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Triad InRoom Platinum Speaker System

When I say, "horn loudspeaker," what do you think of first? Most longtime audiophiles immediately visualize big corner-mounted Klipsch K-Horns or Altec Lansing "Voice of the Theater" speakers. Although horn-mounted technology is not as common today as it was during the golden age of mono in the '40's and '50's, it still exists. The Triad InRoom Platinum speaker system ($29,850 as tested), for example, is very much here and now.

Feeling Horny?
So what is a "horn speaker" anyway? Basically it's a speaker whose driver has a horn in front of it. Technically speaking, a horn's job is to match the impedance of a driver with the impedance of the room. How does a horn audibly affect the driver? Try singing a note (if you can) and then cup our hands around your mouth and sing that same note. You'll notice that the note's character changes. If you were in front of yourself (fortunately an impossibility) you would hear that the note is louder. You would also notice that the harmonic character of your voice has changed slightly. A horn's shape, size, and materials will affect the sound. An ideal horn improves a driver's output and dynamics, and controls its dispersion characteristics while not imposing a negative harmonic signature. Old horns were very good at accomplishing the former and pretty lousy at the latter. Long-time audiophiles often refer to "horn sound" to describe how horn speakers affect the harmonic balance of a speaker.

Given classic horn speakers' predilection for colored sound, why does Triad use this technology? Simple- when you properly design and build a horn tweeter using a dome rather than compression driver its assets far outweigh its liabilities. The Triad InRoom Platinum LCR speaker specifies 94.5dB sensitivity, though without a horn in front of the 1" fabric dome tweeter it couldn't be nearly this efficient. The horn's interactions with the dome tweeter also make it possible to cross over the tweeter at a lower frequency, because at the point where the dome's output level begins to drop, the horn's gain begins to increase. The horn's physical shape limits the tweeter's vertical dispersion, which reduces high frequency room and boundary effect interactions.

Besides the horn tweeter, what else makes the Triad InRoom Platinum LCR and Center speakers special? Primarily it's the stuff you don't see. . . such as extensive internal bracing – there's actually more MDF inside the InRoom Platinum than on its exterior. Triad also makes liberal use of carefully chosen absorptive materials. They use two different kinds of foam as well as something called "red clay rubber," which can be carved like damp clay into just the right shape to minimize internal reflections.

The three-way crossover design on the InRoom Platinums was recently changed from 2nd order to 3rd order. Crossover points are at 250 and 2800 Hz. The proprietary drivers, built specifically for Triad by Scan-speak and Seas, were optimized for high sensitivity and high volume. The 10" Scan-speak driver uses a special core and magnet to achieve the necessary sensitivity. The 1" Seas tweeter has a lighter dome than Seas' standard model. Finally, Triads' sealed cabinets utilize glued rather than screwed joints for greater stability and lower susceptibility to resonances and long-term vibration effects. All Triad products go through a rigorous quality control and sample-testing program before they leave the factory with their ten-year, limited warranty.

The full system consisted of two InRoom Platinum LCR speakers for the front left and right channels ($6,350/ea. for custom paint, $7,250/ea. for veneer, stands at $250/ea.), the InRoom Platinum Center ($6350/ea., $500 for stand), a pair of InRoom Silver two-way monitors for the left and right rears, and a two 18" Platinum PowerSubs with sealed boxes and outboard 1000-Watt RackAmps for bass duties ($2,850/ea. with one RackAmp amplifier).

Triad prides itself on being not merely a speaker manufacturer, but a custom speaker manufacturer. They don't make standard model speakers, which are then sold. Instead Triad builds custom-ordered speakers. Triad does have specific models, but each speaker system is configured based on the specific requirements of a customer's room and tastes. (The review set, of course, was built to the system's standard parameters.)

Triad's turn-around time is remarkably short considering that they build each speaker to order. Custom paint finishes typically take from four to six working days to go from order to delivery at a dealer or installer. Veneer finishes take longer – usually three to four weeks. Speaker pedestals are also built at the same time as the speakers so Triad can exactly match the paint or veneer. Triad also uses consecutive pieces of veneer so grain and orientation between left and right speakers and their pedestals will match.

Heavy, Man
When I saw the Triad system at CEDIA I was impressed by its relatively small footprint. On the show floor the LCR speaker resembled a large bookshelf speaker. I didn't check its weight until months later. Silly me. From now on I'm going to try to lift any speaker I contemplate reviewing. All the speakers in the Triad line have greater heft than you would expect given their dimensions. The InRoom Platinum LCR speaker's shipping weight is 150 lbs., and most of that isn't the cardboard box. I nearly fainted when I saw the combined weight for the entire InRoom Platinum system – just over 700 lbs.! Luckily I had the help of two strapping gentlemen from Triad to help me set up the system. There's just no way I could have done it alone.

Once installed, the Triads don't look anything but beautiful. I got a system finished in Henry Ford memorial black, but you can get Triad to do any, and I do mean ANY, finish you want, including matching your favorite sports car's paint, your wife's cheetah stole, or simply a wood veneer so gorgeous that it would give a termite an orgasm. Of course some folks just want to tuck the speaker system into a wall or behind an acoustically transparent screen. Triad forgives their folly. The InRoom Platinum system is made to deal with even those indignities with grace.

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