Triton Reference Review – July 2017
While this review is of the Golden Ear Technology Triton Reference, as a former proud owner of the Golden Ear Triton One, this review tends to focus on comparing the Triton One to the Triton Reference, and the evolution if you will as to how I came to know and learn of the Triton’s. This review could differ in format and type from the usual professional review. If interested, you can view a picture of my current setup here: http://halr.x10.mx/AV.jpg
If you, the reader, prefer to skip the remaining 3,500 words or so, suffice it to say the Triton Reference is akin to the Triton One on steroids. So, you can stop here. And if you want the summary, again without having to read any further, I’m delighted with my purchase. Certainly, there are other options both more and less expensive in this category/class of high-performance speaker. But to be perfectly honest, I have not auditioned or even considered the vast majority of them. Admittedly, in some cases this is by choice while in other cases it is simply impractical. That said, I believe I am familiar with quality sound, and have been involved with stereo systems in general for over forty years. But I never really spent much money on any equipment, relative to the cost of high-end gear. In my younger years, I wasn’t able to afford a Triton Reference product. Thankfully, I now could. But you should know, I cannot comfortably afford speakers that cost upward of 50K, and there are plenty of brands/models from which to choose.
I listen to two channels only, and have no desire to put together a multi-channel system. I primarily use my audio equipment for music playback; however, a small percentage of time is devoted to movies and other video situations. Also, you the reader should know that in general I, like many other audio enthusiasts, consider the speakers to be the most important piece of the puzzle and, therefore, the majority of my overall audio budget is devoted to the speakers. I also realize this is debatable against other items including, but not limited to, the listening environment (room) itself.
I was first introduced to Golden Ear powered Triton speakers in November 2015, while at my audio dealer (Audio Breakthroughs in Manhasset NY) to potentially purchase an amplifier. Prior to this, I had never seen or heard of Golden Ear. The dealer eagerly connected the Golden Ear Triton Two – despite the fact that quite a few other speakers were at his disposal - to each of the three amplifiers I was auditioning, as well as my current (at the time) receiver (Carver MXR130). For what it’s worth, the Carver performed rather well. The dealer was surprised, but it was no match for the newer and costlier amplifiers. Because I wasn’t at the dealer to buy speakers on this particular occasion, I really didn’t focus my attention on the Triton’s. My initial impression, however, was I felt the shape of the Triton was unusual, unique, and stylish.
I liked the sound I was hearing, but attributed it to the amplifiers (McIntosh MA5200, Krell Vanguard, Musical Fidelity M6si and my Carver) being used. Still, the bass left me wanting more. So, the dealer disconnected the Triton Two and proceeded to manhandle a larger version of it out of the corner and into position. Not wanting to simply stand there and watch, I proceeded to grab onto the other one – which I then understood to be the Triton One – and zigzag it back-and-forth across the carpeted floor into position. The rubber feet were on the base; not the spikes. It was my first experience handling the speaker, and I readily got a sense of its weight. And because I couldn’t see the drivers through the sock, and thinking the sock itself may be fragile, I handled the speaker with utmost care and in general had the feeling the speaker was to some extent fragile.
Once the T1s were hooked-up and firing sound, I felt I was getting an accurate reproduction of the source material – nothing more, nothing less – regardless of the amplifier the dealer connected to it.
I chose to purchase the Musical Fidelity M6si, and I believe this was the right decision. And for good measure, I also purchased an Emotiva ERC-3 CD player. I would highly recommend the ERC-3 to anyone seeking an affordable red book CD playback solution.
Two weeks or so later I received the M6si and set it up in my coop apartment. Upon connecting to my JBL S412P speakers – which by the way also have an internal amplifier, albeit a mere 200 watts - and playing some music, I immediately knew I needed a new pair of speakers! The amp didn’t sound anything like it did at the dealer, and I could just tell my JBLs simply weren’t up to the task of accurately reproducing what the M6si was throwing at it.
Not wanting to part with major bucks, I started to ponder what-to-do. First, I contacted Greg Timbres (JBL lead engineer) to get the skinny on higher end JBLs. He recommended the Array, but that was even more costly than the Triton One. I then did a cursory check into other brands, just so I wouldn’t be remiss. As I recalled Golden Ear professional reviewers comparing the sound of the Triton One to speakers costing ten times their cost, having listened to them, and having to be mindful of budget, I felt the T1s was my best overall option. So, I promptly called my dealer, submitted a deposit and ordered a pair.
I received my T1s in December 2015. The first thing my significant other said once they were unboxed was “their beautiful”! And she had never seen them before, nor does she really care anything at all about audio equipment. Does that sound familiar?
Once I installed the Triton One’s and began listening, I just knew the sound that was emanating from the speakers was high quality. Still not entirely convinced, I joined a local Long Island audio club. Needless to say, there are members with gear that far surpass mine monetarily. One member happened to have a $200K pair of Alta Statement Towers and plenty of other high end gear along with it. So I asked him if I could listen to his system. He obliged. I’ve since listened to other members system with B&W, Magnepan and other brands. Long story short in this regard is I concluded the Triton One more than holds its own, if not outright bests, these other manufacturers.
Over the next few months, I continued enjoying the sound of my system. Typically, I listen to music 4 days or night per week, 3 hours of live recorded music each session. Of those 12 weekly hours, 8 are typically the Grateful Dead, and the other 4 runs the gamut of artists and genres. This includes classical, jazz, and more. It also includes a variety of formats including hi-resolution, etc. Point is, a significant variety of sound has emanated from the T1 drivers and it all sounds spectacular to my ears. Besides the Grateful Dead, my repertoire includes these artists live performances. I think you will find something you are familiar with: http://halr.x10.mx/other.html In addition, even though it is not on my list and I listen less often, I have Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Mozart’s Eine Klein Nachtmusik and so much more.
Besides the live music I regularly listen to, I do have some choice tracks I tend to call upon when evaluating a system sound. I find all three of these CDs can be very revealing.
1) Sportin Life (all tracks) by Weather Report. This disk was used in the 80's by Leonard Radio (Manhattan NY) to demo all their equipment at the time. They sold rather high-end and pricey items. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sportin%27_Life_(Weather_Report_album)
2) Denon Audio Technical CD. It has a number of tracks with sample music that covers the entire gamut of frequency range, dynamic range, imaging subtleties, etc. http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1526639/a/denon+audio+technical+cd.htm
3) Sony Music Super Audio CD Sampler http://www.amazon.com/Music-Super-Audio-Sampler-Players/dp/B003UQ4CXC
I regularly posted on the Golden Ear forum many different threads with many different accolades. As an example, one of my posts https://www.goldenear.com/forum/36-Triton-Series/3372-triton-towers-one-word-physical-appearance#15595 was simply a list of words that describe the Triton Towers. Coincidentally, but not surprisingly, one of those words – statuesque – is used in the Triton Reference Press release.
So, given my passion for the T1s and knowing the price of something “better”, I began to believe they could very well be the last pair of speakers I would ever own. After watching some videos in which Sandy Gross explains the Triton’s development, design and so on, he does mention improvement niceties such as a plasma tweeter and aluminum cabinetry that because of costs and other considerations aren’t practical to implement. Nevertheless, it was clear something “more” is possible. And because GET at least attempts to make high-end affordable, I now figured “who knows”.
As CES 2017 approached a thread was introduced that solicited feedback from the Golden Ear forum members asking what they might like to see from GET at CES 2017. I was quick to go on record and state “Triton Zero” (https://www.goldenear.com/forum/DIY-Mods-and-Tweaks/3381-what-would-you-like-to-see-from-get-at-ces-2017#16002). Clearly what I meant by that was something along the lines of a Triton One, but “more” of it. Basically, take the T1 and improve it, however GET chooses to do so. Physics is physics, and moving volumes of air is part-and-parcel to thunderous bass. So, it was/is no surprise that one of the improvements in the Reference over the Triton One is larger drivers.
I had no idea – presumably neither did anyone else outside the GET organization – an improved T1 was on their drawing board. So, when CES finally came, and the Triton Reference was introduced, naturally many took notice and were pleasantly surprised. I was no exception.
But despite an improved T1 with a “Reference” name, an obstacle - money - stood in my way. Having just purchased the Triton One 14 months or so before the Triton Reference announcement, it was impractical for me to even consider an upgrade. Nevertheless, seeing a flurry of posts to sell Triton Ones on the forum caused me to think “why not”. So, I posted an offer to sell at $4,000 a pair, and was surprised to receive an offer - within days - matching that amount. My dealer advised me to accept that offer, as he wouldn’t match it toward a trade in value. So, months before the Triton Reference was available, and a few thousand dollars in cost difference between the T1 and TR, I sold my Triton One’s. I then promptly placed an order for the Triton Reference with my dealer, who was kind enough – albeit this was part of the deal – to loan me a pair of Wharfedale satellite towers and PSB sub. While that did provide some toe-tapping and head-bobbing experiences, they paled in comparison to the Triton One.
The only reason I had the confidence to purchase an $8,500 per pair speaker without ever seeing or hearing it in person was because of my experience with the Triton One.
I’ve written this Triton Reference review many months after selling my Triton One’s. And while this review does include my editorial from a comparison perspective, it should be noted that I am basing it on “memory” of how the Triton One sounded in my environment. In other words, I cannot directly perform an A/B comparison.
Also, while it is true that my expectation is such that the Triton Reference would sound better than the Triton One because of higher cost, larger drivers and the manufactures claim of the new “flagship”, I also expect that diminishing returns applies. For instance, the ratio of TR and T1 MSRP is 1.7. Therefore, I would not expect that the TR is seventy percent better than the Triton One.
On May 27, 2017, I saw and heard the Triton Reference up-close-and-personal at the dealer. Elegant and awesome are just some of the accolades I can think of! They dwarf the Triton One from a physical perspective. From a sound perspective, they do indeed have that “signature voice” and overall sound quality many Triton One owners have come to know, love and frankly – expect – from Golden Ear. Various music (all digital including but not limited to SACD and 24bit/48k) was played through a McIntosh MA5200 and Marantz SA-14S1 initially, and then through a Musical Fidelity M6si and Blue Sound Vault. All of it sounded amazing! As to my initial impressions of sound comparison to the Triton One, Golden Ear states that the Reference sub-woofers have 40% more surface area than that of the T1, and the tweeter incorporates 50% more magnet material. I can honestly say that in my opinion a fair representation could be thought of as each Reference basically sounding like one and half Triton One’s. Essentially, the sound is remarkably like the One’s, just more of it! Again, this was my first and initial impression and without “critical” listening.
Fast forward to July 10, 2017. The long wait is over! I received my pair of Triton Reference today. I first noticed the box differs from that of the Triton One in that in the case of the reference, the lettering “REFERENCE” is prominently displayed vertically on the box and there is no diagram of the speaker, like there is in the case of the T1 box. Also, there are five bullet items on the box highlighting the features of the Reference, but the print is unusually small. That too differs from the T1, where the text describing the features was much larger in comparison. The internal protective Styrofoam, padding, etc. is substantial and very much the same as the T1 packaging. That is to say, the shipment packaging is outstanding and very well done.
Unpacking was a little challenging and eventually conquered by opening the top panel (as indicated by upward facing arrows on box), folding part of the smaller end panels under the bottom of the carton, carefully turning the box over so the Styrofoam was exposed to the floor, and then lifting the carton off the Styrofoam.
As I expected, the base was/is attached.
I thought the spikes would be larger and more substantial, but they are seemingly just a bit larger than the T1, and silver instead of gold. I had the impression they would be more substantial given a photo I recall seeing. Perhaps the spikes in the photo (CES?) were third party. I could be mistaken in this regard though. See 7/16/17 update.
The base is definitely more solid – as expected given the steel inside – and has significantly more screws (Phillips head) attaching it to the speaker. There are two larger screws that I’m told hold the front grill in place (in addition to “pins” at the top of the front grill). Although not a user friendly or recommended option, the screws can be removed in order that the front grill be lifted upward and off. It would be nice for the end-user to readily be able to “see” the drivers. This includes the passive radiators. The grill in front of the radiators is held in place magnetically in the four corners. However, removal of the grill is virtually impossible without damaging the cloth or marring the cabinet finish. It might have been a clever idea to have the smallest of pull-tabs available.
The Golden Ear name with “G” in gold is, of course, on the base. The finish of the cabinet is superb and identical (seemingly) to the base in color, finish and texture. Fingerprints can be readily seen from certain angles, so be prepared to have a dedicated dust cloth available! Even then, smudges, fingerprints, etc. can be difficult – although certainly achievable - to rub out.
The front grill cloth and grill appear identical but larger to that of the T1. The piano gloss finish essentially makes much of the speaker look like the finish of the base (or top cover on the T1), and that does give it an “expensive” (in my opinion) look. My dealer commented to me that in his opinion the Reference looks like a $25,000 speaker.
After installing the spikes, the speakers were moved into place. As expected, the task of moving the speakers to the general area where they will sit can be easily accomplished with two people. However, with the spikes on, tweaking the position to within 1/8 inch or so of their precise placement is challenging to say the least. I’m told later that in fact it could be damaging in that the spike can tear from the base. Fortunately, I thought of a way to move them in small (one inch or less) increments by myself. The front and/or back of the speaker can be tilted back/forward, raising them off the floor an inch or so. I then place a small wood block under the base at one end but not under the spikes, and was able to tweak the position at the side raised by the block. I then removed the block and could hear the speaker pierce the carpet when set down. Something else to note here is that the constant tweaking of the position tends to loosen the spikes, so it is advisable to tighten them rather securely when attaching them initially.
I later talked to Sandy about the spike situation and he recommended a better option, not explained in the manual, to put the spikes on. Namely, position the speakers first without the spikes. Then once in the desired spot, tilt the front back and insert the spikes. Do likewise for the rear. Of course, this too is better served with two people.
Make no mistake about it, these speakers are huge and very heavy. They make the Triton One seem small in comparison. The base from front to back is over 22 inches, is thicker than that of the T1, and seems to have less of a slope/gradient (i.e. overall the TR base is "flatter" at the top than the T1 base). The initial power-on flashing light sequence is identical to the T1. Steadily lit for a few seconds, then 25 flashes, then light off. Once the music starts, its lights on!
My initial impression after connecting the Reference to my amp and playing some music passages is very much the same experience I felt when I fired up my then newly acquired M6si to my JBLs. I now wonder whether the amp now needs to be upgraded! Is there ever an end to this “hobby”? Somehow, I just know (or sense) that the Reference is wanting more than the rest of my gear can provide. They sound that good.
This is somewhat ironic in that I felt the same way as when I connected my newly acquired M6si to my JBLS412P. I just knew I needed better speakers. I won’t be upgrading my amp any time soon though, if at all. It really performs well and from everything I read from others who own it and then decide to upgrade, it takes a very shinny coin to do so. Nevertheless, perhaps eventually and in my case the Reference is destined for a Pass Labs amplifier, which can easily cost five figures.
Second impression is that it is taking just a bit more power to drive these speakers in comparison to the T1. To me this a bit surprising because the minimum amplification rating of both T1 and TR are the same, 20 watts. Also, the fact that the Reference is slightly more efficient, I expected the opposite. The need for more power was confirmed by my less than professional but better than nothing Dawson DSM101N multi-meter. Keep in mind I have yet to see/read any review professional or otherwise that details the impedance characteristics. It is conceivable the impedance measures higher than the T1, which could account for my observation in this regard. For now, the difference is so slight that I’m inclined to dismiss my findings in this regard. But again, a true impedance curve will be meaningful information to have.
The quiescent noise floor in my listening environment (12 feet wide, 25 feet long, 8 feet high) is typically between 30 and 40 db, and I needed to raise the volume control on my amp at least another half-hour clock-wise to achieve the same levels that I was accustomed to with the T1. I usually listen around 85db, however, that can vary widely between say 55 and 98 or so. What I mean by this is based on my observation of the amplifier volume control position, my ears perceiving the volume, and the decibel level on a multi-meter, if I were at 9 o’clock on the T1, I’m finding 9:30 to be equivalent volume output in the case of the Reference. However, the speakers are not yet broken-in, nor have I listened to enough material to say for certain whether or not it is truly the case or just my perception.
Additionally, the Reference appears to be more “directional”, making precise placement even more important. However, the drivers – all of them – do appear more “controlled” in comparison to the T1. And even if they are more directional, I’m honestly not certain whether this is necessarily a good or bad quality. The sound stage is tremendous. I have them set rather precisely in relation to my audio rack (Salamander Core Module). They are approximately 7.2 feet apart from one another, 3 feet from the front wall, and 18 inches and more (they are towed to the PLP) from the side walls. The arrangement to the primary listening position is that of an equilateral triangle.
The binding posts, bass level control knob and LFE input are identical to that of the T1. The rear panel is nearly flush with the cabinet. I recall the T1 panel was recessed noticeably more so.
Sound is super clean and plentiful. I realize these aren’t terms typically associated with speakers or necessarily make sense musically, but there is something I can’t quite put my finger on (yet) to describe how overwhelmingly good the Reference sounds. By clean I mean to say I can hear every bit of what is being played, as though the speaker is one large driver with no crossover and where every frequency is perfectly balanced. By plentiful I mean to say there is an abundance of music. This could be the result of having a speaker that is too large for the environment, as I sense that the Reference would prefer to be a bit further apart from one another and have more overall boundary room. Suffice it to say these speakers could easily fill a 30 by 40 foot room with incredible clarity and while at deafening levels.
When I crank the volume to 85db levels that cause them to start “singing”, the sound is honestly majestic. And while I can’t say I’m hearing things within a musical passage I haven’t heard before, I truly have thought at times, and just for a moment or so, that maybe I’m mistaken and there actually is something more I’m hearing (that I hadn’t before with the T1). I think evaluating/reviewing these speakers is analogous to a Shakespearean piece of writing in that there is such genius that you can’t read it once or twice and claim to understand it.
I think it fair to say that most current customers of Golden Ear Technology understand and realize the outstanding value GET brings to the table. Value in this context considers price, quality, and alternatives. I do not want to nor will I try and convince anyone to purchase the Triton Reference and/or upgrade from a current Triton tower model. However, at the same time, I do not want to nor will I try and convince anyone not to purchase the Triton Reference.
Understandably, many folks who are current owners of the Triton One may be “on-the-fence” as to whether it is “worth it” to upgrade. And at an MSRP price difference of $1750 per speaker and nearly double the cost of the T1, the question is certainly valid. To this I can/will provide my opinion, which in part stems from my formal education background of economics. There is a term that applies to virtually everything, let alone every product. Namely, “diminishing returns”. The law of diminishing returns refers to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested. I think it fair to say that if you consider the $1750 difference in price, divide that in three, apply one third to functionality/sound, another third to aesthetics/cosmetic appearance and the remaining third to yet another formidable man-toy to boast about and/or additional profit margin commanded by Golden Ear, your expectations would be realistic and you will be very pleased after the dust settles.
So while the jubilation hasn’t worn off just yet, I’m starting to feel a lot more “comfortable” with them.
First off, I want to mention something I unintentionally didn’t previously, and I feel it is very important for you, the reader, to know. While I have previously stated that I listen primarily and almost exclusively to live Grateful Dead, I neglected to point out that I typically only listen to the same show once, and then move on to a different show. Therefore, with the exception of the choice tracks I tend to call upon when evaluating a system sound as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, my listening habits do not necessarily allow for optimum comparison (to T1 or anything else) data to be collected because the music I listen too is often different. Never the same thing twice philosophy! And in some cases the recording itself is less than perfect, such as certain audience recordings.
Another thing I failed to mention in the first part of the review has to do with the packaging. The speaker is draped in not one, but two, protective bags. This is a nice touch and also very useful to keep on when handling the speaker. I honestly don’t recall if the T1 was packaged this way.
As I write this, I’m specifically listening to Grateful Dead, May 12, 1980 from Boston Garden. My source – played back via flac files on my Oppo UDP-205 – is Charlie Miller soundboard 92239. I realize that means nothing to a “non-head”, but the drums portion of the show is kick-ass, and it’s the drums passages in all Grateful Dead shows that I tend to really increase the volume. So, all my neighbors that are home at the time must now realize I have new set of speakers. I’m not pushing them all that hard. The db level is in the mid 80’s, but the overall volume (no pun intended) of sound is indescribable. I attribute this to the shear mass of the Triton Reference. As I already mentioned, they are huge; and they sound huge too. While the T1 can compete with the larger drivers in the Reference, ultimately the larger drivers win out.
Other artists/shows I’m listening to today include Joni Mitchell’s 4/27/83 performance of “Solid Love”. The Reference recreates the inflections and nuances in her voice, and in this particular version of the song there are many, incredibly well. Perfect actually.
I also threw on a recording from Dawes, 12/12/2015, titled “Peace in the Valley”. The bass is chest pumping.
Then I queued up a show from Miles Davis, 8/30/86, that I had locked away for months, saving it to be played through the Reference. I had never listened to this particular show before. The source of the recording is a matrix (soundboard + 2 Beyer dynamic mics mixed in at 20%), lineage: Mcas > dat > cdr, live mix, recording and transfers by Ron Lorman. Suffice it to say, and I mean this sincerely, that even the brief feedback in Time After Time sounded phenomenal and made me want to hear it again. His trumpet was all over the place. Heavenly in fact.
The Reference speakers are so much more “under control” and “in control” over the music than the Triton One. It’s almost as though there is some technology inside the speaker that is “cleaning” or “filtering” sonic impurities. I realize the ideal is faithful playback/reproduction of the source, but it’s as though the source material is somehow being “improved’ beyond what it would otherwise or should sound like. Voices are so lifelike, even bodacious at times. The voicing is truly amazing, as is the case with the T1. But again, here to, there is simply more of it with the Reference.
I have the bass dial at 12 o’clock. The bass is not as “overwhelming” in relation to the upper frequencies as was the case with the T1. Bass on the Reference seems more “relaxed”, right up until the source material calls upon it to deliver.
The bass is so controlled and yet lay back that sometimes it seems as though I’m hearing a louder (or more) top end in comparison to the bottom end, until such time that the bass section is called upon with appropriate source material. Experimentation with the bass dial could be in order, however, I’m inclined to leave it at 12 o’clock until broken in and a lot more source material is thrown at it. But let there be no doubt, the right source material at the right volume will shake the foundation/flooring of your home and anything else not nailed down.
As I sit in the PLP and while listening to music, inevitably I wind up looking at the speakers. My eyes are drawn specifically to the very top of speaker for some reason. Looking at the speakers reminds me of the Titanic ship smoke stacks. This is particularly fitting given that the Reference is the flagship product of Golden Ear. These babies look a lot nicer than the T1, and that has to count for something. I never really minded the cloth cover on the T1, but I don’t miss it either. The cloth cover on the Front grill of the Reference might be a bit tighter weave (i.e. more threading) that the sock-cloth of the T1, but I cannot be certain.
What I’m really liking at the moment – and more so than the T1 – is the sound is a bit more “genuine”. The realism is such that I liken what I’m hearing to an actual live band.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned….
I’m beginning to be convinced that while the Triton Reference are not hungry for power; they sure do have an appetite for it! And while I’m leaving the bass dial at 12, I’m pondering having to raise it, out of my desire for chest thumping bass.
Today, I listened to (no surprise) set 2 of Grateful Dead 80-08-16.sonyECM250.walker-csotton-miller.88959.sbeok.flac16 and 79-09-04.sbd.miller/79747.sbeok.flac16. I also listened to the first 5 tracks of Yes 7/23/75 - Master Cassette -> Sony TC-152SD Tape Recorder, Sony ECM-99 Stereo Microphone.
While the music was playing, I touched the cabinet in various spots and whatever minimal vibration or pulse I could feel, it was uniform throughout the sides and top.
My primary listing position is expanding! That’s right, instead of just a seated position, there is standing room behind the seated PLP, which also acts as a PLP. The sound just envelops the room. Literally.
Today, I sold my Sony TW7ESA tape deck. Sad but necessary as I’m all digital. I swear to you that the person (a 50 year old gentlemen of Philippine descent with his 20 year old daughter), commented that he never heard anything as good in his life. Totally serious.
I listened today to only one hour of music. Hey, it’s a Sunday, beautiful weather. So, I played some chess with a former high school teacher of mine who happens to be low-master strength. Enjoyable, but I lost. Had dinner with my significant other and then went in the pool. That’s my excuse.
Besides the music - Miles Davis, November 6, 1986, Teatro Campoamor de Oviedo Oviedo, Asturias, Spain, soundboard-2mic matrix stereo mix > Master cas > dat > cdr, I listened to something else I dare say no one (or almost no one) does. The speaker itself. In the case of powered speakers, inevitably there is a sound coming from the bass region when the speaker is on (blue light). There was. And exactly 19 inches high. The sound is extremely low and you need to have your ear on the fabric/grill. The sound is lower than that of the T1, which is a good thing. Of course, my amplifier was off during this test and only the speakers were on. When the blue light went off, there is no sound coming from them at all. Also of interest here, typically sound from a bass amp sounds like a gentle breeze through a round pipe. I wouldn’t describe the sound I heard today quite as that though. It was a bit more like static (but not a static buzz or sizzle), something you would expect to hear coming from a mid range driver or tweeter. But whatever it sounds like when the speaker is on but idle, it is so low that it is of no consequence. Probably lower than 30db if I had to guess.
Something else important to know regarding T1 comparison. This is Sandy’s precise quote regarding the spikes that come with the Reference: “Just to clarify regarding the spikes. At CES we were using Stillpoints. These are rather expensive, but I think worthwhile. The spikes that come with the speakers are similar to those that come with the Ones, but are made of stainless steel, rather than brass, which works better.”
The awesomeness continues. Frankly, I don’t believe there is any floor standing speaker on the market today that can do bass as well, accurately and with the energy that the Reference can deliver. Sure, it takes a little nudge on the volume dial to get them there, but once they are in that "zone" they sing as though sound is emanating from a stack of speakers indicative of being at a live concert venue.
The Moderator posted a message on the Golden Ear forum that read “They are significantly better than the T1, I've made the comparison many times. No contest”. To this I replied that I agree. But out of respect for T1 owners and the greatness of the T1 itself, I never found it within me to write that. Interesting that the Moderator was this candid and blunt.
I can (and will herein) add an additional wow factor that I have at least *some* good reason to believe is the case. Again, I am *not* stating fact, but am merely conveying what I have at least some good reason to believe. Golden Ear's achievement with the Triton Reference and the resulting performance level is such that if GET were to decide to "best" the Reference with yet another Triton speaker design of theirs - which of course, they can do - that could mean the now modestly affordable $8,500 goes to $85,000. That's eight thousand five hundred goes to eighty five thousand, in case you thought there was a misprint. I will save the *where and why* that additional cost would be needed for another time.
Suffice it to say the enjoyment continues. I await Sterophile Magazine’s review, which hopefully will include bench measurements. Also, I understand Golden Ear won the “Golden Ear Award” from The Absolute Sound September 2017 issue.
Another poster on the Golden Ear forum mentioned today “my first impression was they aren't any louder than the Aon 3's.” This is tangential to what I reported initially and herein. I still await an impedance curve. My *suspicion* is they draw a tad bit more current than other GET models. But hey, who cares! In the case of the T1s, I do recall a professional review where the reviewer mentioned an amp capable of driving 4 ohm loads is preferable. Even if that is the case or even more so the case with the Refs, there are plenty of amps up to the task/challenge and that can easily drive them to satisfying levels. Sure, it takes a little nudge on the volume dial to get them there, but once they are in that "zone" they sing as though sound is emanating from a stack of speakers indicative of being at a live concert venue.
Well everything Triton Reference wise continues to be excellent. From an overall audio/video system perspective, I am patiently awaiting a Schiit Yggdrasil DAC. I expect to receive it later this month.
Today I listened to 4/11/89 - Grateful Dead. My source is gd89-04-11.015109.sbd.miller.t-flac16. The show is from Rosemont Horizon Arena, Rosemont, IL. The source lineage is SBD -> Dat -> Samplitude -> Cool Edit Pro -> SHN. There are tremendous bass bombs – and I mean tremendous - via the Triton Reference courtesy of Phil Lesh. Play that anywhere close to 100db and find out or yourself just how much music goes on below 40Hz.
I finally figured out at least one correct - and likely best - way to remove the cloth radiator grill covers on the Reference.!!!! How so and why so may you ask? Let's start with why. Because, I am a big believer in physical inspection for maintenance and other purposes. Also a believer in independent verification of said radiators. That's why. Next, let’s go to the how. This *is* difficult *if* you wish to take utmost care to not damage the beautiful cabinet finish. Suffice it to say, I do not want to cosmetically compromise anything and it is imperative that I do not damage the anything. I asked Golden Ear how to remove the grills. Their response, "It is a press fit". Great, but that didn't answer my question. I asked my dealer. My dealer’s method of removing the grills is pathetically bad. It involves using duct tape over the cloth to "pull" it out. Not only will that not work, but if it does, the sticky residue will be impossible to remove.
Okay, so I realized that something like a rubber spatula would be needed. Instead, I used a credit card. That's right. The plastic is both strong enough to "pry" the grill off AND flexible enough not to cause any damage to the finish. I was impressed. Keep in mind I had previously removed the grill covers *on the dealer demo pair* and had already seen the radiators. In fact, even Sandy wasn't aware they were held on magnetically until I called it to his attention.
So why was I impressed? A number of reasons. The quality of the workmanship was evident. The overall "architecture" of how the radiators are placed and seated obviously involved computer-aided design and drafting as well as highly thought out precision engineering. Of lesser importance but still relevant, all nine screws on each radiator was torqued correctly. That is to say the two screws (all phillips head) in each corner and the larger center screw were perfectly tightened. Moreover, there is some kind of epoxy resin/sealant rather nicely and uniformly applied around the entire radiator. While overkill and likely not needed or factually the case, the appearance is as though the radiators are both air and water tight with respect to the cabinet. It can't get any more flush than it is. Also, the magnets were WAY above-and-beyond those of the demo pair. Sandy did point out the demo pair was cosmetically less than perfect in comparison to the customer variety.[ In the case of the demos, each of the four magnets was the size and shape of a dime. In the case of the customer versions, the magnetic surface area is *substantially* greater. Perfectly flat and an integral part of the cloth grill "border". Very nicely done. And, putting the cloth grill covers back on is a snap - literally!
The "gap" between the radiator cloth/grill and the cabinet is exquisitely elegant and in fact, perfect. Just enough to be able to remove them yet slender enough to contribute to the overall outstanding cosmetic appeal of the cabinet. And the fact that the radiators are an integral part as to why the Reference sounds phenomenal is also worth mentioning too.
September 2021 Update
The Triton Reference continue to impress... even when I compare to other speakers - including those more expensive - I've heard within the audio club to which I'm a member.
Okay folks.... here's some inside info.... I (with dealer technician and GET technician assistance) just replaced the tweeter on both of my Reference speakers.... my bad as to the cause of their failure....I ran a 15999 KHz sine wave through them at rather high decibel level...I couldn't hear the test tone (was trying to test my hearing) but unfortunately heard one of the tweeters "sizzle" and then "smelled" that both were burned....that said, the repair (parts and labor) was still performed under warrantee (although my dealer needed to make the arrangements and required that I send a photo of the serial numbers).
First, a sincere thank you to Golden Ear.
Now read/understand this FACT.... in order to replace the tweeter, besides removing the front grill (which was not at all problematic), the unexpected (even by Golden Ear) occurred. In order to replace the tweeter, one ***MUST*** remove the midrange driver below the tweeter in order to gain enough slack in the wiring to remove the damaged/existing tweeter and attach the wiring (two, keyed by size) to the new tweeter. Annoying for sure, however, in the end it worked out.
So my T Ref's are now sporting brand new Reference tweeters!
March 2022 Update
After significant room upgrades (installation of GIK acoustic paneling (four CT Alpha Series Corner Bass Traps 2DA pattern, four 4A Alpha Pro Series Bass Trap Diffuser/Absorber 2DA pattern, four 244 Bass Traps), it wasn’t long before I noticed there was something in my room resonating at high volume (80+db) and at low frequency (<150Hz). It was extremely difficult for me to troubleshoot/isolate, however, I determined the “issue” was coming from one of the Triton speakers. Chet at GoldenEar was instrumental at helping me troubleshoot, and we felt it necessary to replace two of the left side (right speaker) passive radiators. Chet sent me the radiators free of charge, which I received two days later and installed. Unfortunately, the resonance issue didn’t go away. After further troubleshooting with Chet, I was asked to remove the spikes. Problem solved! Turns out the spikes (which I had through carpeting and onto a hardwood floor) was causing resonance vibration at a certain frequency. It was no easy task to replace the spikes, and I slightly damaged the base of the speaker in the process. But never fear while GoldenEar is here! Chet is sending me a new base. So, one of my T Refs are now sporting new passive radiators and soon a new base. I truly have a reference caliber sound (measures flat, etc.) at this point (after the GIK room treatments). The Triton Reference speakers continue to impress...
March 11, 2022 Update
Today, I (with the help of Audiobreakthroughs technician) installed ISO Acoustics Gaia I speaker isolators on my Triton Reference speakers. This was very carefully planned out, in that I had extensive telephone conversations with ISO Acoustics, Golden Ear technical support, Audiobreakthroughs (the dealer through which I purchased the Gaia 1), more than one individual who already has a Gaia isolator (albeit model 2) on a Triton Reference, read hundreds (not 10 or 20) reviews (90% favorable, 10% unfavorable) and performed my own pondering of speaker physical stability (from falling over), cost to performance (i.e. value) consideration, and a host of other things.
The disclaimer here is my sound environment is already rather resolving and “high end”. I recently had installed GIK acoustic paneling, had that professionally installed, had my room measured by an acoustician, had dozens of audio club members over my place, and everyone without exception is completely wowed by the level of performance, tonality and overall presentation of the sound. So what was I to gain by installing isolation feet, I pondered.
It should be further noted that according to Audiobreakthrougs, Sandy Gross himself is using Gaia on his T Refs.
Additionally, I had a concern (stability) in-so-far as my speakers are placed on low pile carpet, which is over wood flooring. I can tell you right now, if you have your speakers directly on wood flooring, you definitely want the Gaia 1’s on your T Refs. In no way did I want to use the optional carpet spikes, because I recently found a problem in that my speakers were spiked to the wood floor through the carpet, and instead of decoupling, they essentially coupled with the floor as a resonance could be heard at certain frequency/volume. By all accounts I will never use spikes again. Ever.
Let’s start with the downside of the Gaia’s. First is cost as they are not cheap. I managed to obtain them for less than the MSRP, but still, it essentially works out to basically $100 per footer (to which you need 8) plus tax plus shipping plus tipping the helper.
Another downside is what I’m considering a product defect. The product is such that the footer logo must be in line with the speaker drivers (either facing forward or rearward). Thankfully, there is a large tolerance, given that the logo on the footer is rather long, so it is not imperative to ensure that, for example, the letter “o” is aligned to all other footers letter “o”. As long as you’re within the logo, that “works” (according to ISO Acoustics). The problem (design flaw and product defect as I see it) is that it is not possible to *perfectly* level the speaker by using the footer while simultaneously maintain the logo requirement. In this context, and by my standards, perfectly level means using a precision leveling measurement device (which I have) and being within 1/64 of an inch. You read that right. My personal standard for leveling is to be plus/minus 1/64th of an inch or better. With the Gaia’s, one can only hope to come within 1/8th of an inch, which in my view is not level. The aforementioned stated, if you already have perfectly level wood floors, then I guess this isn’t a concern. During the installation I spoke with ISO Acoustics about this dilemma and it was mutually decided to forgo precision leveling in favor of the Gaia logo positioning.
Yet another thing I can pick on is the rather small wrench (and you must use theirs) they provide, meant to tighten both the bolt (screw) to the footer and the top nut to the bottom of the speaker cabinet. It is so small that one cannot get enough torque on it to really tighten down what in my view should be really tight (however, remaining careful not to over tighten as this too is no good). One end of their wrench has “teeth” of sorts which makes gripping it and using it properly/effectively somewhat challenging, albeit doable.
Now onto what matters most. Is there a sound improvement? At this point, given that I just installed the isolators today, I haven’t had enough time to come to full conclusion. What I can say is that I did listen for twenty minutes or so to my standard “go to” recordings when evaluating systems, etc. There definitely was no downside to what I was hearing, and at face value and again quick review, I would say it is conceivable there is some slight benefit. Did I hear another verse in a song? Of course not. But in general the sound did seem to be *slightly* “better”. Yes, this could be the placebo effect or something else, and I do plan to do some critical listening and further evaluation over the coming days. Keep in mind and as I’ve stated, my system before the Gaia’s was already sounding spectacular (subjective of course and in my opinion) so I really am not expecting much. At the level my system is already at, only tiny incremental gains (or perhaps changes?) is all I really expect/want. I do believe that my speakers being on carpet with the stock Golden Ear rubber feet decoupled them from the floor rather nicely. These Gaia’s are likely decoupling them a bit (or perhaps a lot) more, but whether or not that translates into an audible improvement remains to be heard.
Some other things I like about the Gaia’s….I feel they “look” good. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, to my surprise, they seem to actually *increase the speakers stability* on the (low pile) carpet. The speaker on the Gaia’s can gently move left/right/back/forth without tipping over. This is convenient (for me) as sometimes I brush against the speaker while walking behind it, (to get to the back of my components, cabling, etc.). As I stated previously, if you have a hard wood floor the Gaia’s are a must have and would probably yield greater sonic benefit than if on carpet.
March 14, 2022 Update
Guys, I was at one of my friends house yesterday (3/13). He has GT Audio Works Reference 3 speakers, costing $59,000 a pair. The footers on his speakers are GAIA 1's!
Back to my GAIA's on the T Refs.. ISO Acoustics told me this would be the case, and low and behold they are correct. The footers (isolators) have managed to *perfectly* level the speaker right/left/back/front, despite the fact that the T Refs weigh in at 110 pounds (approximate) and are 65% front weight loaded (approximate). Weight distribution of the T Refs is confirmed with GE (weight distribution is essentially 65% front, 35% back). I was told by ISO Acoustics when doing the install not to compensate for the weight distribution of the speaker. By the way, I happen to have an extra T Ref base (off of the speaker), so my initially leveling was able to be performed perfectly because the center of the empty base is precisely level. Once the speaker is on its base, leveling is rather difficult as there are very few spots (practically zero) in which to obtain an accurate level measurement.
Forget the leveling....Onto the sound....there is definitely an improvement! The speakers are benefiting by virtue of their being isolated (more so) from the floor and their ability to move ever so slightly to its own internal vibrations. The rationale for the GAIA logo's having to face front in line with the drivers (or 180 degrees opposite if you don't want to see the logo), ISO Acoustics states is because it further allows the speaker to move back and forth with the drivers. I do believe it is doing just that. Regardless of the "magic" behind it, I can hear sonic improvement.
Special notation about the GAIA logo’s as I’ve confirmed this with ISO Acoustics. The logo in this context is the entire “(((ISOACOUSTICS” label as seen at the top of the isolator. It is not the “GAIA 1” (or whatever model GAIA’s you buy) small lettering just above the bottom rubber footer. Also note that while the GAIA 2 will “work” with the Triton Reference, it is recommended to use the GAIA 1.
I highly recommend using the GAIA isolator best suited for your particular model speaker. In the case of the T Ref's. GAIA 1 is the way to go. And yes, there is definitely a sonic improvement.