In May, SoundStage! Ultra featured Hans Wetzel’s review of the T+A Solitaire Elektroakustic S 530 loudspeaker. Priced at $44,900 a pair (all prices in USD), the S 530 is the mid-level offering in the German brand’s Solitaire line, above the S 430 ($29,900/pair) and below the S 540 ($54,900/pair).
The S 530 is a large floorstander, measuring 50.4″H × 10.3″W × 17.7″D with its base plate. It is constructed of MDF, HDF, and aluminum and weighs 117 pounds, which isn’t unusual for a speaker of this size. What is unusual is the S 530’s driver complement: a 33.5″-long planar-magnetic tweeter, functioning as a line source, and alongside it, a line array of seven identical midrange drivers, each measuring 3.6″H × 2.4″W. These oddly oblong drivers are fed the same range of midrange frequencies and are crossed over to the tweeter at 1.8kHz, using second-order (12dB/octave) slopes.
To allow the left and right tweeters and corresponding pairs of midrange drivers to be equidistant from a central listening position, the S 530 is sold in mirrored pairs. When properly placed, the tweeter is to the left of the midrange drivers on the left speaker, to the right of the drivers on the right speaker.
As Hans describes in his review, a pair of 8.7″ long-throw woofers are side-mounted back to back, in perfect balance, where additional bracing eliminates cabinet resonance. The crossover to the midrange array is at 180Hz through third-order (18dB/octave) slopes. The aluminum cones of the midrange and bass drivers are embossed with a central starburst pattern (StarStabilizer, in T+A’s argot), which stiffens the diaphragm, the company claims, and prevents distortion at high output. A bottom port that fires through a matching opening in the base plate augments the woofers’ output. Three rocker switches at the rear of the cabinet allow a small adjustment (±1.5dB) to be made to the bass, midrange, and treble.
Hans points out that the S 530’s unique arrangement of midrange and high-frequency drivers yields a more planar dispersion pattern with a minimal vertical component that focuses sound on the optimal listening position. He noticed, however, that because of this highly focused dispersion pattern, mid- and high-frequency levels drop precipitously when the listening position is above the speakers, while standing, for instance. The sound then becomes unsatisfactory even for casual listening. “The S 530 is for the dedicated listener who sits in or very near the speakers’ sweet spot,” Hans advises but adds that the S 530s’ sweet spot was not as “millimetric” as that he had experienced with some other dipole speakers. Moving laterally six inches or so or vertically a foot or so didn’t disrupt the S 530s’ stereo image coherence. “The entire presentation of this loudspeaker is fundamentally different from that of traditional dynamic designs,” he writes.
An added benefit of the S 530’s multiplicity of midrange drivers, Hans notes, is that each driver handles a fraction, one-seventh, of the output that a single midrange driver would have to handle. Cone excursion is correspondingly fractional—and so is the distortion. The S 530’s distortion levels are minuscule compared to speakers with a single midrange driver. It can play extraordinarily loud without perceptible distortion, Hans observed.
Hans began his audition with the acoustic demo of Lumineers’ “Cleopatra,” from the deluxe version of their second album, Cleopatra (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Dualtone Records / Tidal). He recounts how the S 530 loudspeakers instantly grabbed his attention and proceeded to deliver “one of the finest and most memorable musical experiences” that he’d ever experienced. The soundstage was “rock-solid and well-defined,” he writes. “Every musical detail was laid bare with effortless authenticity.” He also remarks on the absence of coloration and the abundance of organic detail, which was “almost jarring.”
Gavin Mikhail’s rendition of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” on Acoustic Sessions, Vol. 1 (16/44.1 FLAC, Tower Window Records / Tidal), was even more compelling, Hans writes. Mikhail’s voice emerged solidly in front of him “with staggering clarity” through the S 530s.
In Hans Zimmer’s “The Battle,” from the soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator (16/44.1 AIFF, Decca), Hans describes the soundstage as being coherent, though not as airy as he was expecting. The S 530s seemed to zoom in on the “The Battle,” he writes, in a way that condensed the perceived depth of the soundstage. But he also writes that “the S 530s were monumental on this Zimmer classic,” and that the 8.7″ woofers “moved subwoofer-levels of air on the thunderous drums during the intro, with equal helpings of concussive pace and raw power.” Bass extension, he assesses, was down to the “mid-20-cycle region.”
Hans recounts that the orchestra was so convincing on this track that the S 530s seemed to completely disappear from the room. He remarks on the stark contrast between the gentle strumming of guitarist Heitor Pereira and the “orchestral violence that backed him.” When the solo trumpet enters, Hans notes, it was incredibly well articulated and popped to the fore from among the other instruments. The jump in perceived two- and three-dimensional resolution, he writes, over any other pair of loudspeakers he had heard was “uncanny.” The track crescendos into a “manic frenzy,” but the S 530s remained unperturbed. He was awestruck.
To “hear if these PhD-level German loudspeakers could let their hair down and rock out,” Hans ended his audition of the S 530 with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” from The Razors Edge (16/44.1 MQA, Columbia Records / Tidal). “They very much could,” he pronounces, “with to-die-for layering in the intro.” He expounds on the S 530s’ rendering of this track lavishly: “The iconic electric guitar solo and hi-hat were popping with sublime clarity toward the right of the soundstage as the chorus rose behind it. Chris Slade’s kick drum was nice and tight, but it was lead singer Brian Johnson’s insane vocal that dominated the center of the soundstage, amply supported on the left and right by Malcom Young and his younger brother Angus on guitars.” This thoroughly “convincing and holographic” reproduction, he proclaims, was “a masterpiece.”
In conclusion, Hans writes that the S 530 is different from any other loudspeaker he has heard in more than a decade of reviewing high-end gear—different in the way it looks and different in the way it sounds, which was “profoundly, stupefyingly good.” He declares the Solitaire S 530 the best-sounding loudspeaker he had ever heard. Hans’s praise for the S 530, which pervades his review, earned this loudspeaker a Reviewers’ Choice award at the time the review was published. Those same words earned it our Recommended Reference Component award this month.
Manufacturer contact information:
T+A Elektroakustik GmbH & Co. KG
Phone: +49 (0) 5221-7676-0
Fax: +49 (0) 5221-7676-76