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GoldenEar Triton One Tower Loudspeaker
The sleek 54″ tall Triton One represents the highest technology GoldenEar has to offer, with a built-in powered subwoofer.
The Triton One is an evolutionary speaker that builds upon all the advanced technologies that have made the Tritons famous. The sleek 54″ tall Triton One represents the highest technology GoldenEar has to offer, including 56 bit DSP engine for the sub section, a fully balanced crossover design, high-end film capacitors, advanced cabinet design, and much more. The Triton One includes a built-in subwoofer section powered by a 1600 watt GoldenEar ForceField digital amplifier. The amp drives three 5″ x 9″ front-mounted quadratic subwoofer bass drivers which are coupled to dual (per side) side-mounted 7″ x 10″ quadratic planar infrasonic bass radiators. Our newly developed Frequency Dependent Bass Loading Technology, utilizing open-cell polyurethane foam damping pads, as well as special hollow-fiberfill, further optimizes low-frequency performance.There are two newly designed 5-1/4″ cast-basket midrange/upper bass drivers, which incorporate GoldenEar’s proprietary Multi-Vaned Phase Plug (MVPP™) design, housed in dual discreet midrange chambers, arranged in a D’Appolito array surrounding the extraordinary GoldenEar High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR™) tweeter.
The powered subwoofer sections incorporate a high power GoldenEar ForceField digital amplifier. The amplifier’s DSP design not only yields extremely linear and low distortion response, but also dynamically controls operating parameters for optimum performance. The amp drives up to four 5″ x 9″ front-mounted quadratic subwoofer bass drivers which are coupled to multiple side-mounted quadratic planar infrasonic bass radiators. The result is awe-inspiring bass, which delivers both musical subtlety as well as room-shaking authority. The advantages of building the subwoofers into the Tritons are many. First, of course, this eliminates the need for additional subwoofer boxes in the room. But more important are the performance advantages. By engineering the subwoofer as an integral part to the speaker, we get far superior integration and blending than can be achieved with separate subwoofers, even when using two. The two subwoofers in a pair of Tritons couple better to the air in the room, helping to better deal with the room’s eigenmodes and smooth out response. Of course, the dual subwoofers are also intrinsically more powerful and couple together synergistically for more truly exceptional bass.
The hallmark of all GoldenEar speakers, the Triton Towers utilize our High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR™) tweeter design. The HVFR tweeter propagates sound waves and moves the air by squeezing it with its accordion-like pleated diaphragm, rather than pushing it as conventional drivers do. Greater efficiency, lower distortion, improved dynamics and superbly detailed sound are the result of this amazing technology. And every Triton Tower utilizes our amazing spider-leg, cast-basket mid/bass drivers with proprietary computer optimized cone design that assures smooth, extended response.
With their sleek, narrow baffle, the Triton Tower’s sophisticated look not only blends with any décor, but also helps the speakers create truly magnificent 3D imaging with tremendous depth, height and width that extends well beyond the loudspeakers themselves. As with all GoldenEar speakers, development work is conducted at our Arnprior, Canada engineering facility utilizing our full-size anechoic chamber, which is an exact duplicate of the chamber at the NRC in Ottawa Canada, in combination with intense critical listening.
The result is a superb reference home audio and home theater loudspeaker, already honored by the prestigious 2014 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award, that has performance equal to, and in many cases surpassing, speakers selling for ten times its cost. Remarkably precise 3D imaging with a huge soundstage of exceptional height, depth and breadth. And, of course, a pair’s dual powered subwoofers deliver remarkably deep, tight, bass performance, perfect for music as well as dynamic home theater.
Beautifully finished with an elegant black designer cloth, piano-black base and top cap.
- If speakers were marriage material, we'd put a ring on GoldenEar's Triton One by Digital Trends
- GoldenEar Technology Triton One Loudspeaker Reviewed by Home Theater Review
- GoldenEar Triton One Loudspeaker - Truly Exceptional Sound and Value by The Absolute Sound
If speakers were marriage material, we'd put a ring on GoldenEar's Triton One
From Digital Trends
If you’ve seen any of my prior commentary on the GoldenEar Triton One loudspeakers, then you know where this review is going. But if you haven’t, fair warning: You’re in for a bit of a gush-fest. And, yes, I’m perfectly fine with that.
I’ve put GoldenEar Technology’s flagship – the pride and joy of its creator, Sandy Gross – through the wringer. I listened exhaustively over several months trying to find some cleverly concealed fault. I did wildly unfair – some would even say mean – things to this speaker trying to trip it up or expose a weakness. In the end, I came up empty handed. The Triton One just “does it” for me. I haven’t been this smitten over a speaker in decades, and I’ve listened to a lot of speakers in that time.
Is The Triton One the greatest speaker ever made? No – the answer to that question will always be completely subjective anyway. But I will say that there isn’t a pair of speakers under $10,000 that can do what the Triton One do. That’s a bold claim, yes, but I can back it up. And so I shall.
Out of the box
When the Triton One arrived at our headquarters in Portland, Oregon, they were initially mistaken for a pair of refrigerators – the shipping boxes are that big. They need to be, though. The Triton One stand 54-inches high, run 16 5/8 inches deep, and tip the scale 80 pounds each. That’s a lot to protect, and the foam that cradles the speakers is thick enough to do the job.
Perhaps my anticipation of unboxing the speakers had me more excited than most, but liberating the Triton One was a thrill … and a bit of work. I recommend calling a friend over — not just because you’ll need assistance with unpacking and placement, but also because you’ll want to enjoy the look of amazement on their face when you light them up for the first time.
Granted, the Triton One are large speakers, and that’s by design, but how large they look in your room will depend on the size of your room, and your perspective. That is, in a small room, the Triton One are going to make their presence known, especially if you set them up properly, which begs a fair amount of distance from the wall behind them. It’s incredible, though, how the Triton One hide their depth when you stare them down from head on. Thanks to a relatively trim 5-3/4-inch width at the front (tapering to 8 inches toward the rear) and a front baffle with smooth radiused edges, the Triton One manage to hide their girth well, but only from certain angles.
In the box with each speaker I found one ungrounded 10-foot power cable, floor spikes (the speakers come with pedestals already attached), and some product literature.
Features and design
Not that you can tell by looking at them, but there’s a lot going on inside the Triton One just beyond the top-to-bottom “sock” or wrap-around grille cloth that shrouds the speaker. I’ll get to the speaker’s wonders of engineering in a moment, but first I want to talk about that sock.
I came down on the Triton Seven for sporting the grill sock because it is a cat magnet (They just. Can’t. Resist.) and because it seemed like it would be a hassle to replace should it one day get mauled or otherwise punctured and torn. I still say it’s a cat magnet, but after further consideration, and a few conversations with Sandy Gross, I’ve come to appreciate what this design approach does for the Triton series, and the person buying them.
By wrapping the entire speaker in grill cloth, the Tritons have a softened appearance. And the fact that they are cloth helps them fit in their surroundings. It also seems like natural fit for a speaker of its shape, which avoids straight lines wherever it can, lending to a very sleek, industrial look that’s very en vogue these days. But beyond that, there’s a cost benefit, as wood veneers and high-gloss lacquer jobs can jack up the price in a hurry. Add to that the fact that GoldenEar Technology says it hasn’t had to help one of its customers deal with a cat or child-related grill cloth incident, and I’m prepared to back off my former criticism a bit. I suppose not everyone has as wily a cat as I.
GoldenEar Technology threw the book at the Triton One, and it shows by what’s under the hood. At the top of the speaker are two 5.25-inch drivers which handle the upper bass and midrange frequencies, and sandwiched in between them (in what speaker geeks know as a D’Appolito array) is GoldenEar’s outstanding High-Velocity folded ribbon tweeter. But the real fun is the arsenal that takes care of the bass frequencies.
The lower half of each speaker is all about that bass … literally. The party starts with a built 1,600-watt amplifier – that’s 3,200 watts of amplification dedicated to filling your room with glorious low end. All that power is channeled to six 5 x 9-inch bass drivers, three in each speaker. Hold on a second, we’re not done yet: Coupled to those 5×9-inch drivers are a total of eight 7 x 10-inch passive radiators, four in each speaker, all in a sealed cabinet independent of the upper portion of the speaker. Are you drooling yet? Because if you aren’t, you might want to check your pulse.
Allow me to underscore the significance of that kind of design: Any audio expert worth their salt will tell you that the best way to get even, smooth, high-energy bass response is to have as many sources of bass as possible, placed in multiple areas of the room. That’s what the Triton One do. They not only generate bass from opposite ends of the room, but each of them radiates it in multiple directions. Not only that, but by taking on the bass responsibilities for themselves, the speakers lighten the load for whatever amplifier they are connected to. All the amp sees are the two midrange drivers and the tweeters – they may as well be bookshelf speakers as far as your amplifier is concerned.
And if you want the Triton One to act as home-theater subwoofers, too, they can do that as well. In addition to the standard speaker-level inputs jacks on the back of each speaker are line-level RCA inputs for connecting to an A/V receiver or A/V pre-amp’s subwoofer outputs.
I’ve never gotten so much exercise setting up a pair of speakers in my life (with the possible exception of Axiom’s LFR-1100 with ADA-1400-4). In search of the perfect positioning, I must have bounced up and down from my sofa over 100 times, shuffling a speaker a little more to the right, then left, toeing it in a bit more, then a bit less. Back and forth I went making these alternatingly tiny, then huge adjustments before I came to a sobering realization: I was wasting a lot of time.
Please don’t misunderstand, the Triton One absolutely deserve some attention when it comes to placement (no matter how much leeway you have), but the fact is that these speakers sound great in a number of different placement scenarios. Tweaking their placement will bring improvements, but doing so only serves to make up the difference between excellent and stupefying. Thankfully, the Triton One is a speaker that achieves excellence without being demanding.
I did manage to find the Triton Ones’ money spot in my listening room, though. For me, that put the speakers about 8 feet apart with about 42 inches to each side wall from the outside edges, and about 32 inches from the wall behind them, as measured from the back of the speaker.
At the request of GoldenEar Technology, I allowed the Triton One to play for about 50 hours straight before beginning my evaluation (I let them run all weekend long). For my auditions, I used a Rotel RA-1570 integrated amplifier, Peachtree Nova 220SE integrated amp, Pioneer Elite SC-89 A/V receiver, a Sonic Impact Super T amp, Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc Player, Asus Zen Prime laptop, and Cambridge Audio DACMagic XS.
I wasted no time tearing right into the Triton One with Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms on SACD. The Triton Ones enraptured me with their immense power, depth, detail and clarity. For the first time I felt like I was hearing Mark Knopfler’s National Style O Resonator guitar tone in its true color. The steely resonance behind each pull of the stings was so distinct I could practically taste the metal. And on “The Man’s Too Strong,” the Ones’ bass potency moved me so deeply that I repeated the track before moving on.
Keeping it classic, I turned to Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again” from the group’s Rumours album. “I just forgot that I still need to breathe,” I wrote in my notes. For some reason, I was holding my breath so I didn’t miss anything. That may sound nuts, but if (or when) you hear what the Triton One’s folded ribbon tweeter does with the guitar transients on this cut, it might just take your breath away, too.
I fell in love with the sense of air the Triton Ones wrapped around orchestral string sections. There were times while listening to Kronos Quartet’s “Tilliboyo” from Pieces of Africa when I could not only hear that moment when the players’ fingers would pop off their strings as they played the pizzicato piece, but the sympathetic thunk of wood resonance just underneath it.
The Triton do detail just the way I like it. Intimate sounds come through loud and clear, and in perfect balance with other elements of the recording. GoldenEar could have taken the lazy path so many other speaker companies do by making the Triton One sparkle a bit too brightly in the high frequencies, but instead, the speakers rely on the lightning-quick response of the folded ribbon tweeter to do what it does best, and bring the detail to your ear in perfect alignment with the rest of the sounds.
The Triton is an embraceably warm speaker. Seriously, you kind of want to hug it for sounding so comfortable. Like an old armchair that’s been perfectly broken in, the Triton One is so comfortable it imparts a sense of relaxation and woos you into a hypnotic state of keen sonic awareness. Forget those sweaty yoga classes, get yourself a pair of these speakers and let the sound of music bring you peace of mind.
Of course, when it comes time to rock, the Triton One stand ready and more than able. While I’ve heard much of GoldenEar Technology’s magic before in the form of the Triton Seven, the special bit the One brings to the table is seamlessly integrated, impeccably musical bass response. For me, the Triton One brings together the best elements of localized bass transducers and subwoofers, ditching their respective shortcomings in the process. The result is bass response that can be Brahms-Violin-Concerto delicate one moment, and holy-crap-get-the-defibrilllator-kit-this-guy’s-heart-just-stopped powerful the very next.
Perhaps the most entrancing part of the Triton Ones’ performance, however, is their ability to paint a vast soundstage across the room. I heard sound objects placed in distinct locations both vertically and horizontally, and when you have the speakers positioned just right, the phantom center channel is among the most convincing I’ve heard.
If I had to marry just one speaker, forsaking all others, never to have an eargasm with another speaker again, for as long we both should live, I’d totally marry the Triton One. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate variety. I enjoy the exotic beauty of other speakers, and I’m always intrigued by their personalities and quirks, but if I had to stick to just one musical partner for life, I can’t think of a better choice for me than the Triton One. It’s a speaker that satisfies all my needs, and does it exceptionally well.
Normally, I would recommend some alternatives in this section, but the Triton One don’t really have any peers at the moment. The Martin Logan Mantis are exceptional electrostatic speakers with built-in subwoofers, but they have a much different character, and are over $3,000 more expensive. The Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L Super Towers are also excellent, but again exhibit a different voice, though they do hail from the same genes as the Triton One.
If you get the opportunity to listen to the Triton One someday, you should. But I would caution you, once you hear what kind of sound is possible for $5,000, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it until you can get another fix. Sorry folks, but this passion is like a drug, and the Triton One are the most addicting one of them all.
GoldenEar Technology Triton One Loudspeaker Reviewed
From Home Theater Review
In his masterpiece Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, the great Carl Sagan wrote, "It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it." This ethos was echoed (although perhaps less succinctly) by physicist, lecturer, and bongo player Richard Feynman in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. That notion was on my mind recently when my friend Steve Guttenberg posted a simple question to his personal Facebook page: "Can you describe what good sound quality sounds like to you?"
My reply, I felt, was pretty succinct: tonally neutral, dynamic, and clean, with good time alignment between drivers, non-directional bass, and minimal interference from the room itself. The bulk of the replies, though, were dominated by culinary metaphors and unicorn tears. Which is totally fine, mind you. I'm all for freedom of religion. But despite the fact that no one came right out and said it, I got the sense that most of Steve's followers approach high-end audio the way that Sagan's critics approach sunsets: that to quantify is to diminish. That only the magic matters.
To those listeners, I say this: if you wish to enjoy a speaker like GoldenEar Technology's new flagship Triton One in purely spooky terms, there's an awful lot of magic to enjoy here. But take a long, hard, scrutinizing look at the components that make up this majestic monolith -- how they fit together, how they work together -- and I daresay there's an even greater sense of wonder to be discovered.
The Triton One, of course, follows three previous tower speakers in the Triton Series lineup: the relatively diminutive Triton Seven, the somewhat larger Triton Three, and the larger-still Triton Two. The Triton One most closely resembles the latter, of course -- so much so that a brief glance at its spec sheets might lead you to believe that the Triton One is merely a scaled-up Triton Two with a larger footprint and more of the same drivers: three 5-by-9-inch Long-Throw Quadratic Subwoofer Bass Drivers instead of two; four 7-by-10-inch Quadratic Planar Infrasonic Radiators instead of two; and a pair of GoldenEar's proprietary 5.25-inch High-Definition Cast-Basket Multi-Vaned Phase Plug Upper-Bass/Mid Drivers in contrast with the Triton Two's 4.5-inch MVPP drivers.
If that's as deep as you dig, though, you're missing out on some really cool under-the-hood stuff that makes the Triton One far more than merely a Triton Two on steroids. The crossover network, for example, has been completely revamped, not only in the fact that the crossover frequency has been moved from 160 Hz down to 100 Hz, but also in the fact that it relies on an all-new balanced topology that results in a vastly cleaner signal path. The drivers and baskets sport a new, stiffer design. The amplifier that powers the Triton One's built-in subs has also been redesigned with numerous separate power supplies rather than the single larger supply of past designs, an element borrowed from truly high-end standalone amps. Plus, the DSP has been upgraded from a 48-bit/96-kHz design to 56-bit/192-kHz.
I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, virtually every internal component of the GoldenEar Triton One has been tweaked, tinkered with, or outright redesigned from scratch. So, to merely call it a bigger, better, badder version of the speaker that HomeTheaterReview.com called "arguably one of the best loudspeakers under $5,000" would be doing it a serious disservice.
Well, there's no denying that it is bigger and badder. When my FedEx delivery guy deposited a pair of Triton Ones on my front porch, the neighbors all sort of gathered and stared, with a collective look that said, "Why on earth does anyone need two new refrigerators?" Each box stands nearly five-and-a-half feet tall and weighs right at 99 pounds. I've had smaller girlfriends. And if you know me, you'll understand what I mean when I say that it's a minor miracle I survived the unboxing process without sustaining any fatal injuries.
Freed from their 19 pounds' worth of packaging, the Triton Ones are a little easier to manage, although the socks that cover the speakers from top to bottom do make them a little slippery. As a result, moving the speakers very far is a two-person job. Aside from that, hookup is pretty straightforward for such a sophisticated speaker. Around back and way down low, the Triton One features a pair of binding posts arranged vertically and a little too close together for my tastes, with an LFE input and volume control for the internal 1,600-watt Class D ForceField amplifier.
We'll set the LFE input aside for a bit and come back to it later, because I spent the bulk of my time with the Triton One installed in my home office two-channel system, attached to Peachetree Audio's nova220SE integrated amplifier via a pair of Kimber Kable 12TC speaker cables. My primary source was my Maingear gaming and media PC, connected to the nova220SE via USB, with JRiver Media Center 19 (and later 20) handling the software side of things.
The only thing even slightly out of the ordinary about the stereo setup process that deserves mention is that it takes a bit of tinkering to find the right setting for the Triton One's subwoofer level knob. Of course, that's true of any two-channel system with a sub thrown into the mix, but it did take me about half an hour of tinkering and testing to zero in on a setting that sounded equally good with N.W.A. and New Grass Revival alike.
After a few weeks of auditioning the stereo setup, I also moved the Triton Ones briefly into my main home theater system, where they were connected to my Anthem D2v 3D A/V processor and Statement A5 multichannel amplifier via Straight Wire Encore II speaker cables and a pair of custom-made subwoofer interconnects whose exact pedigree I've honestly forgotten.
I should state right off the bat that, despite my unabashed love for GoldenEar Technology's offerings to this point, I tend to harbor a bias against tower speakers as large as the Triton One. That's probably a result of the fact that I live in a relatively mid-sized suburban home, so the farthest I sit from any given pair of speakers is generally just a hair over two meters. At that distance, a very large speaker tends to sound to my ears like a collection of disparate drivers, which is almost certainly why I tend to be drawn to electrostats, or smaller towers like the Triton Seven, in my two-channel system (where my listening position is just under two meters away).
All of that is simply to say that I expected I would have to rearrange my listening room a bit to give the Triton Ones room to breathe, to put a little more distance between me and the speakers so that their woofers and mids and that delicious High Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter would have a bit more time to get their act together before the sound arrived at my ears.
Before going to all of that trouble, though, I decided to hook up the speakers in the usual spot just to make sure everything was in good working order. (The shipping boxes looked like the aftermath of one of those old American Tourister luggage commercials.) It took mere seconds of listening to "Our Lady of the Underground (featuring Ani DiFranco)" from Anaïs Mitchell's folk opera Hadestown (Righteous Babe Records) to realize that no significant repositioning would be necessary. The track's wonderful upright bass drunkenly meanders from one side to the other of the Triton One's 100-Hz sub-to-midrange crossover point; try as I might, I simply never could detect the handoff from one set of drivers to the next.
In quizzing GoldenEar president Sandy Gross about the Triton One's engineering, one thing I forgot to ask about was the crossover point between the mids and tweeter. To be honest, though, he could make up a number, and I would probably believe him because the transition between mids and tweeter is just as seamless as the transition between subs and mids. As a result, in most ways the Triton One really sounds like a large, full-range planar magnetic speaker or a positively gargantuan electrostat. From bottom to top, it's spectacularly cohesive, wonderfully unified, and deliciously time aligned -- a solitary source of sumptuous sound from the depths of its frequency range (14 Hz) up to the limits of my hearing (currently around 17.2 kHz) and likely beyond.
Getting back to the DiFranco/Mitchell track, the second thing that became immediately apparent about the Triton Ones is their excellent dispersion characteristics and imaging. "Our Lady of the Underground" may not be the densest mix in the history of ever, but there's a lot going on in the track, from the big and bold but slightly lazy percussion to the delicately picked acoustic guitar; from the upfront growl of electric guitar to the subtle crowd chatter that permeates the background of the tune; from horn, vibe, and fiddle solos that stagger across the stage to DiFranco's lead vocal, which remains rock solidly centered throughout the track. Like all of GoldenEar's tower speakers, the Triton One renders them all in three-dimensional space with tremendous verisimilitude -- a wonderful aural shadowbox of musical elements layered one in front of the other and stretching from wall to wall, side to side.
Another album that shines a particular light on the Triton One's strengths is Chad Lawson's The Chopin Variations (Hillset Records). The album is worth a spin even if you're not into classical music, if only for the way it was captured. Lawson records late at night, with two sleeping children nearby, so he's developed a technique of putting felt between the hammers and strings of his piano and recording the piano from the inside. The result is an intimate, tactile, detailed audio experience that I normally prefer consuming over headphones, if only for the fact that the tiniest time misalignment really throws the entire recording out of whack. The Triton Ones do a truly marvelous job of dragging one into that piano cabinet, though, and also of keeping the different elements of the sparse mix well separated but also well integrated. The wide but rock-solid piano dominates the soundstage from one extreme to the other, while the violin and cello waft across the room like paint strokes rendered by the world's most ephemeral roller brush. Yet somehow they still manage to sound exactly like real stringed instruments in a real space.
The two most surprising things revealed by this recording are: 1) just how capable the Triton Ones at volumes bordering on the inaudible; and 2) just how wide their dispersion really is. Once, while listening to the album; my phone rang. So I turned down the volume to the point where it almost certainly couldn't be heard on the other end of the line. What struck me is just how balanced, how detailed, and how impactful it remained. The subtle movement of dampers lifting from strings. The viscous texture of resin and bow being dragged across gut strings. Even with the volume dialed so low that I could hear the hum of the ceiling fan spinning in the next room, the Triton Ones still managed to eke out fine details that penetrated well into the room.
I noticed right around this time that the speakers needed to be repositioned slightly. They're not fussy about placement at all, but I am, so I scooted forward in my rolling office chair to nudge the speakers back an inch or two and widen their stance a couple of inches while reducing their toe-in ever so slightly to tame a weensy bit of brightness resulting from my close listening position. I had to stop rolling and start listening, though, when my head got nearly in line with the face of the speakers. Even at around 170 degrees off-axis, the soundstage was still rock solid, utterly coherent, and tonally neutral, with exceptional imaging. Would it be my preferred listening position? Of course not. But it still made me giddy to hear how well the speakers performed in such unideal conditions.
To be quite frank, though, classical music (no matter how well recorded) isn't really my passion. Nine times out of ten, when listening to music for my own pleasure, I'm going to pop in a Grateful Dead live recording, either one of the Dick's Picks or Dave's Picks official releases or some bootleg FLAC soundboard recordings. Recently, I've been digging deep into the work of Hunter Seamons, who takes the best available soundboards, usually Betty Boards, and combines them with the best available audience recordings to create a matrix mix that delivers the sonic clarity of the former with the ambience and spaciousness of the latter. His matrix mix of the legendary Barton Hall concert from May 8, 1977 ("officially" released as Hunter's Trix Vol. 40), is a particular favorite. In addition to the smoking performances, it simply captures the live Dead experience like few other recordings can. It's so dynamic as to be entirely unlistenable in my car at anything approaching highway speeds.
Queue up "Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain" through the Triton Ones, and you're immediately transported into the Phil Zone, that fabled spot near the stage, right in front of bassist Phil Lesh's stack, where the show is as much felt as heard. His booming bass line resonates in the chest, forming a bedrock foundation for the rest of the mix: Keith Godchaux's keyboards rendered flawlessly off to the left of the stage; Mickey and Billy's percussion sprawled across the back wall; Jerry's vocals raining down like the voice of some mischievous god from the top of the PA system; the crowd surrounding you. At the risk of sounding corny, if I close my eyes, the Triton Ones simply transport me back in time to that storied concert. Is it the single greatest source of high-fidelity sound I could think to feed these speakers? Of course not. But the Triton Ones render it like no speakers I've ever been lucky enough to audition at home; for me, that's what high-end audio is all about -- not picking music to make the speakers sound their best, but picking speakers that make the recordings I love sound their best. And I daresay the fortunate souls in attendance at Barton Hall that evening didn't hear the band sound anywhere near this coherent, this balanced, this detailed.
As I said, after a few weeks of poking and prodding the speakers in my two-channel system, I decided to move them into home theater to see just how much bass they could handle because I don't think even my hip-hop collection contains any notes low enough to tax the Triton Ones. When Gross caught wind of my plans, he asked if he could send along the company's SuperCenter XL to complete the system, since I was planning on using the Triton Sevens as surround speakers. I gratefully obliged and set up the system with the SuperCenter XL and Triton Sevens crossed over at 60 Hz, with the Triton Ones set to full range, and the dual LFE outputs of my Anthem D2v routed into the low-frequency inputs of the Triton Ones, with all of my other subwoofers disconnected. Max EQ Frequency in the Anthem Room Correction software was set to 300 Hz. For more information on why I went that route, check out our primer on room EQ, titled Automated Room Correction Explained.
I know this is a review of the Triton Ones, not the SuperCenter XL, but the latter does bear a bit of discussion. Despite being the largest center speaker in GoldenEar's lineup, I was a bit concerned about its size (and, if I'm being blunt, its price) mismatch with the larger towers. A 5.75-inch-tall, $800 center speaker paired with 54-inch-tall, $2,500 tower speakers? I wouldn't go so far as to say I was skeptical, but I was prepared to make excuses for the SuperCenter XL.
No such excuses were needed. As soon as I popped in the recent Blu-ray release of Godzilla (Warner Home Video), all doubts as to the SuperCenter XL's ability to hold its own were allayed. I did mount the center on a stand above my TV, rather than in the normal center-channel space in the credenza beneath, to give its pair of upward-firing 6.75-by-8-inch Quadratic Planar Low-Frequency Radiators more room to do their thing (even though Sandy says they only need a couple of inches). But even from up there, the XL wove an excellent front soundstage together with the pair of Triton Ones. Dialogue cut through the dense cacophony beautifully, with the utmost in intelligibility, and the speakers never felt even slightly out of balance, despite their significant power-handling mismatch (250 watts max versus. 650 watts max).
But there's no denying that the Triton Ones were the star of the show, especially in chapter 11 of the movie, in which Godzilla and the MUTO beasts wage their epic battle in downtown San Francisco. The speakers delivered every shattering shard of glass, every monstrous punch, every ear-piercing roar with the utmost authority. As for the bottom end? Even without another subwoofer in the system (I normally use at least three), the Triton Ones cranked out every booming bass note with visceral viciousness and begged for more.
The one caveat I must add to that observation is that the Triton Ones did require a little more careful positioning in the home theater than they did in my two-channel system...and that's to be expected. It's worth noting that, if you're relying on the Triton Ones to deliver all of your LFE, you have to position the speakers with that in mind. Room interactions can be a booger when delivering ultra-low frequencies at these sorts of volumes. By the time I had the Ones positioned well in my home theater, they were pretty far out into the room.
That's not a knock against the speakers' design at all. It's merely the realities of physics. But interestingly, it also serves to highlight another of the Triton Ones' strengths. When I had them positioned ideally for LFE, I looked at them and thought to myself, "Self, that's just not where I would put a set of front left and right speakers. At all." And yet, they sounded incredible: as I said, beautifully mated with the SuperCenter XL atop my TV quite a bit farther back, with no gaps in the front soundstage and no weirdness at all in terms of phase problems or other timing issues.
Other than that, the only potential downside I can find is that not everyone loves the look of the Triton Ones. My wife doesn't care for them, aesthetically speaking. They're black-cloth-covered menhirs capped in a piano-black-finished polymer. Personally I think they look fine, but they simply aren't to everyone's taste in terms of visual presentation.
Comparison and Competition
In terms of competition, at least as far as pricing goes, the GoldenEar Triton Ones have a fair bit. The Mythos ST-L SuperTower from Sandy's former company, Definitive Technology, comes immediately to mind as a similar-looking speaker with a similar driver configuration (aside from its slightly more traditional magnesium dome tweeter) and pretty much the exact same price. I haven't auditioned them at home, but I have listened to them at trade shows, and they sound exceptional.
Polk Audio's $2,000 LSiM707 also stands out as a very comparable speaker in many respects. It lacks the Triton One and Mythos ST-L SuperTower's integrated subwoofer, and it runs out of low-frequency energy far before either the GoldenEar or the Definitive Technology speaker. But it's also a delightfully dynamic performer with excellent imaging and oodles of detail.
Truly, though, the speaker I've reviewed that stands out in my mind as delivering the most comparable sonic experience is Wisdom Audio's $40,000 LS4 planar magnetic line source (the $30,000 LS3 is probably a closer match, but I haven't reviewed it). The Wisdom speaker is much larger, mind you, plays way louder, is a lot more sensitive (100 dB vs. 92 dB, both 2.83V/1m), and if my audio memory serves me well is a bit more dynamic. On the other hand, the LS4 only extends down to 80 Hz without a subwoofer, it doesn't quite hold up as well when played at whisper-quiet volumes, and there's no way I could ever fit a pair of them into any room in my home. Not even maybe. Oh, and did I mention that it costs $40,000? Each?
I'm not saying that a person in the market for the Triton One should be auditioning the LS4, or vice versa. Two completely different speakers made for two completely different audiences. And yet, I find myself drawn to both speakers for exactly the same reason: their similar tonal balance, their similar seamlessness and dispersion characteristics, and their comparable detail and imaging.
It's a bit hard to write about a speaker like GoldenEar Technology's Triton One without sounding outright hyperbolic. But in every criterion that matters to me, the speaker simply punches way above its weight class. Tonally neutral? Yep. Dynamic? Shockingly so. Clean? I would go so far as to say pristine. Good time alignment between drivers? I'll be damned if I can tell where one rolls off and the other picks up. Throw in its massive frequency response (14 Hz to 35 kHz), and its overall sonic performance is beyond reproach.
In a lot of ways, it's really the Carl Sagan of speakers (and I can't think of higher praise than that). In the same way that Sagan brought the knowledge of the cosmos to the common man in a wonderfully digestible way, the Triton One brings a level of performance that's usually out of reach for most consumers down to a point that can't quite be described as affordable, per se, but pound-for-pound (or dollar-for-dollar, depending on where you live), I can think of very few speakers with performance-to-price ratios anywhere close to this.
GoldenEar Triton One Loudspeaker - Truly Exceptional Sound and Value
From The Absolute Sound
I’ve reviewed a number of great speakers over the last few years, all of which have had prices to match. The GoldenEar Triton One is an exception. It provides both extraordinary sound quality and value for money. It does not fall short in a single major area of performance, it is intensely musical, and it sells for a semi-affordable $5000 a pair. It is also a speaker that has produced an exceptional amount of unsolicited praise from outside listeners, regardless of musical taste—even among the set that regards any visible stereo equipment as an assault on its room décor.
This doesn’t mean that the Triton One is free of sonic compromises or design choices—issues I’ll get to later in this review. What is particularly striking about these design choices, however, is their focus on reproducing acoustic music with a natural mix of midrange and treble energy, and deep bass extension.
This focus should be the standard for all loudspeaker designs, but too many competing speakers exaggerate the upper midrange to get apparent detail at the expense of natural midrange warmth and treble air, emphasizing a “forward” sound at the expense of the soundstage perspective of live music. Others exaggerate deep bass energy at the cost of bass detail, as well as added room interaction. In contrast, the Triton Ones are striking to the extent they never emphasize one type of music or approach to recording over musical realism. The end result is long-term listening pleasure.
Features, Technology, and Their Impact on Core Sound Quality
I did not reach these conclusions without having to overcome some initial prejudices based on reading the manufacturer literature. Too many adjectives and superlatives, too many features, and too much technobabble. Once I began listening, however, I could hear the benefits of the Triton One’s design features, and quickly put the inevitable marketing hype aside.
The Triton One’s folded-ribbon tweeter provides some of the smoothest, break-up-free, non-resonant upper-octave musical detail I’ve heard at any price. It also is well integrated with the 5.25" cone midrange drivers positioned above and below it in a D’Appolito configuration. The midrange drivers operate in an unusually large two-chamber enclosure that is sealed off from the enclosure for the bass drivers.
This combination of drivers provides extremely realistic response from the lower midrange up to around 15kHz. It does so without the exaggeration or hardening of the upper midrange that can impress for a few hours or days, but then becomes irritating and creates fatigue when you listen to the upper range of instruments like piano, clarinet, flute, violin, and recorder, or female voice. The drivers in Triton One also have the clarity, speed, and accuracy necessary to reproduce brush and cymbal detail realistically (as well as applause, if you can treat applause as a percussion instrument for a moment or two).
This may be the result of the fact the Triton One seems to have a slight dip in response in the area where the ear is most sensitive to excess upper-midrange hardness and energy, but its tweeter then has a smoothly rising frequency response from around 7–8kHz upwards to 15kHz, where it then slowly drops back down to flat response at 20kHz. This rise occurs after the limit—or well above the limit—where most people can hear musical detail in the upper frequencies, but below the limit where listeners can detect the presence of high-frequency data as a contribution to musical air and life.
The end result is that the rising response of the Triton One at the higher treble frequencies produces an added touch of life and air that is far more musically realistic to me than “punching up” the upper midrange to get detail that you will never hear at any normal listening position with live music.
The cabinet shape and the location of the tweeter and midrange drivers also help—a result of both the radiation patterns of the drivers and the narrow width of the front of the Triton Ones (a narrowness that is not as apparent from the photos in the manufacturer literature as when you actually see the speaker). Having a narrow front is only one way to produce an exceptional soundstage, and my listening to other speakers with this design feature has taught me that in practice it often does not produce the kind of stable soundstage, low levels of coloration, and uniform radiation patterns that it should in theory. It does so in the Triton Ones, and every outside listener that I demonstrated the speaker to remarked about some aspect of the speaker’s soundstage detail and coherence, and its ability to produce a wide and stable listening area without altering image size or losing musical information.
The rest of the design is equally good in spite of a level of complexity that initially made me wonder whether the number of drivers and passive radiators was more a matter of sales appeal than necessity. The design features for the bass section include three long-throw 5" x 9" woofers in a semi-line-source array, a hybrid electronic/passive crossover at an unusually low 100Hz, and a 1600-watt, 56-bit, DSP-controlled Class D amplifier. There are also two passive radiators on each side of the cabinet that GoldenEar states offer some features similar to those of a transmission line.
My initial reaction from just reading about all of the bass features and looking at the complex cutaway diagram of the Triton One was that this was too many elements to be necessary, or to deliver the best bass for the buck. Well...it does help to actually listen.
The Triton’s bass quickly proved to be exceptionally deep and detailed, and to have excellent dynamic range. For anyone who intends to preserve his hearing, I doubt whether the specified 14Hz lower limit has any real audible meaning; output at frequencies this low is irrelevant unless you plan to use the Triton Ones to reproduce thunderstorms, enjoy the last possible ounce of bass during a movie involving aliens destroying a major city, or attempt subsonic communication with elephants.
On the other hand, there was really good bass extension and energy output on even the lowest notes in real-world organ music, and low bass that rivaled that of many large separate subwoofers but that was far better integrated and coherent. At the same time, the Triton Ones seem to be designed to produce the best possible transient detail down to the lowest frequencies rather than maximum bass impact. The deep bass roll-off is also unusually slow and extended. The bottom octaves do not have an audible bump or peak in response just before the speaker reaches it low-frequency limit, or a sudden precipitous drop or waterfall effect at some point in the low bass.
I found the end result revealed the lifelike complexity of music from the lower midrange to the bottom octaves far better than speakers designed to emphasize bass power. This helps produce very natural and clearly differentiated bass with organ and electronic instruments. It also produces a more clearly defined bass line with electronic “drums” and synthesizer music, giving the low frequency much more real-world impact when sudden transients or dynamic shift occurred in the music.
Moreover, my sons, whose tolerance for rock, heavy metal, and synthesizer exceeds my own, were equally pleased. Turns out that even the younger generation that has drifted away from jazz and classical music can be as concerned with realistic bass detail and transient impact as a slowly fossilizing music snob.
I have heard many speakers that consistently make the bass seem louder and more persistent at the cost of blurring detail and emphasizing certain parts of the bass spectrum. To my ear, this is a far less musical and involving trade-off than the sound of Triton One. Moreover, bass dynamics are meant to be sudden and exciting; the tight and fully defined bass of the Triton gives them more dramatic and emotional impact.
This came through quite clearly on the Jean Guillou recording of an organ transcription of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition [Dorian]. It also came through on my collection of Bach organ music, the usual Telarc bass drum spectaculars, and in truly massive and complex orchestral pieces with high levels of deep bass energy such as the Saint-Saëns’ Third Symphony.
There is another advantage to the design of the bass system. The 1600-watt bass amplifier does so much of the “heavy lifting” that the Triton One is remarkably efficient. I could drive it easily with one of my own 50-watt tube amplifiers, and the designer uses a 24-watt single-ended triode as one of his references. At the same time, the lower bass is so well integrated that you can still hear the best sonic qualities of your power amplifier from the upper bass to the upper-frequency limits of your hearing. Because the bass amplifier is tied into an easy overall impedance load of 4–8 ohms, its use largely eliminates power-amplifier damping factor capability as a key factor in lower-octave performance.
In retrospect, I should also note that my experience with the constantly rising prices in the high end has produced a strange kind of bias. In assuming that the Triton One might have too many features for the money, I had taken truly high prices for high performance as a given. As one of my sons later reminded me, $5000 is not cheap by any standards other than those of a narrow range of high-end fanatics. A product designed for a wider range of audiophiles—and potential audiophiles—should deliver a lot for real money, and $5000 a pair is very real indeed!
Moreover, as Sandy Gross, the head of GoldenEar, pointed out to me, you can get a lot of product by having a permanent U.S.-Canadian design team covering every aspect of design and production and getting the product manufactured overseas. You can also get a lot of sound quality if you manufacture in larger numbers, standardize on key drivers, and design around a smaller enclosure by using an array of passive radiators and a sophisticated mix of bracing, damping, and upper midrange/ bass enclosures.
Even the best-sounding features don’t matter, however, unless a speaker is more than the sum of its parts. A really good transducer must achieve the kind of synergy that makes you focus on the musical performance rather than the speaker, and do so regardless of the type of music or recording, and do so without being “forgiving” or disguising the real-world strengths and limits of given recordings and your front end.
The Triton Ones achieved that synergy with exceptional realism with the best acoustic recordings. They clearly revealed the differences between really good recordings without favoring one type over another. They are also a speaker for someone with a large musical library, rather than a speaker where you need to have a given kind of audiophile recording or music to hear them at their best.
You will hear the impact of close miking, over-complex mixing and mastering, tape hiss, mike differences, and all of the problems in new and older recordings. The Triton Ones do not, however, have some dominating sonic character of their own that emphasizes a given aspect of the music and produces the mixture of sudden insights into a limited group of recordings and listening fatigue with many others that I hear in far too many speakers at any price.
Several weeks of listening showed me that they did an exceptional job of reproducing even the most demanding symphonic, opera, and large jazz-band music. Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand and Saint-Saëns’ Third Symphony are never going to really fit into a listening room. Neither is Wagner’s Ring Cycle. As is the case with other truly good speakers, however, this will not prevent you from becoming deeply involved in the music, or from appreciating the fun in the jokes and occasional excesses in a Mozart opera.
At the same time, the Triton Ones provide an exceptional degree of realism with the kind of great small jazz group and chamber music recordings that actually make music seem to come alive in the face of the real-world size of a listening room. You can get lost in the lifelike reproduction of good recordings of smaller musical groups like Jazz at the Pawnshop or the wide range of excellent Accent and Naxos chamber music, solo voice, and instrumental recordings—forgetting the room, the job, and the day with ease.
I could not fault the Triton Ones with any female voice recording in my collection beyond the actual limits imposed by the quality of the mastering. The exceptional freedom from resonant break-up, or boost in the upper midrange, made soprano voice a consistent pleasure with even the most demanding music. The Triton Ones never disguised the sometime eccentric recording styles and musical mixes chosen by female singers like Norah Jones or Jennifer Warnes, but they also never disguised the quality of their voices and singing. Not every speaker can cope with the challenge posed by some Judy Collins recordings. The Triton Ones did more than cope.
I’d also stress their ability to reproduce instruments that can easily induce listening fatigue or even instant irritation in the “hands” of the wrong speaker. These include the recorder (try the Scott Reiss and Hesperus Baroque Recorder Concerti on Golden Apple GACD 7550), good but slightly too bright or close-miked clarinet recordings (Martin Frost, Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Quintet, BIS-SACD-1263), or brass chamber music (Wolfgang Bauer, Haydn Trumpet Concertos, MDG 901 1395-6)
The same was true of the all too wide range of piano, harpsichord, and solo violin recordings where miking problems or a hell-driven desire to capture too much detail highlights any midrange edge in the system. I also found the Triton Ones could make even percussion concerts a lot of fun—something I’d again not say of far too many speakers. (Try track four—“Forescore for Percussion”—on Continuum for Percussion Quartet, New World Records, 382-2.) Strictly a demo for my musical taste, but one hell of a test of a speaker.)
As I’ve already mentioned, bass performance was outstanding for any speaker, particularly one this size and price. If you like a strong bass line, you get the bass line on the recording and not the speaker’s version—with either too little bass energy or the kind of slightly blurred bass definition and emphasis on one part of the bass spectrum that otherwise good speakers sometimes provide. The organ reveals its real complexity in the low bass, and sudden spikes in bass energy from a bass drum or synthesizer are tight and clean, and have real dramatic impact.
And yes, you’ll have equal pleasure in the bass and in overall musical pleasure if you’re a Stones or classic-rock fan. My sons, who are semi-Post Millennials and have the typical semi-Post Millenials’ illusion that progress can actually occur in popular music, assure me this is true of more modern popular music, from ZZ Top to synthesizer. Another younger listener told me the Triton Ones do very well with heavy metal as well as grunge and British apocalyptic despair rock.
I can’t really go further in verifying its appeal to all musical tastes. I have trouble appreciating any composer more modern than Limenius. I can’t find volunteers to test the Triton Ones’ performance with disco. And I will not face that challenge on my own. Even the most hardened reviewers have limits when it comes to the aesthetic sacrifices they are willing to make.
Setup and Compatibility
The Triton Ones have some other practical advantages. They are unusually system- and room-friendly. They are easy to drive with any good amp, do not seem particularly sensitive to speaker cables (although they allowed me to hear the differences between my AudioQuest, Kimber, and Transparent Audio cables quite clearly), and do not seem particularly sensitive to AC power cords or to the ground loop problems that emerge in some speakers with powered subwoofers.
They are less room sensitive in bass performance than most speakers with their deep-bass energy and extension, but they are capable of exceptional bass performance and well worth tuning in over time to get the right distance from the rear wall. The use of passive radiators and the enclosure design seems to help reduce room interaction, favoring more realistic bass and reducing the peaks and valleys in the bass that are inevitable in any real-world listening room and that appear in some form even with the most musically natural digital room compensation.
As for the other aspects of setup, the Triton Ones can provide exceptional soundstage and imaging focus. I would strongly recommend that you first find the proper soundstage width that takes advantage of their potential to deliver a wide stage, but stop at the point where images become too wide. The Tritons are not as sensitive to sidewall reflections as some, but it is certainly better to keep them away from the sidewalls if possible and to use a moderate toe-in.
One last point. The Triton Ones are also exceptionally revealing of the rest of your audio components. I was upgrading my reference amplifiers from the Pass Labs 160.5s to the 160.8s, and I was struck by how competitive the Triton Ones were with some far more expensive speakers in revealing the improved dynamic detail of the 160.8s, and their better reproduction of lower-midrange musical energy. I was also impressed by their ability to reproduce the different but excellent ability of the EMM Labs Pre-2 SE preamp and the Pass Labs Xs preamp to reproduce the subtlest nuances of very-low-level musical detail in quiet passages without a hint of noise. Both are great preamps, and it takes a really good speaker to reveal the full range of differences between them.
The good news is that the Triton Ones are neither forgiving nor the kind of speakers that require you to choose nuances in the rest of your system to compensate in part for their sound character. The bad news is that they do reveal even slight upgrades in your front end. Beware of the resulting tendency to suffer from “front-end-upgrade disease.” The Triton Ones do make improving the rest of your system more tempting.
The Triton Ones are one of the best buys in speakers I’ve had the chance to hear at anything like their price. They have all— or more—of the features and technology that anyone looking for specsmanship could want, but their real merit is that they provide sustained musical pleasure with exceptional realism. Highly recommended, and if $5000 is too much, be aware that the Triton Twos have many of the same design features and share the same tweeter.
|Frequency-response||14 Hz – 35 kHz|
|Nominal-impedance||Compatible with 8 ohms|
|Driver-complement||Three – 5˝ x 9˝ Long-Throw Quadratic Subwoofer Bass Drivers,coupled to:
Four – 7˝ x 10˝ Quadratic Planar Infrasonic Radiators
Two – 5-1/4″ High-Definition
One – HVFR™ High-Velocity Folded Ribbon Tweeter
|Recommended-amplification||20 – 650 watt/channel|
|Built-in-subwoofer-power-amplification||1600 watt ForceField Amplifier|
|Available||In Store Only|