Triad Silver Monitor, Surround, Sub Speaker System
The question is an old but still fundamental one: Can you make small speakers perform like big speakers? This isn't necessarily the question that creators of small speakers ask themselves during creation, nor will it probably enter the mind of the small-speaker consumer at the time of purchase. Still, I'll wager that it's the first question your ears will ask when you place them in the middle of your new compact home theater system. Let's face it: All other factors being equal, it's easier for large speakers to do certain things, and many of these things are especially critical in your home theater.
There are lots of logical reasons to make small speakers, but very few of them have to do with performance. You won't find a lot of people who will argue that a smaller speaker, in and of itself, makes a better-sounding speaker. It is hardly impossible, however, to make a small speaker perform at the highest level—and beyond its size, at that. For starters, if you can make a small speaker that delivers true soundstage depth and dimension, the tonal accuracy and resolution that is more-easily derived from several drivers, and enough punch to effortlessly drive the standard-sized home theater room, you've really done something—something that many have tried to do, but at which few have succeeded.
This unsuccessful precedent wasn't enough to deter Triad. After all, they've got a reputation for making small speakers sound good. I set my sights on a versatile and, of course, convenient 5.1-channel array consisting of three InRoom Silver Monitors ($2,000 each), a pair of OnWall Silver Surrounds ($600 each), and a pair of InRoom Silver PowerSubs ($1,250 each). The goal was not to determine if the Triads sound like big speakers. They're not, so why would they? Rather, it was to determine if these quality small speakers could perform like quality big speakers—i.e., would they successfully deliver the critical elements that make for convincing, entertaining music and movie playback without sonically revealing their diminutive nature?
So, how small is small? In regards to the Triad system, I'm not exactly talking about your average sub/sat dimensions or the silly little cubes that have become wildly popular among the masses. The tale of the tape for the InRoom Silver Monitor is 16.25 inches high by 7.31 wide by 8.5 deep, with a weight of 24 pounds that will certainly catch you off guard if you're not ready for it (good thing I still have some reflexes left). The thick cabinet construction and the healthy magnets on the pair of Triad-tweaked 5-inch Scan-Speak midranges are the likely source of the speaker's heft. A 1-inch Seas fabric-dome tweeter doesn't add much weight but does, of course, have its sonic benefits. The sealed cabinet offers a single pair of gold-plated binding posts at the bottom of the rear panel; this placement makes the posts difficult to use. All of the drivers are magnetically shielded. The InRoom Silver Monitor is available in a variety of real-wood veneers, as well as painted and other custom finishes.
The distinctly dipolar OnWall Silver Surround quickly clues you in that this isn't your standard sub/sat package. Its size is relatively average for a surround: 13.2 inches high by 13.2 wide by 6.5 deep, with a less-surprising weight of 15 pounds. Its driver array consists of a single 6.5-inch woofer set on the 90-degree plane (relative to the listener's ear in a side-mounted configuration), plus a 10-millimeter Mylar-dome tweeter and a 3-inch paper-cone midrange on either side of the 45-degree planes. The pair of gold-plated binding posts is inset to allow for on-wall placement, and keyhole brackets help facilitate the mounting. Painted and custom finishes are available, in addition to the standard-issue black speaker with either black or white slip-on mesh grilles.
The InRoom Silver PowerSub is a room-friendly 16.375 inches high by 15.5 wide by 14.5 deep and has a weight of 60 pounds. A front-firing 12-inch coated-paper-cone woofer does the honors, and an external but dedicated 250-watt amplifier supplies the power. How this external approach affects convenience is in the eye of the beholder: It does require an extra rack spot per unit, but it allows the subwoofer cabinet to remain small, light, and much easier to place. As you might expect, the cabinet sports only a pair of speaker-level inputs. All of the other tricks are found on the amp, which supplies crossover/equalization in addition to power. The amp has gain control, a 180-degree variable phase control, and two independent 120-decibel-per-octave low-pass filters (which are in parallel and combine to achieve a 24-dB rolloff above the highest common frequency). Inputs include left and right line-level RCA connections and a fixed Theater Input that's designed to maximize output above 35 hertz and increase dynamic headroom. There's also a pair of line-level high-pass outputs with a fixed 12-dB-per-octave high-pass filter at 100 Hz. Missing is any type of crossover-bypass input, which essentially means that Triad wants you to use their networks for this sub and that you're going to have to get creative if your receiver or pre/pro doesn't have a defeatable crossover.
At demo time, I set up the Triads with a couple of different systems in a couple of different rooms. They spent much of their time at our studio connected to the nonrealistically price-matched Lexicon MC-12 (the thing is too good not to use) and the more-realistically price-matched Parasound HCA-1205A amplifier, with the Sony DVP-C650D supplying the signals. The Triads also found their way into one of my home systems (a Chiro C-802 pre/pro, a Krell KAV-500 amp, and a Toshiba SD-9100 DVD player) and a more-common listening environment (i.e., my living room).
With two-channel music, imaging and soundstaging are usually the first aspects of a system's performance that jump out at me, and both are excellent on the Triad system. The image is uncannily accurate, even after a relatively basic setup procedure, which should also tip you off to the fact that the sweet spot is wider than you might normally expect. I had more trouble getting the Silver Monitors comfortable on their stands (the binding posts' location requires considerable manipulation of your speaker wires to get the front baffle flush with the stand's front lip in order to avoid reflections) than I did getting them to image properly. The depth of the Triad system's stage also grabbed me right away—it was far greater than it should have been for speakers this size. A quick tour of the room informed me that the image and staging hold up well in a number of locations and that off-axis response is far less a compromise with this system—further proof that well-designed, well-executed speakers will always impress, no matter what their size, shape, political affiliation, or what have you.