- Written by Carlo Lo Raso
- Published on 12 March 2014
The GoldenEar Triton Seven Home Theater Speaker System In Use
Stereo Music Listening
I began my stereo listening with Holly Cole's "It Happened One Night" on CD. Even though it is a few years old, I've always considered this concert to be one of the better recorded live CD's that I've come across. From the opening notes of "Get Out Of Town", I knew the Triton Sevens were going to do well with this material. The speakers rendered the slow burn of Holly Cole's voice with utmost detail and delicacy. You could easily make out all the subtlety of her whispering the lyrics and breathing between words as the song gets going. As her voice gets louder and her range expands, the Triton Sevens handled the dynamics of her vocals beautifully. The speakers floated her image dead center between them with the reverb of the theater wrapping itself around me.
There was also no sense of harshness or grain to her vocals as her notes got higher, just clean and light throughout the whole song. Another thing that became imminently clear was the quality and quantity of bass the Sevens put forth. It just plain floored me! Again, this was listening to the speakers alone with no subwoofer. The stand-up bass solo on this track was just marvelous, rendered pitch perfect with plenty of depth, detail, weight and decay. I have not heard this level of bass reproduction from speakers of this size and price before. And it's not your typical overbearing, sloppy "One-Note-Boom-Box" style bass either. It was textured.
Further evidence of this was heard in the next song "Cry If You Want To." You could still make out the detail of the hand slaps on the drum skins while you felt the impact of their sound on you. The kick drum hits in the middle of the song had plenty of weight and authority to them and then of course the previously mentioned stand-up bass just continued to impress. Her cover of Tom Wait's "Train Song" is another stand out track. It showcased the speaker's ability to balance that impactful bass power, against the detailed renderings of the maracas and haunting vibrato guitar that weave in and out of that song.
Continuing along the jazz theme but with a twist, I decided to load up "The Best of Paolo Conte." The Italian jazz pianist and composer has such a distinct gravelly sound to his voice that is not easy for many speakers to do justice to it…..but the Triton Sevens did! Listening to "Sotto Le Stelle Del Jazz", the grit, detail and texture of his voice comes through in spades. Certain speakers I've heard can make Conte's voice sound too thin even when he sings deep and low. The Triton Sevens reproduced his vocals with the appropriate weight but without masking any of his vocal detail. And while we're on the subject of weight, few things bother me more, musically, than hearing poorly a reproduced piano. Too often I'll hear piano music played back somewhere and it inevitably sounds thin and empty, the notes lacking any sort of substance or dimension. Even when played softly, live piano music has a body to the sound that is very difficult for speakers to capture. The Triton Sevens were more than up to the challenge here. Using their impressive dynamic range and significant bass capability, they rendered Mr. Conte's piano with all the weight and density necessary to give his key strikes wonderful musical life.
Stringed instruments can often be a challenge for some speakers to get right without sounding edgy or harsh at the top end. Vivaldi's "The 4 Seasons" is a great standby for testing the abilities of both the tweeter itself and how it transitions into the midrange. This particular version featuring Gil Shaham on violin with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is an excellent example of this classic work. Now this review is the first time I've had a chance to extensively listen to the style of tweeter that's fitted to the GoldenEars and if I could sum up its qualities in just one word, it would have to be smooth. Smooth, without lacking in any of the musical details and I was particularly happy for those qualities here. As the mass of strings swelled to the higher notes, the sound was admirably light and airy, devoid of any of that cringe-worthy edginess strings can get on some speakers. The midrange clarity was also very good with this music. The sound was detailed and quick as the tweeters handed off to the mids pretty seamlessly. Then as the music worked its way down the scale, the mass of strings became more solid and the weight of the cello and bass became almost palpable. The "Summer Presto" movement (Track 6) shows these skills off particularly well. All this with a soundstage that makes you feel like you're in this particular performance and not just watching it from the outside. Good stuff indeed.
Slide guitar master Sonny Landreth is a regular staple in my CD playlist and "Grant Street", recorded live in a Louisiana dance hall, has just a great amount of atmosphere that is captured on the disc, along with that searing guitar. The Triton Seven's dynamic range was put to good use here as it reproduced all the impact of a hard driving Cajun/blues band which begged to be played at a fair volume. The speakers, being rated nominally at 8 ohms impedance, are a pretty easy load to drive for most amplifiers and receivers, but they appreciate being able to tap into some good available power reserves with music like this.
My Carver amp is rated at 385 watts into 8 ohms and as the volume got louder the speakers showed no audible signs of discomfort or strain. Sonny's vocals and guitar were imaged front and center with his band clearly placed around him. Kick drum impacts felt solid, almost visceral. Bass lines were detailed and easy to follow without sounding smeared. The slide guitar had great bite to its sound with just the right amount of edge while not sounding irritating or fatiguing. The capper for me though was how the Triton Sevens reproduced the sound of the venue.
As the second track "Broken Hearted Road" starts up with a heartbeat bass line and the slide guitar, you also are well aware of the ambience of the Grant Street Dance Hall. You hear and feel the reverb off the walls, the talking patrons, the clinking of beer bottles, etc. A good pair of speakers should render this soundstage so that you'll hear these sounds on this track all around you fairly convincingly, wrapping you up in the environment. The Triton Sevens did all that and more. As a matter of fact, the effect on this track was almost the best that I've ever heard it, practically holographic. It was actually borderline eerie how well they cloned the space.
I listened to several other types of music during my time with the Triton Sevens and they handled everything I threw at them with aplomb. The synergy of these speakers from top to bottom is really, really good. And, again, the amount and the quality of bass that they are able to muster from their modestly sized, stylish cabinets is pretty darn remarkable. Impressive enough I think that unless you were looking to hear that last bottom octave from your collection of pipe organ recordings or you want to feel the lowest of the lows in the Tron Legacy soundtrack, these speakers should meet most people's needs exceptionally well.
I should also point out that the amount of bass you're going to get with these, or any speaker, is going to be dependent on placement in your room. I think I was fortunate enough to get the speakers to couple pretty well with my studio and therefore the bass showcased itself enviably. Your mileage may vary. If I could level any sort of complaint against the Triton Sevens, it would be that, for me, you have to really stop what you're doing and listen to these speakers to really appreciate them. While there are some speakers out there that will still sound really good when you are sitting way off axis or doing something else in the room, the Tritons are not those speakers. They sound best when you are near their general listening window.
For example, my drawing desk is closer to where I would sit and listen to the speakers normally and as such music sounds great when I'm drawing. My computer workstation is off to the right of the room and from there I hear a noticeable drop off in treble energy and detail. A similar situation happens if I am standing up and painting. Things don't sound quite as good unless I am closer to the sweet spot and sitting down. Now, to be fair, this has more to do with my listening habits and environment than is an issue with the speakers at large. But I think it's worth noting if you plan on a lot of casual listening while doing other things.
Once everything was set up and tuned in our home theater room, the first movie into the Blu-ray player was Pacific Rim, an absolute bass-fest of a film from the word go. The 7.1 DTS Master Audio soundtrack was suitably powerful, dynamic and engrossing. The Triton Sevens did an excellent job of establishing the soundstage with a sonic image that was wide and deep. The SuperCenter XL was excellent at keeping the dialog clear and intelligible while still effectively rendering the sound effects and score parts it was tasked with.
The SuperSat 3s proved themselves to be true champs in surround duty. They were equally capable at picking up all the subtle nuances of whirring gears, clicking switches and other background ambience along with all bombast of explosions, crunching metal and roaring alien monsters without any signs crying uncle. I initially had my concerns that such small surrounds crossed to the subwoofer at 120 Hz, as per the speaker manual and Audyssey's recommendation, (the front 3 channels were all crossed at 60 Hz) would result in some unevenness in the sound between front and back.
I typically like to keep the crossover levels of all the speakers in my existing surround system at close to the same level with no more than a 20 Hz deviation between any of them. But I heard no noticeable difference or unevenness. Sonic pans seemed just as consistent front to back as they were going from side to side. The little ForceField 5 sub proved itself to be an overachiever, fully capable of rattling the walls, doors, picture frames and anything else not suitably tied down.
I do confess to raising the gain dial just a touch on the sub's back panel after Audyssey had finished its work. I typically like to run the bass a touch hot for action movies and this subwoofer seemed to have plenty of headroom to flex its muscles. "Season to Taste" you could call it. The ForceField 5 showed no signs of strain as it hit hard with solid, impactful bass in a room that has not been known to be bass friendly. Every Jaeger and Kaiju footfall, every punch was heard and felt and then my mind started to wonder, "What I could do with two of these babies!"
Switching it up a little, the Blu-Ray of Eric Clapton's latest Crossroads Guitar Festival Concert was up next. Shot on film over two nights at Madison Square Garden last year, the production values looked like something more akin to a high brow, well edited documentary as opposed to just another concert video. The sound quality also did not disappoint. With that unique folded tweeter and closely matched drivers throughout the whole system, everything sounded cohesive, balanced and natural.
On Earl Klugh's performances of "Mirabella" and "This Time", the resonance and harmonics of his acoustic guitar just echoed through the room with such clarity and sweetness. Gary Clark Jr's powerful one-man-band performance of "Next Door Neighbor Blues" was raw and intimate as the speakers placed me front row center. I could make out almost every scratch of the slide down the neck of his steel resonator guitar; its distinctive, metallic echo came though cleanly rendered by the mid-range drivers. Kick drum hits were solid and tight being easily felt in the chest. And while it may not seem like much, the ambiance of the crowd coming through the surround speakers was also notable in that it didn't sound like just a diffuse mass of sound. I could easily pick out all sorts of little details from the audience and for me it just adds to the believability of the whole presentation.
Two other stand out songs, "Walking Blues" and "Duck Diving Blues," were sung by Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo', two guys with really distinctive and powerful voices. The SuperCenter XL showcased all the power and grit in the bluesmen's pipes and it made the case for having a good sized and capable center speaker very convincingly. No harshness or stress was detectable no matter how loud their voices got.
Lastly, I wanted to hear some well recorded surround music without any visuals so I elected to go with a selection of string pieces by The Fry Street Quartet. This 4 channel SACD recording of the talented string ensemble is engineered by Ray Kimber using his "IsoMike" technique. Playing this disc using the Dolby IIx Music mode on my receiver to expand the sound to all seven channels was just breathtaking.
I have played this music many, many times and I have not ever heard these strings sound so achingly beautiful in this room before. Not a hint of edge or grain coming from any of the speakers, those matching folded tweeters doing their "thing" and imbuing the highs with just a natural and appealing ease to the sound. The notes of the violins and viola danced quickly through the air sounding balanced and sweet all around me. The cello was shown off perfectly with all of its textures precisely rendered and it also had the proper weight and heft as it played down to the lower registers.
The subwoofer sounded completely musical with the material, not sounding overbearing or loose with the low cello notes. It struck me somewhat funny that this system could reproduce music so sweetly when it was only a few days earlier, engaged in marathon video gaming rounds with my kids and their friends. From upstairs, we could hear explosions, magical spells and something called "Boss Battle" victories eliciting squeals of joy out of the younger set doing their level best to break in the system. My son's friends were not used to hearing such dynamics out of their video game systems. Surely plaintive conversations would ensue at various dinner tables in the future if they hadn't already. The thought of annoyed and slightly envious parents aside, in the end none of that really mattered. All I could do at that moment was just sit there and smile, completely surrounded by lovely music. I was enjoying the heck out of this. Go to Page 5: Conclusions