Hands On: GoldenEar Triton Two Tower Speakers
Boss speakers from the speaker boss.
When I hear about a new speaker company I tend to want to back away slowly and look for an escape route. Speaker companies have been coming and going for years, yet there’s really very little difference among all the competition.
You may find a tweak or two here and there—a unique shape, a new driver material, etc. In fact, it seems that the major innovation in speakers lately has been in in-walls/ceilings, rather than in traditional floorstanding speakers. The basic elements of a speaker haven’t evolved much—unlike televisions, which seem to go through a revolution every three or four years.
So when I first heard about GoldenEar speakers, born out of the mind of Sandy Gross—the co-founder of both Polk and Definitive Technology—I figured something interesting was bound to come out of this.
I was right. GoldenEar speakers aren’t just more branded boxes with drivers built in. These are audiophile speakers with uniquely engineered technology. They’re different than anything else on the market, and that alone made them worth checking out.
So after hearing them in person at a trade show, I asked Gross if I could demo a pair of the flagship Triton Two Towers in my home. A couple of weeks later GoldenEar sales manager John Miller showed up with two coffin-sized boxes and helped me set them up for some listening.
Like I wrote earlier, the Triton Two speakers are not just big boxes with a couple of cone drivers and a crossover. They are big though—48-inches high and 15-inches deep and about 60 pounds. The speakers are wedge-shaped, wider in the back than the front, which eliminates parallel surfaces that could cause internal resonances. The basic construction is MDF with a glossy black cap and base. Rather than go for an exotic wood veneer, the entire speaker is covered with black fabric (John called it a sock) that hides the drivers. The fabric covering has two advantages. First, you’re paying for speaker, not for aesthetic woods. Second, if something damages a wood veneer, there’s really nothing you can do about it. If your cat puts a tear in the Triton fabric, just replace the sock for a couple of bucks, and it’s good-as-new.
Underneath that fabric and MDF is where interesting begins. Like several Definitive Technology speakers, such as the Mythos STS SuperTowers, the Tritons include built-in active subwoofers powered by 1,200 watt digital amplifiers. In each speaker, the amp drives two front-mounted 5-inch x 9-inch drivers with glass fiber and Nomex (a flame resistant material often used in firefighter’s uniforms) cones plus side-mounted planar infrasonic radiators.
The mid and high drivers are just as interesting. Each Triton has two 4.5-inch bass/midrange drivers featuring a GoldenEar designed Multi-Vaned Phase Plug—it looks like a bullet with fins radiating out of it. These drivers surround the high frequency driver in a D’Appolito arrangement (also found in many Def Tech models). This driver is really something. Rather than a traditional dome tweeter, the Tritons use a folded ribbon diaphragm within a neodymium magnet field. The gold-colored ribbon is made of a very thin film and is folded up like a car’s air filter. Gross says the folded ribbon squeezes the air, rather than pushes it, making it very efficient and extending dynamic range. That tweeter is the hallmark of Golden Ear and is used on all its speakers.
The input section of the speakers includes two large binding posts, an LFE input and a subwoofer level adjustment. GoldenEar actually recommends you ignore the LFE input and just run the speakers full-range, or large and let the Triton’s electronics do the thinking.
After hooking up the speakers to my receiver, making sure the receiver menu had the speakers set to large and no LFE output, I played around with placement (not an easy thing with speakers this big). GoldenEar’s recommendation is that the speakers be about two feet from a wall and slightly toed in. Because the Tritons include active subwoofers you need to make sure each speaker is positioned near an outlet. In my room that wasn’t an issue, but it does mean you’ll have two large cords to deal with in addition to the speaker wire.
Once everything was adjusted, with both subwoofer levels set to 9 o’clock for starters, I moved my comfy listening chair into place and began dropping CDs into my player. In the first room I tried the speakers, a family room which opens up to a large kitchen, I appreciated the inclusion of the subwoofers. One of my favorite CDs for listening to new speakers is “Getz/Gilberto” with Astrud Gilberto. With a good system, this recording has a wide open feel to it with lots of air and depth to the music. The Tritons did the old bossa nova justice, producing a thoroughly three-dimensional effect with instruments seemingly existing in specific places in space, rather than emanating from the general area of the speakers. The ribbon tweeters did an impressive job of revealing details in the music, from clicks and scratches on the guitar strings to the vibration of the snares. I particularly like when I can hear a little friction from the saxophone as if you can hear the moisture on the reed. I followed that up with another favorite recording, Pink Martini’s “Sympathique” which also has some mystifying dynamics.
To check out how broad these speakers could be with the volume ratcheted up, I put in the bizarre Latin (as in Ceasar, not Brazil) opera “Flamma Flamma: The Fire Requiem” by Nicholas Lens. In the third track, Sumus Vicinae, multiple voices, from female nasal-natural tones to a deep bass male voice and a choir of mourners, all compete for attention. It’s an eerie presentation that deserves to be played loud—this is the kind of opera a heavy metal fan could appreciate. Anyway, the Tritons handled it masterfully. The high, child-like nasal tones and basement groveling bass all held up very well.
I moved the speakers to another room and tried hooking up the LFE from my home theater receiver (with a Y connector). I eventually decided to go without the LFE connection as plain speaker wire delivered all the bass the room needed, and the results were still excellent. What that proves is that the Tritons are versatile, so you’ll want to match your setup to the room you’re using them in. Also, it should be noted that they sound best when listening from a sitting position. The tone changed slightly when I’d stand and my ears were above the speakers. The effect was slight, but noticeable if you’re listening for it. Since the size and placement of the drivers is perfect for a sitting position, these would probably also make excellent fronts for a home theater setup.
I’d like to know (I should have asked) whether the speakers were named after the small moon that orbits around the planet Neptune (a cold, dull, lifeless place with no air) or the son of the ancient Greek god Poseidon. It makes sense if it was the latter, as that Triton could blow on a conch shell with such force that he could raise stormy seas or put them down. GoldenEar’s Tritons may not be ready to effect global climate change, but they’re certainly capable of impressive feats with music and compare favorably with speakers costing quite a bit more. At $2,500 a pair, these audiophile-grade speakers are very reasonably priced. That probably explains why dealers are having a hard time keeping them in stock. If you can find them, sit down and give them a listen. You won’t want to get back up.
GoldenEar Triton Two Towers
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Speaker Dimensions 7-1/2” W x 15” D x 48” H (height is with base installed, no spikes)
Weight 60 lbs (product) / 75 lbs (shipping)
Base Dimensions 11-1/2” W x 18” D
Frequency Response 18 Hz – 35 kHz
Efficiency 91 dB
Nominal Impedance Compatible with 8 ohms
Driver Complement Two - 5” x 8” long-throw quadratic subwoofers coupled to:
Two - 7” x 10” Planar Infrasonic Radiators
Two - 4-1/2” High-Definition cast-basket MVPP ™ mid/bass drivers
One – HVFR™ High-Velocity Folded Ribbon Tweeter
Recommended Amplification 20 – 500 watt/channel
Built-In Subwoofer Power Amplifier 1200 Watt ForceField Subwoofer