamic range, high peak sound pressures and extremely impressive linearity and freedom from distortion.
Our Solitaire P and Solitaire P-SE headphones are driven by our in house transducers TPM 3100 and TPM 2500, respectively. Both of which are manufactured in Herford, Germany.
It 2020 will be remembered as the year in which we introduced a whole new family of products: headphones. We develop a range of extremely innovative headphones and headphone amplifiers, evincing the same consistently systematic approach and commitment which we have always adopted in the development of our audio systems and loudspeakers. Our first model of headphone amplifier is the HA 200, and it benefits from our extensive expertise and several decades of experience in the development and manufacture of amplifiers and transducers. We have not been content simply to adopt existing technologies, preferring instead to develop and optimise them for the particular requirements of headphones. The result is a device the like of which has never before existed, but it is far more than that: it sets completely new standards in respect of sound quality, performance, connection facilities and appearance. In fact, the HA 200 encompasses the combined requirements of professional users active in studio technology and those of audiophile music lovers, who wish to run multiple headphones from a single device. This principle was the obvious choice for our first headphones, based on the exceptional qualities of this type of planar transducer and our thirty-five years of experience in the development and manufacture of film transducers. Planar-magnetic transducers are very similar to electrostatic devices, as their diaphragm also consists of a thin film driven by a strong magnetic field. For that reason it was therefore natural to develop an open planar system for our first headphones, and build them here in Herford. The decision to start by developing a planar-magnetostat, and only then an electrostatic device, was based on the realisation that a magnetostat has a wider field of application, since it does not require a power supply voltage – as is the case with an electrostatic device. Both fundamental designs are ideally suited to High-End headphones, and are inherently superior to dynamic alternatives.
We insist that our headphone amplifiers should be capable of optimum sound quality, and for this reason we are developing them in a focussed manner, matching either dynamic and magnetostatic or electrostatic headphones. This decision obliges us to consider the completely different requirements regarding the output stages. The HA 200 is conceived to handle dynamic and magnetostatic headphones, and its entire circuit topology and technology are designed to fulfil the special requirements of these types of transducer. This is the only means of obtaining truly unique results in terms of sound quality. Compared with loudspeakers, the impedance bandwidth of headphones is substantially wider, and this presents a genuine challenge to the amplifier design. Low-impedance types require high currents, whereas high-impedance alternatives draw low currents, but require an extremely stable voltage.
Headphone Amplifier Design Philosophy
This in turn means that the output stage must be capable of delivering relatively high currents, while the transformer and the mains section must be extremely stable and constant. Our amplifier has also been fitted with a circuit, which makes different output impedances freely selectable for each of the three outputs (6.3 mm jack, 4.4 mm Pentaconn, XLR-4 pin), so that the headphones can be optimally adapted to the individual sound ideas.
The last few years have brought a very significant change in the field of application of headphone amplifiers. In the past they were usually connected to the analogue output of a stereo system, utilising the system’s sources, but nowadays we frequently find a preference for dedicated stand-alone devices. That is why we have not only furnished our headphone amplifier with very high-quality analogue inputs, but also installed digital inputs and converters of the highest quality, which make it possible to exploit a vast range of digital sources whilst maintaining very high standards of quality. The analogue and digital sections are completely galvanically isolated, and each features its own mains power supply. Our aim was to build a headphone amplifier which completely satisfied our very high requirements in terms of sound quality. The outcome of our efforts is a true thoroughbred: an exceptional device which eschews integral digital sources completely, thereby eliminating even the tiniest of adverse influences in the analogue section of the amplifier.
The HA 200 offers a wide range of high-quality connection facilities on the input and output side, making the amplifier a superb choice for music-enthusiasts and professionals alike.