Trenner & Friedl Sun loudspeaker Page 2

Bob Clarke had noted that the Suns "start to get fun at about 50Wpc. Beyond that, the more [power] the better, given equal sound quality of the amps." My Shindo Haut-Brion puts out a maximum of 22Wpc. How would the Suns fare with a lower-than-optimal amount of power?

Listening: Kuzma, PS Audio, Shindo
Could these little wonders go deep with few watts to spare? Yes and no. The Trenner & Friedl Suns cleanly produced bass notes of substance when present on the recording, and with apparently fewer watts than Clarke had said they needed. Time after time, playing everything from New Orleans funk to UK electronica to Black Saint jazz, I was surprised. It was back to that transparency thing: For better or worse, the Suns unshuttered a consistently clear window on the source. When I played well-recorded music, they treated me to ample bass reproduction, as well as terrific drive, clarity, refined textures, true tone, and—if not forced to reproduce Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture—dynamics.

For shoots and giggles, I played the 1973 hit "Frankenstein," from the Edgar Winter Group's They Only Come Out at Night (LP, Epic KE 31584). The Suns projected the visceral burn of Winter's spiraling Moog synthesizer with gleeful riotousness. Even more of a Karloff–ian kick in the head was the recording's heavy-duty bottom end: Hammond B3 organ, electric bass, booming bass drum, and boisterous Afro-Cuban percussion, all creating a rich, thick magic carpet of groove goodness via the Suns. The Trenner & Friedls parlayed the top end, particularly the midrange, with silky ease and smoothness, and their fat bottom was exactly that: oily, wide, heavy rolling.

Do I exaggerate? I do not.

Next, I played The Singers Unlimited's Invitation (LP, MPS MC22016), a collection of songs beautifully harmonized for vocal quartet, and accompanied by accordionist Art Van Damme, double bassist Eberhard Weber, and drummer Charly Antolini. The Suns sorted out the music's layered vocal harmonies and jazz accordion with sweet vanilla soul, and rendered Weber's tactile bass notes with coherence and drive, from the uppermost frequency to the lowest whirr. Weber's bass lines were easier to follow through the Suns than through many larger speakers. Via the Suns, I never felt I was missing anything that's on this charming LP.


I got my biggest thrill when I dropped on the Kuzma's platter Eddie Bo's "If It's Good to You (It's Good for You)," from New Orleans Funk—New Orleans: The Original Sound of Funk, Volume 2 (4 LPs, Soul Jazz SJR185). I also got a hint of the Sun's limitations. This righteous, four-LP slab of seminal New Orleans funk was remastered by Soul Jazz Records, a consummate UK label delivering first-rate reissues of soul, jazz, funk, dub, and reggae. "If It's Good to You" is all grind and grimace, delivered primarily by Mr. Bo and the Meters' illustrious drummer, Zigaboo Modeliste. The Suns devoured Bo's New Orleans funk, but when I played it loudly, the speakers' little drivers chuffed and huffed; I could hear them breaking up as I turned the Shindo Allegro's dual volume knobs up to midpoint, a place they'd never been before. Though the Suns mightily rocked and rolled with Mr. Bo, their magic didn't extend beyond the plane described by the speakers' baffles. They imaged beautifully and "disappeared," but the generally flat soundstage, and the anemic, hollow sound, even when plumbing the bass depths, made it clear that with such hardballing material they cried out for more power than the Haut-Brion could deliver.

Listening with the Music Hall and Heed
The combination of Trenner & Friedl Suns with the Heed Elixir integrated amplifier—one of today's most remarkable audio bargains—was a match made in hi-fi heaven. The Heed provided more wallop than my Shindo amp could muster: 50Wpc into 8 ohms, or 65Wpc into the Sun's 4 ohms.

But first, I pulled out John Atkinson's Stereophile Editor's Choice Sampler & Test CD (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Stereophile STPH016-2), specifically track 21, "Bass Decade Warble Tones." Each tone in this series is lower in frequency than the one before: 200, 160, 125, 100, 80, 63, 50, 40, 31.5, 25, and 20Hz. The Suns played the 50Hz tone cleanly and strongly, and valiantly maintained their force at 40Hz. That speaks for itself.

The combo of Music Hall turntable, Heed integrated, and T&F Suns was one of those golden matchups in which everything fell perfectly into place and synergy was achieved. I listened for hours on end, exploring my collection anew. Whether spinning vinyl from French electronic duo Air, 1970s jazz titans Old and New Dreams, Eddie Bo, or even Georg Solti conducting Bart¢k, these products' simpatico strengths were in full effect, record after record.

Air's four-track Casanova 70 (12" EP, Parlophone 0724389365757) was reissued on Record Store Day 2016. A gossamer production, it's an electronic lullaby of cosmopolitan easy listening with a sardonic edge. Harps glide and pulsate, and electric-bass notes cross good vibrations with a Fender Rhodes piano worthy of Barry White and a swooning string synth. This slo-mo groove spree let me marvel at the Sun's consistently rich tonal palette and spot-on rendering of textures. When a shrill Hammond B3 appears midway through the title track, the Suns unleashed all the visceral appeal of the organ's leering tones. Gutsy guitars, practically tumescent electric piano, and coiling electric bass blossomed from a rich, velveteen soundstage. The Suns planted me deep in the sweet spot.

Solti conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Bart¢k's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (LP, London CS 6399) demonstrated the Suns' rhythmic drive and textural acuity. Blazing left-to-right-channel orchestral salvos flew from the Suns, the speakers' perfectly tuned coaxial drivers never trading speed for resolution and timbre. Those tiny drivers stopped on a dime. Even when letting go of notes as effortlessly as I've heard any speaker do, they gave up nothing to confusion, the massed strings singing as one, yet each instrument was individually distinguishable.


Old and New Dreams is a crappy, narrowband recording of some great performances (LP, Black Saint BSR 0013). But listening to Eddie Blackwell drop agitated bass-drum bombs under Don Cherry's pocket trumpet, Dewey Redman's tenor sax, and especially Charlie Haden's wiry double bass, is pure joy—a study in New Orleans standup drumming from a master sit-down drummer. The Suns didn't hype the LP's bland sound, but they did empower Blackwell's bass drum to crank, boom, and splat for all its worth.

And talk about electric bass stealing the show! Playing Eddie Bo's "If It's Good to You" through the T&F-Heed combo was like hiding out in Dave Bartholomew and Cosimo Matassa's J&M Recording Studio, on North Rampart Street. The Suns revealed Bo's track as sounding viscerally wet and greasy—I could mop my face in it. The Suns delivered this gutsy soul music with impressive speed and slam. They revealed the overdriven electric bass's cabinet resonance, the noisy fuzz guitar, the air-pushing sensations of the choogling drum beat. Bo and friends were holding a maniacal late-night party just the other side of the Suns, their New Orleans combustion blasting from the speakers' tiny drivers with hot groove and dynamic energy to spare.

Trenner & Friedl's little Suns bowled me over and blew me away. Rarely have I heard a loudspeaker with so many essential gifts in so small a package. Paired with an appropriately powerful amplifier, they had astounding rhythmic drive, exceptional tonal purity and transparency, textural faithfulness, the ability to "disappear" while creating finely detailed aural images, seamless coherence, grain-free reproduction of high frequencies, a generous midrange, and bass notes that outperformed those of every other minimonitor I've heard in extension and precision of definition.

The Sun is the finest stand-mounted speaker I've heard: a modern classic. The sum of $3450 is a not-insignificant one to spend on the reproduction of music in your home, but a pair of Suns is well worth it. If your dream is of sublime sound in a small space, the Sun just might fulfill it.

Trenner & Friedl GmbH
US distributor: Profundo
2051 Gattis School Road, Suite 540/123
Round Rock, TX 78664
(510) 375-8651

fetuso's picture

When i saw the picture of these speakers I thought they were my Vandersteen VLR Wood bookshelf speakers. They look remarkably similar. The VLR'S also have coaxial drivers and are about 12 inches tall. Vandersteen also states in the manual that spades are required, but i have mine connected with bananas while i shop for new wire. I'm gonna look into those Cardas adapters. The VLR'S also have wood cabinets, but the face of the speakers are not wood. One other difference is the vlr have a sealed cabinet.

popluhv's picture

how these compare to Harbeth P3ESRs. I see one of these in my future!

Kal Rubinson's picture

This is a fascinating report and, between the subjective report and the bench measurements, I am motivated to hear them. The only piece of info I do not see is some objective measure of what the dynamic capabilities are. How can those little cones play loud enough (for me)?

IgAK's picture

There was also the RCA MI-11411 series "coaxial" driver in the 40's to mention another. (Actually "coincident" is more appropriate where coaxial actually may involve a bridge such auto speaker drivers often have.)

But as to the "Golden Ratio" it possible the internal dimensions conform more closely to that than the external ones? Those would be the ones that matter more.

RelaxWithPep's picture

These are very good looking speakers whose design has clearly been given a great deal of thought. I would be delighted to own them. I'm sure they produce excellent sound. However, the review doesn't seem to support the conclusion. "The finest stand mount speaker I've ever heard," with no qualifiers? Really? Not "at its price" or "for its size" or "for those listening in small spaces"? Could the reviewer comment on the differences between these and the KEF LS-50, another small, highly touted, bookshelf speaker with a coaxial design?

jmsent's picture

it's pretty easy to compare them. Leaving aside the subjective comments, the KEF certainly has more bass extension and somewhat higher sensitivity. I believe the cone area on the KEF is larger as well, which accounts for the bass response. I have heard the LS-50 more than once and I own a set of speakers based on the coaxial unit that is one size up from the one used in the T & F speaker. These coaxial drivers all have a unique coherence to their sound, which is reminiscent of what you get in a full range driver. Done right they're very smooth with no obvious handover between drivers. Their vertical and lateral responses are virtually identical and as you can see in John's dispersion graphs there are no major holes or peaks off axis. All of this points to a good sounding speaker. Where I see the problem is in dynamic ability and ultimate SPL capability, which has to limited by the small cone size. Also, at high levels you run into intermodulation problems because the cone acts as a waveguide for the tweeter's radiation. As the woofer cone moves, you then modulate the energy coming from the tweeter as well. I'd think these would be good candidates for a subwoofer, but getting a seamless match might not be that easy.

Anon2's picture

Thank you for this review and taking the time to review this product. I'm sure that its makers put thought and workmanship into the speaker under review.

I don't have the access to listen to as many products as the Stereophile staff. Forgive me for asking if $3,450 is a sum that we should spend on a speaker with 82dB sensitivity (requiring a new amplifier in many cases), and that weighs in comparably to speakers that cost less than $500 in many cases.

A major kit retailer sells a DIY product whose driver is probably the same as the one we see on this product. I'll let the curious investigate this product, and its cost.

Before we declare this product "the finest stand-mount ever," we might benefit from a few more reviews of similarly priced products that are available. For about $345 more per pair, and for a tank-like product weighing in at 16 lbs. more per unit, Stereophile could provide some more perspective, for all, by testing this recently released product:

And for some unique engineering and solid manufacturing, we are still awaiting the SP test for this product. It has just been enhanced with a passive radiator, it has good sensitivity, deep bass, its own waveguide technology, and has an impedance curve that can accommodate virtually any amplification. It's also about $600 less than the product we read about in this review. A European sound engineer called it "the best nearfield monitor he had ever used in his studio."

Let's have a few more tests, in some cases long overdue, before we make such sweeping declarations about a single product.

John Atkinson's picture
low2midhifi wrote:
Stereophile could provide some more perspective, for all, by testing this recently released product:

My review of the Aerial 5T will appear in our March 2017 issue. However, it won't include comparisons with the Trenner & Friedl Sun, as that speaker was returned to the distributor after the review.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Anon2's picture

Fair enough. I know you guys can't test everything, and do a lot as things stand. I look forward to the 5T review, and your listening and test-bench results. I'd also enjoy, if circumstances permit, a test of the new Dynaudio Excite X18. I heard this product in a dealer open house, and was impressed, though I had to turn the volume knob up quite a ways on the Arcam FMJ A19 integrated to get a serviceable level of sound. Still, the sound was great. Any thoughts as to when the B&W 805 D3 might be making it's way towards a test? Keep up the good work.

John Atkinson's picture
low2midhifi wrote:
I'd also enjoy, if circumstances permit, a test of the new Dynaudio Excite X18.

Herb Reichert was going to to review the Excite X18 but decided instead to review the smallest in Dynaudio's new Contour series. That review is scheduled for our April issue.

low2midhifi wrote:
Any thoughts as to when the B&W 805 D3 might be making its way towards a test?

My review of the 805 D3 will be in March, the same issue as the Aerial 5T.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JohnG's picture

Footnote 2: As the Golden Ratio is either 1.618 or its reciprocal, 0.618, as the ratio of the Sun's height to its width is 1.3125, that of its height to its depth 1.5, and that of the width to the depth, 1.1, Trenner & Friedl's use of the Golden Ratio in its promotional literature is both incorrect and misleading.—John Atkinson

Could it be that the interior dimensions of the enclosure match the golden-section proportions? After all, if there is some magical audio property to that ratio, it would presumably have its effect inside the box rather than outside.

John Atkinson's picture
JohnG wrote:
Could it be that the interior dimensions of the enclosure match the golden-section proportions?

Although I didn't dismantle the Sun speaker, I very much doubt it. That would mean some of the interior walls being inches thick.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

homebrew's picture

They may sound wonderful, but I fail to understand how a pair of $150 drivers and $75 for crossover parts and cabinets can add up to a $3500/pr. speakers.

HansRamon's picture

Could be interesting with a test of the large Trenner&Friedl Ra's, since it appears to be DeVores Orangotangs, which are Your's uncrowned king. (probably mine too..)

dronepunkFPV's picture

God this makes me laugh at all the disposable income.
If you people buying these are business owners you are not paying your employees enough.
Status seeking chumps.