A few issues ago (Issue 180), we looked at the new high-value two-way floorstander from Triangle, the Borea BR03. Now it’s the turn of its bigger brother, the Borea BR08. If the BR03 represented great value at £799, a three-way, four driver tower loudspeaker for £999 pushes the sweary buttons. In a good way.
Inspired by the long-lived Antal Ez loudspeaker, this is effectively the benchmark point for the Borea brand: there is an even larger 1.1m tall BR09 range ‘flagship’ related to the Australe Ez – still a steal at £1,199 – but that sub-£1,000 price point has a big impact in and of itself, and I suspect this will be the model by which the entire range will be judged.
It would be easy to dismiss the BR08 as simply a stripped-back Antal Ez. They ostensibly share the same driver configuration and broad cabinet shape. But first appearances can be deceptive. That said, the midrange driver from the Esprit Ez range; that untreated cellulose paper cone midrange unit was designed for the more up-scale range and redeployed here. In addition, the fibreglass mid/bass units seen here are very similar in design to those seen in the Esprit Ez.
The big change between the two ranges however is that tweeter. All of the Borea models feature what Triangle calls its Efficient Flow System 25mm silk dome tweeter. This next-generation dome is placed inside a partial horn loaded surround, to reduce reflections, but also a distinctive phase plug (which looks more like two points joining together across the tweeter) that is said to reduce directivity and make for a more homogenous sound. This transducer is powered by a neodymium motor and is coupled to a mechanical cooling system, to ensure better power handling.
Under the veneer, there are big changes to the internal damping and bracing of the loudspeaker. Triangle claims that “Significant research has been carried out to reduce the internal vibrations in the cabinet.” This means Triangle uses perforated internal MDF stiffening panels that also use EVA foam gaskets between drive unit and cabinet, thus stiffening the transducer/cabinet combination. Triangle has dubbed this DVAS (Driver Vibration Absorption System), as it aims to reduce vibration of the suspension system of the drive unit interacting with the cabinet itself. We’ve had drive units bolted to the rear of the cabinet before, we’ve even had the driver bolted to a bar that connects to the rear cabinet, but to the best of my knowledge, a system that uses a foam gasket in this manner is a first.
The problem a good, but inexpensive, pair of floorstanders faces is that of equipment compatibility. They need to be good enough to be hung on the end of some really decent equipment (while the ‘source first’ ideology promoted by Linn Products in the 1980s is all but a distant memory for many, there are still a few enthusiasts who might think a £1,000 loudspeaker should be used with a £5,000 amp and £20,000 worth of front ends), but also forgiving enough to be used with more modest audio components, and even that the BR08’s are by far the most expensive part in a system. That requires a lot of flexibility in compatibility. Fortunately, that has long been a staple of Triangle’s output, and these loudspeakers are relatively easy to drive. They are of above average efficiency and although there is a bit of an impedance dip, it’s nothing that would trouble any good amplifier launched in the last 50 or so years.
Speaker placement is either nothing special or crucial. The loudspeakers work well in the basic configuration with little attention paid to fine tuning (aside from a bit of toe-in), but the Borea BR08 has the potential to shine brightly with some more careful set-up. Pay close attention to toe-in, side wall reflection and especially getting the loudspeakers level pays dividends, even to the point where if it’s a choice between the optimum position resulting in a less locked down speaker or a slightly less ideal position that is rigidly locked in place, go with the former option. This might be a testament to that DVAS concept, as there doesn’t seem to be much energy lost if the loudspeaker cabinet isn’t rigidly anchored to the floor. Once again, old school Linnines will be fuming at this given their absolute passion for immobile, tightened to the point of destruction speaker set-ups.
The Borea BR08 benefits from a weekend of stern corrective measures. A sound thrashing for a few days will shake loose the drivers and make for a significantly better sound than first heard out of the box at the outset. For once, however, the ‘first fit’ concept doesn’t seem so important; set the speaker up where it sounds good out of the box, as subsequent hours of run-in open up the mid and top more than the bass.
So let’s get the negatives out of the way first. That tweeter is at once exciting and can be excitable. The sound is always crisp and extended, but the merest sign of grain or brashness elsewhere in the system and the BR08’s tweeter will highlight that quickly and with great focus. That also applies to musical content, especially as a lot of new material emphasises this ‘toppiness’. That being said, I’m sure a lot of people might see this as a positive, in that the treble is vivid, present, exciting and extended. And, in fairness to Triangle, this was more noticeable with good recordings of female vocals; Joyce DiDonato singing ‘Tu sola, o mia Giulietta’ from Act 2 of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi [Stella di Napoli, Erato], for example.
The rest of the performance of the Triangle Borea BR08 is where the whole ‘sweary’ part kicks in. As said before, in a good way. In the made for TV version, this is a “bloody hell, I didn’t know you could do that from a thousand-pound loudspeaker?” It’s an impassioned sounding loudspeaker, with the sort of speed that few other loudspeakers can muster right across the board. The bass is excellent, in terms of depth, speed and accuracy. The midrange is invisible and open with outstanding soundstaging and the treble is – criticism notwithstanding – detailed, direct, and exciting.
What’s more, this is one of those loudspeakers that – beyond all the audiophile sensibilities – is fun to play with. Music is entertaining and enjoyable as much as it is detailed and accurate. Often these elements of sound seem mutually exclusive. In most cases at this price point (and beyond) you are in trade-offs; it’s an either/or; ‘either’ the speaker sounds fun, ‘or’ it sounds accurate. You’ll notice this in the early stages of listening to the loudspeaker, in that you’ll naturally gravitate toward your ‘fun’ recordings; for many – myself included – that means ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’ [Tres Hombres, London]. But when you’ve unplugged your air guitar and put away your air beard, this is a loudspeaker that has enough charm, refinement and detail to shine on more sensitive material. So, when you flip from here to ‘The African Queen’ from The Cape Verdean Blues by the Horace Silver Quintet [Blue Note], the BR08 sounds just as fine and like it was made to play jazz like a native.
Moving away from musical genres and discussing the aspects of performance in abstract, the loudspeaker has a really good soundstage, both in terms of width and depth… and even some height (which is rare until you get to far more demanding designs). It’s also effortlessly dynamic, taking almost a back seat in the dynamic shading of a system and instead letting the electronics take the driving seat. This is both the right way of things and does imply a loudspeaker that has a lot of dynamic range in reserve. Vocal articulation is exceptionally good for a loudspeaker in this class, with a sound that is both easy to understand and projects slightly into the room. The rest of the band times nicely too, with a pace and energy that puts it almost on a par with the sealed box masters of rhythm. And finally, there’s a sense of coherence to the sound that makes a piece of music hang together well.
A good speaker does something ‘best’, be it a part of the frequency response or deliberately tailors the response to make it sound ‘good for rock’ etc. A great loudspeaker expands that best to suit more types of music or more aspects of the speaker’s performance. The really top loudspeakers in their categories do something more; they make everything you play through them sound ‘best’. And that’s what’s happening with the Borea BR08: put on rock and it’s the rockingist loudspeaker you’ve ever heard. Play jazz and if it were any jazzier, it would be shooting up heroin in the green room. Play some Shostakovich and the KGB will kick down your door. And so on. This is not unheard of, but few loudspeakers do such things, and never at the price.
I’d like to pitch in with the “criticisms are churlish at this price” cliché, but in fact criticisms are little more than observations here. At the price this is a revelation, and I’m holding back from introducing a bit more graphic language between those words. What’s separating the Triangle Borea BR08 from loudspeakers costing considerably more is the good, but functional cabinet. More upmarket loudspeakers often have a little more ‘candy’ to their appearance. Instead, Triangle has concentrated on putting fine drivers and great tech into a good cabinet that will sonically outlast many of those shiny boxes of bling. This is a refined masterpiece at a price that’s a complete steal!
Type: three-way, four-driver floorstander monitor with front-ported bass reflex enclosure
Driver complement: 25mm EFS silk dome tweeter; 1× 160mm cellulose paper midrange driver, 2× 160mm fibreglass bass units
Frequency response: 40Hz – 22kHz ±3dB
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Minimum Impedance: 3 Ohms
Dimensions (H×W×D): 1020 × 206 × 314mm
Finishes: Black; White; Walnut
Price: £999 per pair
UK distributor: Elite Audio
Tel: +44(0)1344 570 666
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