If you haven’t heard of the speakers before, the Solitaire CWT line preceded it a number of years back. In fact, most people don’t know this but T+A started out building speakers when they formed as a company in 1978. From what I understand, there are a number of updates in this new Solitaire S line. One highlight is an improved 850mm magnetostatic tweeter found in the larger two models, the S 530 and S 540. The line array of midrange drivers are specially designed with a more oval form factor and imprinting into the cones to deliver rigidity as well as better control of the directionality and dispersion of the sound outputted waves. One more update I’m fond of is the sleeker baffle and cabinet form factor. The aluminum baffles are stated to bring sonic benefits, but they are wonderful even for the aesthetics alone. I’m sure there are other updates, from the design of the airflow in the cabinet, crossover designs and all, but I won’t pretend to get into more of what I don’t know about.
I received the speakers about three weeks ago. They are approximately 50” in height, about 11-12” in width, a bit deeper in depth, and weigh approximately 116lbs. I set them up immediately, which required the assembly of a heavy metal bottom plate to the speakers and its footers to the base. In my case, I substituted the footers with Isoacoustics Gaia II footers as I’ve always appreciated the way they reduce cabinet resonance and improve clarity across the frequency spectrum.
Once set up, I used them as much as possible, breaking them in overnight for at least a consecutive week and using them for many hours a day to ensure they came into their own before I settled on any impressions on the unit.
Fine tuning over the course of these three weeks were the most challenging part of the process, and it was only this past week when it all snapped together based on placement and break in. Part of the challenge was due to their placement needs being very different from my other speakers, which in comparison are placed in an equilateral triangle with a judicious amount of toe-in. The Solitaire S 530, on the other hand, I found benefits from being a bit closer together, with no or very little toe in. This was quite surprising to me as planar magnetic and electrostatic components typically do not cast a wide dispersion and as a result minimize side reflections, so I thought the narrow tweeters would roll off if not toed in towards my ears. How wrong I was.
I also found that given the S 530’s bottom port, combined with the T+A’s minimum recommended listening distance of 3.5M, the speakers performed better closer to the front wall than rear-ported speakers, and I had about 3.5ft from the wall to the back of the speaker instead of the 4.5-6ft I usually allow. These speakers definitely require distance from the listening position, so if you cannot give it at least I’d say 3M / 9.5ft (T+A’s 3.5M is a comfortable margin on their behalf), you will not get the best out of them. In my case, I had the speakers about 7.5’ from the center of one tweeter to the other, and my ears were approximately 10’ from each tweeter.
My room is approximately 19’w x 23’d with a ceiling that slants up to 18’ in the back of the room. It is treated with bass traps and diffusors, but it is by no means a completely deadened room. It’s a decent amount of volume to fill, and I can say the Solitaire S 530 had no problems filling it. That said, given the aspect ratio of the room and the other things happening inside of it, I would prefer to have a listening distance of about 12-13ft and have the speakers another foot or so wider apart at about 8.5-9ft from tweeter to tweeter. Unfortunately that is not an option for me at this time, at least not until I make some adjustments to the room in the coming months. For listening distances less than 12 ft, I’d say the ideal room size for the speakers would be about 16-17’ wide by 20-22’ deep, with the speakers on the 16-17’ wall to enable the speakers to better charge the room.
I should mention that in addition to the effort in placing these speakers, T+A also allows the adjustment of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies by three-way rocker switches on the back of each speaker. By default, middle position is a 0db gain change, and pressing the switches upward or downward changes the gain by 1.5dB. In my room and setup, the most balanced, dynamic and transparent results were gained by leaving all switches off — though it was quite fun to experiment with them.
Connecting them to my T+A A 3000 HV amplifier, which has A and B outputs, I was able to run two speaker cables to each speaker instead of using a bi-wire cable or jumpers. Other components in the system include the remainder of a T+A HV series stack, comprising of the SDV 3100 HV Streaming DAC Preamp and PS 3000 HV optional power supply for the amplifier, using an Aurender N30SA as the digital source.
So how do they sound? Succinctly put, as music should. I’ve owned a number of excellent speakers across different brands – Wilson, Borresen, Quad, Magnepan, Oris horns to name a few and across multiple systems. I had come to appreciate the immediacy of horn systems, the slam and dynamics of a weighty 2.5- or 3-way, and the transparency and immersive offerings of planar speakers. In a way, the Solitaire S combines what all of these different speaker designs offer. The lows are tuneful, defined, and offer speedy slam. The midrange delivers an open yet weighty character (more on this later), and the magnetostatic tweeter delivers an incredible amount of effortless detail, reaping on the benefits of planar speakers without having to deal with the space requirements they typically incur as the Solitaire S 530 is not a dipole cabinet design.
Sonically, there is a lot of “meat on the bones” on the Solitaire S 530 compared to many other speakers I’ve ever heard. At first impression, it reminded me of how I feel after listening to speakers from Joseph Audio, Rockport, Usher, or Wilson to name a few. There is no shortage of richness and texture in the sound, and combined with the speed and slam in the bass, gives off a very powerful, confident, involving, yet refined sound. Paired with the T+A HV series stack, I swore I was listening to one of the best tube-driven systems, but with absolutely no lack of speed, detail, or control on the frequency extremes. Richness or tonal density are terms that come to mind here. A few years ago, I owned the Legacy Aeris, paired with Cary 805 AE 300B/845 SET monoblocks. It was one of the most soulful and involving systems I’d ever heard. The T+A amp and speaker pairing mimicked that, but elevated the experience with greater detail, speed, and realism. Also, though I mention the “meat on the bones” and powerful slam, or associate the sound with some other speakers that may not be the best with transparency or imaging, one should not assume that the Solitaire S 530 is in any way slow or unable to image. The midrange line array combined with the magnetostatic tweeters deliver a sound that it incredibly clear but non-fatiguing. If you’ve ever heard anyone say “the body in the cymbals”, this is precisely what I mean. Sustain and decay are exceptional with these speakers. Considering the tonal richness and density of its character, the Solitaire S 530 is also impressively nimble and articulate.
The soundstage that these speakers portray is worth mentioning as well. Despite the directionality of the midrange and tweeters, I was expecting a less enveloping stage width, as I often do with some planar speakers. Perhaps it has something to do with the side-firing woofers, but the Solitaire S 530 show no problems with delivering a full 180-degree soundstage. The stage depth is also good, easily portraying beyond the speakers; that said, they do not depict the deepest stage I’ve heard from speakers in my room. I attribute this to the design of the speakers against the constraints of my room, and not a fault of the speakers themselves. I simply just believe that the speakers can perform even better if the listening distance is further than I can afford to give it as I mention above. This is apparent more so at very loud levels above 85-90dB due to the way the gain may cause congestion in the space. At any level lower than that, the stage depth is quite exceptional. Stage height is also quite good, with vocals sounding somewhere between 5.5-7ft tall.
Regarding low frequency response, while the S 530 are rated down to 29Hz, they have no problem charging the room to the point where my subwoofers are pretty much rendered useless. It’s actually one of the first set of speakers I’ve had in this room that I felt did not benefit much from subwoofers. You may have read in other posts I’ve submitted that I often like integrating subs into a two-channel system not to add audible bass, but to counter room modes, clean up the frequency spectrum, and increase the size of the soundstage. I am happy to report that the Solitaire S 530 performed exceptionally in these areas without the need for subs. In fact, integrating subs with them were harder for me to do than with any other speaker I’ve ever had on the floor. This might have something to do with the fact that they are bottom ported and have side firing woofers. Careful planning was obviously made by the T+A design and engineering team with these speakers, and the addition of subs can easily complicate and impede performance due to phasing issues. After a significant amount of time, I was able to set the subs to play quite nicely, but everything from gain, crossover points, phasing, and EQ were significantly different, with volume being a good 20dB lower than they were set previously. With the amplifier muted, the subs barely let out anything audible, but combined with the S 530 they did still improve on both clarity and soundstage. If I didn’t have subs, I wouldn’t buy them with these speakers, but since I have them, I might as well put them to use for whatever they can offer.
My final test was to compare the $45K T+A Solitaire S 530 against my personal reference speakers, the $55K Borresen 02. In my experience, I have never heard speakers that image quite like the way Borresen Acoustics do. Owning both speakers to be able to do a comparison is quite the treat.
My conclusion is that compared to the Solitaire S 530, the Borresen are in fact a little bit more nimble. This is likely due to a few factors, such as the streamlined cabinet design and the innovations in the midrange and tweeter that enable it to perform faster than almost any other speaker on the market. So yes, I do feel that the Borresen 02 can depict a slightly more holographic image, deeper stage, and crisper outlines of each performer on the stage. But those benefits come with a price – the Borresen delivers a slightly drier, thinner sound. While it is incredibly exciting and involving, listening to them next to the Solitaire S 530 helps me understand just how much less “meat on the bones” there are on the Borresen 02, and as a result how much more soulful and “human” the Solitaire S 530 are. Of course, the Borresen 02 also cannot dig down nearly as deep as the Solitaire S 530, but its bass is incredibly fast and detailed. I would expect that the Solitaire S 540, the largest sibling in the line which is the same price point as the Borresen 02, has an even faster and tighter bass performance given the doubling of woofers and larger, sealed cabinet. Unfortunately the Solitaire S 540 is too big for my floor, not because of the room size, but because I constantly need to move speakers for customers, and I’m not inclined to have to move 165lb speakers in and out of place often.
Overall, I’m glad to have made the decision to go with the S 530, and it easily performs in its price class. With a bit more adjustment and break in, it may likely displace the Borresen 02 as my reference. If you are in the market for an exceptional speaker in this price range and can have the right sized room to situate it, I wholeheartedly recommend you give it serious consideration. It is one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, and potentially the best speakers I’ve ever owned.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and am happy to answer any questions you might have in response.