GoldenEar has boldly, proudly produced their newest accomplishment, the Triton Reference, or T-Ref as Co-Founder Sandy Gross has fondly nicknamed his latest and greatest floorstanding speaker.
The new GoldenEar Triton Reference loudspeaker comes on the heels of the accomplished Triton One, still considered a reference level on its own. To some, the differences may be subtle both in design and performance, while others will say this is a true reference level speaker. Last year when he brought out the Triton One speaker, I’d lavished praise and bestowed it the speaker to get, Epic I said.
Like most of the Triton lineup, T-Ref has an array of drivers including an 1800 watt powered subwoofer and radiators, 6” mid range drivers and the High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR™) Tweeter. The difference is for the Triton Reference, everything has been upgraded.
Sandy certainly had me going last year when he brought out the Triton One speaker. He was kind enough to show up and help with the setup. The Triton One was the pinnacle speaker in design and engineering from the team at GoldenEar. So much so that I also recall asking Sandy, “So, where do you go from here?” and his response was, “Oh I’ll sleep on it”. Sandy, if you can do T-Ref in your sleep, I hope you slumber soundly often.
I can’t imagine he didn’t already have the Triton Reference in mind, even then. That’s just how he is, one step ahead of us, dare we conclude he has reached a plateau? Don’t count on it…
Sandy affectionately refers to the Triton Series Reference floorstanding speaker as simply, T-Ref which I’ve adopted, I just like it. Physically, the Triton Reference stands a mere 4” taller than the Triton One but adds 28 pounds of heft! Making up some of the additional weight is the inclusion of the steel built-in to the logo-bearing baseplate – considering the extra size of the T-Ref this makes sense for stability. The clear and obvious difference to the Reference visually is the gloss black monocoque cabinet, a huge departure. The Triton One is more like the rest of the lineup in the Triton family with a large black “sock” covering the chassis and speaker array.
Evolution or revolution the Triton Reference benefits from several improvements over the Triton One, in fact I’d offer to suggest what may be understated; the Reference may not have existed if not for the lessons learned from the DNA of the Triton One and the independent SuperSub X as T-Ref also includes a powered subwoofer and a refined 56-bit DSP controller, both evolving from the SuperSubs and the Triton One.
The drivers and specifically the now all-important folded ribbon tweeters are all upgraded. The HVFR (High-Velocity Folded-Ribbon) tweeter has 50% more neodymium material than the previous design. Additionally the faceplate of the tweeter has been refined from the previous design, a gentler sloped transition from the folded ribbon metal to the perimeter shroud improving dispersion.
GoldenEar didn’t stop at the tweeter and midrange drivers in their re-design, the 6” X 10” drivers having 40% more surface area along with a larger magnet and a redesigned voice coil. Incorporated are four large planar radiators at 10.5” X 9.5” which were developed for the SuperSub X, but modified for the T-Ref.
GoldenEar will also tell you the improvements don’t end at the obvious but also in the wiring, the construction and design of the crossover and internal damping.
From the images posted, I was fortunate to have Sandy drop by to set up the T-Ref, like he’d done for the Triton One. Sandy does consistently follow some particular rules in setting up his speakers but most notably is the severe toe-in. He additionally sets the speakers as far apart as possible, even if it means near the sidewalls. In my space it makes sense and works beautifully.
My room measures a mere 14 feet across. The toe-in helps reduce the immediate early reflections and results in better focus at the sweet spot. Secondly, the severe toe-in is beyond an equilateral triangle, a bit of rule-of-thumb for speaker positioning – the image crossover is somewhere directly in front of you. The concern would be for a tightened soundstage, less “bigness”, but by placing the speakers as far apart as possible; I find it makes the speaker effectively disappear.
Since the Triton Reference includes a powered subwoofer, like most of the Triton lineup a volume level for bass is also conveniently placed for quick adjustments. Typically I’ve started at 12 o’clock and tweaked up or down. For my modest space it basically stayed there.
An LFE signal input can be sent to the subwoofer if you’d prefer to make adjustments with a processor or receiver. My gear included a Parasound P-5 preamp and A-21 amplifier. Reviewing the specification, what you will notice is the Triton Reference is very efficient and a modestly powered amplifier will drive it.
I auditioned digital sources including Tidal MQA files played through the NAD M50.2 Media Player I had on hand for review however mostly played CD’s through my newly acquired Oppo UDP-205 player. My entire system includes Transparent Audio speaker, interconnects and power cables.
Perhaps my audible memory isn’t what it used to be because as smitten as I was with the Triton One, the T-Ref is just astonishingly good, taking the Triton design to another level. From the first track we played, I knew this was something special. T-Ref was dialed in so sweetly in my space that Sandy and I grinned all the way to lunch afterwards. (I think he was as thrilled at how it sounded in my space as I was).
Sandy usually brings a disk of favorite cuts and once our setup was complete we sat down to listen to Dean Martin’s version of If You Were the Only Girl which blew me away if for no other reason but his sultry, rich voice. You can hear him work his throat, making every note matter. I have never had a speaker make me a fan of a musician instantly, and someone I’ve heard over and over again, yet never impressed me enough to consider a serious crooner. The T-Ref not only renders his voice superbly but the air around his voice is stunningly three-dimensional.
Likewise for the Beach Boys, although I admire some of their work, Pet Sounds one of them, Sandy played In My Room from Surfer Girl. In my opinion the most sophisticated track from the 1963 album, a track I’ve heard hundreds of times yet sounded anew through the Triton Reference. Beautifully balancing the group’s harmonics with the tightly engineered musical instruments, the T-Ref does an amazing job of conveying the emotional maturing lyrics with a powerful and luscious melody.
What grabs you immediately when listening to the GlodenEar Triton Reference is the sense of refinement and balanced – the highs are neither harsh nor edgy, the mid-range natural and the bass clean. The Triton Reference is simply effortless in revealing nuance and strength at the same time.
Pipes Rhode Island features some of the richest ambient bass sound that captures the surroundings of the various secular venues used for recording. If you’re a fan or organ music, I highly recommend the CD. Track 7, Transports de joie, recorded at Sayles Hall, Brown University in Providence features a range of pipe organ sound from quite deep and penetrating to highs in the upper registry. Again, the space is palpable; T-Ref rewards you with echoes within the chambers, effortless resolving space, volumes of space. The sound intensifies and the and gently releases, the Triton Reference evokes that spirit of richness.
A favorite of mine, Sampler disk Super Sounds II from FIM JVC XRCD is beautifully recorded. The opening track from the Magnificent Seven is superbly rendered, forceful open, transparent. The build-up to a crescendo at high volumes never wavers, never distorts. The GoldenEar T-Ref has excellent transient speed, taut and clean.
The Shenandoah, track 2 has in addition to some superb music which is delicate and airy from T-Ref, includes lively images of a forest, running water and birds chirping and distant woodpeckers hammering. Through the Triton Reference, the sense of space again is powerful, enveloping and seemingly effortless.
For the fun of it I played Elton John’s Honky Chateau SACD DSD. The hammering down on the keys on the opening track Honky Cat is stunningly forceful yet articulate. T-Ref makes easy time of Elton John’s piano playing along with the brassy horn section which is metallic, airy. Yet it is his voice on Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters that I found hauntingly real and transcends the sense of recording. By minimizing the musical arrangements with a sweet mandolin and warm piano in the recording, the GoldenEar T-Ref powerfully features his voice and hangs it directly in front of me.
This is how music should sound in your home.
Listening to Dean Martin earlier reminded me of a Peggy Lee recording of Fever I had copied and loved. Like Dean Martin’s or Elton John’s voices, Peggy Lee’s also hangs smack in the middle, hovering mid-air between the pair of Triton speakers. Her voice is both throaty and delicate. Her backup stand-up bass keeps beautiful pace with the finger snapping. Here is the evidence of the Triton Reference exemplifying the transient speed of the drivers, exhibited with amazing clarity.
I had to listen to more rock. The SACD, DCD Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms would do. I wanted to hear Mark Knopfler’s guitar. Ride Across the River is hauntingly beautiful mixing deep drum beats and distant trumpets. The Triton Reference makes the images colorful, vibrant, and exotic. The flute is exquisitely airy but the star is still the guitar, earthy.
One of my favorite contemporary jazz singers is Rene Marie, so I pulled out her CD, Live at Jazz Standards. She does this extraordinary version of Ravel’s Bolero in scat to introduce her arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s song Suzzane. The space and air around her voice is hypnotic through the T-Ref. About two minutes in her sultry voice is joined by drumbeat and builds while her voice climbs. The Triton Reference grabs that sense of timing, melody and passion.
What GoldenEar can offer at $4,249 per speaker with THE TRITON REFERENCE when the serious competition is realistically twice that is astounding in itself. That is not to say $8,500 for a pair of speakers is obtainable to us all. There is an entire lineup of Triton speakers that measure up, including the Triton One at $5,000 for a pair. I offer no rhetoric, no extraneous wit or hyperbole in my simple and honest admiration for the T-Ref as these are top to bottom, first class reference quality speakers. The GoldenEar Triton Reference s is aural satisfaction at its’ finest; not simply excellent sound reproduction but soulful, engaging and sublime musical art. Easily and highly recommended and my instant selection for speaker of the year for us at Secrets