In the early 1970s Sandy Gross helped co-found Polk Audio and then teamed with Don Givogue in 1990 to found Definitive Technology. Now, Gross and Givogue have joined forces again to create a third loudspeaker company: GoldenEar Technology. At each step along the way, Gross and team have consistently pursued an idea that I, for one, hold dear—namely, the notion that high-end audio should be a sport for all to play, not just an elite few with deep pockets. Naturally this means figuring out ways to build loudspeakers that deliver authentic high-end sound, yet sell at a sub-high-end prices. Sadly, history has shown us that while many loudspeaker-makers have learned to talk the talk of “affordable high-end audio,” relatively few seem able to successfully walk the walk. Why, then, should GoldenEar succeed where so many have tried and failed?
Well, a big part of the answer is that Gross and Givogue are seasoned industry veterans who share a common goal and who complement one another perfectly. Sandy is the visionary, the one with the keen and discerning ears, and the one whose restless and inventive streak drives him to make good things better. He also has an uncanny gift for creating speakers that fulfill the aspirations and desires of music lovers, yet are priced within reach of enthusiasts of moderate means. Don, in turn is the technically rigorous pragmatist, the no-nonsense engineer, and the one whose deep manufacturing expertise and discipline yields cost-effective speakers with sonic benefits that are observable, repeatable, and real. Putting their talents together, Gross and Givogue have come up with what may be their most accomplished loudspeaker to date: the GoldenEar Technology Triton Two floorstander ($2499/pair)—a speaker that debuted last fall at CEDIA 2010 and has been impressing critical listeners ever since.
The Triton Two is a three-way, five-driver, dual-passive-radiator-equipped floorstander with a built-in powered subwoofer. Highlights include an HVFR (High-Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter the design of which is patterned after Dr. Oskar Heil’s famous “Heil Air Motion Transformer” tweeter. GoldenEar says the “HVFR tweeter propagates sound waves and moves the air by squeezing it with its accordion-like pleated diaphragm, rather than pushing it as conventional drivers do.” The resulting driver is said to provide exceptional treble extension and transient speed, plus high output levels with very low distortion. Additionally, the Triton Two incorporates a pair of cast-basket, MVPP (Multi-Vaned Phase Plug-equipped) 4½" midrange drivers arranged in a D’Appolito-type configuration alongside the HVFR tweeter. GoldenEar says these midrange drivers “achieve smooth linear frequency response extending above 20kHz” (much higher than the upper limit of the driver’s operating range in the Triton Two). The point of all that surplus bandwidth is to make sure the midrange driver offers sufficient transient speed and textural nuance to keep up with the lightning-fast Heil-type tweeter.
The lower part of the Triton Two tower houses a built-in powered subwoofer, which incorporates dual 5" x 9" woofers coupled with dual 7" x 10" passive radiators (which GoldenEar colorfully describes as “infrasonic radiators”). The oblong shape of the drivers and passive radiators is said to help resist certain types of diaphragm resonances and breakup modes that can occur with traditional circular woofers. The subwoofer is powered by a 1200-watt, DSP-controlled digital amplifier. GoldenEar says the amp “has a Programmable Logic Device (PLD) machine with a nearly instantaneous 278nS update time to perfectly manage a myriad of functions including soft-clipping, DC offset control, output-stage anti-saturation protection, and discrete multi-band limiting.” Together, these elements give the Triton Two bass that extends down to a claimed lower limit of 16Hz.
Like Henry Ford’s famous Model T the Triton Twos are offered in “any color you want as long as it’s black.” The entire speaker enclosure, whose slender, tapered, airfoil-like shape is very easy on the eyes, is covered by a stretchy black fabric sleeve, which looks great and saves buyers the expense of costly lacquered or veneered cabinet panels. There is, however, a gloss-black trim plate that clips to the top of the speaker, covering the opening of the grille sleeve, thus giving the fabric cover a pleasingly organic and seamless appearance. A matching black floor plate, which is supplied with threaded spikes, helps stabilize the towers while making them more resistant to potential tip-over accidents. But enough of background; let’s talk about the Triton Two’s sound.
Starting with first things first, let me observe that—once you get the user-adjustable subwoofer output levels dialed-in properly for your room—the Triton Two system offers very smooth and neutrally balanced tonal response, with excellent extension at both frequency extremes. Better still, the Triton Two’s offer plenty of definition, detail, and resolution, but do so without imposing any of the rough edges or other painfully self-evident sonic compromises those qualities sometimes entail.