GoldenEar Technology Triton Five
Sandy Gross, the proprietor of GoldenEar, may be the Babe Ruth of reasonably priced loudspeakers. With the Triton Five, the gregarious Gross has hit yet another one out of the park. Named after the sea god Triton who could calm or rouse the waves by blowing on his conch, the Triton has a similar quality. It’s a remarkably low-distortion design that belts out Led Zeppelin but also has the finesse to reproduce the most finely filigreed musical passages. A high-velocity ribbon driver helps account for the purity of the treble. And four side-mounted sub-bass radiators allow it to plumb the Stygian depths of the sonic spectrum. Not least, it’s also an elegant and unobtrusive-looking design that should appeal to a wide range of listeners. For all his ingenuity, it will be hard for Gross to surpass the Triton Five.
Eminent Technology LFT-8b
A floorstanding hybrid, combining sealed-box bass with magnetically driven planar membranes (two-sided drive) for midrange and tweeter, this is one of the lowest distortion speakers ever. It is well balanced and very nearly phase linear, though not ruler-flat in response, with small bumps at 1kHz and 8kHz. The LFT-8b goes up seemingly forever, and down to very near the bottom of audibility in the bass. Ideal listening requires a position close to exactly centered, with the speakers precisely angled, but at the magic spot, imaging is superb. Set up right, the ETs can sound remarkably like music, with a most pleasing lack of box coloration and a truly startling purity of sound. In REG’s estimation, one of audio’s all-time amazing bargains.
Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II
The Vandersteen 2Ce is the classic three-way floorstander, delivering excellent top-to-bottom balance and engaging musicality. Moreover, Vandersteen’s baffle-less, time-and-phase-coherent design can suggest the spatial focus usually heard with planars. It benefits from bi-wiring and should be placed away from walls. The first-order crossovers essential to time-coherent performance somewhat limit maximum sound-pressure levels.
Dynaudio Excite X34
The X34 occupies the affordable sweet spot in the broad Dynaudio line. This slim, 36-inch-tall two-way has crisp, clean, understated lines, and a very small footprint. Musically the X34 isn’t partial to a specific genre—it’s equally satisfying from country to classical. Anchored by a surprising allotment of low-frequency energy and dynamic punch, the small tower achieves nearly a full spectrum of spirited output and authority, with just a hint of mid/upper-bass ripeness. Vocals are well balanced with a good measure of chest resonance and upper-octave air. Strings could be sweeter, and violin section layering is not quite fully reproduced, but, overall, the X34 is a versatile little number that’s willing and able to get down and party with the best of them.
MartinLogan Motion 60XT
The Motion 60XT with folded-motion tweeter is not a perfect loudspeaker, but it does many things not only right, but magnificently, provided a suitable amplifier is used to drive it. As the speaker was designed by the same team that creates the company’s electrostatic models, it should come as no surprise that the upper midrange and treble are similarly voiced to ML’s ESL models, though with slightly less finesse in the upper frequencies. Voices are lifelike, engaging, and captivating. An added benefit of the excellent driver and crossover matching is the realistic lower-midrange/upper-bass performance. The 60XT produces a broad soundstage that exceeds the width of the loudspeakers’ placement, with pinpoint imaging and amazing, three-dimensional depth. The twin 8″ woofers produce bass extension that will satisfy all but hard-core pipe organ and electric-bass aficionados.