We are all a little late to the party. Triangle was founded in 1980 and this special trio of loudspeakers celebrates the company’s 30th anniversary. However, the range was completed last year. So, we’re only a bit late. It’s not like companies still using the Olympics sponsor logo across the UK, even though London 2012 was two summers ago. Instead, it’s the kind of trivial temporal detail you can always pass off with a shrug.
The simple fact is Triangle has something to celebrate as it enters its fourth decade. The loudspeaker brand has a distinctive, passionate approach to loudspeaker design, backed up by some significant R&D, and a brand loyalty that is second to none, both in its native France and increasingly autour du monde. The company building its own drive units in-house, something that sets the great apart from the good, ably demonstrates this commitment.
The Antal floorstander (and the Voce centre and the Comete standmount) have formed a consistent part of the Triangle range for the longest time. So, it’s only logical that these long-standing members of the party should be given the Anniversary treatment. Antal is a three-way, four driver floorstander design, which places great emphasis on mid-band clarity and speed, and efficiency. The Anniversary is no different, except it has a more solid, lacquered cabinet and a specific cellulose pulp midrange unit designed for the Anniversary model. It shares many of the common elements found in most Triangle midrange drivers, in particular the pleated suspension system, which the company helps lower drive unit colouration.
This custom midrange is joined at the top-end by the company’s own TZ2500 tweeter, a titanium dome device in a polished die-cast aluminium horn compression chamber. And bringing up the rear is a pair of the T16EF100SGC1 fibreglass cone bass units. These are perhaps best known among Triangle aficionados for having a vented voice coil, to help dissipate heat, allowing the stiff cone to at once be both more efficient and more rugged. None of these are what you might call ‘off the shelf’ loudspeaker driver designs, because Triangle doesn’t do ‘off the shelf’.
Those who have experienced Triangle designs will spot some common ground, as befits a celebratory design, rather than something designed to break with convention. With its 91dB sensitivity, it doesn’t need a power-house to drive it, but with a minimum impedance of 3.4 ohms, it stresses the need for quality rather than quantity in its partnering electronics. In use, we found it equally comfortable with valve and solid-state equipment. It’s a front-ported design, which ideally needs some space around it (a metre from the side and rear walls is good; a metre and a half is better). Triangle recommends this loudspeaker as being optimum for rooms of 30-50sqm (roughly between 320 and 540 sq ft), and I see nothing in the specs or the performance to challenge that recommendation.
Typically, we don’t pass too much comment on aesthetics of loudspeakers, in part because it’s both patently obvious (there are photographs to accompany the review) and because it’s largely a personal choice. There are exceptions, of course; you’d be hard-pressed to discuss a Sonus Faber loudspeaker without discussing the elegance of the design. But in the main, we leave that to personal taste. Not this time, though. Triangle’s big thing for the Anniversary models was to give them a really tasty piano lacquer finish, in rosewood, black, or – as we received – white. This really offset the dark grey plinth, with its front centring spike. White loudspeakers are really taking off in Asia, some parts of continental Europe, and even gaining traction in the somewhat conservative UK. Faced with the finish of the Antals, it’s not hard to see why. It sounds oxymoronic, but they manage to both stand out and blend in at once, and those who saw them all commented in the positive. I’ve seen some mixed blessings in white cabinets: designs that make you think ‘what other colours does it come in’, some that make you wonder what sort of vague yellow colour the designer confused for ‘white’, and others that look like Ikea was having a sale that day. Meanwhile, spending 10 minutes in front of the Antal Anniversary will make you wonder why more loudspeakers aren’t finished in white, and why should you bother with another colour. It’s easy to dismiss the significance of the aesthetics wearing the audiophile hat (that’s the one that rotates at 33 1/3 rpm and has valves dangling from it), but the reality is a lot of people who saw these speakers were predisposed to liking them from their style, even before a single note was played.
Of course, such a style-led exterior can only sway someone so far. The speaker has to step up to the mark too. And it’s here where Triangle so often shines. There is a directness and vividness that sums up the Triangle sound and the Antal Anniversary has no intention of letting the side down.
The easiest way of summing up the sound of the Antal Anniversary is that it works from midrange out. The mids are fast, fluid, and fun. The distinctive sound is very much geared to reproducing the live event, far more so than many of its peers, which opt instead for a more ‘dry’ studio-like sound. This is a deliberate action on Triangle’s part, but invites an interesting philosophical question: which is the more ‘accurate’. I find the presentation of the Triangle Antal Anniversary in many respects tonally and temporally closer to the original sound than many loudspeakers, even if those other loudspeakers are more faithful to the sort of presentation one might expect to hear in a typical studio. There’s no ‘smoke and mirrors’ here; Triangle is not using colouration to create a ‘better’ sound, but the Antal Anniversary highlights the excitement and energy of music, and can make some loudspeakers sound drab and dull.
This ‘live’ sound has a useful side-effect. It helps make less well-recorded music sound less hard, harsh, and aggressive than usual. I found several of the albums that I have to consign to the ‘ouch’ bin because of strong brickwall mastering were rendered more playable thanks to the Antal Anniversary. This is great because I really want to like Arcade Fire’s The
Suburbs [Mercury] , but I find most of their albums almost unlistenable on a typical audiophile system. The Antal Anniversary can’t perform miracles, but it does make the best of a bad job. I suspect this is a pragmatic solution to an increasingly stiff problem; if we keep making equipment that highlights the limitations of most music released in the last 15 years, we light yet another fuse on audio’s demographic time-bomb. Whether through accident or design (and I strongly believe it’s the latter), Triangle focuses the Antal Anniversary on the enjoyment aspect of the music playback, and while this might ‘Irk The Purists’ (one of my favourite Half Man, Half Biscuit tracks, incidentally) it’s a good thing for audio because it invites new listeners to the club. We could all benefit from that… and being a little less dogmatic about the ‘fidelity’ part of the whole ‘hi-fi’ thing.
Rant mode disengaged. The Antal Anniversary extends its live sound fun zone to the top and bottom of the frequency range, with a clear and clean and ‘extended’ treble, and a tidy, enjoyable bass. The word ‘extended’ here is often misunderstood, it doesn’t mean ‘more treble’, it means ‘better treble accent’. It means you are more able to hear the music rising into the upper registers, better defining horn sections and the upper regions of pianos and wind instruments. Meanwhile, the bass is deceptively big and powerful and entertaining. It’s not transient-led and rim-shot precise, but it gives a sense of order and circumstance to the music that makes it hard not to like.
There are two ways of making a good loudspeaker, in my opinion. The first is to make one that satisfies the most number of people possible (nothing wrong with this, and it is one of the reasons why brands like Bowers & Wilkins are so successful). Then, there’s the other way; make something idiosyncratic, but good. Not everyone will like it, but those who do, absolutely love it. And that’s what Triangle does so well. It makes loudspeakers that don’t tow the party line, but those who get the sound (and, in fairness, it’s a sound that is extremely easy to ‘get’) will not be satisfied with anything else. Put simply, if you listen to most loudspeakers and think they lack a spring in their step, the Antal Anniversary could be your next loudspeaker.
Type: Floorstanding bass reflex three way loudspeaker
Drive unit complement: 1x TZ2500 25mm titanium dome compression tweeter, 1x custom paper 165mm midrange cone, 2x 165mm fibreglass T16EF100SGC1 bass units
Frequency response: 40Hz-20kHz ±3dB
Minimum impedance: 3.4ohms
Power handling: 120W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 108x20x38cm
Finishes: Black, white, or rosewood piano gloss
Price: £1,995 per pair
Manufactured by: Triangle Electroacoustique
Tel: +33(0)3 23 75 38 20