GoldenEar TritonCinema Two 5-Channel Surround System - Part 2 (TPV 101)

Equipment+
Categories:
Speakers
|
Products:
GoldenEar Technology Triton 2
GoldenEar TritonCinema Two 5-Channel Surround System - Part 2 (TPV 101)

 This is Part 2 of the GoldenEar TritonCinema Two 5-Channel Surround System, click here to read Part 1.

 

 

SONIC CHARACTER

Starting with first things first, let me observe that the TritonCinema Two system offers exceptionally smooth and neutrally balanced tonal response, with excellent extension at both frequency extremes. Up high, GoldenEar’s HVFR tweeter provides gorgeous treble detailing, sumptuous high-frequency harmonics, and beautifully conveys the sense of “air” surrounding instruments, yet does so without the slightest hint of edginess, stress, or glare. Honestly, the HVFR tweeter will spoil you rotten, as it tends to make many other high-frequency transducers (even some quite good ones) sound slightly edgy, etched, or just plain “stressed out” by comparison.

Down low, the Triton Two’s powered subwoofer provides real live, no jive, no-excuses full-range bass, yet without sounding thick, bloated, or overbearing. After listening to the TritonCinema Two system for a while you may find, as I did, that the system routinely reaches way down low to reproduce deep bass notes or sound effects that somehow seem to elude many other ostensibly full-range systems. The moral of the story is that it is one thing to say your system offers full-range bass, but another to deliver the goods. Happily, the TritonTwo system is the real deal.

Bass-to-midrange integration in the TritonCinema Two system is very, very good, but not quite up to the lofty standards established by some of today’s very best $5k - $10k/pair stereo speakers. There‘s not much missing, though, apart from subtle touches of heightened mid-bass transient speed, textural finesse, and focus—qualities you might find and enjoy in speakers such as the new Magnepan MG3.7 ($5500/pair). But in fairness, note that a pair of Maggies costs thousands more than the whole 5-channel GoldenEar system does, that the TritonCinema Two system offers significantly deeper bass extension than the Maggies, and then note that the GoldenEar rig is easy to drive, whereas the Maggies are famously power hungry (got watts?). My point is that while the GoldenEar system’s bass performance is not perfect, its all-around combination of low-frequency virtues is well balanced and makes plenty of sense.

One of the nicest aspects of the TritonCinema Two rig involves its unexpected levels of midrange purity and refinement—qualities exhibited not only by the Triton Two main speakers, but also by all the other speakers in the system (which, remember, share the exact same tweeters and similar mid-bass/midrange drivers). GoldenEar’s MVPP midrange driver looks conventional enough, but it produces an authentic and very sophisticated sound, complete with excellent transient speed, textural nuances galore, and wonderful qualities of easygoing openness and transparency. But one of the best and most essential aspects of the midrange driver is that it is fast enough to blend seamlessly with the HVFR Heil-type tweeter—something that’s much easier said than done.

If you have much prior experience in listening to speakers equipped with Heil-type tweeters, then you know without my saying so that it can be very, very difficult to get them to blend properly with other drivers. The problem, as a rule, is that Heil-type tweeters sound great in their own right, but tend to make everything else sound sluggish and slow by comparison. Well aware of this problem, both Sandy Gross and Don Givogue pushed the GoldenEar engineering team hard to create a piston-type midrange driver that would be light enough, fast enough, and subtle enough to keep pace, and their efforts have paid off handsomely. I have never, ever heard a piston-type midrange driver blend more perfectly with a Heil-type tweeter than in the GoldenEar system—not even in über-pricey high-end speakers costing many times the price of the entire TritonCinema Two rig. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the uncannily sweet, smooth marriage of GoldenEar’s MVPP midrange driver and HVFR tweeter that’s responsible for much of the sonic magic of which this system is capable. The bottom line is that you hear two drivers speaking as one, which is as things should be.

And speaking of magic, let’s focus for a moment on what might be the TritonCinema Two system’s single most spectacular quality: mind-blowingly good 3D imaging and soundstaging. Assuming you have the system more or less properly set up, you can expect to experience moments where sounds become almost completely set free from the speaker enclosures, so that you almost have the sense that the sounds are occurring on their own—without any intervention or effort on the speakers’ part at all. This remarkable ability to set sounds free unleashes the kind of holographic imaging that, for many listeners, will I think be a stunning revelation. Once you hear the spooky three-dimensionality of the GoldenEar rig in action, many competing systems seem terribly flat, constrained, or mechanical sounding by comparison.

The one area where I found the GoldenEar system to be very good, but not necessarily mind-blowingly great, involves its handling of ultra large-scale dynamics—dynamics of the type you might encounter in over-the-top movie soundtracks with volume levels cranked to the nines. While the system is easy to drive and has truly substantial output capabilities, it does have its limits—though these rarely if ever become apparent on music. But if you really hammer the volume levels on bombastic, hyper-dramatic, blockbuster action film soundtracks, you will eventually hear signs of compression and congestion (probably the DSP circuit intervening to prevent woofer damage). But even under worst-case conditions the GoldenEar subwoofer system keeps its composure, never sounding overtly distorted or distressed. All that happens when cuckoo-level bass effects present themselves is that the subwoofer amp temporarily applies soft-clipping/limiting functions for a few moments, and then promptly resumes normal operation. And consider this: while there might be comparably priced systems that could potentially play a tiny bit louder than the TritonCinema Two system can, most would have a very difficult time matching the GoldenEar system’s other compelling sonic strengths.

MOVIE PERFORMANCE

I turned to an old favorite test disc to give the GoldenEar system a workout; namely, the Blu-ray of The Hurt Locker. If you know the soundtrack of this Academy Award-winning film well, then you might agree that what makes it so effective is the artful juxtaposition of external sounds of conflicts erupting in the streets of Baghdad versus internal, point-of-view sounds presented as if we are, like bomb disposal expert Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner), looking at the world from within the stifling and hyper-stressful confines of a tightly sealed bombproof suit. Never is this more apparent than in the first sequence where James and his teammates Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) go out on patrol together for the first time.

After receiving a report that a possible improvised explosive device may be buried at the far end of a lonely and nearly deserted street, James suits up to investigate (against the advice of his teammates, who argue for sending a camera-equipped robot instead). Undaunted, James seeks help with the visor of the suit and then heads off, soon dropping a smoke grenade that partially block his teams’ view of his action. From the outside, we hear the hard, sharp “clack” of the smoke grenade going off, while from the mildly distorted earphones and radio of the suit we hear the sound of James’ steady breathing and the increasingly frantic voice of Sergeant Sanborn shouting, “what are you doing?”

Tension ratchets upward as James moves down the street as we hear the screech of tires and the revving of an engine as an Iraqi cab driver-turned-insurgent blasts past a checkpoint and heads straight for James. The external racket of the careening cab, augmented by shouts from checkpoint soldiers, becomes louder and more frenetic, even as James calmly draws his sidearm, points it straight at the cabbie’s head, and then very softly says into his microphone, “I got this.” At the last moment, the cab screeches to a halt, soldiers voices struggle to decide whether to come to James’ assistance or to stand back out of range of possible bomb fragments, while within the suit James continues his slow, steady breathing, then peers intently at the sweating face of the cab driver and murmurs—almost to himself—“what are you thinking?” After firing several warning shots into the ground, and then through the windshield of the cab, James eventually stares down the cabbie and forces him to back up, where he is promptly dragged from his cab and arrested. The bark of James’ 9mm pistol seems almost unbearably loud and harsh in contrast to the relative silence from within his bombproof suit.

What makes the scene so powerful is the way the GoldenEar system’s vividly and realistically reproduces the loud, cacophonous, and at times violent sounds from the street, complete with reverberations and echoes that help us instinctively outside the danger inherent in the narrow city street. But what is even more compelling is the system’s simultaneous ability to capture the eerie and almost surreal calm that James both experiences and projects from within his bombproof suit—even as he faces one life-or-death situation while en route to another. In ways too subtle and powerful to capture in words, the GoldenEar system helps us to understand that Sergeant James is either one very cool customer, an adrenaline addict of the first rank, or perhaps a bit of both. I’ve experienced surround sound this good before, but never from a system as affordable as the TritonCinema Two rig.

To better understand my comments, above, concerning the TritonCinema Two system’s dynamic capabilities, try listening to the soundtrack of another spectacular Academy Award-winning film: Inception. In particular, pay close attention to the sequence where Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) introduces the young architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) to the limitless creativity that is possible in the context of a shared dream. As Cobb guides Ariadne through one of his own dreams, he allows her to witness an implausible series of slow-motion explosions (complete with strangely phase-shifted low-frequency sound effects), to show her how suggestive dream images can unleash the mind to fill in oddly razor-sharp details of its own. The TritonCinema Two system handles the off-kilter and almost overwhelming sound of those dream explosions without any problems at all.

But even more vigorous soundtrack material arises as Ariadne starts to grasp the peculiar rules of dream-state creativity and then deftly (and to Cobb’s great surprise) uses her imagination to fold the structure of the cityscape upon itself, so that the streets slowly bend up and then over their heads. To emphasize the sheer strangeness of the images unfolding onscreen, the soundtrack designer introduces a plethora of loud, jarring, and disjointed ultra-low-frequency effects as Ariadne performs her space-bending trick. Those effects represent, quite frankly, a low-end torture test that pushes most systems—the TritonCinema Two rig included—right to their limits. The good news is that, unlike several systems I’ve tested with this brutally demanding soundtrack, the TritonCinema Two system navigated those large-scale effects without either shutting down or exhibiting other signs of undue distress. But the system did become audibly compressed as the most violent waves of bass passed by, and so missed out on the fullest measures of impact and depth of which the Inception soundtrack is capable. Even so, I felt the GoldenEar system deserved very high marks for keeping its composure under extraordinary pressure (bearing in mind that this soundtrack has forced some subwoofers to throw up their hands and cease operations altogether!).

MUSIC PERFORMANCE

If anything, the TritonCinema Two system does an even better job of reproducing music (especially multi-channel music) than it does with movie soundtracks, which is saying a mouthful. To appreciate what I mean, try listening to the high-resolution recording of Jerry Junkins conducting The University of Texas Wind Ensemble in its performance of John Corigliano’s Circus Maximus [Naxos, Blu-ray]. What is fascinating about this piece is that Corigliano composed Circus Maximus with the explicit intent that it be performed in the round (in this case, in the Bass Concert Hall in Austin, TX). Thus, over the course of the performance, listeners will hear a large stage band in the front of the hall, a marching band that starts out at the rear of the hall, and a smaller “Surround Band,” which features small clusters of instruments placed above, behind, and to the sides of the audience.

In Circus Maximus, Corigliano invites comparisons between the Circus Maximus of Rome in decline with today’s media excesses where, as Corigliano says, “many of us have become as bemused by the violence and humiliation that flood the 500-plus channels of our television screens as those mobs of imperial Rome who considered the devouring of human beings by starving lions just another Sunday show.” The result is a striking piece of music that is, by turns, beautiful, savage, and strange, and at times a bit unnerving.

One of my favorite movements is “Screen/Siren”, which begins with a saxophone quartet and string bass playing from high above the listener to the left side of the hall. Two things jumped out at me during this movement. First, the GoldenEar's perfectly nailed the voices and timbres of the saxophones and bass, making them sound highly realistic. But second, the TritonCinema Two system presented a convincing sonic image of the instruments that—sure enough—appeared to emanate from above and to the left side of the listener. Now most audiophiles are familiar with experience of hearing fine speaker system create precision images to the front of the room. But what is not very common at all is to hear a moderately priced surround sound system pull off exactly the same feat, but directly to side of the room, and with images that remain precise, stable, tightly focused, and highly believable.

Another compelling movement is “Night Music II”, which is noteworthy both for the sheer beauty and complexity of the timbres on display and for the remarkable dynamic “mood swings” presented. As “Night Music II” opens, the instrumental voices evoke a dark, mysterious, and initially tranquil nighttime scene, with flutes and higher wind instruments softly carrying the melody as the faint, evanescent sound of a high-hat supplies delicate rhythm accents. But before too long, violent percussion and horn outbursts shatter the mood, with loud low percussion instruments being struck, and with low brass and woodwind sections presenting aggressive back-and-forth exchanges with their higher-pitched brass and woodwind counterparts. It’s thoroughly bracing material that poses a stiff dynamic test for any speaker system—a test the TritonCinema Two system passes with flying colors.

Several aspects of the system’s performance captured my attention. First, I was wowed by the system’s ability to maintain timbral purity and, for want of a better word, authenticity in the face of the movement’s radical melodic and dynamic shifts. Throughout “Night Music II”, instruments sounded purely like themselves and remained easy to distinguish from one another. Second, I was struck by the system’s ability to turn on a dime in a dynamic sense, sounding delicate and almost heartbreakingly hushed in one moment, and then brash, violent, and powerful the next—all without losing composure or context. Finally, and this is the really impressive part, I was floored by the system’s ability to continually present stunning, holographic imaging as the movement unfolded. The soundstage produced by the GoldenEar system was huge and three-dimensional, perfectly capturing the dimensions and acoustics of the recording venue. Moderately priced surround systems just aren’t supposed to sound this good, but apparently GoldenEar didn’t get the memo, and thank goodness for that.

Whatever you do, then, please don’t make the mistake of dismissing the TritonCinema Two package as “just another home-theater system.” In truth, this is a music-first system that would do most any audiophile proud.

BOTTOM LINE

GoldenEar’s TritonCinema Two system qualifies as a true benchmark product as it establishes new high-water marks in terms of performance per dollar, while also exhibiting certain performance characteristics (such as almost eerily-good 3D imaging and soundstaging) that are tough to beat at any price.

First off, the system gets all of the big things right, offering smooth and neutral tonal balance, good sensitivity, full-throated dynamics (within reasonable limits), and, again, absolutely killer surround-sound imaging. But it also provides many of the small but significant performance touches that differentiate great speaker systems from merely good ones—elements such as transient quickness, textural subtlety and finesse, and superb resolution of low-level sonic details. This is one of those rare systems that can convey a desirable and elusive quality of sonic effortlessness.

Listeners who care passionately about music and movies yet are not made of cubic money may well find this system represents the point of diminishing returns (meaning that to do significantly better, you’d potentially need to spend eye-popping sums of money). Once again, Sandy Gross and Don Givogue have provided a solution that places the truly good stuff within reach for the rest of us.

SPECS & PRICING

GoldenEar Technology Triton Two floorstanding speaker
Type: 3-way, five-driver, dual passive radiator-equipped, floorstander with built-in powered subwoofer
Driver complement:
      •One High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (Heil-type) tweeter,
      •Two 4 ½-inch mid-bass drivers,
      •Two 5-inch x 9-inch quadratic subwoofers,
      •Two 7-inch x 10-inch planar passive radiators.
Built-In Amplifier: 1200-watt subwoofer digital/DSP-controlled amplifier
Frequency response: 16Hz – 35kHz
Sensitivity: 91 dB
Impedance: Compatible with 8 Ohms
Dimensions (HxWxD):
      •Speaker: 48” x 7.5” x 15” (height includes mounting base, without spikes)
      •Mounting Base: 11.5” W x 18” D (mounting base)
Weight: 60 lbs.
Warranty: 5 years (drivers and cabinet), 3 years (subwoofer amplifier)
Price: $1249.99/each

GoldenEar Technology SuperSat 50 C center channel speaker
Type: 2-way, three-driver, dual-passive radiator-equipped center channel speaker
Driver complement:
      •One High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (Heil-type) tweeter,
      •Two 4 ½-inch mid-bass drivers,
      •Two 4-inch x 7-inch passive radiators.
Frequency response: 60Hz – 35kHz
Sensitivity: 92 dB
Impedance: Compatible with 8 Ohms
Dimensions (HxWxD): 4.75” x 27” x 2.5”
Weight: 8 lbs. each
Warranty: 5 years
Price: $499.99/each

GoldenEar Technology SuperSat 3 satellite speaker
Type: 2-way, three-driver, sealed enclosure satellite speaker
Driver complement:
      •One High-Velocity Folded Ribbon (Heil-type) tweeter,
      •Two 4 ½-inch mid-bass drivers.
Frequency response: 80Hz – 35kHz
Sensitivity: 92 dB
Impedance: Compatible with 8 Ohms
Dimensions (HxWxD): 12” x 4.75” x 2.7”
Weight: 6 lbs. each
Warranty: 5 years
Price: $249.99/each

System Price: $3499.95

GoldenEar Technology
(410) 998-9134
www.goldenear.com

blog comments powered by Disqus

Featured Articles