GoldenEar Technology Triton One loudspeaker

I reviewed GoldenEar Technology's first speaker, the Triton Two ($2999.98; all prices per pair), in February 2012. It was and is an outstandingly good speaker, but I thought then that if GoldenEar would apply the same expertise to the design of a speaker with fewer cost constraints, the results could be better still. Sandy Gross, president and CEO of GoldenEar, must have been thinking along similar lines when he named the speaker Triton Two, leaving One for a more ambitious future product.

But the Triton One was slow in coming. Meanwhile, in the three years following my review, the Triton Two remained the top GoldenEar model as it was joined by: two lower-priced floorstanders, the Triton Three ($1999.98) and Triton Seven ($1399.98); two bookshelf models, the Aon 2 ($799.98) and Aon 3 ($999.98); and some home-theater speakers and subwoofers.

I can understand why GoldenEar took their time in coming up with the Triton One. When you have a speaker as successful as the Triton Two, the expectations for any model above it will be correspondingly greater.

Well, the Triton One is here at last—and I was eager to hear if it would prove worth the wait.

Description and Design
If you've seen the Triton Two, imagine a speaker that's the same general shape but a little taller, a little wider, and a little deeper—that's the Triton One, at 54" high by 8" wide by 165/8" deep, 80 lbs, and $4999.98/pair. I find it sleek, and like the fact that its looks don't draw too much attention to the speaker, but I know that some consider the Triton series too plain looking. The cloth-covered look has worked well for some highly successful speakers, such as the Vandersteen 2 and the Quad ESL-63. However, if you want your speakers to look like fine furniture, the Triton One may not be to your taste.

The Triton One's cloth wrap hides an impressive array of technology. Like the Two, it's a three-way design with a powered, passive-radiator-loaded subwoofer section, and features GoldenEar's version of the famed Heil Air-Motion Transformer, called a High-Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter. However, the Triton One is not just an inflated Two. The engineering team—headed by Bob Johnston, under the direction of Sandy Gross and with input from Gross's business partner, Don Givogue—examined every part of the Two's design, and considered how improvements could be made. According to Gross, "the basic plan was to make the One more dynamic, with even better bass and more refined at the same time."

A list of the differences between the Triton One and Two:

• The One's upper-bass/midrange drivers are 5.25" vs the Two's 4.5", which allows the crossover frequency to be lowered from 160 to 100Hz. These drivers have correspondingly larger internal chambers than in the Two.

• The One's cabinet is larger, with thicker walls; it's better damped and better braced.

• The One's passive cones and baskets are stiffer than the Two's.

• The One has three 5" by 9" long-throw bass drivers, vs two in the Two.

• The One has four 7" by 10" passive radiators, vs two in the Two.

• The One's crossover is a balanced design, which, among other things, is claimed to reduce the stray capacitance in the magnetic gap.

• Considerable development of the DSP circuitry that's part of the hybrid passive/active crossover between the One's woofers and upper-bass/midrange drivers has allowed the crossover to now be phase perfect, says GoldenEar.

• The One's DSP uses 56- rather than 48-bit processing, and the sample rate has been raised from 96 to 192kHz, both for measurably lower noise and distortion.

• The Triton One's subwoofer amplifier has an output of 1600W vs the Two's 1200W, and its damping factor is significantly improved. Instead of using a single large power supply, the One's sub amp uses a separate, small supply for each circuit section, which is said to prevent signal coupling between sections.

The Triton Ones were set up in my listening room in about the same positions other speakers have occupied (footnote 1). Sandy Gross came by to help set them up, tweaking the speakers' distances from the front and side walls and their angles of toe-in.

The Triton One is provided with spikes, though I didn't install these until the speakers' positions were finalized. But when all spikes were fully screwed into the speakers' bottom plates, Gross felt the angle was not optimal—when I sat down to listen, the tweeter axes fired somewhat over my head. The solution was to lean the Ones a bit forward, which he achieved by leaving their spikes installed at the back of each speaker, but using only the smaller rubber feet at the front.

The Triton One has only one control: for subwoofer level. Setting this is mostly a matter of personal preference. I kept tweaking it, and eventually settled on a setting in the middle of the range.

I drove the Triton Ones with a McIntosh Labs MC275LE, a tubed power amplifier that has the easy-on-the-ears smoothness that is the hallmark of the best tube electronics, but without any of the rolling off of tonality at the top and bottom of the audioband that impairs resolution—descriptors that also apply to my preamplifier, a Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Renaissance. Rated at 70Wpc but generally known to produce about 90W, the MC275LE had more than enough power to drive these speakers to levels that were about as high as I could tolerate.

Once I begin a review, I try to keep as a constant every potentially confounding variable that could influence my evaluation of the product. I don't change components in the system during a review—but this time I had to make an exception.

The problem was with my digital source: an Ayre Acoustics CX-7eMP CD player. I was in the initial phase of break-in and casual listening when the Ayre began to make a purring sound when playing a disc. This would continue until I stopped the player. Sometimes the purring would go away for a while—and then come back again. There was no obvious effect on the sound, but I couldn't be sure that it wasn't having some subtle effect, and it wouldn't be fair to the Triton One to review it with a source component that may not have been working properly. I ended up replacing the Ayre CX-7eMP with PS Audio's DirectStream DAC (DS) and its companion PerfectWave Memory Player CD/DVD transport (PW); the full story of my experience with the DS and the PW can be found in my Follow-Up review of the DirectStream, elsewhere in this issue.

As I was simultaneously reviewing the Triton One and the PS Audio combo. I had to periodically switch my focus from the speakers to the CD player, noting any changes in sound as I explored the performance of the PS Audio components, and considering what those changes told me about the sound of the speaker.

Footnote 1: For a picture of my room, see the sidebar to my review of the Focal Aria 936, in November 2014, .
GoldenEar Technology
PO Box 141
Stevenson, MD 21153
(410) 998-9134

goodfellas27's picture

I have read a number of comments from listeners/reviewers who found the dispersion of the High-Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter (HVFR) to be quite limited. CNET observed " I did note some treble softening when I stood up; so it appears that the tweeter's vertical dispersion is limited."

You have the same problem "the tweeter axes fired somewhat over my head."

I am surprise that a 5K speaker have such limitation; a poorly design choice.

John Atkinson's picture
goodfellas27 wrote:
CNET observed " I did note some treble softening when I stood up; so it appears that the tweeter's vertical dispersion is limited."

You have the same problem "the tweeter axes fired somewhat over my head."

Look at the measurements. Yes, the tweeter's output falls more than 5 degrees above axis but as the tweeter is already 40" from the floor, this is not an issue. As Bob Deutsch said, the back of the speaker can easily be raised slightly for those whose ears are lower than 40".

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

goodfellas27's picture

How about home theater room with stadium seating? If the speakers are pointing to the first row, the second row in a stadium seating style setup wouldn't have the best possible sound coming from tweeter because of this limitation. In my view, this is an issue and should be addressed. For $5,000, it should not have these types of limitations.

John Atkinson's picture
goodfellas27 wrote:
How about home theater room with stadium seating? If the speakers are pointing to the first row, the second row in a stadium seating style setup wouldn't have the best possible sound coming from tweeter because of this limitation.

Again refer to the measurements. As the balance is optimized on or below the tweeter axis, to solve this problem all you need do is tilt the speakers back slightly. But to be fair, as Stereophile is concerned exclusively with music playback, we don't consider potential issues with use in home theater systems.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

winefix's picture

I have has these for over 4 months now in a dedicated room with stadium seating (2 rows)
Trust me, for 5k they are the biggest bargain in the history of speakers. They smoke my previous speakers (Gallo, Magnepan,) The only speakers I have heard at CES that sound better are 3-4x the price. (Magico, Wilson, ML) Even then there were not that much better.
I would not worry about nit picking about the tweeter dispersion, unless you have unlimited funds, in which case money will buy you 5% better tweeter dispersion. The Triton ones are the real deal and will get you 95% of the way there (for 2 channel and HT)

w1000i's picture

I believe for 5000$ you may have better option with Monitor Audio Gold gx300.

corrective_unconscious's picture

I agree they have fairly limited horizontal dispersion starting at a fairly low frequency, but so do other speakers.

They definitely have limited vertical dispersion, but some people think that's a design goal (as in MTM arrays.)

We have a troll.

goodfellas27's picture

Corrective_Unco, the problem with these is the vertical dispersion; hence, Sandy had to adjust the base of the speakers to move it alone the 'Y' axis (Vertical) Not many speakers have this limitation, from my understanding --specially the ones with dome tweeters. I am not saying they sound bad, but they should work on this for their next speakers.

corrective_unconscious's picture

As I explained, going by the data, the horizontal dispersion is somewhat limited with these Heil drivers starting at pretty low frequencies.

If that fact doesn't affect you in any sense then that's fine.

Again, as a matter of fact, many speakers are actually designed to have limited vertical dispersion. If you don't like those speakers then avoid them.

jmsent's picture

Compared to what? The vertical dispersion is limited by the fact that the tweeter is longer than it is wide, and the fact that the system uses an MTM configuration which by nature tightens the vertical pattern around the crossover point. From the graphs the horizontal dispersion looks very good, even out to 60 degrees off axis. What forward firing box speaker does better?

corrective_unconscious's picture

You are agreeing with me that the vertical dispersion is restricted. I said that is the case for many speakers, starting with the many which are designed, on purpose, to have a limited vertical dispersion through the use of MTM arrays and other means.

Some people consider limited vertical dispersion a benefit.

So there should be no excuse for your not understanding that much regarding my posts - the restricted vertical dispersion here is not surprising in the least. It is not necessarily something requiring a remedy, as the previous, uninformed post suggested. It depends what a buyer wants or expects or believes about vertical dispersion.

What I posted is that it is the horizontal dispersion which is surprising. (Again, the vertical dispersion is not a surprise, as we know from how the tweeter is deployed.)

Since you require assistance, even the conventional, two way, Pulsar has a similar horizontal dispersion drop off, if starting a little bit lower. But this is compared to the multi way Golden Ear...which given this factor and my expectations is, therefore, surprisingly limited in its _horizontal_ dispersion.

If you cannot think of any speakers which have wide horizontal dispersion then I suggest you ask around, maybe ring up Harman or KEF or Gallo.

Hope that helps you with whatever grievance you were voicing.

goodfellas27's picture

You have any articles supporting you claim? Most dispersion problems are vertical with this tweeter. The link I pasted before support this, alone with this review and the one from CNET. It's my opinion, but still base on fact.

From the link:

"A ribbon tweeter uses a very thin diaphragm (often of aluminum, or perhaps metalized plastic film) that supports a planar coil frequently made by deposition of aluminium vapor, suspended in a powerful magnetic field (typically provided by neodymium magnets) to reproduce high frequencies. The development of ribbon tweeters has more or less followed the development of ribbon microphones. The ribbon is of very lightweight material and so capable of very high acceleration and extended high frequency response. Ribbons have traditionally been incapable of high output (large magnet gaps leading to poor magnetic coupling is the main reason). But higher power versions of ribbon tweeters are becoming common in large-scale sound reinforcement line array systems, which can serve audiences of thousands. They are attractive in these applications since nearly all ribbon tweeters inherently exhibit useful directional properties, with very wide horizontal dispersion (coverage) and very tight vertical dispersion. These drivers can easily be stacked vertically, building a high frequency line array that produces high sound pressure levels much farther away from the speaker locations than do conventional tweeters."

corrective_unconscious's picture

Although it's nice to know that CNET is your source for high end audio information.

Now, many buyers and the designer might consider the horizontal dispersion of this Golden Ear model appropriate. That is different. I was surprised to see how limited _that_ attribute of the speaker is...given how wide the horizontal dispersion "should be" according to you august source that you quoted, needlessly.

Guiltyrocker's picture

Since this speaker is at the same price range than the Def Tech Mythos STLs, it begs the question. Which is the better speaker for the money? Several people have stated that the vertical dispersion of the High Velocity Folder Tweeter is an issue, maybe the STL is the answer here? I would love to see which of these speakers sounds better, for the same price Def Tech offers a remote (which controls the bass of both speakers at the same time), a sexier-looking speaker, removable covers (not cloth), aluminum aircraft-grade enclosure, and the list goes on. It also has an amazing magnesium-aluminum tweeter with no vertical dispersion issues. I can tell you that I am not a fan-boy of def tech, however, having heard the STL at a local best buy, I was extremely impressed with the speaker. For a speaker at this price, I certainly was expecting more from Golden Ear, having seen the STLs this speaker does seem like a good deal to me. I will go to a store tomorrow to hear this speaker and see what the deal is, I can tell you that it has a really high bar to reach having experienced the STLs. We'll see.

Doctacosmos's picture

I recently heard these monsters and thought they were very good. Surely not lacking in detail and like the review stated, no smearing of transient response. I would actually consider them too good for music if that's a thing. The most minute of details have generous amounts of body and are gratuitously layered from one another. During movie playback this ability proves to construct blueprints rather than paint an abstract leading to exact representation of what the producers intended. This combined with sight and imagination creates an otherworldly enigma that undoubtedly would be hard to sustain with many other speakers. However, the layers of details I spoke of and monstrous dynamics makes it a little hard to for your ears to cope with it as a musical presentation for some genres due to the fleshing out of undertones rather than them melting away.

Doctacosmos's picture

The engineering mindset of this speaker was to sound good. I would never listen to this speaker and say to myself" they should have went dome." that would win most ignorantthing to say title of the year

Sup's picture

I demoed these next to some B&W 802Ds. I absolutely thought the Tritons sounded better. So I bought em. Slam, impactful, fast, dynamic as hell and refined at the same time. They just never sound like they are even trying. They really do not give a damn what genre of music you play on them. If you demo them make sure they are broken in and that the subs are dialed in correctly. Lots of speakers are good at some things and I notice most audiophile speakers are voiced to bring the vocals front and center. I believe this is why most only sound good on certain types of music and I believe this robs them of impactful dynamic swings.

ednazarko's picture

I laughed out loud at the "no dispersion" trolling. I've had Triton 2 speakers in our stupidly designed family room (ceiling way too high, open space design lengthwise way far back beyond where seating would go at its limit, continuing the high ceiling all the way; opens up on one side halfway back; in other words, one of those contemporary houses designed without audiophiles in mind). I brought them home on a trial from the dealer, having read all the tut-tutting about Heil drivers. The speakers filled the space. Didn't matter if you were sitting, standing, or flopped out on the floor, there was very little difference in sound. In fact, one of the things that impressed me the most was how much of the good sound was there in the kitchen area off the family room, and in the living room. Good enough that guests sometimes get up in the middle of a dinner and wander trancelike into the family room to listen to something that they'd never heard sound like THAT before.

I just heard the Triton 1 speakers yesterday at an event organized by an electronics store, with Sandy in attendance. Of course there was a chair of exactly the right height in the sweet spot. I spent maybe two minutes there. One side of the setup the wall was near the speaker, the other wall was a good 10 feet or more away. Very high ceiling, very long room. The sound did vary, minutely, if I went all the way over to the wall far from the system, but even less than I expected. Sitting, standing, even flopped on the floor (yes I did... it was clean, so why not) the sound was very consistent. Sandy's demo disk has a lot of acoustic music, no surprise. Finger snapping on one song was freakishly real in space, no matter where your head was (other than looking away...). Most striking was the bass - on the Triton speakers the bass has always been three dimensional, and when Sandy talked about how much of the bass energy comes from the side radiators versus the front facing woofers, it suddenly made sense.

I also heard the new 2+, and there is a noticeable (although not huge) improvement over the 2. More dimensionality, more air.

And now I'm reading reviews trying really hard, REALLY HARD, to convince myself I don't need the Triton 1, and should just upgrade my Triton 2 setup to 2+. Cost IS an object. But I can't get the sound of the Triton 1 out of my head. The bass was 3 dimensional in a way that was spooky. I know that people say bass isn't directional, but if you've been IN a band or orchestra (union musician for 10 years, rock to orchestras and everything in between) it absolutely is directional, and I could tell you exactly where the bass was on stage from almost any position in the room when listening to the Triton 1. That's why I fear I'll be forking over for the new Triton 1 speakers. The dimensionality was just so striking.

Seriously, if you're reading the review thinking about them, go listen, stop reading theoretical criticisms. I saw a lot of speaker orders being written up yesterday afternoon and watched the only in-stock Triton 1 and 2 sets being hauled out to peoples' cars.

WLV's picture

I remember the B&W DM1 loudspeaker. It has a huge 31 inches woofer and a curved electrostatic radiator for mids and highs. To have good, real bass, you need a huge driver. All modern loudspeaker fail since they use small diameters drivers for reproducing the bass. As for mid and high, no driver beats the electrostatics. And it is Quad.