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GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference loudspeaker

Back in January 2010, in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, I was prowling the corridors of the Venetian Hotel when I bumped into loudspeaker auteur Sandy Gross, cofounder first of Polk Audio and then of Definitive Technology. Knowing that Gross was no longer associated with Definitive, I asked him what he was getting up to in his retirement.

Retirement? He showed me a photo of a plain, cloth-covered, black tower speaker and promised to keep in touch. When next I heard from him, it was to announce that, along with his wife, Anne Conaway, and his former partner at DefTech, Don Givogue, he had started a new loudspeaker company, GoldenEar Technology, Inc., and that the plain black loudspeaker was the first in a line of models to be named Triton.

Our first review of a Triton was of the Two, in February 2012. In February 2015, Robert Deutsch reviewed what was then the top of the Triton line, the One, priced at a very affordable $4999.98/pair. But when I bumped into Gross at the 2017 CES, he walked me to the GoldenEar room at the Venetian to listen to his ultimate Triton, the Reference, which would cost $8498/pair. "Sandy Gross has done it again!" enthused Robert Deutsch in his show report. I was sufficiently impressed by the sound the Triton References were making that I asked for a pair to review once the speaker was in production.

Design
The Triton Reference is larger than the Triton One, and while a cloth "sock" covered all of the lesser Tritons, the Reference's enclosure is finished in high-gloss black, and there is a deep-curved grille in the shape of a vertical half-column. As in all the Tritons, the Reference's tweeter is GoldenEar's version of the Heil Air-Motion Transformer, from the 1970s. When Gross visited to set up the Triton References in my room—a courtesy we extend to speaker manufacturers so that they can be sure that their products are working correctly and that there's no problem with their interaction with the room—I asked him about the advantages of this kind of driver.

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"When we started the project, we wanted to make something that was better than whatever we'd made before," he explained. "It is an evolution of the tweeter Dr. Heil designed back in the '70s. I felt very strongly that it had performance advantages—it's very fast. The biggest thing is that it doesn't have a breakup in the very high frequencies. Domes all have a breakup; it's a distortion that you not only can hear, but you can clearly measure—that 'sparkle' that stands out, but gets fatiguing after a while. . . . They promoted the Heil originally [by showing] that squeezing the air works a lot better than pushing and pulling it, but there's no question that the mass that's moving is the mass of each fold. So it's very, very quick. The High-Velocity Folded Ribbon that we use in the Triton Reference is not the same as we use in the other speakers—they've all got the same diaphragm, but it has 50% more magnet material, more neodymium, which gives it a lot more control, makes it faster but better controlled, [gives it] higher sensitivity."

The speaker's specified sensitivity is indeed very high, at 93.25dB/2.83V/m. Above and below the ribbon tweeter are twin 6" upper-bass/midrange drivers, these having a cast basket, a low-mass voice-coil, a newly developed polypropylene cone, and what GoldenEar calls a Focused Field magnet structure, designed to better direct the magnetic flux into the voice-coil gap. Instead of a dustcap, these drive-units feature a ribbed extension of the magnet pole-piece.

Both the One and Reference have powered subwoofer sections, but the three 10" by 6" "racetrack" low-frequency drivers have 40% more surface area than those in the Triton One, along with larger-diameter voice-coils and more massive Focused Field magnets. These drivers are reflex-loaded with four 10.5" by 9.5" passive planar radiators, two on each side of the Reference's cabinet. These are said to be similar to those used in GoldenEar's SuperSub X, but capable of greater excursion. The subwoofer drivers are driven by an 1800W class-D amplifier, and the crossover from the upper-frequency drivers is implemented in DSP with 56-bit precision. As well as a single pair of binding posts on the Reference's rear, the subwoofers can be driven from an RCA jack; their level can be adjusted with a knob.

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Why powered subwoofers? "We have been building speakers with built-in powered subwoofers since 1995," Gross told me. "The reason we did it, even though initially people thought it was to get the subwoofer box out of the room, was to get much better blending with the rest of the speaker."

Some North American speaker manufacturers, Paradigm for example, have told me they are repatriating production of their more expensive models, but GoldenEar's loudspeakers are created in the US, engineered in Canada, and made in China.

"The speakers are manufactured overseas because we find we can get extremely high quality, just like Apple manufactures their goods in China," explained Gross. "You can get any level of quality, but we work with suppliers who are very, very good, who can supply us with the quality level that we want. We design every component from the ground up, so we're not working with any parts off the shelf, but designing, for instance, our bass-midrange drivers from the ground up. We choose the cone—we actually design the curve of the cone, we tool the surround, everything—we can get a very high-quality bass-midrange driver that's comparable with some of the European drivers that some of the manufacturers are paying maybe ten times as much for, but that's part of the way we can produce a speaker which is so good and so affordable.

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"We sweat over all the little details. On this particular product the glue bond between the surround and the [bass-midrange] cone was one of the final things to get done. because we wanted something that was strong but light. We must have gone back and forth a half dozen times on the glue bond, until we got it exactly where we wanted it."

At a hair less than $8500/pair, the Triton Reference is a lot less expensive than other companies' flagship models. I asked Gross what he'd tried to achieve with the Triton Reference that he hadn't with the earlier Tritons. "We are trying to come out with a step up from the Triton One that was better in every respect. Triton One is really terrific, but we felt we could make it even better in terms of the concept, both in terms of the sonics, and in the industrial design and the cosmetic presentation of the product."

Sound Quality
When Sandy Gross visited, he brought with him a CD-R containing several of the tracks he's found most useful in setting up speakers—not only recordings with a wealth of soundstage information, but also vocal recordings from Dean Martin and Brazilian singer Ana Caram. (Sandy is an aficionado of the human voice.) We began by placing the Triton References where the KEF Reference 5s had worked best, but ended up with the speakers quite far away from the wall behind them (91"), closer to the listening chair (113" compared with the KEFs' 123"), and farther away from the sidewalls. My room is somewhat asymmetrical, so the woofers of the left-hand speaker were 51" from the nearest sidewall, those of the right-hand speaker 60". Sandy began with the speakers firing straight ahead, but once he was satisfied with their positions, he toed them in slightly so that their inner sidewalls were just visible from the listening position.

Listening to the dual-mono pink-noise track on my Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), I found I had to sit up straight in my chair, as the balance changed more than I was expecting if I sat below the tweeter axis, which is a higher-than-usual 41" from the floor. As suggested by Gross, I tilted the speakers forward a little by placing two Mod Squad TipToes under the rear of each Triton Reference's base.

COMPANY INFO
GoldenEar Technology
PO Box 141
Stevenson, MD 21153
(410) 998-9134
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Shangri-La's picture

The Triton One was rated Class B borderline Class A. Does the Reference earn a spot in Class A (Restricted Extreme LF)? I'd love to find out now without having to wait until March for the updated recommended components spring 2018. Thank you.

Staxguy's picture

Why Restricted Extreme LF?

The Reference extends to 12 Hz (12Hz – 35kHz), when Class A (Full Range) loudspeakers extend to mostly around 32 or 40. (Though they say, 20 Hz for Class A).

Eg. Revel Studio 2, 32Hz–45kHz, –3dB.

Even a "Full Range" Class A Loudspeaker, which you would expect would show up in the "Restricted Extreme LF" section (Class A), does not.

Eg. KEF Blade 2, 40Hz - 35kHz (±3 dB).

Etc.

At least the Wilson Alexandria XLF ($210K, Extended Low Frequencies) shows up, fitting the category, and bopping under 20.

Eg. Wilson Alexandria XLF, 19.5 Hz - 33 kHz (+/-3 dB).

The limit of our hearing they say, is 20 Hz on the bottom.

Even subwoofers tend to do worse than the Triton Reference, bopping flat at around 16 Hz in my experience, of those of which I've owned.

The B&W DB1 Subwoofer, which is a Stereophile Class A Subwoofer Recommended Component, only gets down to 17 Hz.

Eg. B&W D1B, 17 – 145Hz, ±3dB.

Nothing wrong with the Triton Reference Low Frequncy (12 Hz) Extension.

You'd need the Eminent Technology TRW-17 to really do better, and hit a 1 Hz.

eg. http://www.rotarywoofer.com

That 1 Hz to 30 Hz +/- 4 dB (after all, subwoofers can have worse tolerances, we'd want +/- 1.5 dB for a loudspeaker, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, minimum response, though 100 kHz, today) is actually what we could call a subwoofer!

Ah, humour.

Restricted Extreme LF, my ass.

Shangri-La's picture

Your obsession with the bottom part pun intended is certainly commendable.

Class A (Restricted Extreme LF) has speakers that extend lower than Class A full range, e.g. PSB Image T3 comapred to Revel Studio 2 and KEF Blade 2. So to me restricted LF is more like Class A- (overall performance and price wise) than literal restricted LF.

John Atkinson's picture
Shangri-La wrote:
The Triton One was rated Class B borderline Class A. Does the Reference earn a spot in Class A (Restricted Extreme LF)? I'd love to find out now without having to wait until March...

Apologies but you will have to wait. The ratings are determined after consultation with all of Stereophile's reviewers.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

SNI's picture

Why bother about the low frequency response, when the cumulative decay looks as it does?
This is not only one of the most important measurements in a speaker, it is also by far the most difficult to get right.

tonykaz's picture

It's hard to imagine ( or forgive for that matter ) choosing to Manufacturer in China, especially now that there is an abundance of talent in the East Coast ( as well as Canada ) sitting idle. But then again, Golden Ear might be aiming at selling in Walmart stores.

I just called my local home theater dealer Paulsons and had a nice chat with Peter who tells me that Paulsons sell the hell outa Golden Ear, they put on quite a show with that powered woofer and all. They also carry Revel and B&W stuff ( he says that the lower range of B&W are also Chinese ( more disappointment--What the hell ! )

The good News from Paulsons is that LG & Sony OLED 4k monitors start at $1,500. Middle range $2,500 , 77" OLED is $10,000+ although I don't watch any dam TV but I might like a BIG monitor for my desktop iMac.

Tony in Michigan

Corsentino's picture

Your desktop iMac is also made in China, as are my Mac Pro, iPad, iPhone and Mac Book Pro. Are you disappointed in those products? In a perfect world everything would be manufactured in the USA to high quality standards and be affordable as well. Unfortunately thats just not the case given the realities of manufacturing. What I can tell you is that I own a pair of Goldenear Triton Reference Speakers and I couldn't be happier with them. Their build quality, performance, and value are all exceptional.

mrkaic's picture

These are some good looking speakers.

tonykaz's picture

Yes, of course, you're quite right.

It's silly to think that the guys in the White House can do anything about it.

We're in the 21st Century

Thanks for explaining.

Tony in Michigan

Mills543's picture

I think Corsentino was pointing out the fact that you are bashing products made in China... from a soapbox that was made in China. Apparently that DID need explaining to you. And as he points out, the GE stuff is well made and amazing sounding. I own a pair of the Two+. Couldn't be happier. While it would be GREAT if they were made in the US, I don't see how they could be better for it. That said, I love that my VPI table is all US made.

tonykaz's picture

Yes, you too are quite right.

Unfortunately I have no other supplier of Soapboxes to choose from, do I ? Can I feel disappointed for it ?

I'm not at all bashing anyone's design or products.

I'm distraught from Manufacturers choosing to take their shops to Asia, we at GM almost did the exact same thing. But we didn't, we brought the Asian Shops here. ( it was a tough decision )

I understand owners defending their decision to buy GE.

I do not support deliberate Corporate decisions to off-shore. ( to the lowest wage workers )

And, I'll wager an Acoustic Sounds Vinyl that every one of GE's owners would much rather their loudspeakers were made locally.

Paradigm & Emotive are both bringing their manufacturing back to the States, I'm told.

Tony in Michigan

ps. On the other hand, there are Established Asian Electronics Companies that manufacture and sell to a World Marketplace.

Having said all the above, No one brags about being made in China but they do go out of their way to say they are made in the USA. ( when they can )

David Harper's picture

The new Honda Civics are built in an American plant in Indiana, and a Canadian plant in Ontario. The ones built in Indiana have had quality control issues. The ones built in Canada are excellent. Superior fit and finish compared to the to the American built cars. "Built in America" has nothing to do with quality.

dmineard HT's picture

I have heard a lot of the GE Tech speakers and the Triton 2, 2+ and 1 are outstanding. The Reference speakers are just that...a reference quality speakers. OUTSTANDING.

The C50 and C60 are very good and the XXXL and XXL are so good as center speakers, especially XXXL outstanding center channel speakers.

Quality of construction and reliability are important but the sound is what is number 1 with these speakers. Don't lose sight of the objective friends.

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