Triad InRoom Gold Home Theater Speaker System

In some ways, selling speakers is a bit like selling men's suits. Sure, you need to keep plenty of choices on hand so you can cater to a wide range of tastes and budgets. But you don't want to get stuck with a bunch of items in, say, mauve, which you're going to stay stuck with for years. The solution to this dilemma for men's clothing is a tailor, who can create custom garments to order that meet your exact specifications. And for speakers, there's Triad, which aims to provide a similar level of personal customization.

As such, Triad has focused on selling through custom installers rather than traditional retail stores. Installers typically don't keep gear in their inventory, preferring to special-order what the customer requests, whether it's black or rosewood (or even mauve). Taking this thinking a step further, Triad doesn't keep finished products on hand either, relying instead on a streamlined production chain that can go from a work order to shipped speakers in less than a week. This way, everyone gets precisely what he or she wants, as long as they're willing to hang tight for a bit.

Triad divides its speakers into four basic performance levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. And at each level, the company offers both in-wall and freestanding models, including main left, center, and right speakers as well as surround models and, of course, subwoofers. I decided to evaluate a system at the Gold level, and as this wasn't a permanent installation, I naturally chose the freestanding and on-wall versions.

The InRoom Gold LCR is a hefty three-way, four-driver design with a commanding presence in the room, especially when perched on the matching pedestal that visually continues its lines to the floor. Although the finish and construction quality are truly first-rate, these are pretty conventional-looking rectangular boxes in their styling, with the perforated-black-metal grilles adding just a touch of high-tech. As with all Triad speakers, the Gold LCR uses an acoustic-suspension enclosure and drivers from SEAS that include a pair of metal-cone woofers and a soft-dome tweeter. Since the speakers weigh 61 pounds each, not including the pedestal, you'd be forgiven for thinking they must be fashioned from solid granite. But most of this heft comes from the extensive crossbracing used to make the medium-density-fiberboard enclosures as stiff as possible.

The matching InRoom Gold Center speaker is nearly identical to the LCR, but the orientation of the tweeter and midrange drivers is rotated 90° to optimize the dispersion for horizontal placement. Although the near disappearance of CRT TVs makes it less of an issue, it's worth noting that these speakers aren't magnetically shielded.

For the rear, I used a pair of the OnWall Gold Surrounds, which feature a shallow, wall-hugging, seven-driver design. Because the speaker incorporates an array of two midrange drivers and a soft dome tweeter angled toward the front of the room, along with an identical but inverted-phase array angled toward the back, you end up with the diffuse dispersion pattern common to dipole speakers. However, these arrays are mated with a single 8-inch woofer, so you get notably more extended bass than is typical with full dipoles.

These are all imposingly substantial speakers, but it's clear that their performance has been tuned primarily for high sensitivity and power handling rather than extended bass, making it essential to supplement them with an equally capable subwoofer. The InRoom Gold PowerSub, with its big 15-inch cone, differs from most of its genre in being a passive model that you drive with a dedicated amplifier, the RackAmp 500. (There's also a self-amplified version, albeit with half the power.) For larger installations, Triad suggests using a pair of PowerSubs - although in my room, such a move might be seen as overkill bordering on decadence. The 500-watt amp includes the crossover, phase, and level controls you'd normally expect to see on a sub, along with a crossover-bypass option.