I’ll start this review with a summary of what I look for in the reproduction of recorded music. It is a step for making the review useful to others that is often missing. I don’t know how many rave reviews I’ve read only to find that the speaker in question is of little interest to me when I actually hear it. That inevitably ties back to the reviewer being impressed by attributes that aren’t high on my list.
I look for a speaker does a good job reproducing the sound of unamplified acoustic instruments including voice — correct tonality across the frequency range without undue emphasis or manipulation to “improve” the sound quality. The spatial presentation of a speaker system is also important to me. I like the sense of space one hears at a live acoustic concert, but short of hearing a small ensemble at a small venue, one rarely hears live the sense of pinpoint location that audiophiles seem to value so highly. This tight imaging is more an artifact of recordings and can often be rather unrealistic — I don’t know how many drummers I’ve heard with a 10′ arm span or piano keyboards that extend the entire width of the room.
But, it is what it is, as they say, so I look for a speaker that will portray what is on the recording with stability. Failure to do this well will cause the image to wander back & forth as voices and instruments go up & down the scale — very annoying.
What doesn’t interest me? High volume capability, mass quantities of deep bass, extra sparkle or the alleged ability to “fix” or enhance poor recordings.
Having said all of this, what of the Triton 7 speakers from Golden Ear Technology? Simply put, they are excellent, and an incredible value to boot. I had lived happily with a pair of Spendor SP1/2Es for the past 7 or 8 years. They have a well deserved reputation for neutral reproduction of voices and acoustic instruments, and their known deficiencies were all in areas that didn’t mean much to me. However, the wife was tired of their 1970s boxy appearance in our relatively small TV/living room and she finally convinced me it was time for them to go.
I enjoy music, and I like good audio systems, though I long ago decided I did not want to be an audiophile. I was familiar with many of my alternatives to replace the Spendors — a simple one would have been one of the new “A” series from Spendor, but they are a bit pricey. Another alternative would have been a used set from Spendor’s recemtly discontinued “S” series which share the more modern look of their current models. However, I decided to give the Tritons a try as the wife approved of their appearance and the reviews have been consistently good.
I initially heard the Triton 5s as they were ones the dealer had set up when I arrived. I brought an eclectic mix of music — classical, folk, rock, jazz — and spent about two hours listening. The dealer uses his own living room for equipment auditions, so even though his room is larger than mine, it was still a home setting instead of the typical retail store environment. The bass was definitely stronger than my Spendors and female voices were excellent. Male voices seemed a bit more reticent than my Spendors. The tweeters were very well integrated with the midbass drivers and there was no hint of harshness or overemphasis — I often find one or the other of these sins in many audiophile speakers.
After the listening session, I went home and listened to my Spendors. The SP1/2E does have a certain magic not found in many other speakers, but the Triton was close. The 5 model was simply too big for my room, so I put in an order for the 7s which were in stock. It turns out that this was a better choice sonically as well as visually. Even the 7s have more bass than the SP1/2E and my room is not terribly big (14 X 15 X 10 feet with a 6 foot opening at the back into another room). It is clear to me the 5s would have been too much.
It also turned out the 7s are very slightly warmer in the low midrange meaning that I find male voices and instruments such as the cello and piano slightly more realistic on the 7 than the 5. Not a bad deal for a $600 savings and a slight reduction in bass that would have likely caused me problems. The speaker is also very good with percussives and does a wonderful job across the full range of a piano. Integration between drivers can be difficult and many speakers don’t do this task well. The Triton suffers no such problem and the sonic presentation is seamless as one moves up the frequency scale. That is one advantage of using a relatively high crossover frequency (3.5 KHz) as it avoids changing speaker drivers in the fundamental range of most instruments, including voice. The tweeter itself is also excellent. It has an extended range with no evidence of edginess.
The soundstage is also good — instruments stay in position, and in good recordings remain identifiable even in complex passages. The sweet spot is typical of other speakers. It isn’t terribly big, either laterally or vertically, but that’s never been a big issue for me. If I’m listening intently, I’m sitting where I need to sit. If I’m listening casually, then imaging isn’t important. The main issue when I’m listening casually is natural tonality, which this speaker has.
As respects appearance, it is obvious that Golden Ear saves a lot of money in production since there is no wood cabinet to finish. The speakers are tall, relatively thin enclosures that are entirely covered by a “sock” in the same fashion as Magnapans. The foot of the speaker and the top plate are high-gloss black plastic which seems popular these days — I’m so-so about the look as even light dusting tends to eventually show in the gloss. However, the total effect of this speaker’s appearance is, in my opinion, one that does not draw as much attention to itself as a more traditional wooden box. That worked out perfectly for my wife as it fixed the one problem she had with my Spendors. Such a look is not for everyone, but the savings over a finished cabinet with costly veneers definitely helps explain why these speakers are such a good buy even though they skimped on nothing on the technology side of things.
I will note the speakers are more attractive in person than in photographs. I guess it is just hard to photograph lots of black and capture the nuances.
In summary, if one is looking for a neutral sounding speaker that does an excellent job of revealing what is on your recordings, take a good look at the Triton series. They are definitely an incredible buy and easily compete against much more expensive competitors.