I enjoy über-high-end audio equipment as much as the next fellow; nevertheless, I have an abiding fondness for overachieving products that deliver high levels of performance for reasonable sums of money. I suppose this has to do with my conviction that the enjoyment of music is (or in an ideal world should be) something for all to enjoy—not just for an elite, well-heeled few. My wish is that high-end audio could be less a “rich man’s game” and more a sport for the common man. Happily, at least a few worthy high-end audio manufacturers share this wish and have developed products that are affordable yet offer compelling and, in the best cases, downright brilliant sound quality. One such product is the GoldenEar Technology Triton Seven floorstanding loudspeaker ($1399/pair) that is the subject of this review.
Let me begin my supplying a bit of background. As most of you know, GoldenEar Technology is a loudspeaker manufacturer co-founded several years ago by Sandy Gross, who was also the co-founder of Definitive Technology and a co-founder of Polk Audio. Mr. Gross enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a serious, dyed-in-the-wool, high-end audiophile, but what has made him a legend is his unflagging commitment to producing speakers that offer audiophile-worthy sound at down-to-earth prices (actually, a hallmark of each of the speaker companies Gross helped create). Thus far, GoldenEar has offered several ranges of products, many of which have gone on to win critical acclaim and numerous industry awards.
In view of Sandy Gross’ enviable track record over the years, you might expect the Triton Sevens would simply be “chips off the old block,” and in some senses they are. The Triton Sevens stand, at present, as the smallest and least expensive of GoldenEar’s Triton Series floorstanders, and a casual stroll through the technical specifications pages at GoldenEar’s Web site conveys the impression that, while Triton Sevens share some design features with the large Triton Twos and Threes, they are in essence “Triton Lites.” This impression, however, is misleading because somewhere between the preparation of the specifications page and the creation of the actual product a wonderful thing happened: Namely, the Triton Sevens wound up sounding different from and better than their bigger siblings in many of the ways likely to matter most to audiophiles. Let’s get this straight: The Triton Sevens are smaller, less complex, and less expensive than their stablemates, yet actually sound all the better for it. How can this be?
In trying to assess what makes the Triton Sevens superior performers, I reflected on a line attributed to the late, great British sports car designer Colin Chapman (of Lotus fame). When asked how to make racing cars go faster on a consistent basis, Chapman is said to have quipped, “Simplicate, and add lightness.” Well, if asked what makes his new Triton Sevens sound so very good, Sandy Gross might smile and say that they “simplify and add (sonic) transparency”—and we are speaking, here, of transparency delivered by the bucket full. As a result, the Triton Seven sounds remarkably open, articulate, and revealing— ridiculously so for its modest price.
At first glance, the Triton Seven seems disarmingly simple. It is a compact tower-type speaker that stands only 39.75" tall and that sports just three active drive elements: a small Heil-type HVFR (High Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter flanked by two wide-bandwidth, high-excursion 5.25" mid/bass drivers (for more on which, see below). For the necessary low-frequency reinforcement the Triton Seven also provides a pair of side-firing 8" “planar sub-bass radiators” (i.e., passive radiators). The speaker is housed in a svelte, gently swept-back, black-fabric-clad enclosure with a gloss black trim cap on top and a matching black floor-plinth embossed with a soft gold-colored GoldenEar logo. If this capsule description seems a little underwhelming, it helps to bear in mind that with the Triton Seven, as with so many other great loudspeakers, the genius is in the details.
As I suggested above, the Triton Seven combines several difficult-to-meld sonic virtues. It offers plenty of resolution and high degrees of transparency, and demonstrates impressive transient quickness, yet also sounds smooth. GoldenEar achieved this result by carefully doing its homework in blending the output of its lightning fast Heil-type HVFR tweeters with the output of its also very fast, wide-bandwidth piston-type mid/bass drivers. The result may well be the most accomplished hybrid mix of Heil-type and piston-type drivers that I have yet heard in any loudspeaker, regardless of price. GoldenEar has succeeded where many others have tried and failed, partly by banishing apparent speed and textural discontinuities between the disparate driver types, but also—more importantly—by getting them to sing with one coherent voice.