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.
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.