If you’ve seen any of my prior commentary on the GoldenEar Triton One loudspeakers, then you know where this review is going. But if you haven’t, fair warning: You’re in for a bit of a gush-fest. And, yes, I’m perfectly fine with that.
I’ve put GoldenEar Technology’s flagship – the pride and joy of its creator, Sandy Gross – through the wringer. I listened exhaustively over several months trying to find some cleverly concealed fault. I did wildly unfair – some would even say mean – things to this speaker trying to trip it up or expose a weakness. In the end, I came up empty handed. The Triton One just “does it” for me. I haven’t been this smitten over a speaker in decades, and I’ve listened to a lot of speakers in that time.
Is The Triton One the greatest speaker ever made? No – the answer to that question will always be completely subjective anyway. But I will say that there isn’t a pair of speakers under $10,000 that can do what the Triton One do. That’s a bold claim, yes, but I can back it up. And so I shall.
Hands on video
Out of the box
When the Triton One arrived at our headquarters in Portland, Oregon, they were initially mistaken for a pair of refrigerators – the shipping boxes are that big. They need to be, though. The Triton One stand 54-inches high, run 16 5/8 inches deep, and tip the scale 80 pounds each. That’s a lot to protect, and the foam that cradles the speakers is thick enough to do the job.
Perhaps my anticipation of unboxing the speakers had me more excited than most, but liberating the Triton One was a thrill … and a bit of work. I recommend calling a friend over — not just because you’ll need assistance with unpacking and placement, but also because you’ll want to enjoy the look of amazement on their face when you light them up for the first time.
Are you drooling yet? Because if you aren’t, you might want to check your pulse.
Granted, the Triton One are large speakers, and that’s by design, but how large they look in your room will depend on the size of your room, and your perspective. That is, in a small room, the Triton One are going to make their presence known, especially if you set them up properly, which begs a fair amount of distance from the wall behind them. It’s incredible, though, how the Triton One hide their depth when you stare them down from head on. Thanks to a relatively trim 5-3/4-inch width at the front (tapering to 8 inches toward the rear) and a front baffle with smooth radiused edges, the Triton One manage to hide their girth well, but only from certain angles.
In the box with each speaker I found one ungrounded 10-foot power cable, floor spikes (the speakers come with pedestals already attached), and some product literature.
Features and design
Not that you can tell by looking at them, but there’s a lot going on inside the Triton One just beyond the top-to-bottom “sock” or wrap-around grille cloth that shrouds the speaker. I’ll get to the speaker’s wonders of engineering in a moment, but first I want to talk about that sock.
I came down on the Triton Seven for sporting the grill sock because it is a cat magnet (They just. Can’t. Resist.) and because it seemed like it would be a hassle to replace should it one day get mauled or otherwise punctured and torn. I still say it’s a cat magnet, but after further consideration, and a few conversations with Sandy Gross, I’ve come to appreciate what this design approach does for the Triton series, and the person buying them.By wrapping the entire speaker in grill cloth, the Tritons have a softened appearance. And the fact that they are cloth helps them fit in their surroundings. It also seems like natural fit for a speaker of its shape, which avoids straight lines wherever it can, lending to a very sleek, industrial look that’s very en vogue these days. But beyond that, there’s a cost benefit, as wood veneers and high-gloss lacquer jobs can jack up the price in a hurry. Add to that the fact that GoldenEar Technology says it hasn’t had to help one of its customers deal with a cat or child-related grill cloth incident, and I’m prepared to back off my former criticism a bit. I suppose not everyone has as wily a cat as I.
GoldenEar Technology threw the book at the Triton One, and it shows by what’s under the hood. At the top of the speaker are two 5.25-inch drivers which handle the upper bass and midrange frequencies, and sandwiched in between them (in what speaker geeks know as a D’Appolito array) is GoldenEar’s outstanding High-Velocity folded ribbon tweeter. But the real fun is the arsenal that takes care of the bass frequencies.
The lower half of each speaker is all about that bass … literally. The party starts with a built 1,600-watt amplifier – that’s 3,200 watts of amplification dedicated to filling your room with glorious low end. All that power is channeled to six 5 x 9-inch bass drivers, three in each speaker. Hold on a second, we’re not done yet: Coupled to those 5×9-inch drivers are a total of eight 7 x 10-inch passive radiators, four in each speaker, all in a sealed cabinet independent of the upper portion of the speaker. Are you drooling yet? Because if you aren’t, you might want to check your pulse.
Allow me to underscore the significance of that kind of design: Any audio expert worth their salt will tell you that the best way to get even, smooth, high-energy bass response is to have as many sources of bass as possible, placed in multiple areas of the room. That’s what the Triton One do. They not only generate bass from opposite ends of the room, but each of them radiates it in multiple directions. Not only that, but by taking on the bass responsibilities for themselves, the speakers lighten the load for whatever amplifier they are connected to. All the amp sees are the two midrange drivers and the tweeters – they may as well be bookshelf speakers as far as your amplifier is concerned.
And if you want the Triton One to act as home-theater subwoofers, too, they can do that as well. In addition to the standard speaker-level inputs jacks on the back of each speaker are line-level RCA inputs for connecting to an A/V receiver or A/V pre-amp’s subwoofer outputs.
I’ve never gotten so much exercise setting up a pair of speakers in my life (with the possible exception of Axiom’s LFR-1100 with ADA-1400-4). In search of the perfect positioning, I must have bounced up and down from my sofa over 100 times, shuffling a speaker a little more to the right, then left, toeing it in a bit more, then a bit less. Back and forth I went making these alternatingly tiny, then huge adjustments before I came to a sobering realization: I was wasting a lot of time.
Thankfully, the Triton One is a speaker that achieves excellence without being demanding.
Please don’t misunderstand, the Triton One absolutely deserve some attention when it comes to placement (no matter how much leeway you have), but the fact is that these speakers sound great in a number of different placement scenarios. Tweaking their placement will bring improvements, but doing so only serves to make up the difference between excellent and stupefying. Thankfully, the Triton One is a speaker that achieves excellence without being demanding.
I did manage to find the Triton Ones’ money spot in my listening room, though. For me, that put the speakers about 8 feet apart with about 42 inches to each side wall from the outside edges, and about 32 inches from the wall behind them, as measured from the back of the speaker.
At the request of GoldenEar Technology, I allowed the Triton One to play for about 50 hours straight before beginning my evaluation (I let them run all weekend long). For my auditions, I used a Rotel RA-1570 integrated amplifier, Peachtree Nova 220SE integrated amp, Pioneer Elite SC-89 A/V receiver, a Sonic Impact Super T amp, Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc Player, Asus Zen Prime laptop, and Cambridge Audio DACMagic XS.
I wasted no time tearing right into the Triton One with Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms on SACD. The Triton Ones enraptured me with their immense power, depth, detail and clarity. For the first time I felt like I was hearing Mark Knopfler’s National Style O Resonator guitar tone in its true color. The steely resonance behind each pull of the stings was so distinct I could practically taste the metal. And on “The Man’s Too Strong,” the Ones’ bass potency moved me so deeply that I repeated the track before moving on.
Keeping it classic, I turned to Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again” from the group’s Rumours album. “I just forgot that I still need to breathe,” I wrote in my notes. For some reason, I was holding my breath so I didn’t miss anything. That may sound nuts, but if (or when) you hear what the Triton One’s folded ribbon tweeter does with the guitar transients on this cut, it might just take your breath away, too.
I fell in love with the sense of air the Triton Ones wrapped around orchestral string sections. There were times while listening to Kronos Quartet’s “Tilliboyo” from Pieces of Africa when I could not only hear that moment when the players’ fingers would pop off their strings as they played the pizzicato piece, but the sympathetic thunk of wood resonance just underneath it.
When you hear what the Triton One’s folded ribbon tweeter does … it might just take your breath away.
The Triton do detail just the way I like it. Intimate sounds come through loud and clear, and in perfect balance with other elements of the recording. GoldenEar could have taken the lazy path so many other speaker companies do by making the Triton One sparkle a bit too brightly in the high frequencies, but instead, the speakers rely on the lightning-quick response of the folded ribbon tweeter to do what it does best, and bring the detail to your ear in perfect alignment with the rest of the sounds.
The Triton is an embraceably warm speaker. Seriously, you kind of want to hug it for sounding so comfortable. Like an old armchair that’s been perfectly broken in, the Triton One is so comfortable it imparts a sense of relaxation and woos you into a hypnotic state of keen sonic awareness. Forget those sweaty yoga classes, get yourself a pair of these speakers and let the sound of music bring you peace of mind.
Of course, when it comes time to rock, the Triton One stand ready and more than able. While I’ve heard much of GoldenEar Technology’s magic before in the form of the Triton Seven, the special bit the One brings to the table is seamlessly integrated, impeccably musical bass response. For me, the Triton One brings together the best elements of localized bass transducers and subwoofers, ditching their respective shortcomings in the process. The result is bass response that can be Brahms-Violin-Concerto delicate one moment, and holy-crap-get-the-defibrilllator-kit-this-guy’s-heart-just-stopped powerful the very next.
Perhaps the most entrancing part of the Triton Ones’ performance, however, is their ability to paint a vast soundstage across the room. I heard sound objects placed in distinct locations both vertically and horizontally, and when you have the speakers positioned just right, the phantom center channel is among the most convincing I’ve heard.
If I had to marry just one speaker, forsaking all others, never to have an eargasm with another speaker again, for as long we both should live, I’d totally marry the Triton One. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate variety. I enjoy the exotic beauty of other speakers, and I’m always intrigued by their personalities and quirks, but if I had to stick to just one musical partner for life, I can’t think of a better choice for me than the Triton One. It’s a speaker that satisfies all my needs, and does it exceptionally well.
Normally, I would recommend some alternatives in this section, but the Triton One don’t really have any peers at the moment. The Martin Logan Mantis are exceptional electrostatic speakers with built-in subwoofers, but they have a much different character, and are over $3,000 more expensive. The Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L Super Towers are also excellent, but again exhibit a different voice, though they do hail from the same genes as the Triton One.
If you get the opportunity to listen to the Triton One someday, you should. But I would caution you, once you hear what kind of sound is possible for $5,000, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it until you can get another fix. Sorry folks, but this passion is like a drug, and the Triton One are the most addicting one of them all.
- Detailed, lightning-quick treble
Remarkable transient response
Warm, natural midrange
Best. Bass. Ever.
- Large size may be too much for some rooms