GoldenEar Technology TritonCinema Three Speaker System Page 2
Driver complements are similar—in fact, the Triton Threes have the same 1 x 1.35-inch, pleated-diaphragm tweeter the folks at GoldenEar refer to as an HVFR (High Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter and one of the two 4.5-inch midbass drivers that’s found in the Triton Twos. The big differences show up in the bass section. Instead of a switching amplifier claiming 1,200 watts driving two 5 x 9-inch bass drivers coupled to a pair of side-firing 7 x 10-inch passive radiators, the Triton Threes have a slightly less powerful (but still impressive) switching amp claiming 800 watts, which cranks a single active, front-mounted 5 x 9-inch driver coupled to two opposing, 6.75 x 8-inch passive radiators. The passive radiators in both models are located on the sides of the speaker cabinets near the floor, Gross says, “in order to take full advantage of boundary coupling...which provides additional gain and bass radiation into the room beyond just the simple additive sum of their outputs. In this case, 1+1 doesn’t equal 2, but rather 3 or 4.” (The math may seem funny, but having heard what the Triton Twos can do, I’m certainly not going to argue.) Locating powered subwoofers in each speaker also has the potential to help smooth out the bass response in the room (though the locations in the room that produce the best imaging in the upper ranges may not always be the same place where the most bass extension is to be found).
According to Gross, this boundary-coupling design concept doesn’t perform nearly as well in an anechoic chamber or with the quasi-anechoic measurements magazines like Home Theater conduct as it does in a real-life listening room (since the point of an anechoic chamber is to eliminate boundaries). That may be why my in-room listening tests on the earlier Triton Two didn’t correlate totally with our lab results. That’s not to say that Gross and Givogue fear anechoic chambers. After all, the GoldenEar team owns an anechoic chamber that’s a duplicate of the famed NRC facility in Canada. Gross just points out that there are limitations to the data you can capture in one.
Considering the Triton Twos and Threes share tweeters, a midrange driver, and design philosophies, it’s not surprising that the Threes also perform stunningly well in terms of clarity, detail, and depth. Imogen Heap’s “I Am in Love With You” from the album Speak for Yourself begins very tightly focused on the electronic beat centered between the two speakers. About seven seconds in, the soundfield expands dramatically to encompass the entire wall; and the combination of the speaker cabinets’ narrow baffles and the amazingly sweet folded-diaphragm tweeters allows the speakers to seem totally invisible. The incredible wall of sound is magnificently present on numerous tracks from the Paul Simon and Friends Blu-ray Disc, especially on songs with a large chorus, such as when Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” That exceptionally expansive soundstage is punctuated by precisely placed details that reveal the nuances of each individual voice—although sometimes the nuances that come through are somewhat painful, as when Art Garfunkel strains to reprise past glory in his duet with Simon on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
GoldenEar sent a pair of SuperSat 3 bookshelf speakers to use as surrounds, along with a SuperSat 50C slender, on-wall/on-shelf center channel. I used the center and surrounds mounted on the wall courtesy of the built-in keyhole mounting slots. The normally de rigueur, sixth-box-in-the-room, powered subwoofer was nowhere to be found due to the massive firepower built into the Triton Threes. Interestingly, Gross suggested I skip the option of running a low-level sub out signal to the subwoofer inputs on the rear of the Triton Threes and adjust the bass management in my Anthem AVM 50v pre/pro to dump all the bass that would have gone to a dedicated sub directly to the main speakers. The sub amp in the Triton Threes picks up the bass information from both the LFE input and the high-level input, so it’ll work either way. Running high-level only is certainly a less-expensive, less-involved way to hook things up, but you’ll have to make sure your AVR/prepro/Blu-ray/DVD player’s bass management settings will truly shunt all the bass to the main speakers by setting them to Large.
Possibly because I mentioned in my review of the Triton Twos that I felt the SuperSat 50C (GoldenEar’s only center channel speaker at the time) would every now and then struggle to keep up with the overwhelming performance of the towers, Gross suggested I set the bass management’s center channel crossover point in the 100-120Hz range and allow the Triton Threes to fill in the information below that cutoff point as a phantom or virtual subwoofer operating in the same manner a phantom center channel might.
With only two-thirds the claimed amplifier power and a similarly reduced percentage of bassradiating surface area, it would have been near miraculous for the Triton Threes to be able to match the bass output of the Twos—and they didn’t. But they did produce bass in a way that was tightly integrated with the midrange output of the towers. In The Hurt Locker, for example, the low rumble present in numerous tension-filled scenes was controlled and ominous. The strength and definition of the bass provided a foundation for the clicking of each piece of gravel as it was brushed off a half-buried IED. The Triton Threes weren’t able to vibrate every inch of the couch in my theater room as the Twos did. But there were plenty of inches that they did shake, and it was damn impressive for speakers that cost $999 each.
The entire system came together spectacularly for other movies. In De-Lovely, a movie chockablock with current musicians singing old Cole Porter songs, the higher crossover point didn’t prevent the SuperSat 50C from blending extremely well with the Triton Threes, keeping the soundstage smooth and consistent all the way across the front. Because of a recent trip to St. Joseph, Missouri (and a brief visit to the house where the actual event happened), I decided to watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which includes fantastic re-creation of the James brothers and a motley band of locals robbing the Blue Cut train. As the gang waits for the train, James puts his ear on one of the rails, and the low churning of the engine begins to grow in the background. The subwoofer sections in the Triton Threes smoothly and convincingly handled the growing onslaught of engine noise and low passages in the music.
After the train is stopped, the surrounds came alive with the sound of gunshots being fired from multiple directions across the room. Unlike most Hollywood gunshots, these blasts are more modest and finely tuned so you can easily distinguish the direction the guns are pointed in. As the camera focuses on the unfortunate guys in the express car who wonder if the lock on the door will hold, James’s muffled voice can be heard coming from the back of the room—exactly as it would have sounded if you had been in the railcar yourself. To me, the tweeter in the SuperSat 3s (the same one used in the Triton Threes) has many of the wonderful qualities of an electrostatic speaker, including high-frequency detail that just seems to hang in the air. Thanks to the large front soundstage created by the Triton Threes, sounds that travel from the surrounds to the front (gunshots, for example) make a seamless transition as they pass through the room. The audio artistry of the scene is fantastic, and the Triton Three system re-created it flawlessly.
Later in the movie, the agility of the tweeters comes through again when James shoots a man in the back as he’s riding ahead on his horse. As the tension in the scene builds just before the shot is fired, the blowing wind fills the entire front of the room. Amid the quiet music in the scene, what stands out is the awful thud of the bullet hitting flesh. It’s a visceral sonic detail that might get lost in a lesser system.
Thankfully, loudspeakers don’t grow up in families. If they did, the Triton Threes might need regular therapy to learn how to cope with being raised in the shadow of the bigger, more mature Triton Twos. But even so, a good therapist would point out that you have to have realistic expectations; and the Triton Threes were not designed to compete with the Triton Twos. The real judgment is to see how they fare among other similarly priced loudspeakers. And when it comes to that, few other speakers can couple the intimacy reminiscent of an electrostatic speaker with the authority and heft of a traditional box speaker in such an organic and integral way. Without a doubt, the Triton Threes can thoroughly kick the butt of just about any other loudspeaker in their class on the playground or after school. In some ways, the Triton Threes are an even more impressive achievement than the Triton Twos because the lower the price, the harder it is to produce that kind of sonic excellence. The GoldenEar family can be quite proud of its latest progeny.