From Triumph to Troubador
Coincident Speaker Technology Troubador Loudspeaker
Soundstage! - December 1996
Part One - The Sneak Peek
Two months ago I reviewed Coincident Technology's Triumph loudspeaker, their budget model at the time. I came away impressed with the Triumph's transparency, detail, and bass response, particularly at the price. My final words were "If he can do this for $1000, I wonder what he has in store for a little more!" As luck would have it, Israel Blume, Coincident's main designer, has blessed Soundstage! with another review sample--the Troubador. This is perhaps one of the most unique loudspeakers I have auditioned in quite some time.
The Triumph was somewhat of a departure from the rest of the Coincident lineup in that all their other models, including the Troubador, use Coincident's patented Asymmetrical Wall Enclosure (AWE) construction. In a standard box speaker enclosure all opposing walls are parallel to one another. With the AWE design, every opposing wall is non parallel. The goal is to eliminate standing waves inside the box. Obviously manufacturing a speaker in this manner is complex and thus costly.
A picture does paint a thousand words (see photo left, Troubador on Troubass Subwoofer), but I will crudely try to describe the appearance of the Troubador because it deserves mention. The base of the loudspeaker is the largest portion. When viewed from the front, the sidewalls angle inward toward the top wall, sort of like a flattened pyramid. The top angles down toward the vertical front face of the cabinet. The back wall angles fairly steeply, probably at 30 degrees or so. Each cabinet edge is also beveled. The result is an exquisite cube-like design.
In the Triumph review I mentioned that I was not exactly thrilled with its basic-black finish. Although the quality was fine, I found it somewhat industrial. This was purely an aesthetic quibble. From that experience I just was not prepared for the quality and beauty of Coincident's optional veneers. My review pair of Troubadors is finished in drop-dead gorgeous bird's eye maple veneer. To my eyes, this is one of the coolest-looking speakers I've ever had in my listening room--both for styling and finish. Furthermore, live-in Elsa agrees! Why is this even relevant? Simply, almost no high-end product designs ever perk her coffee. "Ugly," she blurts at the sight of most gear. When she uttered the words "whoa, those look sharp," I was flabbergasted.
The cabinet is only one unique aspect to the overall design; the second is that the Troubador makes use of a single 6.5-inch coaxial driver, with the tweeter mounted right inside the woofer's voice coil. The review Troubador is somewhat of a next-generation product in that it uses a new version of this SEAS-sourced driver than Troubadors of the past. All in all, the design goals are to create a true point source loudspeaker, where the box simply vanishes.
For those who need to rock the rafters, there is a separate subwoofer available, called the Troubass, which employs a 10-inch woofer and brings bass response down to the thunder-zone. The Troubador sits on top of the Troubass in Watt-Puppyish fashion, creating a floor standing full-range loudspeaker. However, all my auditioning was done with the Troubador alone, since in itself it is intended to be a satisfying standalone speaker.
So how does it sound? Let's save it 'til next month. But I will tell you that I have listened to more music through the Troubador than I have in a long time. This is a speaker I would like to own myself. Furthermore, I have met those who swear by the performance of this loudspeaker over all others. But as designer Israel Blume himself described to me, the Troubador is not for every listener. I concur. It is a unique design, sonically and aesthetically, that will make beautiful music for certain listeners with certain systems. I know you will want to tune in next month for the full Troubador review.
Part Two - The Full Review
The Troubador Loudspeaker was the first product created by Canada's Coincident Speaker Technology two years ago. The Troubador would be termed a mini-monitor by today's naming standards. At $1495 USD it is priced beyond the 'budget monitor' genre and pricewise, it is one step up from Coincident's new Triumph Loudspeaker. A more conventional two-way box model I reviewed favorably a couple of months ago. The Troubador is a unique, high-tech design intended to appeal to the discriminating audiophile.
The current Troubador differs from previous models in that it now uses a new, improved version of the 6.5 inch coaxial driver sourced from SEAS. The Troubador is uncommon in speaker-circles for employing a coaxial driver (the tweeter is mounted right inside the woofer's voice coil). Only a handful of manufactures use a coaxial driver in their designs. KEF and Tannoy in music loudspeakers and Vandersteen in their video speakers are the main ones that come to mind. The Troubador is intended to be used as musically satisfying speaker in its own right. Usable bass performance for the Troubador alone is rated down to 45 Hz. Real world performance to my ears indicates that 50 hz or so is achievable, depending on room placement. Overall, the speaker is suitable for small to medium sized rooms. For those who require full-range performance and bass into the 20 Hz range, however, the Troubass Subwoofer is meant to satisfy those needs. The optional Troubass Subwoofer is available starting at $1495 USD per pair depending on finish, The Troubador sits on top of the Troubass subwoofer and negates the need for stands. However, I did not have the opportunity to formally audition this pairing -- yet. All my listening was done using only the Troubador on the recommended 28 inch high stands.
Visually, the Troubador is a gem. Its diminutive, unusual yet pleasing shape is far removed from the traditional two-way box speaker. It is distinctive and makes a statement. The optional bird's eye maple veneer turns it into a stunner. With the Troubadors alone perched on stands, the single coaxial drivers look like giant eyes peering at the listening chair. Atop the matching Troubass Subwoofer, the combination is elegant, resembling a sculpture more than audio gear. Overall, the appearance is a welcome relief from the hum-drum black-box industrial designs so common today.
Despite the great look, the unique design is not implemented only for the sake of appearance. The Troubador uses Coincident's patented Asymmetrical Wall Enclosure (AWE). Each wall of the speaker's box is non-parallel to the opposing wall and is intended to eliminate standing waves inside. Construction in this style is more difficult and therefore more costly to implement than building a standard rectangular box. One inch hardwood MDF is used for all walls and each top and side edge is hand-beveled. The result is a well crafted, dense, rock solid enclosure.
A blessing to this design is the easy speaker placement. This is by far the easiest-to-place speaker I have ever used. I could whip those little buggers here, there and everywhere. They seemed to sound fine no matter what the placement circumstances. I consistently achieved a tight, vivid three dimensional soundstage with awesome depth and 'layering.' Space between the speakers could range anywhere from five to eight feet. Within a couple feet of the rear walls was quite acceptable. I settled on a distance of three feet from the rear wall and almost seven feet in between the speakers. This provided some of the best imaging and soundstaging I have ever heard in my room.
Sonically, the Troubador is a perfect example of musical synergy in action. Taken as a whole, there is a musical ease to the performance of the Troubador that I find rare and enjoyable. I have encountered some speaker designs that I find difficult to listen to for extended periods no matter what the specifications say. Not so with the Troubador. Perhaps, it is due to the use of a single coaxial driver to create a true point source reference. Perhaps it is the unique enclosure. Perhaps it is the minimal signal path using a first-order crossover and a small amount of internal Wireworld cable. Whatever the reason, something just sounded -- right. The Troubador truly excels in its ability to unravel musical intricacies and deliver them to the listener in a sonically pleasing manner.
However, I can imagine that some people will dismiss this speaker on their first audition. The Troubador does not have an immediate Hi-Fi sound that latches on to the listener. And its bass extension, although acceptable, is a tad lightweight in comparison to some of the best small speakers. Some heft is needed to make it stand out! The highs are sweet and pure, but if I was to quibble I would say they are a bit restrained. Not rolled off per se, but there is a loss of 'air' in the highest registers. Furthermore, the character of the Troubador is somewhat laid-back and tonally warm which could translate into uninvolving and dull to some ears.
The sound of the Troubador, then, will likely not suit everyone. Those who prefer a driving, immediate sound will find fulfillment elsewhere. Coincident's own less expensive Triumph would be a better choice due to its ability to swing through countless musical styles with ease. Bass freaks, or those who need to play their music loud on a regular basis will not be as impressed either. Sure the Troubador can play loud, I had them rattling the plaster. But the dynamics compress and things become a little woolly at high levels. I would certainly enjoy the opportunity to use the Troubass subwoofer to assess its impact in these areas. Overall, these limitations are not surprising at all for a speaker of this size.
Then there are those for who the Troubador will be a perfect match. Many pairs of ears could fall in love with them, given the chance and a proper system. The Troubador is a detailed, revealing performer that will show inadequacies in your source gear quickly. Choose your associated equipment carefully or you may not be pleased -- "they are worthy, they are worthy." Luckily, driving these speakers is snap. They are highly efficient, easy on the impedance front, and thus do not require high power amplification. Since they are such an easy load there are some great, inexpensive amplifiers that I think would mate perfectly with the Troubador. The Golden Tube SE-40 springs to mind . Or perhaps a Jolida, Caztech, or even better, the soon to be released Blue Circle BC-6.
At one point in my listening I used my Theta digital front end, the Blue Circle BC-3 preamp, the Blue Circle BC-2 monoblock amps, and Nirvana wiring throughout. The performance of the Troubador through this exceptional equipment was exquisitely detailed, highly revealing, and beautifully musical. The main criticism I could level was a lack of bass weight to the performance. Much larger, usually floor standing speakers, offer more kick at the bottom end. However, the performance was so musically enticing I was able to look beyond this limitation. I recall hearing the best ever rendition of Girl of Mine from Blue Rodeo's Diamond Mine CD with this setup (WEA CD 56268). It is an intimate little number featuring Blue Rodeo's former wonderman keyboardist, Bob Wiseman, alongside Jim Cuddy's soaring countrified vocals. The recording, despite a bit of electronic haze, captures a wonderful sense of soundstage space and musical emotion. The result here - magical!
If you have a small to medium sized room and are in the market for a refined and detailed mini-monitor with distinctive, elegant styling put the Troubador on your audition list. However, I must say that as with any fine audio gear, seriously listen to it first, preferably within your own system. Having reviewed and enjoyed Coincident's less expensive Triumph loudspeaker, I can say that a speaker like the Triumph is easier to recommend for many listeners. It swings more easily through a wider variety of music and that is important criteria to many listeners. The Triumph also has a bit more dynamic agility and bass attack which lends itself well to long term satisfaction. For myself, I would pick the Troubador -- no question. To my ears the Troubador is a wonderful performer and possesses sonic attributes that results in fine musical performance.
Price: $1,495 USD, $1995 CDN
(optional veneered finishes are available at additional cost)
Coincident Speaker Technology
51 Miriam Crescent
Richmond Hill, ON
L4B 2P8 Canada
Fax: (905)886-2627 Coincident Speaker Technology
E-Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org