GoldenEar Triton One, Revisited

My recent review of GoldenEar Technology’s newest speaker, the Triton One, generated a surprising number of entries in the Comments section at the end of the review. Some were short and to the point, such as the one from the reader who declared he or she “will not be renewing my subscription” because the piece was “a waste of a review.” (Okay, if you’ve got a beef with something I wrote, so be it. But don’t tar and feather Rob, Tom, Mark, and the rest of the S&V crew for a piece with my byline. Surely you ought to be able to find a subscription’s worth of value in the stuff they write.) But other comments were more substantive and warranted a more in-depth response than posting a brief reply.

First things first. Rightly or wrongly, I never review a product in a vacuum. (In space, no one can hear your loudspeakers scream…) There is an atmosphere that surrounds a product; and, for a lot of people, taking deep breaths of that air is a significant part of their ownership experience. What is there, for instance, about a book that’s been personally signed by the author compared to a non-signed copy? They both contain the same words and tell the same story, and yet many fans will patiently stand in long lines to get their copy scribbled on by a favorite author. Similarly, the taint of human suffering that is associated with a conflict diamond reduces the gem’s perceived value immensely—even though its chemistry and physical appearance may be identical to a diamond from another part of the world.

Unfortunately, the audio industry’s old, hot and humid atmosphere is being filtered and cooled by big corporation HVACs. Yes, there are many benefits to that, but there are drawbacks, too—most notably the loss of personality. It’s difficult to imagine we’ll hear from too many more eccentric , garage-dwelling audio tinkerers, such as Bob Carver, Matthew Polk, David Hall, Paul Klipsch, Oskar Heil, Ken Kreisel, and, yes, Sandy Gross.

In my opinion, the black grille cloths on the Triton Ones cover more than medite cabinets, drivers, amps, and circuitry. There are also thirty-some years of industry-changing experience hidden behind those grilles. I think that’s an important aspect of the speaker, and that’s why I devoted so much space to the topic. If the speakers had sounded like shit, of course, then the pedigree wouldn’t have mattered. Fortunately, the speakers didn’t sound bad—in fact, they sounded quite the opposite.

Which brings me to the sound quality of the Triton Ones. Some readers thought I didn’t elaborate enough on the overall performance of the speakers. Okay, fair enough. In the limited amount of print space I was allotted, I chose to use more ink explaining why the speaker is important and, perhaps, shortchanged talking about the musicality. I’ll try to make up for that here.

Two aspects of the Triton One stand out. One is the bass response, and that’s the most obvious upgrade in sound quality over the Triton Two. The Triton One goes low, really low; and it’s dynamic as hell. But there’s more to it than that. In addition to doubling the output, another benefit of having a subwoofer in each tower is that the bass response is much more consistent throughout the room. Put the depth, dynamics, and distribution of the bass response together and you get an experience that is amazingly close to a live performance. This was exactly how I felt listening to a high-res version of Steely Dan’s “Cousin Dupree”. The bass line hit hard without having any sense of localization at all. The same can be said about the eclectic “Atashgah, for Cello, Violin, Viola, Double Bass & Percussion” from the Silk Road Ensemble’s A Playlist Without Borders. After about a minute and 40 seconds of careful and precise plucking of cello, violin, and viola strings, the double bass and percussion join in. Sure, the bass was strong and forceful; but, more importantly, it was alive and textured, beautifully reproducing the the resonant decay coming from the cabinet of the double bass after a low note had been hit.

The other aspect of the Triton One that’s truly impressive is the seamless nature of the speaker. The smoothness of the transition from driver to driver is absolutely exceptional. In this case, the performance of the Triton One is much akin to what you hear with a great MartinLogan electrostatic speaker where there is no crossover from a tweeter to a midrange driver. This was especially apparent with the rather raw “Bright Lights, Big City” (Roots) on which Susan Tedeschi joins Johnny Winter. Amidst the electric guitars and other instruments, each voice maintained its distinct character without a shift in emphasis or subtle smearing. The Triton Ones exhibited that same unity on Louise Rogers’ “Black Coffee” (from Black Coffee). Despite the fact that Ms. Rogers is solo on this track, there are two voices clearly present in the song. One, obviously, is hers; but the other is the voice of the acoustic guitar playing to the left. Rogers’ voice is smooth and silky, while the guitar is much more energetic and talkative. There is nothing that gets in the way of the performance.

Seamless performance doesn’t only apply to the transition from the HVFR tweeter to the dual 5.25-inch midrange drivers, though. The Triton Ones are astoundingly consistent as the frequency output crosses the midrange/woofer region. Despite the multiple drivers, the towers sound like a single, coherent entity. Derrick Hodge’s “The Real” (Live Today) is all over the place, both in sound and soundstage, yet the woofers never lag behind or seem emphasized at times or a little weak at others. If you didn’t know that it’s physically impossible, you’d think that all the bass was coming from the two midrange drivers—that’s how tightly integrated the sound is. That kind of blending is extremely difficult to achieve in a listening room with a pair of speakers and a single powered subwoofer—or a pair of subwoofers.

So this is why I believe the Triton Ones are such a wonderful achievement—one that clearly required years of work and experience of successes and failures to bring about. The Triton Ones combine the best aspects of an electrostatic or other type of large, planar-type speaker with the bass output of much more massive, traditional cone woofer speaker cabinets in a much more room-friendly package. The sound is a singular sensation—each Triton One performs as a single entity with such dynamism that they can fool you into thinking you’re listening to a living, breathing performance.

notabadname's picture

Be it audiophiles, photogs or car enthusiasts, many people hate to have their core ideology threatened or challenged - and I speak not of religion. I am a Nikon user, and have been for 20 years, with easily $20,000 invested in the system. It is VERY hard for me to accept any review that tells me a modern mirror-less point and shoot, at half the cost, can equal my Nikon D-800. But that is merely my own bias that drives me to want such reviewers to be burned at the stake - damn them for making me aware that I could possibly find similar quality at far lower cost. I can better justify my investment if I can bash and discredit the reviewer. I think there is frequently the same issue with audiophile equipment. How dare you turn my universe on its head (and my rationalization for my pricey speakers) by suggesting that a $5,000 pair of speakers can perform comparably to a pair costing twice as much - you heretic! LOL. I appreciate your reviews, and value your listening experience, which greatly exceeds mine. Continue the great reviews, even when some consider them to be heresy. These speakers have now become my goal for my system upgrade.

jmilton7043's picture

I have reviewed GoldenEar speakers myself and agree with your assessment. Hearing IS believing.
Long live the garage-dwelling audio tinkers!

Winefix's picture

Thanks for the in depth commentary, well done and much appreciated.
I still want to know what equipment you used and recommend, please let us know or I will cancel my subscription !! LOL

I cant wait to receive my pair

griley58's picture

Thank you for the quick response to the negative rumblings from way down below your lofty perch in reviewerdom! Must be nice to have the best of the best slide in and out of your living room on a regular basis!! I appreciate your honoring of Mr. Gross as I have appreciated his companies speakers including my Def Tech powered towers that are now going to put in the back channels as soon as I can sneak them by, I mean assert my Kingmanship, and get them in place in the front channels. When I saw the much loved Heil Air Motion Transformer from my old ESS AMT1b's with 'the rest of the story' for mid range and bass included with al the hubbub comparing electrostatic cohesion, transparency and live presence I was a goner. Thank you Sandy Gross for re-inventing, updating and perfecting sound reproduction for 'the rest of us'! BRAVO!!! To the naysayers...YES I make up my own words...and GE makes insanely great speakers...get over it and move on!

griley58's picture

Let's do they compare to 1974 Beveridge Electrostatic seven foot monoliths with the powered subs in the base?! They sounded so sweet and a bargain at 7000 a pair!!! What would that be in 2014 dollars?

vinceC4's picture

Hello I have been a subscriber for many many years to the Home Theater magazine that was absorbed into your publication. I also have a couple pairs of Golden Ear speakers one set for Surrounds and one for an analog system both of which sound amazing. So while I appreciate your review of them musically where is the Home Theater review? Is this not something this magazine does any more if not I doubt I'll renew.
Oh and frankly while I think you should have an opinion and speak any way you want I was really put off reading your article. Using profanity up above and the cheap phrases in your print article really turns me off. I'm sure this is just my opinion but thought you could appreciate some feedback on what your readers thought of your article.

hk2000's picture

I completely agree, such language does not belong in a respected publication, or anywhere for that matter, IMO. As for the speaker under review, it may sound great but it is just too ugly. Considering the price, I doubt many non audiophiles would give it a second look! want proof? look how well one-speaker solutions, aka soundbars are selling.

Luay's picture

One reader's question was about the sound stage the Triton Ones creates and how the sound lost detail as soon as he stood up, and you answered "Derrick Hodge’s “The Real” (Live Today) is all over the place, both in sound and soundstage,.." So thank you for "somewhat" addressing that. I wish I knew if that was your experience with every source you used and if you tried walking around the room and sensing any discrepancies.

The other question I thought mattered is how a high-end speaker like this would sound with mid-end hi-fi equipment and if it isn't worth it altogether. What did you use in your review? And for those that plan to buy their hi-fi equipment with the speaker, what would you recommend as a best option, and as most affordable?

vqworks's picture

I appreciate the follow-up review of the Triton Ones. The assessed performance is obviously a very good one. Of course, Luay did bring up an excellent point about the ambiguous description of the imaging with respect to off-axis vertical listening.

This is the reason why it is important for some audiophiles (myself included) to see the results graphically and/or numerically. S&V's current published measurements are too sketchy. Don't get me wrong. It is certainly good to see a well-informed and well-versed assessment in words but the words are much weightier when they are bolstered (and correlated) to measurement data (the now defunct Audio Magazine's approach). There is too much subjectivity in most publications these days.

On another note, the use of even occasional profanity is a bit too casual and distracting for a professional publication. This is what irked me about Corey Greenberg, a reviewer who contributed (to the demise) to Audio Magazine in its last years. His reviews were thoroughly peppered with attitude and profanity, which was completely irrelevant to the subject. He received more than a few complaints.

Not to digress but even some of his relevant statements were occasionally unfounded (He stated that knowledgeable analog audiophiles knew that open reel recordings were always better when the recording level meters were pegged at the "red" and most instruments sounded much better when electronically compressed while uncompressed instruments sounded "wimpy"). I stopped reading his articles afterwards.

Amadeo's picture

The review was okay. It wasn't the best ever, but it was okay. Passable.

I was not offended by the coarser words (mentions to Viagra etc), but I can see how some people might have been. I would try to avoid that in future reviews.

I do believe the Tritons must be good. Really good. But come on, "they are too heavy" as the only downside? You could have mentioned their really basic (some would say ugly) looks, for instance.

That's it.

Don't worry too much about the web comments. All it takes is one aggressive comment to attract a bunch of trolls and unwarranted negativity. That's just how the web is. Keep up the great work and the great magazine.

bkeeler10's picture

So, here's my question about these speakers. It appears to me that perhaps the 5.25" drivers used in the Triton 1 are the same ones currently in use for the Triton 7. Is this the case?

If one prefers to integrate his own separate subs with a loudspeaker similar to the Triton 1 (integration difficulty issues aside, and acknowledging the apparently superb mid-to-woofer integration of the Triton 1), how does the Triton 7 stack up against the Triton 1 (within its passband, of course)?

expectation_gap's picture

The triton one 5.25" mid drivers feature a multivane phase plug & won't play as deep as the sevens mid. The sevens mid is sealed (no phase plug) and were designed for extremely long throw to deliver lower frequency ranges. That said - the blend between the sevens mid range driver & hvfr tweeter is very good, especially considering the amount of bass that they deliver. While I've yet to home auditions a pair of ones, I have the sevens blended well with a velodyne sealed sub - to great results.

I suspect your question could really be about room size. The sevens will shine in small and medium sized rooms. The ones will play effortlessly in larger spaces - and built-in powered subs will always blend more naturally. If you've got the room that calls for it, you go with the triton ones. For home theater duty - you'd probably add a sub to either.

For 2 channel stereo listening, in small spaces, I preferred to sevens sans sub because they had excellent bass control and texture. In my medium space - the sevens benefited from low end help. The sevens play low enough that subwoofer placement wasn't difficult.

Both the triton one and seven received redesigned midrange drivers as well as new bass loading technology meant to better utilize the passive radiators. I'd love to see those improvements make it into the triton twos.

Grizzled Geezer's picture

My experience has been that expensive speakers aren't always worth their price. The claim that the Tritons are directly comparable to speakers costing twice as much and more needs justification.

Have you listened to them alongside QUADs, or similar elite products? It's interesting that some of the speakers considered "best", regardless of price, are far less-expensive than cost-no object products.

gregsgoatfarm's picture

Turning on the wayback machine I remember reading one of Julian Hirsch's last reviews in Stereo Review. It was of a big Definitive Technology tower with built in powered woofers and a black fabric wrapped exterior. He was almost giddy in his praise of this speaker, an odd turn for the gentleman. Now you, Mr. Wilkinson, have taken up the gauntlet by honoring that speaker's better iteration. Good show.

EeeCeeTee's picture

The price for the Triton One doesn't turn me off as much as GoldenEar's advertising.

Do these actual phrases from their ads actually impress anyone?

"quadratic subwoofer bass drivers which are coupled to multiple side-mounted quadratic planar infrasonic bass radiators"

"intrinsically more powerful and couple together synergistically"

"our amazing spider-leg, cast-basket mid/bass drivers with proprietary computer optimized cone..."

"...helping to better deal with the room's eigenmodes..."

And on and on...

Obviously they think that customers will be impressed by the verbiage and buy.

Gosh! Quadratic woofers MUST be better than rectangular ones!

Reminds me of the early Polk ads decades ago which featured a large photo of Matthew Polk wearing a white lab coat, arms folded, and looking down at you with a smug grin. The ads were titled 'The Genius of Matthew Polk' That image made me never want to buy anything from Polk. (Interestingly, wasn't that when Sandy Gross was at Polk?)

There's no arguing that Sandy Gross has had a great career with much-deserved success, but smarmy advertising makes me want to avoid the his products more than buy 'em.

expectation_gap's picture

Show me a company trying to sell something, and I'll show you a marketing arm that sometimes goes too far afield. Still, no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Tom D.'s picture

Personally I had no problem with either review. Here's my dilemma. I have the Triton II's. I'd like to know how much better the I's are then the II"s. I was happy to own the top of the line model and now it's not anymore. My dealer said he may not bring in a pair of the Triton Ones as he doesn't have a room for them and I'm sure money is an issue also.The triton II's were a stretch for me so I'm not sure if I would spend 5K on these but if they are that much better I would consider it but without being able to hear them the decision is harder. I am in the process of upgrading a very old system from pre- wife and kids and thought my speaker upgrade was done and was thinking of my next amp but if the Ones are that much better I would consider using the Ones for music and replacing the Def. Tech. BP 20's in my theater with my old Two's. Anyone who is able to compare the Ones and Two's, any input would be appreciated. Thanks

Singlemalted's picture

All I can tell you, after picking up my Ones yesterday afternoon (I traded my Twos in) and spending about three hours last night listening to them completely unbroken in, is don't go to listen to them or you'll be spending that cash. They're simply amazing speakers, totally a world apart from the Twos. As Mr. Wilkinson implied, the overall sound is so well integrated from top to bottom that the overall initial impression I got was that of listening to extremely dynamic large panel electrostatic speakers. The speakers easily energized my large listening room, the slight bass bloat I had prior had vanished, and the midrange is so much better detailed now that there's almost no comparison.

The other thing that's spooky is the imaging...not just pinpoint accurate, but largely unaffected when I moved around the room. My experience with the Twos was that you really needed to be at/near the "sweet spot" to get the full effect, but not so much here.

I loved my Twos, which is why I ordered the Ones sight and sound unseen/unheard. But I couldn't be any happier. And I'm dying to break them in!

I realize that this sounds like hyperbole, but it's true. I cannot describe how lucky I feel to be the first kid on the block with a shiny new pair of these excellent marvels!

Obviously, these are just initial impressions, but I'll post again after I have time to burn them in and tweak their placement.

Best of luck to you.

dmoor's picture

My Triton One's came in on Wednesday, and I went down today to listen to the dealer's demo speakers and make arrangements for installation. What was most impressive was the bass response. Playing the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony excerpt from the Boston Acoustic Society CD (which has an extended bass note in the 25 Hz range) the room just vibrated. The disk gives an advisory that this excerpt can damage speakers, but I've never known why because the note is so low that I can't hear it on my current Paradigm floor speakers. First time I ever heard it was demoing Triton Twos when I put in the order for the Ones.

A selection from the 1812 overture really showed off the incredible detailing and imaging. The kettle drums sounded as if I were in the concert hall, and for the first time I was able visually picture the location of all the instruments in the performance space.

However I was not as impressed with the treble response. Listening to Bruno Mars "Marry You" at the beginning there is a short section where you hear something that sounds like the sound you year at an ocean beach when the water is retreating after a wave and the bubbles are breaking. It sounded not much different from that I hear on my other speakers (Paradigm MilleniaOnes and Esprits) or earphones (Grado GS1000s). My understanding is that this is normal. It takes about 200 hours for the speakers to break in, and the dealer had only had them for 48 hours (running them continually at night) so that is too early to evaluate the treble from the Folded Ribbon tweeters.

Unfortunately I won't be installing mine for another month as I am doing a complete Goldenear 5.2 system and that's the earliest the dealer can do a ceiling mounts of the Aons. However Sandy Gross is in the area on Monday and my dealer will be checking with him about the best way to do the mount (the Aon fitting is for walls, not overhead) so it will be worth the wait.

Evidently there is now a backlog and new orders ship in October.