The Coincident Speaker Technology Triumph Signature Loudspeaker
Jon T. Gale
Resonance tuning is hot in audio right now. With the proliferation of powerful CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs, a designer has, at his fingertips, a tool that can cut hundreds of hours off the product design cycle. Coincident Speaker Technology president and chief designer, Israel Blume, has taken these tools and applied them to speaker cabinets, for resonance control and tuning, and crossovers, for optimization of layout and topology.
Manufactured from a specially selected 1" hardwood MDF, the enclosure of the Triumph was designed using computer modeling in an effort to identify, and hence reduce, internal reflections and resonances. The net result is a fundamental cabinet resonance of 350 Hz. Mr. Blume's research led him to conclude that an inherently non-resonant material, tuned to a high fundamental frequency, is sonically preferable to the traditional cabinet damping techniques. In moving the resonant frequency higher, and thus lower in amplitude, the Triumph's cabinet is said to have very little sonic signature of its own.
Driver complement consists of a 1" silk dome tweeter mated with a 6 ½" mineral-filled, polypropylene woofer. These drivers were chosen for their wide band response (necessitated by the first order crossover) and low resonance. The CAD-designed first order crossover uses polypropylene capacitors and air-core inductors. All parts are 1% matched and hardwired. Internal wire is Wireworld, with no length exceeding 15".
The Signature version of the Triumph, reviewed here, uses the aforementioned tweeter, higher quality binding posts (mounted on high density acrylic plates), and an improved crossover.
The Building Block Approach
Upon completion of last issue's Vandersteen 2wq subwoofer review, I e-mailed the editor to request a review sample of a high quality monitor, in an effort to ascertain the effectiveness of the 2wq's ability to couple with a smaller speaker. A few days passed and I was asked if I'd like to review the Coincident Speaker Technology Triumph Signatures. Sure I said, why not?
I must state up front that I don't have a great affinity for small two-way monitors. I've never found one that could provide total musical enjoyment. As a class, I find their lack of low frequency extension and mid-bass impact to severely rob most music of its foundation. One may then ask, "Why on Earth would you accept this review?" Because, dear reader, I have a plan. While I have, over the course of twenty years, assembled a relatively "big" system, I remain a real world audiophile. With the expenses of daily living, children and wife, I have never been in a position to drop 3-5K on a full-range loudspeaker. So I, and most readers, I suspect, have had to adopt a building-block approach to assembling a satisfying system.
Given a limited loudspeaker budget, my suggestion is to buy as much midrange and tweeter as is possible within this budget. The next course of action would be to add an after-market subwoofer. If you have purchased wisely, the following years will be spent upgrading the electronics around the loudspeaker system. The potential difficulty inherent in this approach involves the successful integration of a subwoofer. Although the latter presents something of a challenge, I feel this building block approach is far better than settling, at the outset, for a full-range speaker of lesser quality. The Triumph Signature loudspeaker would appear to represent an ideal first step in the quest for a full-range loudspeaker system fronted by a high-quality two-way monitor.
Digital: Enlightened Audio Designs T-1000 transport, Theta DS/Pro Gen III DAC, Audio Alchemy DTI v2.0.
Preamplifier: Balanced Audio Technology VK-3i .
Power Amplifiers: B&K M-200 Sonata Monoblocks.
Loudspeakers: Alon IV (main), Vandersteen 2wq (subwoofer).
Cables: MIT MI 330 Proline Terminator Balanced, MIT Digital Reference, Kimber KCAG, Altis Ultimate ATT Glass Fiber, van den Hul The First, MIT-330+ , MIT-MH-750 BI-Wire, MIT-MH 750 (bass on Alon).
Accessories: MIT-Z Cord II, Custom made "Andy Man" AC cables, Audio Power Industries Power Wedges 114, 112, 110, Target TT-3 Equipment Rack, Radio Shack Ferrite Cable Wraps, Assorted Sorbathane Feet, Assorted Weights for mass loading.
Acoustic Treatment:ASC Tower Stouts (4), T-50, (1), 20" Super Traps (2), 16" Tube Traps (2), 14" Tube Traps (2), Flat Traps (8).
Upon opening the well-packaged Triumphs, I was pleasantly surprised by their nicely finished cherry veneer. The heavy 1 3/8" front bevel, while reducing the effects of diffraction, lends the speaker a faceted, jewel-like appearance. This is one handsome chunk of speaker.
Also shipped were the Signature stands. Having the same cross-sectional dimensions as the Triumphs, but 23" tall, these stands added a unifying appearance to the set up. Said to utilize the same tuning techniques and 1" MDF as the Triumphs, the Signature stands should couple more synergistically than a stand from another manufacturer. In checking Coincident's web site, I see they also offer something called the Mini Sub which looks to utilize the same cabinet - a nice re-use of resources, if I'm correct. At their entirely reasonable price (have you checked stand prices lately?), I would consider the Signature stands a must-buy for all Triumph owners.
After only a few hours of play time, I just couldn't stop myself from experimenting with the Triumphs. I figured I could at least rough in their positions while they broke in. It was immediately apparent that the tweeter was hinting at a level of refinement not usually found at this price point. In my experience, a good tweeter, coupled with a low diffraction cabinet, should effortlessly deliver what I call an encompassing ambient pocket, a term I use to describe the sense of envelopment, or aural halo, the listener hears in the sweet spot. In my opinion, it is this effect to which other reviewers refer when they discuss outside-the-speaker imaging. I'm not referring to the phase manipulation of pop recordings, but rather, say, the sense of removing the side walls and having the hall's ambient trails seemingly encompass you. In setting up a pair of speakers, one is literally focusing the two radiation patterns to a single focal point. Once properly focused, and with a properly designed pair of speakers, there is a perceived wrap-around-the-head effect that borders on that of surround-sound. Within minutes I had the Triumph Signatures doing a disappearing act and throwing a huge soundscape - a good omen indeed. As it was too early into the manufacturer's recommended fifty hour break-in period for serious auditioning, I left the Triumphs to cook (for a total of eighty hours) using the entire Yello discography. During that time, I returned occasionally to acclimate myself (psycho-acoustically speaking) to the Triumph's relative lack of low frequencies.
I started my serious listening with the soundtrack to Wag The Dog by Mark Knopfler (Mercury-313 536 864-2). I was pleasantly surprised with the bass of the demure Triumphs, which provided good response to 40 Hz. Just above this point (50-60 Hz) there was a small response dip which led to a slight lack of weight. I tried various combinations of near-front and side-wall placement but could not get this particular range of frequencies to fill in. The low frequencies that were generated by the Triumphs showed no signs of smearing or doubling, and were mercifully free of a rise in this region. This bodes well for the Triumph's successful mating with a subwoofer.
Moving on to the midrange, the Triumphs flat out turned killer, showing near-perfect voicing in this region. As I have no measurable trauma notch in this region of my hearing (per my last hearing exam), I have previously been unusually critical of the midrange as reproduced by other highly regarded loudspeakers. The Triumph does, however, walk that very fine line separating smoothness from brightness in the upper mid/lower treble. While it has wonderful resolution, the Triumph's tonal balance is just forgiving enough for those less-than-pristine discs. When compared to the ACI Sapphire IIti (my previous small monitor reference), the Triumph possessed none of the cupped-hands coloration of the former. Male vocals are handled wonderfully, with a slight thinning of the sound of the singer's chest (this is preferable to a bump in response leading to an overt chestiness to male vocals). Mark Knopfler's voice on the Wag The Dog soundtrack hung magically between the speakers, with a roundness that was tangible.
The Triumph's imaging was absolutely first rate, easily matching my reference Alon IVs, throwing a huge soundscape without any of the dipole "talkback"of the Alons. Final positioning was just slightly behind and inside the position I use for the Alons - 48" from the front wall (measured to the speaker's front face), 39" from each side wall (wall to tweeter), exactly 8' apart, with the listening position just over 9' away from the plane of the speakers. Toed-in such that the inside edge of the speakers was just visible, the Triumphs simply disappeared, generating a bloom that rivaled some vaunted dipoles I've had in-room. Amazingly, for a speaker of such diminutive size, The Triumph's portrayal of instrumental scale was spot-on.
Unfortunately, the tweeter is where things went somewhat awry. Try as I might, I just could not tame what seemed to be an exaggerated tweeter level. I'll quote from my notes to Wag The Dog: "Cymbals well delineated with good air, not splashy, but too prominent". Snare drum transients pushed forward". I dug out The Dorian Collection Sampler Vol. III (DOR-90003), on a label not known for upper octave harshness. On the Gagliarde movements: "Harpsichord transients too prominent with little instrumental body". On the Mendelssohn: "Violin goes over the top, ouch". I could go on, but suffice it to say that material with a prominent top-end will be exacerbated by the Triumphs. I never got the impression of spittiness or distortion, just a tweeter set too high in level. Measurements made with a Radio Shack hand-held meter at the listening position confirmed a rising top-end from 3-8 kHz. This response is particularly vexing considering the excellence of the Triumph's midrange.
If Israel Blume could tame the tweeter level of the Triumph, this speaker would be an absolute killer! At its price point, which I consider dangerously close to factory direct, the Triumph has little competition, especially in the all-important midrange. As the Triumph is said to be driven easily by tubes, including single ended triodes, I suspect that it may have been voiced with these in mind. I look forward to a manufacturer's response concerning this point.
Purchased as part of a three-piece system, the Triumph Signature should couple beautifully with a third party subwoofer. The lack of bass bloat enabled it to integrate seamlessly with the Vandersteen 2wq. Possessing a midrange to-die-for, and near state of the art imaging, the Triumph represents a gallon of performance in a quart-sized container.
Triumph Signature Loudspeakers
Manufactured by Coincident Speaker Technology
51 Miriam Cr., Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, L4B 2P8
phone: (905) 886-6728, fax: (905) 886-2627
web: http://home.ican.net/~coincid/cst1.htm, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source of review sample: Manufacturer loan
We would like to thank Audiophilia and Jon Gale for the very flattering and informative review of our Triumph Signature loudspeakers. We find the review to be very accurate in all regards save Mr. Gale's observations that the tweeter level appears to be set too high relative to the rest of the frequency spectrum.
The Signatures actually measure essentially flat from the range of 3K to 10K. However, the speakers are very revealing of ancilliary equipment, room characteristics and source material. Since I did not have the opportunity to audition the speakers with Mr. Gale, I cannot definitively ascertain the cause of the apparent brightness. In the many rave reviews the Triumph Signatures have garnered, this criticsm has not been made about the speakers, nor have I heard it from our dealers or customers. However, since Coincident Speaker Technology is highly responsive to its customers needs and desires, it is very simple to reduce the tweeter level on any Triumph Signature to suit individual predilections, room conditions or system synergy.
As a matter of fact, we would like to send Mr. Gale another pair of Triumph Signatures with the level of the tweeter slightly reduced. This, as noted above, is available to any Coincident customer. The only cost to the consumer is the price of shipping the speakers back to the factory. In all other ways, the Signatures will sound identical. There is no sonic compromise involved in this procedure.
Experience has shown us that some listeners prefer a softer high frequency presentation than others. For example, Al Griffin in his review of the Triumphs in Home Theater magazine [Nov/96] admitted that his preference is for a somewhat bright high end and wished the speakers were a little hotter sounding.
We agree with Mr. Gale that the Triumph Signature offers breakthrough performance and construction quality for its price. After he re-listens to the speakers with the tweeter level reduced, I am certain that the Signatures will be recommended by Mr. Gale without any reservation.
President, Coincident Speaker Technology