In Greek mythology, the demigod Triton is a creature of the depths who carries a trident. Half-man, half-fish, he resides in a golden palace at the bottom of the sea. But perhaps his most distinguishing characteristic is his ability to blow vigorously into a twisted conch shell to calm or rouse the waves.
So Triton is a fitting name for legendary manufacturer Sandy Gross’ latest loudspeaker, the GoldenEar Triton Five. Much like the Greek god of yore, this GoldenEar speaker, roughly in the middle of the marque’s lineup, has the ability to create upheaval or calm within the space of a few seconds. Connect speaker cables to it, hit play, and you have a rather formidable beast playing at musical levels far beyond its very modest (by high-end standards) price. Indeed, install it in a system like mine, where much of the equipment is considerably more costly, and it more than holds its own in both musicality and sheer output.
These speakers, in other words, can rock, which is what they did when I put the pedal to the metal with a rare first pressing (courtesy of a magnanimous friend) of Led Zeppelin II, an LP released by Atlantic in April 1969. “Whole Lotta Love” had a whole lotta impact through the Tritons, with drum whacks whizzing through the air, fronted by electric guitar solos and various sound effects. Is it beneficial for your ears to listen at such levels? Of course not. So I cooled it fairly soon. But still, even if such SPLs would give Gross himself heartburn, the inner audio devil in me couldn’t resist seeing if the Triton Fives really have what it takes to peel out. They did, and do.
The Triton Five features an abundance of noteworthy drivers—one of the keys to its projection of a luscious and bountiful soundstage. For instance, its four side-mounted, sub-bass radiators are designed to deliver subwoofer bass without the need to employ an active sub, helping the Five to deliver a spacious sound—and setting it apart from most other speakers in the Triton line. They’re also positioned close to the floor to maximize low-end impact. (More on the bass to come.) At the other end of the frequency spectrum, the Five’s tweeter features what the company calls a High Velocity Ribbon Driver (akin to the Heil air-motion transformer), which is designed to pressurize the air rather than pushing it back and forth, thus providing superior impedance matching. The Triton’s two 6" mid/bass drivers are also special—made from a formulated polypropylene cone material combined with a unique apical glue-bonding technique. Throw in nonparallel enclosure walls, a sleek front panel, and a decidedly elegant black finish (on the review pair submitted to me), and you have a winning loudspeaker.
Once again, I have to confess that, as was the case with some of the more economically priced equipment that’s been in for review lately, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from these Triton Fives. The last time I listened extensively to a speaker in this price range was when I owned the Snell E/IV well over a decade ago. The Snells provided me with plenty of listening pleasure, and I recall them fondly to this day. But they had limitations that became more obvious as time went on. At the time, the Snells, a Conrad-Johnson preamplifier and amplifier, and a Linn turntable were at the extreme of what I could afford—and were what amounted to my audio gateway drug leading to the Magnepan 3.7 and then the 20.1 loudspeaker, Classé amplifiers, and so on. So listening to the Fives not only brought me full circle, but also provided a chance to see how much progress has been made in loudspeaker design in what amounts to an entry-level, full-range, high-end transducer.
What did I notice first? The Triton’s coherence was obvious, and its treble capabilities and integration were striking. Every time I go to listen to a live orchestra I’m reminded of the degree to which audiophiles often seek out what they view as airy, extended top octaves, which is fine and dandy, but which can get confused with an artificially sparkly sound. That’s not what the Five produces. If anything, the speaker’s overall presentation landed somewhere on the darker side, particularly in the treble region. On a wonderful Carlos Kleiber live recording of the Vienna Philharmonic playing Strauss waltzes, for example, I was struck by the suppleness of the strings on “Accelerations.” I was consistently impressed by the smoothness and silkiness of the Triton’s tweeter; there was no etch, no glare, no trace of the digital nasties.