There are people on this planet that, though they walk with one foot in front of the other just like the rest of us, are in important respects nothing like the rest of us—they are gifts.
In early 2018, I was fortunate to finally see my favorite percussionist in concert at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Zakir Hussain is a master, in the same easily recognizable way that Hendrix and Ella are masters. What they all do with their instruments is far beyond the technical. In their hands and breath, their instruments become the conduits of artistic expression. They are seamless and fluid parts of that artist’s language. Essential elements irremovable from the message.
But Zakir is more than a master of his chosen instrument. He is also one of the rare people whom I’ve had the great fortune to encounter who truly lights up a room. Before striking even a single note on his tabla’s membranes, Hussain radiates a genuine joyfulness. When he smiles, then places his hands gently together and bows to give his respect and thanks to the audience, you receive that gesture personally. When he interacts with the other musicians, you can see, hear, and feel his desire to have them be the best they can be—to let them be seen. Zakir has a gift that he gives without needing to have his name splashed all over it. A humble, joyful, giving master of his instrument. Rare.
Can you imagine if the music systems we assemble had the ability to communicate even 1/100th of the light that someone like Zakir Hussain radiates when he performs? Could you recognize if they did? Could you trust your instincts enough to let that light in?
Ignorance Is Bliss
When I received and first set up the Triangle Australe EZ loudspeakers, I had no idea where they sat in the Triangle line, nor did I know their cost. Based on their fit-and-finish and what TAS sends me for review, I assumed they were roughly in the $7k–$10k range. My only preconceptions about Triangle, gathered from brief auditions at shows over the years, was that they made speakers that were engaging in a “light and lively” kind of way. And then I made a random choice to open with trumpeter Dave Douglas’ “Bardot” from his album Live in Europe [1997, Arabesque AJ0126]. Eyes and ears open. You know the feeling you get early in the spring when you step outside and take a first breath of fresh air? It’s refreshingly different than inside air. Free and open. Makes you kind of happy. That’s what these Triangles did. A live projected trumpet in the open air. Wasn’t expecting that. How much are these?
Triangle Australe EZ
Turns out they’re $4500 per pair. I literally had to double-check.
The Australe EZ is the largest loudspeaker in the Esprit EZ range of Triangle loudspeakers, which is the middle line, wedged between the Plaisir and Elara below it, and the Signature and top-dog Magellan above it. At about 85 pounds each and 46″ tall, they are substantial. However, I found the rather simple design to be quite attractively modern and clean—almost elegant—in the gloss-white finish that mine came with. The included glass stands with adjustable spikes add to the overall look, and they incorporate perforated rubber plates said to absorb and disperse cabinet vibrations.
My 9-year-old son took a look at the back of one of the Australe EZ’s, and proclaimed, “Did you look back here? There’s a speaker. The speakers are supposed to be on the front!” He shook his head in disbelief as if to say, “Who could be so stupid as to make such an obvious mistake?” Indeed, there is a rear-firing tweeter on the Australe EZ (the only Esprit model to incorporate one), and it is the same horn-loaded titanium dome used in the front. Triangle calls this a Dynamic Pulse System (DPS). The tweeters are in phase (they have a bipolar, rather than dipolar, radiation pattern), and the rear tweeter is crossed over within 100Hz of the front (just below 4kHz). To put it as simply as possible, a horn-loaded tweeter has a narrow directivity. To avoid seriously limiting the listener sweet spot, the speaker’s rear tweeter helps to even out the high-frequency energy in the room. The result is a more balanced power response that opens the size of the listener’s window. As you’ll see, the DPS is remarkably well executed. You can’t turn it off (like some of the early Revel models), but provided you can get the back of the speaker about 1.5′ away from the front wall, you won’t want to.
Triangle designs its own drivers. Though they’ve tested and listened to many different materials for midrange transducers, they continue to believe in the basic character of a properly shaped and damped paper cone. Such is the case here, where below about 300Hz the 6.5″ midrange hands off to a trio of front-ported 6.5″ woofers. These marry “wood pulp” with carbon-fiber and are said to extend to 29Hz. I had good, useful extension into the low 30s in my room, with power.
Sensitivity is a high (for a dynamic loudspeaker) 92.5dB/Watt/meter. Perhaps this contributes to an overall expressive character that seems to be a longstanding Triangle calling card. They’ve been at it since 1980 now (is that really 39 years?), and having spoken with the company’s CEO Hugo Decelle, I feel confident in saying that I would expect Triangle to be around for the foreseeable future. It’s a company that knows where it’s been, where it is, and where it’s going. In case you’re wondering, I wouldn’t call that observation common in the audio industry.
I’ve never been a dog owner, but I’m sure all of us have been at a park or beach and seen an owner playing fetch with his dog. A stick or ball is thrown, and the canine eagerly and instinctively races to retrieve it, always returning to insistently start the process all over again. It’s one of those happy, classic scenes where two beings enjoy the friendship and exercise of the outdoors. Fun to watch or participate in, whether you’re a kid or an adult.
The Triangle Australe EZs are music retrievers. You throw out a music selection, and they enthusiastically run out to get it and bring it back home. Tongue wagging, eyes open, and a big smile on their face (maybe a little slobber too), just waiting for the next track. And so, on a day with the whole family together, I could embark on the following little musical adventure: Michael Jackson “Thriller” video on YouTube; an 11-year-old Michael Jackson/The Jackson 5 singing “Who’s Loving You” on YouTube (now that’s talent!); Toni Braxton; Crash Test Dummies; gettin’ jiggy with Will Smith; going to Africa with Toto; finding out the world is a ghetto with War; live Tom Petty; a little Sir Duke with Mr. Wonder; Sublime; Styx; Sting…UB40; you should have gone to rehab Amy Winehouse…and in the middle of our little music party, I could exclaim, “These speakers are really good.” I knew then that the Triangles could be a part of your life, not apart from your life, as is the case with so many of the show-pony systems we assemble these days.
You can only blame yourself if you order a Triangle Esprit series loudspeaker and find disappointment, having expected something safe, laid-back, and musically “warm.” After all, Triangle chooses the name “Esprit” for a reason! Lively, vivacious, sprightly. They tell you right upfront, and it’s not marketing-speak. The Australe EZs have a proudly displayed character—one they don’t hide from.
Ever load an mc cartridge at 47k ohms for that undamped “fast” sound? Have you played around with the sustain or damper pedal on a piano? Listened to a single-driver speaker with no crossover or a good horn system? The Australe EZ has little hints of all that in its DNA, and the common theme would be speedy freedom with a light touch that can edge into brightly lit. The paper midrange in particular (which spans the 300Hz to just under 4kHz range) has this playful character that feels like the dampers have been taken off in the interest of verve. And while the tweeters will never be accused of being reticent, or even Dynaudio Esotar “smooth,” they, like the midrange, are impressively integrated into the whole design in such a way that they are more asset than distraction.
The rear-firing tweeter in particular is effectively invisible as a separately identifiable source. And if you doubt for one instant that I was…concerned when I saw there were not one but two horn-loaded titanium tweeters on these speakers, well, then you really don’t know me. As mentioned, the Triangles will not be mistaken for soft, but they don’t serve as ice picks either, and the lively character is present even far off-axis. It’s as if the room has been energized in a very good way. Think of it as the lights being on, but not shining directly in your eyes. There is a little extra presence directly on axis, but my guess is that this has more to do with midrange directivity (6.5″ to 4kHz) than the horn-loaded tweeters.
There’s enough punch and substance in the low end to remind you why you bought a reasonably big speaker. “Pluck” off Marcus Miller’s album Free had plenty of chest cavity, upper-bass “oomph” to satisfy, without overwhelming the room and/or the rest of the recording. It’s not the kind of speaker where you have a light and fast midrange and then a heavy, fat bottom tacked on. They got the whole design working in the same direction—one of the key (if not the key) indicators of a competent design team.
Everybody’s a Critic
If you listen to any instrument with a horn on it through the Australe EZs you will be taken into a world far beyond the Triangle’s $4500 price point. I mentioned the Dave Douglas album near the beginning of this review, but equally spectacular was Joe Henderson’s saxophone performing “All the Things You Are” on the Charlie Haden album The Montreal Tapes—A Tribute to Joe Henderson. It’s the way that the Triangles project these instruments that surprises. There’s no holding back. Life-affirming to hear horns sound like horns. I’m going to hijack a popular social activist term here, and suggest that the Australe EZs are “woke,” but here I simply mean alive, awake, raw.
There are a couple of technical downsides to all this “wokeness,” of course. One of them is a certain blending of instruments on the stage. Listening through the Triangles is not about precise, hyper-real image location. There isn’t the spatial realism that signifies reference-level gear such as the Esoteric E-02 phonostage I recently reviewed. In some ways, the presentation is more like real life than the privileged sonic viewpoint we are afforded through recorded music. You’re not thinking about instrumental separation. The EZ just doesn’t engage your senses on that “good mini-monitor” level. The presence is about energy and feel, not about sharply defined spatial boundaries.
The other aspect worth noting is an effect most apparent on piano. Bill Evans’ piano on his Trio’s Sunday at the Village Vanguard was a little more vibrant than I am accustomed to. A bit tonally “blown up” I’d say. It’s the price of a less damped, more free and energetic presentation. You can’t have it all at any price, let alone $4500 for a near-full-range loudspeaker.
Quick System Thoughts
I used an old Eclipse TD A502 integrated amplifier, a VAC Sigma 160i tube integrated amplifier, and both Devialet 200 and Norma Revo IPA-140 solid-state integrateds for the review. Though the Triangle is a rather easy load with its high sensitivity and nominal 8-ohm load (minimum at just over 3 ohms), I do think the Australes deserve some attention to amplification because it will pay you back. I also threw some less expensive tube amplification at the Triangles, and the result wasn’t the dream you might think it would be. You can end up with “midrangey” if you’re just using your theoretical “warm tubes with fast, sensitive speaker” assumptions. Try stuff out, because it is worth the effort.
Strangely, I found the amplifiers with a high damping factor to work best for me. The Devialet in particular was a great match, and I can imagine a wonderful system of the Australe EZ driven by the Devialet Expert 140 Pro. While priced higher than the Triangles at about $6500, the 140 Pro includes a DAC and other features that make for very simple system setup. (Yes, I know they’re both French.)
Put a Bow on It
The loudspeaker that has the most significance for me in my audio journey is the Mirage SM-1, the loudspeaker that Kevin Voecks designed to launch the Mirage brand at the beginning of the 1980s. It’s significant to me because it symbolizes the joy of listening to music with friends and family for many years with no complaints. The perfect musical partner. But if I were asked to review the SM-1 today for “old time’s sake,” I wouldn’t do it. It was perfect for that time and place, and current words of analysis would completely miss the point. And I had a similar feeling in listening to music through the Triangle Australe EZs for this review. You throw some music out for them to fetch, and they run to go and get it, bringing it home. Shedding a dose of joie de vivre that everyone can enjoy.
I started this review with some quick thoughts on the amazing Zakir Hussain, and it makes perfect sense (to me at least) to finish on that note as well. I’ll put a little twist on it though and write this conclusion listening to the only track off Remember Shakti’s eponymous first album that doesn’t include Zakir Hussain as an artist, yet is titled “Zakir.” Here, John McLaughlin on guitar and Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri (Indian flute) pay tribute to Zakir on what might be described as a gently flowing river. So beautiful. Calming. The power of music. A little light shining through.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Three-way bass-reflex loudspeaker
Driver complement: 3x 6.5″ woofers, 6.5″ mid/woofer 165mm tweeter, 2x 1″ titanium-dome tweeters
Frequency range: 35Hz–22kHz (+/-3dB)
Sensitivity: 92.5dB 1W/m)
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Minimum impedance: 3.3 ohms
Continuous power handling: 150W
Repetitive peak power: 300W
Dimensions: 7.87″ x 44.48″ x 14.56″
Net weight: 85.53 lbs.
Price: $4500/pr. ($4000/pr. walnut vinyl)
By Allan Moulton
Let’s just start with a confession of sorts. I enjoyed listening to the combined talents of Roger Whittaker, Nana Mouskouri, The Irish Rovers, Zamfir, and Chuck Mangione with my family as a youth (Allan winces).More articles from this editor