Coincident Speaker Technology Troubador loudspeaker
The Troubador's enclosure is striking. It's nicely finishedmy samples had the optional rosewood veneerand constructed to a standard surprising in a speaker at its price-point. The cabinet has no parallel sides; the front baffle is steeply beveled, the sidewalls slope inward slightly, and the top-plate rises to meet the severely raked-back rear wallcomplex cabinet geometry indeed for a modestly priced speaker. Designer Blume says he chose this shape to reduce internal standing waves that affect the speaker's phase coherence and thicken the midrange. When struck, the cabinet gives a mildly resonant, hollow-sounding thunk. This is intentional; Blume claims that using an inherently nonresonant material and then tuning that resonance to an even higher frequencywhere it's less sonically damagingis superior to utilizing excessive damping. For this reason, he also eschews internal "stuffing"; the cabinet contains no fiberglass "fill." The Troubador, like the designs of Thiel and Wilson, has only one set of binding posts.
Adding to the striking mien of the Troubador is its unusual driver placement: the 1" silk-dome tweeter is concentrically mounted within the 6.5" polypropylene wooferwhere the dustcap for that driver would normally be positioned. This gives the speaker a rather cyclopean aspect. Blume maintains that this placement is ideal, and requires no other time alignment between the drivers to achieve coherence. Partially as a result of the benefits of this driver alignment, Blume claims, the Troubador's crossover is exceptionally simple. There's only one component in the signal path for each driverand those, he states, are of the highest quality.
I found the Troubadors to be relatively immune from the vagaries of placement. They seemed to require rear-boundary reinforcement more than most free-standing monitorsI ended up with the most rearward portion of the speaker within 8" of my record cabinetsbut other than that, they were remarkably consistent in a wide variety of positions. Toe-in did not seem to enhance their performance, so I auditioned them firing directly forward most of the time. Nor are they particularly height-sensitive; mounted at different heights, or whether I was standing up or sitting down, they sounded pretty much the same. Ditto for off-axis listening; very few speakers that I've heard are capable of presenting as much far-speaker information when the listener is well out of the sweet spot. All of these are highly desirable qualities.
However, there's a fly in the ointmentI found the Troubadors to be singularly colored and uninvolving. They have a pervasive sonic signature that stems in part, I assume, from the location of the tweeter within the "horn" of the woofer. The tweeter has a thick rubber ring surrounding itit must protrude 1/8"and it sits 1.5" within the flared cone of the woofer. Loosely cup your hands around your mouth and speak through them: you'll notice a hollowing-out of vowel sounds, and a thickening of textures that obscures detail andultimatelymeaning. I hear much of that character from the Troubadors. This meant that different types of music sounded more alike than different, a quality I find hard to forgive in any component.
This is not the inevitable result of concentric placement, I hasten to add. The Thiel CS7, which employs a similar mounting scheme for its tweeter and midrange driver, does not suffer from this coloration. But Thiel developed a shallow-flare driver for the CS7 in order to reduce its horn effect, then filled the driver with an acoustically inert material to further control colorations.
The Troubador's timbral balance was also problematic. It sounded clear and detailed in its upper octaves, and surprisingly robust in its loweston Charlie Haden's Haunted Heart (Verve 314 513 078-2), I was amazed at the heft and body afforded Haden's bass. However, their midrange suckout was annoyingly pervasive.
Nor did I find the Troubador's drivers particularly coherent. At moderate to loud playing levels I was aware of two discrete sourcesone treble, one bassoperating almost, but not quite, in unison. Of course, this reduced complex material such as Corigliano's Symphony 1 to near-incomprehensibility, but it affected simpler material as well. The Odyssey of Paul Robeson (Omega Classics OCD 3007 CD) is a collection of (mostly) solo vocal pieces, but at times it seemed as if the great bass was singing duets with a less-talented studentone whose sense of time was slightly off.
Both the timbral balance and the lack of coherence between the drivers were improved by turning the volume down. At listening levels approaching 50dB, the Troubador sounded much better. The drivers synced up, and the frequency extremesto which our ears are so much less sensitive at reduced volumerolled-off to levels matching those of the midrange. This seemed an acoustic analog to the Fletcher-Munson curve electronically activated by the Loudness control on receivers.
Much effort has been expended upon the Coincident Technologies Troubador, and it's obvious that Israel Blume has not made any of his design choices lightly. However, after much listening, I can't consider this to be a fully realized product. The quality of construction is impressive, and some of the speaker's qualitiessuch as its ease of placementare highly desirable in a loudspeaker at any price-point. But the acid test that JA insists his reviewers apply to any product is: Would you spend your own money on it?
Here the answer must be no. Not mine. And I suggest not yours either.