Perhaps because she is of French descent, my wife takes delight in reminding me that many of life's sweetest pleasures come from France: dry champagne, delicate brie, the world's best omelettes, the music of Berlioz, Chopin, Debussy, and Saint-Saëns, and speaker systems that convey a quintessentially Gallic joie de vivre. Good examples would be speakers from Triangle Electroacoustique (one of France's three largest speaker manufacturers), whose Celius floorstanders have consistently impressed me with their "aliveness" and their natural, "organic" warmth. At CES 2005 I saw a new speaker system I had been hoping Triangle might build—the Odyssey Major 5.1-channel surround system, reviewed here. In simple terms, Triangle intends the Odyssey as a surround speaker system that delivers near Celius-level performance (which is saying a mouthful).
The Odyssey system features three basic building blocks: the Odyssey Minor satellite/center channel (a three-driver, two-way speaker that can be positioned vertically or horizontally, and mounted on tabletops, stands, or walls), the Odyssey Major (a floorstanding version of the Minor whose extra-long cabinet serves as a built-in speaker stand), and the Meteor 0.1 powered subwoofer (a simple 100- watt bass-reflex design housing an 8.3" woofer). The Odyssey components can be mixed and matched to create a variety of systems, but Triangle offers its five most popular combinations as special discountpriced packages. The package reviewed here is the $3799 Odyssey Major system comprising two Majors as L/R main speakers, three Minors as L/R surround and center-channel speakers, and the Meteor 0.1 subwoofer. With this background in mind, let's focus on how the system sounds. From the start, let me say the Odyssey Major system possesses the same qualities of "aliveness" and natural warmth that so impressed me in Triangle's Celiuses.
The Odysseys' "aliveness" hinges on two things: resolution and dynamics. The Odyssey driver array (midrange-tweeter-midrange) is capable of really exceptional resolution, tracking the inner details of audio waveforms with greater acuity than most competing designs do. You hear more information from favorite recordings and films—especially those finegrained details many other speakers miss or obscure. Second, the Triangle drive units, especially the horn-loaded, controlled-directivity titanium dome tweeters, are unusually responsive to large- and small-scale dynamic shifts. This responsiveness may be due to the speakers' relatively high sensitivity (90dB, 1W/1m) or to the sophisticated motor and diaphragm structures of Triangle's drive units1, but in any event the Odysseys recreate the dynamic envelopes of instruments and voices in a way that sounds realistically energetic and alive. The only price you pay for all this resolution and dynamic prowess is an occasional faint trace of edginess (or perhaps cabinet diffraction?) on very loud passages or hard transients. But this flaw appears so infrequently that it doesn't really undercut the Odysseys' overall sound.
The Odysseys' "organic" warmth results from the close attention Triangle has given to tonal balance in two important frequency bands. First, in the tricky crossover region between the Odyssey satellites and subwoofer, Triangle avoids the perils of mid-bass dips and peaks, instead finding a "justright" middle path where the subwoofer blends beautifully with its satellites, producing mid- and upper bass with ample weight and warmth, and with good pitch definition and transient speed. These qualities help the system sound great on acoustic basses, cellos, low brass and winds, and the like. One word of advice: Take your time with setup and use plenty of experimentation to achieve optimal satellite/subwoofer integration (careless setup can result in slightly thickened bass textures).
What is even more important is the way the Odysseys handle the midrange to treble transition. Unlike systems that rely on artificial upper midrange "presence" peaks to create the illusion of clarity, the Odysseys are wonderfully and evenly balanced from the midrange up. Thus, they come by their clarity and definition honestly, first by keeping fundamentals and harmonics in proportion, and second, by reproducing textural and transient details with unforced accuracy. Much of the credit for this goes to an impressive tweeter, which delivers a delicious combination of treble extension, dynamic snap, lightning-fast transient response, and smoothness. For best results, plan on removing the grille frames (if left on, they slightly muffle the sound), and allow 50-100 hours of break-in for optimal lucidity to develop. As break-in progresses, the Odyssey system begins to convey an almost supernatural naturalism.