In the months following my review of the Triangle Esprit Altea Es (Issue 156), Triangle Electroacoustique announced some key revisions to its popular mid-line offering. Given that the Altea was already very good, I seized the opportunity to check out the new “Esw” version. Outwardly, this three-way floorstander is nearly identical to its predecessor. However, eagle eyes will notice the larger 80mm aluminum dustcap of the woofer, a change said to optimize the rigidity-to-mass ratio. Internally, there have been key modifications to the driver’s coil. The net result is said to be an additional 5Hz of bass extension. While the midbass driver remains unchanged, the tweeter’s phase plug has also been redesigned, resonant dampening has been increased, and there’s now damping behind the tweeter dome to absorb backwaves.
The results are plain to hear. The Altea remains a generous-sounding speaker. It’s musically lively and dynamically engaging, with outstanding extension and output. And it’s easy to drive. The Esw version, however, polishes the strengths of the original and ameliorates (although not completely eliminates) its weaknesses. I was initially satisfied by what I described as a “holistic and balanced overall approach to the music.” But I thought the speaker stalled a bit in the upper mids, was a bit plummy in the low bass, and beset with vestiges of port overhang. The quasihorn loading of the tweeter had a directivity that narrowed the sweet spot and detracted from driver integration and coherence.
Now, overall tonal balance has improved substantially. The upper-midrange dip and treble rise of the earlier version have been addressed to a worthwhile extent. The soundstage sweetspot has widened. Pitch definition is more precise and low-frequency response has newfound extension and a reduction of port boom. I can’t vouch that it’s a “flat” five cycles deeper, but qualitatively it’s better defined and viscerally more exciting. As a result the Altea is more rewarding to listen to when following low-level midbass cues like the softly struck kickdrum that emerges during Mary Chapin-Carpenter’s “Quittin Time,” from Party Doll [Columbia].
Driver integration has improved and the transition to the tweeter shows refinement, but the mids still sit in the shade of the tweeter a bit too much for my taste. However, my ambivalence regarding the directivity of the tweeter has mostly abated, as Triangle has struck a more pleasing balance in this latest incarnation. On the one hand, it creates a focus and sensation of whipstick transient speed and an immediacy that is addicting. On the other, there is the sensation of a bit too much steering of high-frequency information that leads to a narrower horizontal window. For example, piano and violin will at moments sound a bit too brilliant, emphasizing attack and diminishing the flow of harmonics that follow. And when I hear harmonizing voices there’s an upperfrequency energy that tips the balance towards great articulation but reduces the earthiness of the performances.
The latest generation Triangle Altea is a worthy heir to its predecessor. While some speakers make you want to sink into the nearest well-worn armchair and take a nap, the Altea Esw reproduces music with the intention of getting you up on your feet and onto a dance floor. That’s my kind of speaker. And here’s the kicker. Although “new and improved” suggests a price increase, the Altea has actually dropped a hundred bucks. Now that’s an improvement you can not only hear but feel each time you reach for your wallet. TAS