GoldenEar Triton Five loudspeaker Page 2

With the Vinnie Rossi LIO: Vinnie Rossi's 25Wpc LIO integrated ($7750 as reviewed in Stereophile's September, 2015 issue) is one of the most grainless, pure-sounding amplifiers I have heard. Driving the GoldenEar Triton Fives, it created a modestly priced system capable of elite audiophile sound. Crystalline images sat in real acoustic spaces. Vocal and instrumental timbres were exact and attention grabbing. I got lost in Yehudi Menuhin's recording, as violin soloist and conductor of the Robert Masters Chamber Orchestra, of J.S. Bach's Violin Concertos 1 and 2 and the Double Concerto (with Christian Ferras) (LP, Seraphim S-60258). This recording sounded so natural and beautiful it drew me in uncontrollably, like a riptide of Protestant ethos. A very recommendable combination.

With the Parasound Halo Integrated: Easygoing low distortion meets easygoing low distortion. Strangely, with the Parasound Halo Integrated (160Wpc into 8 ohms, reviewed in November), the GoldenEar Triton Fives went all shy and soft and excessively mannered. I like more kicking, biting, and dish-throwing in my music, but this combo's personality was more "Yes, dear; whatever you say, dear . . ."

This same Halo Integrated had driven the Magnepan .7 speakers with more swing and sway than any amp I could find other than the Pass Labs XA100.5s; in contrast, with the Triton Fives, the Halo Integrated played competently and enjoyably, but didn't open my chest or stimulate my heart, as had the Line Magnetic or Vinnie Rossi amps.

"Sweet kisses I missed"
If I told you that the GoldenEar Triton Fives sounded so balanced and natural that they effectively reproduced existential rock ennui, would you think I was spouting crazy talk or would you give me a chance to explain? Well then, let me plead the case for you to find and listen to Buddy Holly's noirish cover of Bo Diddley's "Love Is Strange" (7" 45rpm, Coral 62558).

With the Triton Fives powered by Simaudio's Moon Neo 340i integrated ($5400; review still in process), this iconic song escaped its 1950s suburban normality and slipped into a surprisingly 21st-century poetic netherworld. The Simaudio added at least 30% to the size of the soundstage, solidified image boundaries, and added presence and mature authority to the teen idol and his band. The Triton Fives plus Neo 340i turned sock-hop Holly into Lou Reed. I had never before experienced a 7" 45rpm single produce so much transparent air and space. The Triton Five–Neo 340i pairing burned the melody and bleak mood of "Love Is Strange" into my head. More than any of the other combinations, this one reproduced musical instruments and voices at their own natural sizes.

The Triton Fives seemed to like the Neo's 125W, so I played the lyrical, bass-driven Cou$ins Presents . . . A Tribute 2 Studio One & Treasure Isle Records (LP, Cou$ins COUDLP037). What ensued was pure, ganja-fueled early Rastafarianism. The bass bounced and flowed as it framed these rocksteady ballads in a just-right manner. I have always argued that listening to music in the home should make me dance and transport me to faraway places—and that is what the Triton Fives did. Their pacing and forward momentum made my hips sway. I dreamed of giant spliffs, overproof rum, grinding voodoo sorceresses. The Moon Neo 340i produced from the Triton Fives more physical presence and fleshy rhythm than any of the other amps, and pushed more microdetail out of those HVFR tweeters—which, I suspect, is what made the bass attacks, tone decays, and sweaty midrange textures more pronounced.

This combination parlayed a very clean, hyperdetailed, audiophile sound into a surprisingly satisfying tropical-night experience. My only criticism of the sound of the GoldenEar Triton Fives as handled by the Moon Neo 340i was that it was maybe a little bit too refined for these slinky Studio One dancehall melodies.

In comparison to . . .
When I review audio gear, I've found that it's always wise to finish by returning to where I started.

I put the GoldenEars and Simaudio aside, and returned to my reference Line Magnetic LM-518IA and trusty DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93s ($8400/pair, reviewed by Sam Tellig in March 2013). Playing the Cou$ins Records compilation, I felt I was listening via Studio One's paper-coned monitor speakers. I was immediately struck by how much raw Jamaicanness appeared in my room. Wooden drumsticks slapping snare rims sounded distinctly more real and tangible. Electric-bass harmonics were more fully developed and corporeal. Offbeat rhythms and staccato chords volleyed for my attention. Percussion harmonics became suddenly visible.

That switch to the four-times-as-expensive DeVores put the Triton Fives in broader perspective. The Orangutan O/93s delivered a martial prowess and an extra-drunk dancing quality that the GoldenEars didn't. With the DeVores, there was more flesh and blood. I played King Arthur, by Henry Purcell, that prodigy of London's Old Pye Street and Devil's Acre, as recorded in 1979 by Alfred Deller and the Deller Consort (LP Harmonia Mundi HMC E200). This work, based on the poem by John Dryden, is neither opera nor play but one of those charming hybrids (semi-operas?) that Purcell and Deller seemed to specialize in, and features kicking horses and ritual sacrifices by the Saxon army. The Purcell was 100% enjoyable via both pairs of speakers, but the DeVores brought something extra—something more corporeal—to the presentation. The GoldenEars generated a big, open, fully constituted London-theatre space, filled with nicely articulated musicians and singers. But compared to the DeVores, the Triton Fives made Deller and his performers seem ghostly, and (strangely) more generalized.

Unless there's a dip at 1–2kHz in the Triton Five's frequency response, what I was hearing was probably not something John Atkinson can measure. The Triton Five's tonal character was conspicuously well balanced and authentic, entirely smooth and easy flowing, and the bass was admirably detailed and extended. Inarguably, the GoldenEar Triton Fives imaged better than the DeVore Orangutans, but they lacked a measure of the O/93s' punch, texture, and raw drive. Compared to the DeVores, the Tritons sounded a bit dark. The GoldenEars did audiophile-checklist stuff with unquestionable aplomb; the DeVores did dirt, dreads, colored lights on wires, and Red Stripe Jamaican Lager with greater realism. But again, the DeVores cost more than four times as much as the GoldenEars.

Have I elucidated the sound quality of GoldenEar Technology's Triton Five? Not really? Well . . . for those of you who didn't read between the lines, let me make one point above all others: No amplifier or loudspeaker makes music all by itself. There's no such thing as a universally good-sounding amp or speaker. There are only marriages of amps and speakers of widely varying compatibilities. The GoldenEar Triton Fives played enjoyably but very differently with every amp I tried, and that is good. At their best, they were musically transcendent—they loved Bach, Bruckner, Thelonious Monk, and Moondog. At their worst, they sounded beautiful but kind of soft and accommodating. When someone says such-and-such speaker sounded too dull or too bright or too analytical, ask: "What amp was driving them?" If the speaker was well engineered, as the Triton Five appears to be, it was probably the combination of amp and speaker they were describing. But sometimes, the cause is simply the tweeter.

Ever since 1982, when Celestion introduced the SL-6 loudspeaker with its copper-dome tweeter, metal-dome tweeters have dazzled audiophiles with their faux clarity and high-definition effects. But when (ca 2005?) the patents ran out on Dr. Heil's Air Motion Transformer, a whole slew of inspired speaker-makers were quickly up and running with their own variations, more than happy to adopt the AMT's smoother, more softly detailed elegance. Sandy Gross has made the AMT technology the axis mundi of his GoldenEar line. In fact, GoldenEar's HVFR tweeter may be the most important ingredient in the Triton Five's overall sound character. It may be what makes the Five sound so velvety and delectable—and it's surely what makes the Five throw such enormous soundstages. I feel the GoldenEar's HVFR is everything feminine and sexy that, say, some beryllium tweeters are not.

And I suspect that the HVFR's precisely dimensioned shape and wide dispersion in the horizontal axis is part of the reason the Triton Five's D'Appolito driver array works so well. I'm 90% certain that the "GoldenEar Triton sound" I mentioned at the beginning is a result of the skillful implementation of the AMT technology by GoldenEar's chief engineer, Bob Johnston. But likewise, the most consistent sound character I heard from the Triton Five was a modicum of contrast reduction and a slight lack of punch and sparkle, which could also be tweeter related.

In the end, I believe the biggest differences among combinations of amps and speakers always come down to which pairings drag the most feeling, beauty, and artistry from a recording. Some pairings sound really good but play music indifferently—while other amp-speaker combos will tear your heart out, make you cry, and give you goose bumps. The GoldenEar Technology Triton Five is a modestly priced audiophile speaker that can either be extremely compelling or slightly ineffectual, depending on the choice of amplifier or music. Most important, at $1998.98, a pair of Triton Fives could be worth several times that price—especially if you take care to audition them with a range of amplifiers. Recommended, particularly for lovers of jazz, classical, and avant-garde music.

GoldenEar Technology
PO Box 141
Stevenson, MD 21153
(410) 998-9134

eriks's picture

From my own auditions of Golden Ear Tritons, and what I read on the web here and elsewhere, I wonder if these speakers are actually pretty finnicky for placing or amplifiers? For instance, the big rise in the tweeter indicates a speaker that should be listened to off-axis. I wonder how many know this? Often these little details of speaker alignment don't make it to dealers or listeners. Focal is another line that can be like this.

otaku's picture

I have a question about that 'sock". I own a pair of Infinity Primus 360 speakers, which JA found to have a very lively cabinet. Would their sound be improved by such a sock, or did Infinity take those resonances into account when tuning the speaker? Ignore the aesthetic issues, since the speakers are in my listening room.

John Atkinson's picture
otaku wrote:
I own a pair of Infinity Primus 360 speakers, which JA found to have a very lively cabinet. Would their sound be improved by such a sock, or did Infinity take those resonances into account when tuning the speaker?

Try it. But is there something about the sound of the Primus 360s that is bothering you?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

otaku's picture

I gave it a try. My son (who has very good ears) agrees with me that it is better without the cover. In general I like the sound of the 360's very much. Voices are a little congested at high volumes, but that might be my room. I am always trying to improve the sound of my system, but I usually rely on your reviews (the Jitterbug, the polarity of the Bel Canto C7r)

TheAnalogkid's picture

I have the Triton Ones as mains and am getting the 5's for side and rears (I've listened to them a LOT). The Triton Ones are very sensitive to amps in the aspect that you can hear the differences of each amp and/or preamp. I have a lot more amp than really necessary for the Ones but it sounds amazing (an old Cinepro 1k2SE, 375wpc). I tried my McIntosh 75w and a Bryston 150w and the Cinepro sounded the most dynamic and musical. The 5's are sensitive to amps as well to a lesser degree (based on my listening). I thought it would be the opposite! As sides/rears the 5's will be getting my Cinepro 3k6SE (so sad that Eric Abraham died so many years ago and Cinepro kind of withered away). I'll use some GE Aeons for the Auro heights and GE's in ceiling for Voice of God above. I will need to get an amp for them; I'm not sure yet how much amp they'll need or how they are affected by different amps. But hey, it will be the last system I build for many, many years (processor/4k disc will change, of course).

bdaddy60's picture

HR is becoming a favourite with his writing style....I'm impressed that HR refused to blab on and on with superlatives and boring information about Sandy Gross...frankly I'm a bit weary of reading about this guy in every review of GE products in particular the Triton series. I own a pair of Triton 7's and appreciate Herb's hint that the Triton's can punch above their price level (last comments)but most importantly, the use of a synergistic amp...and most likely an amp that costs more than the Triton's do. I really don't think Sandy Gross was being forthright when he suggested on youtube that these speakers can be used with inexpensive receiver's and perform up to their potential...if there ever were speakers that benefit from top flight amplification these are them...........

rmeyer52's picture

I auditioned these speakers at my local audio store and was not impressed at all. I was expecting them to knock me off my chair given the review here but I found the sound to be lacking depth. Frankly it all depends on the listener, the room and the music