Triad InRoom Silver Speaker System
When you live with something or somebody long enough (no matter how good the body—or how great the personality), it's all too easy to become complacent about how well off you are. That thought came to mind the other night when I was watching, of all things, The Blues Brothers. I had forgotten how great the music is in that movie. But then I noticed that part of what had made me rediscover my appreciation for the movie was the truly nice Triad Silver speaker system I had been living with for a little while but had stopped noticing.
Triad is an unusual company in several regards—not the least of which is the warped sense of humor you can expect to encounter when you deal with any of the company's otherwise totally professional people. (Stay away from anyone named Paul, and you'll be OK. I think....) Further from the ordinary is Triad's reluctance to jump on the adman's turbocharged hypewagon and hang their sign right next to the snake-oil poster and the Viagra-alternative banner. You'll look long and hard to find a glossy advertisement for Triad's speakers in a consumer magazine. They say the absence of advertisements comes from their lack of any desire to see Triad speakers sitting on the shelves of those huge retail electropolises that dominate every city and town. The Triad folks lavish their attention instead on custom-installation companies and smaller independent retailers. Why? Because the big chains can't fully comprehend the part about Triad that's the most out of the ordinary.
It's an "In" Thing
It's certainly not unusual for a custom-installation-focused company to make in-wall speakers. Heck, there are lots of companies that don't know a hole in the wall when they see one. And yet that doesn't stop them from making a couple of pairs of in-walls to go with their freestanding models. The implication is that, since the in-wall speakers have the same logo on them, they'll work great with the freestanding models. If only this were true.
Triad's approach to mixed in-wall and out-of-the-wall speaker systems is to make individual model types (in-wall, in-room, in-ceiling) that are sonic brethren with each of the siblings within the same series (Bronze, Silver, or Gold). They use the same component parts in addition to crossovers that they have tweaked to compensate for the particular speaker's intended location. As a result, you can use the InRoom Silver LCR speakers that Triad sent to me, for example, with either (or both, in greater-than-5.1 systems) Triad's InWall Silver/4 LCRs or InWall Silver/6 LCRs. They're all voiced to sound compatible with one another. The difference between the Silver/4 and Silver/6 models is one of size. The Silver/4 is 3.94 inches deep, so it fits in a standard wall. The Silver/6 model is deeper (by a little less than 6 inches). While it requires somewhat more specialized wall construction, it offers the benefit of a smaller grille on the wall. Triad even makes in-ceiling speakers with the same sonic signature as the InRoom and InWall LCRs in the respective series.
These attributes are the kinds of things that are hard to get across on a 3-by-5-inch shelf tag, while a manic 12-year-old is busy punching buttons on the speaker switcher next to you.
Maybe They're Just Big-Boned
When I worked retail oh so many years ago—at an independent store, I'll have you know—I learned something about demonstrating an otherwise perfect product that might happen to have, say, a big hairy wart on its nose. It's best to bring that wart out in the open right away. After all, there was no use in getting a customer all hot and bothered about the benefits of a particular cassette deck or turntable if he was ultimately going to find said wart too warty for his taste. So, even though I've made you read half a dozen paragraphs thus far, it's time to uncover the InRoom Silver system's one blemish that some of you might find unacceptable.
Triad's InRoom Silver LCRs are, by today's standards, big, bookshelf-style speakers. There, I've said it. There's no doubt about it, either. In a modern home, some folks simply don't want a semi-large chunk of speaker sitting on a stand in their living room. For those of this particular ilk, Triad will immediately put some Compound W on that wart and direct your attention to the two comparably performing in-wall models.
But, as they say, there's a silver lining inside every wart (or something to that effect). Although they're not part of the trendy, small-is-beautiful movement, Triad's Silver InRoom LCRs are gorgeous. The glow of their real-wood veneers is visually beautiful. There is a bewildering number of veneer choices, including standard and premium woods, plus painted black, white, and custom colors. They also have a deeper aesthetic beauty that comes from artisan craftsmanship with an emphasis on fit and finish. Think of antique mahogany furniture or perhaps a grandfather clock from the days when clock making was a more noble, nondigital thing. Triad says that 95 percent of their product line is made in the United States, and they make speakers one at a time, including sanding and painting by hand.
The build quality was one of the facets I'd forgotten about until it was time to box the system and tell it goodbye. The LCRs are heavy, dense, and splendidly nonresonant. The OnWall Silver Surrounds (available in white, black, and custom colors) are not as small as many other surrounds. They're just a tad edgy (in sight, not sound) for my tastes. But, behind the grilles, they're built to handle whatever The Transporter can kick, punch, smash, or blow up. Surprisingly, the cube-like InRoom Silver PowerSub is a bit smaller than I expected—but it's just as attractive and just as sturdy as the LCRs.
The Genius of Sweat
Sound, of course, should always trump good looks when it comes to choosing speakers, and here the Triads triumph, as well. I've already mentioned how listening to The Blues Brothers DVD was such a re-awakening for me with these speakers. That's because, pretty early on, I'd come to the conclusion that the Triads were darned good speakers and went on about my business. The fact that I could forget about the speakers is, in my opinion, one of the best things that can be said about a speaker system. It means they're doing their job of reproducing the sound as effortlessly and transparently as possible.
I'd already been through my standard run of test discs. The extremely laid-back Diana Krall slipped through the Triads effortlessly on "S'Wonderful" and "Cry Me a River" (The Look of Love), while the higher frequencies maintained their integrity without becoming fatiguing or harsh. And, while there was a sweet separation and smooth distinction of vocals on "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby" (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), the Triad system was just as capable with Kid Rock's obstreperous "Feel Like Makin' Love" (Kid Rock) in terms of kicking butt and taking names. It didn't take me long to realize that the same characteristics were present with multichannel material, only more so. The blend of the InRoom Silver PowerSub with the LCRs and the surrounds made "Cocaine" from Eric Clapton's One More Car One More Rider DVD a beautiful thing to behold. And the nautical nastiness of Master and Commander—aside from making me wonder how bad it must have been on land to make these guys head out to sea—also made me wonder how the Triad guys do it (make speakers, not fight sea battles). The only noticeable flaw was a slight amount of timbre shift when I changed from standing to sitting or vice versa. That's not unusual among most loudspeakers, however, but some speakers are more strongly afflicted than others.
So, how do the Triad people do it? They do it the old-fashioned way, using lots of care, high-quality component parts, and good, basic engineering. You won't find bass drivers made with injections of endangered-bat guano or tweeter materials blended with flecks of carbon carefully scraped from the remains of early-hominid-inhabited caves fires. Not that any of that is necessarily bad, by the way. Triad just achieves their goals via a route filled with a little more sweat.
This brings us back to the sweaty genius of the Blues Brothers DVD. When old music sounds fresh, it's a wonderful thing. The Triad InRoom Silver system may be a little bigger than some people would like; and, at $5,100 for the system, it's probably out of range for many an entertainment budget. But it'll be hard to find anyone who likes to listen to music or watch movies who won't find the sound to be absolutely refresing.
• Superior craftsmanship
• LCRs, surrounds, and subwoofer integrate extremely well
• Wood-veneer finishes to die for