Gramophone Dreams #45: T+A Solitaire P headphones & HA 200 DAC-headphone amplifier Linear Tube Audio Z10e

Linear Tube Audio Z10e (A Follow-Up)

In Gramophone Dreams #36, I wrote a rave report describing how well Linear Tube Audio's Z10e 12W power amplifier/preamplifier/ headphone amplifier (footnote 1) drove my high-sensitivity Zu Audio Soul Supreme and DeVore Fidelity O/93 floorstanding speakers. I was especially dazzled by how effectively the Z10e drove the Stax SR-009S and Dan Clark Voce electrostatic headphones. I was equally impressed by how well the Z10e played the relatively insensitive 88dB/mW JPS Labs AB-1266 Phi TC headphones. My only disappointment was the Z10e's lack of power and gain driving HiFiMan's glorious—but insensitive (83dB/mW)—Susvara.


I wrote, "It did let the Susvaras play most of my difficult, bass-heavy program with reasonable clarity and élan. Unfortunately, there was zero punch, instrumental weight, or get-up-and-go energy. Clipping was noticeable especially on deep plucked or synthesized bass, where the Z10e would occasionally choke completely. I was disappointed by the Z10e's apparent lack of power, so I ran to the LTA website to see how much power they specified for the headphone outputs.

"I could not find a listing for 50 or 300 ohms, so I wrote LTA's PR guy, Nicholas Tolson, asking for facts. He reported back: 'Into 50 ohms the Z10e makes 500mW from the HI power output, and 77mW from the LO. Into 300 ohms, it can generate 220mW from the HI jack, and 19mW from the LO.' Which is fine for most headphones, but not for one of the world's finest planar magnetics."


I concluded the Susvara section by saying, "While I listened with the Susvaras, I kept shaking my head in disappointment: Why can't Linear Tube Audio give the headphone output the same power and gain it gives the speaker output?" After the review was turned in, Nicholas Tolson from LTA wrote in his manufacturer's comment, "Since sending Herb this amp for review, we have heard the same from our customers. So, we reworked our original, conservative headphone outputs to be more powerful. The 'HI' output now puts out the same voltage and gain as the speaker outputs, about 3W into 32 ohms. We are certain that this is ample power for the Susvara and other hard-to-drive headphones. The 'LO' output provides 240mW to 32 ohms." A significant upgrade.

In late October 2020, the revised LTA Z10e entered my system for a comparison with the original. I listened to the British avant-jazz group Sons of Kemet's politically antagonistic Your Queen Is A Reptile (24/96 FLAC, Impulse/Qobuz). With the HiFiMan Susvara plugged into the Z10e's HI output, Theon Cross's tuba, marking the beat on the first track, "My Queen Is Ada Eastman," set itself in a fierce, hard-swinging counterpoint to Joshua Idehen's vocals, bandleader Shabaka Hutchings's saxophone, and Seb Rochford's and Tom Skinner's drumming. Densely packed bass detail, in the form of subtle low-level, low-bass tuba textures, bounced forward in the spaces between sharp drumming and saxophone bursts. The LTA Z10e–Susvara combo missed no beats, showed no weaknesses, and kept my head bopping to Your Queen's morphing Afrobeat-grime-soca rhythms. The Z10e amp displayed no hesitations, dullness, or clipping; no smoke from the tires, no engine stalling—only full-traction, high-torque engagement.


I did not have the easy-to-drive (35 ohm), high-sensitivity (106dB/mW) Focal Stellia when I first reviewed the Z10e, but now I do, and I was excited to try LTA's amp driving these deluxe beryllium-domed, dynamic closed-backs. Listening to the sixth track, "My Queen Is Nanny of the Maroons," on Your Queen Is A Reptile, the bottom octaves are packed with urgent puffing tuba sounds and large drum harmonics, but the Stellia, powered by the revised Z10e, kept them rich-of-tone, well-focused, and quick-moving. The top octaves were alive, extended, and well-described.

Both times Linear Tube Audio's Z10e power amplifier/headphone amp/preamp was in my system, it felt as though, if I weren't a reviewer, this could be the only audio amplification I would ever need. That I could retire happily with it, and maybe only a dozen electrodynamic, electrostatic, and planar-magnetic headphones, and of course, the Klipsch RP-600M, Falcon LS3/5a, Zu Audio, and DeVore Fidelity loudspeakers—all of which it drives with notable ease. Headphone devotees can rejoice! Linear Tube Audio's Z10e is now a full-service pleasure provider.—Herb Reichert

Footnote 1: Linear Tube Audio, 7316 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912. Tel: (301) 448-1534. Web:

stereophileuser2020's picture

> But it gave me a chance to appreciate the extreme build quality of the Solitaire P. Materials, finish, and workmanship exceeded anything I've encountered,

This review was clearly written before the exquisite Apple AirPods Max came out. Speaking of which, will Stereophile review those headphones? Over the last two weeks, I've found them to be great.

hb72's picture

Am really glad if you enjoy Apple's new headphone.

But (as somebody who uses android & iphone on a current sony NC BT headphone) I'd be glad if Apple would accept offering only AAC in their products isn't *enough* in 2021 (wasn't in 2015). Not even close. Sony's LDAC does ca 4 times the data rate of Apple's old & trusted AAC of yore via BT, with night-and-day sonic advantages in space, texture, delicacy, etc. Not to mention industry standards such as aptX or aptX-HD which do SIGNIFICANTLY better than bare AAC.

apologies for the rant

best regards

stereophileuser2020's picture

I use headphones to listen to music. I don't use headphones to listen to codecs.

Glotz's picture

and Hannes is very insightful about the truth.

Glotz's picture

Outdoing the HPA-4 at its own game begs a listen!

Do you think any wireless OTE headphone or wireless IEM would compare? Even close?

Ortofan's picture

... SPL Phonitor xe DAC/headphone amp.

Glotz's picture


I've been curious for months! Looks like it punches well above its weight.

DaveinSM's picture

I’m sure this T+A is all really nice, well-engineered German gear, as it should be for those prices.
But every time I see the name “T+A” , I crack up a little. As an American, “T & A” has always meant something quite different as an acronym.

It doesn’t help that the styling of their gear is quite Teutonic and not sexy and curvaceous as the name might otherwise suggest.

hb72's picture

Am surprised to read slightly critical words about T+A's exterior product design. (I guess "T & A" creates different expectations, no hifi kit can ever satisfy).

I always saw T+A devices as clean & tidy and never painful to look at (which is my requirement in this regard).

Sober appearance - yes indeed, but they are extremely consistent with their product design and thus age very well i.e. not at all, and IMHO T+A's products resemble those of the old German brand "Braun", whose exterior was famously designed by (again German) Dieter Rams from whom even more famous Jony Ive (former chief designer at Apple) copied as much as he could (ok that is an opinion, possibly ever so slightly exaggerated).

here photos of a 20 year old T+A CD player:

and here a current multi-format source:

PS: the headphones indeed look over-the-top sober, and really signal .. "no-fun-zone"..

stereophileuser2020's picture

I take it that you're not American and/or you don't understand what "T+A" means in American vernacular English. If that's the case, why are you visiting and commenting on an American website?

hb72's picture

Do you mean that?

In my comment above I (audiophile since 3 decades) almost entirely focused on hifi aspects and esthetics. Think of livingroom & WAF, e.g. mixing old amp with new steamer, without stark visual contrast. Not many OEMs support that. Mind it’s an established brand name, don’t get derailed, stay focused, this is a Hi-Fi magazine.

stereophileuser2020's picture

Here is today's lecture on American-isms:

hb72's picture

Thanks for your kind service. In DaveinSM‘s posting from 2 days ago he already alluded to the other meaning with very very little room for misinterpretation by putting the abbreviation under quotes, and yes I did look it up, then.

It is amazing, how much fun can be had in a world of so many languages & abbreviations, .. ;)

Charles E Flynn's picture

latinaudio's picture

"sounded flat and dreary with the Benchmark HPA4, the HA 200 (with its 8 ohm output impedance) was even more clear, tight of bass, and well-defined in the lower octaves than the HPA4"
So the almost "perfect", noise free, s/n champion, incredible low thd Benchmark has been outdone? By HR auditions a resounding yes.
Come on, admit it: the magic is not in the numbers!

Glotz's picture

He acquits its performance.

Spend thousands more, and parts quality goes up, and the 'unmeasurables' become more audible, as it should be.

Measurements only tell us half (or 30%?) of the picture. The preamp is amazing for the money.

Herb Reichert's picture

and I agree . . .

"Spend thousands more, and parts quality goes up, and the 'unmeasurables' become more audible, as it should be."

thank you for expressing it

Ortofan's picture

... T+A uses that are alleged to be of higher quality than those used by Benchmark?
Where is the set of measurements for the T+A unit?

John Atkinson's picture
Ortofan wrote:
Where is the set of measurements for the T+A unit?

I don't routinely measure the products that are covered in the magazine's regular columns, unless there is something that is felt worth further investigation.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

JHL's picture

Never in the market but always telling you what to review and forever demanding The Measurements.

SeanS's picture

If Herb says it exceeds the performance of the Benchmark HPA4, then I am keenly interested in how it measures.

...maybe I’m asking for a full review?


Glotz's picture

Made my day.

-Jeff Glotzer

Jack L's picture

Hi Herb.

Being a tubes old schooler, I love trodes which built best sounding OTL power amps I ever auditioned. Western Electric makes the best sounding triode tubes ever, IMO.

Again, being an old schooler, serious music enjoyment at home is sitting in front of the loudspeakers, always for me. Headphones, or earbuds to be exact, for me is strictly for travelling. Light & easy.

Like when I am happy with my darling wife, do I still need & want a mistress ????????

Like it or not, not many serious music lovers, I am being one, want to enjoy music with a load topping their heads. Headphone music may sound however good to some who can afford to drop a bundle for it. It still can't touch loudspeakers performance being closest to LIVE!
I know too well as I frquent live music performances.

Besides, I don't want to be deemed anti-social by my family at home !

That's why I want to have my home sweet home upstairs & music
sweet music downstairs in my basement audio den since day one decades back when we first moved in. Not many housewives (nor their families) REALLY love music like their other halves. Headphones may be a solution but family anti-social !!!

Jack L

PS: Herb, keep on yr good work on headphonr reviews. Fully unerstood this is your job as a reviewer.

friccolodics's picture

Though Herb notes otherwise in his nice review, the HA-200 can be used as a preamp.
For that purpose, T+A offer a special adapter from the balanced XLR-4 Output to 2ch RCA.

Jack L's picture


First off, this $8,900 "preamp" does even get a gramophone input. So I don't know why Herb was assigned to reveiw this line-amp in his "Gramophone Dream" forum ???? This review, IMO, should have been published in "As we see it" or "Analogue Corner", right ??

Might be this German line-amp designers not interested in the ever growing vinylist markets !!

Back to yr suggestion using this line-amp as a balanced XLR to unbalanced signal converter, who wants to spend such big bucks simply for such conversion ?No other more affordable choice in the marketplace ??

For HDMI inputs, ARC(audio return circuit) is a $600 additional item ! What a rip-off ? FYI, my 1st generation 1K HD Sony 40" TV which I paid only $300 from Best Buy 4 years back, already got 2 HDMI inputs, with one got ARC features for home theatre audio.

Give me a break, please.

Jack L

Jim Austin's picture

First off, this $8,900 "preamp" does even get a gramophone input. So I don't know why Herb was assigned to review this line-amp in his "Gramophone Dream" forum ???? This review, IMO, should have been published in "As we see it" or "Analogue Corner", right ??

As every regular Stereophile reader knows, Herb often covers headphones in Gramophone Dreams. (He also decides what to cover in his column; it is not assigned to him.)

Michael Fremer, who writes Analog Corner, never covers headphones--it is more vinyl-centric by far than Gramophone Dreams is--and As We See It rarely covers hardware of any kind. (The one in the March issue is a rare exception.)

It's a big, wide world, with many products. If you want a headphone amplifier with a built-in phono stage, at a lower price, I'm sure you can find one. I will never understand why some consumers are hostile toward components (or their manufacturers) that don't meet their particular needs. If you don't like a product, then don't buy it.

Jim Austin, Editor

Jack L's picture


Please calm down, take a deep breath & then retread my above post in response to Mr Fricolodics.

He suggested the headphone amp can be used as a preamp as he read my post addressed to Herb to learn I never use headphones for serious music listening.

I went straignt to address to his suggestion of "preaamp", & never mentioned one word about "headphone" in my above post at all !!

So I really "can't say I follow your logic" in bringing in the subject of "headphone" which was not the subject of my post at all!

My logic as a reader of audio journals (been 2 decades if not more)
is to read something relevant to the forum category. Herbs "Gramophone Dream" logically leads me to expect reading reviews relevant to gramophones. Yet I did not read anything related to gramophone in his above review. Surely it was not my intention to challenge Herb & I only responded to Mr. Fricolodics' post to me.
FYI, I've been an electronics handyman & a classical music addict for decades. I never NEED & therefore want to finance any amp vendors as I've been design/built/upgraded audios for decades, particularly triode tube phone-linestages. I auditioned enough huge-ticketted audio amps, e.g. excellent sounding USD125,000 Auido Note Japan all triode power amp. I simply borrow their design CONCEPT to design/build my own amps.

From the circuitry design alone, I can tell whatever brandname amps would sound musically correct or not, price irrespective.
This is my design logics, backed up by my addictionn to vinyl classica music & my craze for musically correct circuitry design.

Jack L

PS: No need to buy any amps for headphones which I never use for serious music listening. Should I need such amps one day for some quality headphones as a gift. I can always build one using simple circuitry of 2 high-gain twin triodes,eg ECC83, 6922 etc. For me, it's a piece of cake !