Coincident Speaker Technology Troubador loudspeaker

Coincident Speaker Technology was known until recently as Concentric Speaker Technology. Under that name they marketed a line of cylindrical speakers covered in leather. All of their previous offerings have been discontinued along with their former name; the Troubador ($1495/pair), a handsome two-way housed in an asymmetrical cabinet, is the first of their new line of speakers. A bass module/speaker support à la the Wilson Puppy is also offered. Coincident's speakers are designed by Israel Blume and are direct-marketed in the US. There's a 30-day money-back guarantee and a five-year warranty on parts and labor.

The Troubador's enclosure is striking. It's nicely finished—my samples had the optional rosewood veneer—and 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 wall—complex 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 frequency—where it's less sonically damaging—is 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 woofer—where 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 driver—and 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 monitors—I ended up with the most rearward portion of the speaker within 8" of my record cabinets—but 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 ointment—I 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 it—it 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 and—ultimately—meaning. 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 lowest—on 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 sources—one treble, one bass—operating 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 student—one 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 extremes—to which our ears are so much less sensitive at reduced volume—rolled-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.

Summming up
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 qualities—such as its ease of placement—are 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.

eugovector's picture

What's going on here?

mrplankton2u's picture

It's the token bad review that Stereophile feels it has to throw out to remind readers that on exceedingly rare occasions, it actually does take a break from the non stop advertising/promotional campaigns which help keep the lights on and pay for airfares for "journalists" to travel from show to show in which they endlessly kibitz with other "industry" figures in dining rooms and bars across the United!

[Possibly actionable defamation deleted by JA]

Now if only we could get these "journalists" to stop giving "very highly recommended" review summaries for products like a $6000 tube amp whose volume control gets too hot to touch... (eyeroll)

[More defamatory content deleted. If you continue to post defamatory and personal comments, we will have no option but to ban you from this site, mrplankton2u.-JA]

mrplankton2u's picture

I don't think you have a clue what the term "defamatory" actually means so I've cited a definition below:


"Defamation—also called calumnyvilificationtraducementslander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state. In Common Law it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (theclaimant).[1]"


Note, Mr. Atkinson, that under "common law", the requirement for defamation is that published claims are false. [Edited by John Atkinson]

GeorgeHolland's picture

It is pretty obvious that Mr Blume is clueless when it comes to speaker design. Even the "novices" on real audio forums know about the importance of acoustic phase.

junker's picture

Thanks for the honest review.

JohnnyR's picture

Well maybe more of a "Don't tell us the truth or you will be banned"attitude. When logic fails, just delete posts and call it "defaming". Lame.

tmsorosk's picture

You mean the truth as you see it JohnnyR ?

After reading many of your posts I would say there anything but true.

I'm usually agaist banning anyone, but I'll make an exception in your case. You contribute nothing to this great site and depict yourself as an unhappy and uneducated troll.   BEAT  IT.

JohnnyR's picture

......that MrPlankton2U spelled out what was going on and JA deleted it because? I'm glad you have no say so as to who should be banned. By the way it's "they're" NOT "there". Please be more civil in the future and perhaps you won't be making errors.

 Mr Blume obviously didn't bother to measure his finished speaker. I'm betting he used his "golden ears" to judge them. Ahhhhh the folly of relying upon "what he heard".