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GoldenEar BRX


The BRX sits at the top rung of the ladder in GoldenEar’s Bookshelf Series—a lineup that includes the well-regarded Aon Models 2 and 3. This two-way compact employs a driver complement similar to that of the Aons, but the similarities stop there. The BRX goes a step further by tapping into the high-end technologies of the Triton Series Reference tower speakers. Barely topping a foot in height and finished in a deep, hand-rubbed black lacquer, the BRX cabinets look elegant. Edges are softly rounded, side panels flare outward slightly from front-to-back, where discrete grilles cover the passive planar radiators beneath. 

Taking a look under the hood, there’s a lot going on inside the BRX’s well-braced enclosure. There are four drivers in total—two active ones, including a ribbon tweeter, otherwise known as Golden- Ear’s Reference High-Gauss High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (this is the same Air-Motion Transformer [AMT] type used in both the Triton Reference and Triton One.R.), and a 6″ polypropylene-cone mid/bass transducer, cradled in a cast-basket with GoldenEar’s focused-field magnet structure. The mid/bass cone has a proprietary curve for superior internal damping and speed. It’s also the same basic driver used in GoldenEar’s Triton Reference tower.  

Positioned at either side of the cabinet are a pair of inertially balanced, 6.5″ passive planar radiators. They acoustically load the active mid/bass driver, as well as couple bass energy to the room. While passive radiators are less commonly used than ports, they tend to achieve the same goals, while avoiding the turbulence and resonances often found in some (not all) ported bass-reflex configuration. GE’s “balanced crossover” uses a floating configuration and sports high-quality film capacitors. Even the internal speaker wire has been sourced from the Triton Reference. The BRX’s sensitivity is rated at 90dB, with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, which makes for an easy drive. But don’t scrimp on amp quality since the mid/bass driver likes power, and you’ll want to get the most sugar you can out of the sweet ribbon tweeter.

In sonic performance, the BRX is a natural, in the sense that it just seems born to play chamber and jazz classics. It reproduces the timbral and harmonic complexities and spatial qualities of real acoustic settings as if they are etched into its DNA. Tonally, the BRX has a neutral-to-warmish signature. Midrange octaves are rich and textured, with a more romantic timbral character that reproduces music in a mellower light, as if it has a softer rose complexion. There are no discernable audio suckouts in response. In this regard, the BRX has an especially deft touch with winds and layered strings, which it transmits with a buoyancy that lifts them within the orchestra. The BRX even stands up to the challenge of reproducing the blat of a trombone or the thick reedy airflow of a tenor sax, recreating both with recognizable heft and impact and only minor compression.

The BRX floats a compellingly dimensional soundstage in the listening room—a feature consistent with a speaker that seems to avoid the more confrontational, forward-leaning (okay, aggressive) signature of many small monitors. Imaging is very good and well-focused, but always rooted within the musical whole of the performance rather than standing outside it. In painterly terms, the BRX is more of a landscape artist than a portraitist. Rather than zeroing in on a closeup to the exclusion of the overall atmosphere of the performance, the BRX creates a canvas that takes in the larger picture. I’d describe its perspective as slightly relaxed, as if you were seated just a row or two farther back from the stage. BRX successfully walks the fine line between parts and wholes like few compacts I’ve heard in my listening room.

Its treble range is well-nigh effortless—agile, airily transparent, and non-fatiguing in the way ribbon tweeters tend to be. The critical sibilance range is smooth and natural. An excellent voice speaker, the BRX expertly registers a singer’s subtle shifts of emotion by means of dynamic and timbral modulations. 

Thanks to this unforced naturalism, the silken, soaring vocal character of Alison Krauss was almost child’s play for the BRX. Similarly, on Krauss’ cover of the Beatles’ “I Will,” it readily reproduced the low-level interplay and harmonic detail of the accompanying banjo, dobro, acoustic bass, percussion, and shakers. The BRX tweeter effortlessly recreated the transient detail of these plucked instruments in a way that was realistic but not hyped. The challenges of full-spectrum piano were also very well met, in spite of the BRX’s limitations in the bottom octaves. For example, Keith Jarrett’s exquisite cover of “Shenandoah” was chock full of note-to-note articulation and dynamic gradients, as well as some satisfying soundboard harmonics. 

This is a good moment to mention that inter-driver coherence between the cone mid/bass and the AMT tweeter is as seamless as this marriage can be. Historically, this has not always been the case, since the difference in driver materials and dispersion often hinders attempts to match the speed, low distortion, and axial response of an AMT with the performance envelope of the so-called “slower” mid/bass cone directly beneath it. There was little evidence of any mismatch here. 

Of course, the BRX can also play pop and rock with conviction, though it didn’t seem as adept at capturing the distortion and raw energy of a grunge experience like Nirvana. In a way, the BRX was almost too smooth and low key to come fully to terms with the harder, sweatier, and sharper edges of this kind of rock, although it never failed to articulate searing guitar solos and grittier details. Make no mistake: When it comes to contemporary pop and rock, the BRX performs well. But its greatest strength lies in the areas of resolution and transparency. It’s an all-around performer with a knack, if you will, for the more refined genres of music, where the recordings themselves are carefully attended to.

In transient response, the BRX didn’t necessarily announce itself as blazingly fast, but that’s often the case with AMT tweeters as opposed to more common metal or soft domes. You don’t necessarily perceive the AMT’s transient speed as an isolated benefit; yet, after I listened to countless tracks, I can say that speed was clearly there. The BRX was certainly up to the task of replicating the expert stick-work of drummer Stewart Copeland during The Police’s “Tea in the Sahara”; his lightning fast, crisply articulate percussion was awash with the electricity of high-pitch cymbals and expressive drum-skin snap, slap, and rattle. 

Bass fundamentals in the 20-40Hz range may have been beyond the purview of the diminutive BRX; nonetheless, it extended easily and convincingly into the 50Hz range, and went perceptibly deeper even as it rolled off. There was good control and timbral complexity in the bottom end; plus, sustain and decay information was good enough to convey much of the flavor and air of an orchestra. The larger dynamic volleys from a kettle drum or tympani array were somewhat attenuated, but still respectable. There’s a quality to the BRX’s bass response that makes it especially appealing on acoustic music—performances in a hall or other reverberant venue. 

At least part of this impression may be attributable to the GE’s larger-than-usual (given enclosure dimensions) 6″ mid/bass cone and twin passive radiators. These give the BRX a more potent launch of bass energy that opens the soundstage, improves dimensionality, and carefully preserves whatever ambient information might be on the recording. This quality is one of the BRX’s most compelling sonic features and helps create a reality that places it near the top of its class. It’s a quality that classical music aficionados should find especially pleasing. 

A final impression is that the GoldenEar team poured a lot of effort into reproducing music with convincing scale and perspective. The BRX doesn’t miniaturize music to the extent of modest, two-way compacts of its ilk. To be fair, no one should expect soundstaging and immersion on the monumental scale of a WAMM. But in the year 2021 we should all expect overall performance more akin to the BRX than what we had to settle for in a two-way compact twenty years ago.

The crux of loudspeaker design is the art of making choices and striking the right balance. The BRX chose transparency, finesse, and nuance to communicate the experience of real musicians performing in acoustic space. Yes, there are compact speakers in this class that have a more direct sound and ring out with a bit more extension and seat-of-the-pants slam—more Reznor than Rossini, if you will. But the GoldenEar BRX is a black-tie classicist of a very high order. You won’t need a golden ear to enjoy its class-leading blend of musicality and refinement.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Two-way, stand-mount
Frequency response: 40Hz–35kHz
Drivers: HVFR tweeter, 6″ mid/bass, two 6.5″ passive radiators
Sensitivity: 90dB
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 13.5″ x 12.5″ x 12.5″
Weight: 12 lbs.
Price: $1598/pr.

2621 White Road
Irvine, CA 92614
(949) 800-1800


By Neil Gader

My love of music largely predates my enthusiasm for audio. I grew up Los Angeles in a house where music was constantly playing on the stereo (Altecs, if you’re interested). It ranged from my mom listening to hit Broadway musicals to my sister’s early Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Beatles, and Stones LPs, and dad’s constant companions, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. With the British Invasion, I immediately picked up a guitar and took piano lessons and have been playing ever since. Following graduation from UCLA I became a writing member of the Lehman Engel’s BMI Musical Theater Workshops in New York–working in advertising to pay the bills. I’ve co-written bunches of songs, some published, some recorded. In 1995 I co-produced an award-winning short fiction movie that did well on the international film-festival circuit. I was introduced to Harry Pearson in the early 70s by a mutual friend. At that time Harry was still working full-time for Long Island’s Newsday even as he was writing Issue 1 of TAS during his off hours. We struck up a decades-long friendship that ultimately turned into a writing gig that has proved both stimulating and rewarding. In terms of music reproduction, I find myself listening more than ever for the “little” things. Low-level resolving power, dynamic gradients, shadings, timbral color and contrasts. Listening to a lot of vocals and solo piano has always helped me recalibrate and nail down what I’m hearing. Tonal neutrality and presence are important to me but small deviations are not disqualifying. But I am quite sensitive to treble over-reach, and find dry, hyper-detailed systems intriguing but inauthentic compared with the concert-going experience. For me, true musicality conveys the cozy warmth of a room with a fireplace not the icy cold of an igloo. Currently I split my time between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Studio City, California with my wife Judi Dickerson, an acting, voice, and dialect coach, along with border collies Ivy and Alfie.

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