Triton Reference is a TAS GoldenEar Award winner

It’s on the cover of TAS’s September issue,

Inside is a review by Anthony Cordesman, TAS’s most prestigious reviewer. He is so high-end it’s ridiculous — Pass Labs Class A monoblock amps, etc. so he is used to owning and auditioning the best of the best, cost no object.

Here are selected quotes from his four page review:

“…remarkable amount of transparency, life, and soundstage detail along with some of the best-integrated powered subwoofer performance I’ve heard at anything like the price.”

“…a truly excellent speaker for the money.”

“…one of the few speakers that can actually reproduce very-low-frequency organ, bass guitars, and synthesizer bass down to subwoofer levels. …brings out the deepest notes a recording allows with tight detail and without exaggeration.”

“…a pleasure to listen to over extended periods of time.” (as opposed to some speakers that impress with a gee-whiz sound that turns out to have added coloration that leads eventually to listening fatigue.)

Mr. Cordesman is a big fan of the Triton One, so he made some comparisons between the One and the Reference:

“…a major improvement over the Triton One…”

“.. smooth overall timbre through the frequency range, with deeper bass, smoother midrange with more detail in the upper midband , and a cleaner treble with a great deal of air. …has a remarkably coherent set of dispersion characteristics and a wider, more stable and exceptionally detailed soundstage.”

His “Summary Judgment”

“highly recommended. Well worth auditioning and fully competitive with some substantially more expensive speakers.”

My Summary and Impressions

Actually the first impression was the weight. I helped unload each 150 pound box and un-boxed a pair in my basement garage for the initial break-in. For me, wimp that I am, it was a chore unpacking them. When it was time to move up one floor I resorted to hired help

The look like the other Tritons, but bigger and with a gloss black finish. All GoldenEar speakers share the same design concepts and voicing, each one sounding closer, as they move up the line, to the GoldenEar’s ideal. I have listened to all of them and enjoyed each one tremendously, enjoying what was improved at each step up, but the Reference was a revelation. The warmth and smoothness were the most striking at first, then I began to notice greater dynamics, and a combination of 3D solidity and coherence.

Of course the gloss black finish is super, though in my dark living room its not shown to advantage.

I am still experimenting with placement: so far they sound great everywhere. But naturally I hope to find that magic spot that will bring perfection.

About the Price 

When you read reviews about any Triton speaker you’ll see many mentions along the lines of ” compares well to speakers or beats XX times the price.” Well, yeah, but $8500 a pair is the most expensive speaker I’ve ever had or sold. However in this world of ever-increasing high-end audio prices it is (oh, how can I even say this) a great value. Of course this is all relative each person’s mental version of “value”, but relative to other high end speakers of similar sound quality the Reference can be called that. As Mr. Cordesman says “…fully competitive with some substantially more expensive speakers.”

I love to demonstrate, so feel free to call and set up an audition, just for fun. I am famous for not being a salesman, so don’t expect me to try any persuasion or pressure or closing tactics. That’s not my thing. I love audio and I like to share an audition, especially when people bring their own music.

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News from CES 2017

GoldenEar Technology introduced the Triton Reference

Basic facts:

  • Same design concepts as the Triton One and Two,
    but all new components
  • Better sound in every respect
  • Gloss black finish
  • $8500 a pair
  • Due in Spring (maybe April or so)

It has already made British magazine What*HiFi’s Top 10 products at CES 2017 list.

Soundstage Global reported on the GoldenEar Reference
(following extracted from a show report by Roger Kanno, Senior Contributor Soundstage)

I used to think that some $5000/pr. speakers were the epitome of high-end audio playback at a reasonable cost. At this price you can get some truly outstanding speakers that also represent excellent value for money. Well, we sometimes get set in our ways and at recent CES I would often find myself scoffing at speakers that cost more than $5k/pr., thinking that they couldn’t possibly offer the same value as some of those excellent-sounding, less-expensive speakers. But this year, I heard a couple of floor-standing speakers that changed my mind.

I consider the GoldenEar Technology Triton One to be another of the benchmark loudspeakers in the $5000/pr. price range, but this year GoldenEar displayed their new Triton Reference, priced at $8448/pr. Although it features a similar driver configuration to the Triton One, the Triton Reference is a slightly larger speaker. And like with Revel, this new GoldenEar features totally redesigned drivers, which have been blended together with a fully balanced crossover. The bass amplifier and DSP circuitry are also said to be improved over what’s used in the Triton One.

Speaking with Bob Johnston, GoldenEar’s Director of Engineering, it became apparent that the drivers have all been substantially improved and can play much louder than any ones they made before. However, the real benefit of them is that when they play at similar levels as their other drivers, there is said to be less distortion and compression. This was apparent during the demo where both orchestral and jazz music were played at relatively moderate levels, but with an utter sense of ease and natural flow to the music. When horns were played, there was plenty of bite, but in a natural way and never irritating — and the volume did not have to be turned way up to sense the immediacy of the sound. Kodo drums sounded like Kodo drums without having to turn the volume to 11 and overload the room with enough bass to cause a concussion, even though I am sure that a pair of Triton References are capable of this. This new Triton may have even more brawn than its very capable brethren, but it also possesses a rare level of refinement that I usually associate with much more expensive loudspeakers.

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Me versus stores

When you walk into an audio store demo room you can see all their speakers lined up. With me it’s completely different. When you walk in you see only one pair of speakers in my demo/living room. Here’s a problem — I find that even people who visit often think that they are seeing it all. NO. NO. NO.

Behind a door just steps away I have all my other demo speakers. By “demo speakers” I mean speakers that are out of the box, broken in, sitting there ready to be brought in for listening.

I have ALL the GoldenEar Technology tower and bookshelf speaker’s lurking there, just waiting for someone to ask to hear them. If you make an appointment I will have the ones you want waiting in the demo room. If you want to hear another?? People think it’s big deal to swap speakers. NO. NO. NO. It’s not as fast as an Indy pit stop, but I am very practiced, so it’s very easy, and pretty fast. I use a mini hand truck to wheel the big speakers in and out, and banana plugs for quick connect. Easy peasey.

The demo itself is more like going to a friend’s house for a listening session than undergoing a high-end store sales presentation. You can bring what you want to hear (a good idea because I’m sure our tastes in music are not identical.), or we can find something you like among Tidal streaming service’s 40 million tracks. You can listen as long as you want, and there is no pressure. I am mostly retired; I’m still in this business for love of music, interest in the components that play it, and the company of other audiophiles. And so all the time I spend playing with my stereo I can tell my wife “It’s business.” Priceless.

I’m not saying that I am better than stores, just different in several good ways.

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I try a Music Hall MMF 7.3

 


Because of the good Stereophile review I’ve set up a Music Hall MMF-7.3 turntable at home. It comes with an Ortofon 2M Bronze, which I listened to and then put on my Quintet Bronze ( one of the new Ortofon moving coil cartridges). The 2M was good, but the Quintet was clearly better, but naturally for more money. Oh the curse of better costing more.

One point of the comparison was to see if I can sell off my old table (VPI HW19 MKII with SME 309 arm) without stepping down in sound. A comparison was necessary. Just changing the the cartridge wasn’t enough: to get the MMF 7.3 up to the old table’s sound I had to put on a better cable, use a Music Hall Aztek upgrade mat, and put the MMF 7.3 on a butcher block base. It worked very well so I may use the Music Hall from now on, though I love the workmanship of the SME arm and have a sentimental attachment to the VPI because at one point way back when I was a leading VPI dealer. Still, I prefer to demonstrate with components that I represent, so the choice will probably got to Music Hall.

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Hot British Review for Triton Five

Alan Sircom of Hi-Fi Plus loved almost everything about the Triton Five – bass, soundstage, dimensionality, treble, and especially the price.

He didn’t claim perfection – he said that to get the best bass performance you need a big amp, and that  the definition of the bass does not measure up to what could be had by “spending an order of magnitude more than the Triton Five”.

Since “an order of magnitude” is defined as ten times he is referring to $20,000 speakers. I haven’t heard any lately, but I’ll agree in principle that he is right.

Here are selected quotes:

If ever there was a speaker that best encapsulates ‘affordable excellence’ in audio, it would be the GoldenEar Triton Five.

if you want to take maximum advantage of what the Triton Five has to offer. In particular, the Triton Five needs that big amp ‘grip’ that only a large power amp with an appropriately ‘stiff’ power supply can deliver. Once that condition is met, you are, ahem, golden!

This means the kind of big, deep bass that many of us thought wasn’t at all possible at this price level:. Used with an appropriately powerful amplifier, the Triton Five brings truly awesome-grade deep bass and power without the sort of overblown, flabby, tubby, and flubby bass groans that you can get at this price level.

The other big feather in the Triton Five’s cap is its soundstaging properties. The loudspeaker builds a wall of sound; not in a manner befitting a murderous 1960s impresario with mad taste in hair, but more like your rear wall has been replaced with the concert hall, club, studio, or other venue in which that particular recording was made. There is a true sense of epic scale on offer here, the kind of thing that you might have to spend £10,000 or more to experience elsewhere.

….The Triton Five is three dimensional, incredibly open, and capable of an extremely accurate soundstage that ‘scales’ sublimely well…

…. a fine sense of top-to-bottom coherence

….a natural-to-rich tonal balance that is extremely alluring, and the clean, extended, and grain free treble associated with AMT ribbons…

Spending more does eventually justify itself. When you start to talk about the ‘shape’ and ‘texture’ of deep bass notes, without sacrificing the ‘depth’ of bass, then suddenly some of the true titans of high-end begin to win out. This doesn’t manifest in playing dub reggae or dubstep, but comes across when playing something big and orchestral and a little bit dour – symphonies by Mahler or Bruckner. The bass comes across as the most powerful and structural you can get in its class, but lacks the kind of cold beauty required to portray the depths of this kind of music.

At the price it has no peers and no parallels, and comes strongly recommended.

Link: Hi-Fi+

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The Absolute Sound reviews Music Hall’s MMF 7.3.

It turned out to be as much a review of three cartridges as a turntable review. But back to the 7.3

The MMF 7.3 retail price is $1395 without cartridge: add $200 to get Ortofon’s $440 2M Bronze cartridge. Call for my price.

The 7.3 improvements over the 7.1:

  • a new quieter DC motor with electronic speed control comparable to using a separate $300 speed box.
  • pushbutton change from 33 to 45.
  • an upper model carbon fiber arm,
  • better platter bearing
  • Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge

It retains the following:

  • acrylic platter
  • screw-on record clamp
  • RCA output jacks for cable upgrades
  • two-plinth base with sorbothane isolation
  • Completely isolated motor contacting the table only with the belt.
  • and other features you can find at the link following this summary

The reviewer’s personal reference table is the Kuzma Stabi-S ($2156 without cartridge) which is a TAS GoldenEar Award winner. While he liked the 7.3 enough to say that in its price range it would be “…at the top of his list”, but he still preferred his Kuzma, so while the 7.3 is tops at its price it does not kill the best of its higher priced competitors. I wonder how the MMF 9.3 ($2195 without cartridge) would compare to the $2156 Kuzma?

Now about cartridges, because he tried three models in the 7.3:

He was not pleased by the $440 Ortofon 2M Bronze that came on his table. OK, we know cartridges have individual personalities, but since the general consensus of reviewers is that the 2M Ortofon cartridges are excellent we have to consider that he has a distinct taste.

Then he installed the $995 Goldring Elite and sure enough he found that $995 beats $440. He preferred the additional detail, ambiance, spaciousness, etc. of the Goldring.

Then he installed his personal cartridge, the Denon DL103, which he liked best. He described it as “…warm-blooded, almost intuitive…” compared to the Goldring’s “…triumphant resolution…”.. Not so much detail, but he preferred it. It almost read like a tube vs, transistor review. Remember – it’s his cartridge.

BUT WAIT – he then tried putting the 7.3 on a 2″ Mapleshade Platform ($75 unfinished) and reported major improvements in “bass heft and textural gravitas”, plus “…calming the overabundance of air”.

I like that he said that he said “The MMF 7.3 revealed the character of each cartridge with decided neutrality.” That’s a very high recommendation. You can’t ask more than that – to allow each cartridge to sound its best.

Here are links:

The Stereophile review
Music Hall’s web page about the 7.3

Happy listening,
Wylie

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Bass, and more bass – LFE outputs and Triton speakers

GoldenEar Triton speaker’s built-in subwoofers can be powered using the speaker posts or LFE (Low Frequency Effects) RCA jacks on their AV receiver. Many assume that the bass should go through the LFE cables.

That is the case when you have a separate powered sub. The receiver sends the bass through RCA output jacks to the powered subwoofer, while electronic filters in the receiver remove the bass from signal sent to the other speakers in the system. But with Triton subwoofers the LFE connection is not needed – just select the left and right speakers as LARGE to send all frequencies to the Tritons over the speaker cable. The quality is as equal.

However, because many people love extra bass with their movies some choose to send the bass on both speaker and RCA cables. This allows the owner to, in effect, have two systems in one – one using only speaker cables that is tuned for music (presumably for accurate balance), and one kicking in more bass signal by way of the LFE cables. There is a lot of information about this subject at this page of setup tips.

Since for some people there seems no end to the desire for more bass the next way to get it by adding subwoofers. Golden Technology has four subwoofers ranging in retail price from $499 to $1999, with another due next month.

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About MQA – New Tech Hurts My Head

Sometimes my mind hurts when I read about new technology. Old ideas that just had to be true keep being demolished. Even the idea that copies are never as good as the original seems to be dead, dead, dead. Now we are told that some copies are improvements. Genuine improvements, not just enhancements.

We are being told by audiophile experts that Meridian’s MQA digital recording process “encapsulates” master recordings into files that, when played through an MQA decoder, yield music that sounds better than the original master recording. Somehow MQA corrects flaws in the digital original, the result becoming an improved version of the master. It sounds better than HD audio on players with an MQA decoder. Even on conventional players it is said that MQA sounds better than CD quality.

MQA files are smaller than you might expect – one online source said MP3 size, another said 1/3 the size of a FLAC file.

MQA will be available on some streaming and download services. Warner Music Group has announced a long-term licensing deal with MQA. Some MQA music is currently available via High Res Audio, Onkyo Music, e-Onkyo, 7digital, 2L and Technics Tracks. I have read Tidal is already converting its music to MQA. Over the coming months, MQA will expand to more streaming platforms and into download stores worldwide.

Will wonders never cease?

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Owners compare Triton One to Two+

GoldenEar Technology makes a point that the Triton Two+ has been upgraded to match as closely as possible the sound of the Triton One. Several audiophiles who own both Triton One and Triton Two+ have posted online that they are almost identical.

“I’ve been playing with a pair of the Triton Two+ all day and am very impressed. In a blind test, I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and my Triton ones unless I was within 2 to 3 feet of the speakers. To make it fair I put the Two+ right next to the ones and used the same receiver, the Aventage 3050. If anyone is on the fence about the Two+, rest assured they pack quite the punch. Of course the Triton One is larger in the bass department, and I’m sure ”

“I’ve been playing with a pair of the Triton Two+ all day and am very impressed. In a blind test, I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and my Triton ones unless I was within 2/3 feet of the speakers. To make it fair I put the Two+ right next to the ones and used the same receiver, the Aventage 3050.”

“If anyone is on the fence about the Two+, rest assured they pack quite the punch. I picked them up for upstairs, I have a big open area like the aforementioned poster, and have the Triton Ones and SuperCenter XXL in the dedicated home theater room.”

I have all the GoldenEar speaker speakers on hand as demos. I have alternated between various models to hear the differences. Right now I just changed from the One to the Two+, and I agree with the forum posters . To me the Two+ has the almost all the character of the One. I admit that I haven’t made a serious effort to do an extended shootout to pin down the differences that surely exist, but if someone wants to set up such a shootout I will be happy to oblige.

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I’m a break-in believer

I am a believer in break-in of audio components. I realize that some disagree, and I am open-minded enough to accept their right to be wrong.

Once I hooked up a system with a long run of cheap speaker wire and the sound was way too harsh. I did a seven-day break-in with a cable burner and was rewarded with acceptable sound. I have a Cable Cooker and have always “cooked” my cables three days just on general principles, though I should report that my cable suppliers do not think the difference is large.

Some say that when you break in speakers you are deceiving yourself that they sound better after break in because you are just getting accustomed to the sound. Not so. When I had a storefront I often put new models of small speakers on display, only to hear weak bass and harsh highs, so I made it a practice to break them in by putting them in a storeroom hooked to the low voltage tap of a transformer. Two or three days of continuous 60 Hz was enough to significantly improve the sound..

Listening only before and after break-in meant that I had not grown accustomed to the sound, and in the store I had the added advantage of daily comparing various speakers with a switcher with our very familiar playlist of demo tracks, so I knew the sound of each demo track and each speaker from excessive repetition. (Yes, I have heard Dark Side of the Moon more than once.)

With electronics , because I lack confidence in my memory and because it takes at least a week from first listen to the broken-in product I don’t even try to compare before and after sound. I do, however, have several friends whose hearing and memory I trust. I believe them when they tell me the improvements they hear make as much as 15% to 20% improvement.

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