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February 2007
Superior Audio Equipment Review

Triangle Magellan Concerto sw2 Loudspeaker
Of high resolution, bass definition, plus commanding weight and authority.
Review By Alvin Gold
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 Triangle Magellan Concerto sw2 Speaker

  The old Magellan Concerto and variants looked pretty good: excellent woodwork, tall, elegant styling, everything you could ask for in an ambitions high-end loudspeaker in fact. But with the Concerto sw2, Triangle has raised its game, and not just marginally. The enclosure finish is now truly special. Where the old model had a quality wood veneer with a standard luster finish, the now one has a wood grain finish dressed in 9 or ten layers of lacquer, each of which has been applied and rubbed down before the next is applied, giving a piano gloss like appearance with real depth and sheen. Other things have changed too. From memory, the old terminals were nothing like as exotic looking as the current biwire terminal block, though this is the kind of difference that like surface finish is more for show than function. Except that when it comes to disposing of the speakers in the long distant future, you can probably be assured of a much higher residuals. And you have a good chance of having the speaker accepted as real furniture by those family and visitors who don't care a rat's backside about sound quality.

But change is what this speaker is all about, and the cosmetic differences are only the starting point. If it was to be summed up in a single sentence, the key difference between new and old is that the new speaker has been made much easier on the ear. This is not entirely a one sided changes: there are different angles depending on how you look at it, but in general terms, the changes are such that you'll find it easier to design a working system for the sw2 to play with, it matches easier into adverse acoustics, and it is simply easier on the ear - points we'll come back to of course. Finally, while the Concerto sw2 is by any standards an expensive piece of hardware when compared to its direct peers from B&W and Focal JMlab for example, and leaving issues related to sound quality to one side for a moment, it represents keen material value for money. It is a lot of money, but it is also a lot of value for your money, which is clearly a reflection of the fact that this is a speaker made in serious volumes in an efficient production environment. The only negative here is that many of the changes, and this includes the cosmetic revamp, should have been right from the outset; it must be more than a little galling for owners of the old models that a revamp was considered necessary in such a short timescale.

The substantive (i.e. audio related) changes are mainly in the construction of the various drive units and crossover, and in the voicing - always black art, and one that has been given tackled with this model at a fundamental level. Let's look briefly at the starting point. The model replaced by the sw2, the Triangle Magellan Concerto, was the smaller brother of the flagship Magellan, which consists of an enormously tall (2.18 meters) construction consisting of three discrete enclosures piled one atop the next. The Concerto was simply more real world, a single monolithic loudspeaker standing 1.6 meters high, and containing two 160mm midrange units, two horn loaded compression tweeters and three bass units with the same nominal diameter as the midrange units. One midrange driver and one tweeter faced backwards, echoing the front panel arrangement, to give a radiation pattern which I have previously described as somewhere between bipolar and omnidirectional.

Many of the trademark ingredients of that model continue to underpin the Concerto sw2. All models make use of a Triangle proprietary horn tweeter, and the similar looking proprietary mid and bass derivers featuring lightweight cones. Most of the weight of the enclosures bears onto the floor through a single point - an arrangement maintained in an improved form in the sw2. The thinking is that the moving parts accelerate and stop cleanly against a stable and inert enclosure. The drivers, the tweeter especially, is a fairly directional design, and the rear facing units help counter this, producing a wider, more expansive soundstage, especially for those not sitting on the centre line.

The new Concerto sw2 is a linear development of the original that followed an R&D program carried out at Triangle's new research centre that has been built at their headquarters not a million miles from Paris. It is a little taller and broader in the beam, and the weight has increased by around 20 percent to 66kg. Although the new Concerto is still housed in a single, monolithic enclosure, it is sent from the factory in enormous wooden crates that had to be unpacked out on the street before they could be manhandled into the listening room.

Each of the drive units has been developed further than in the preceding model. The tweeter for example looks similar to the old model, but its polar response has been made more uniform over a wider angle. The older model's output was sharply defined so that from directly in front it tended to sound a little too aggressive, and even from mildly off axis the extreme treble rolled sharply away. The rather brutal looking phase plug at the centre of the dome has also been reshaped to reduce HF distortion, and LF distortion has been addressed with changes to the motor assembly; other changes include improved heat dissipation, which allows greater power handling.

A similar defocusing of the polar response has been made to the midrange driver, which has a 160mm cone driver as before, but the cone material has been changed for a sandwich material with a cellular foam core between two glass layers, a construction that superficially at least sounds like the material used for many Focal-JMlab bass and midrange cones. Power handling has also been increased with changes to the motor system, though the published specifications suggest that it has been lost elsewhere. The three bass units no longer share their cone size with the midrange units. They are larger 210mm cones, but made using the same technology as the midrange units, and a four-layer long throw voice coil.

Naturally there have had to be changes to the crossover to accommodate the new drive unit complement, the principal aims being to reduce phase distortion, to improve alignment accuracy and as already indicated to make the system less directional, which is said to pay dividends for the rear facing units, reducing the sensitivity to placement with respect to adjacent walls.

 

Sound Quality
So how have these changes shaped the listening experience? The single word answer is drastically. Starting with the basics, Triangle's engineers have sacrificed some of the unusually high sensitivity of the old model, which is now officially rated at 90dB/watt, not insensitive exactly, but large loudspeakers like this often require less power than smaller speakers, which on average cluster around 89dB/W/m. Despite the changes to the drive units, power handling is a comparatively modest 200 Watts on paper. The test amplifier was a Krell FBI, which is rated at 300 Watts/channel, which corresponds to much less average power output with typical music program, and the system was used in a room that was not large enough to allow the Krell to be driven flat out. The long and the short is that it was not possible to drive the system hard enough to expose any lack of power handling ability in practice, but my best guess is that Triangle's figures are probably conservative, that is the sw2 could probably be used safely with amplifier rated at 50 to 100 percent higher than the Krell delivers. This said, the new model has a lowish 4-Ohm nominal impedance (2.5 Ohms minimum). These numbers are not low enough to cause problems for any half respectable amplifier, but the sw2 will still work best with amplifiers that can deliver healthy amounts of current.

As already indicated the extensive changes made to the model make this an easier speaker to get to grips with, but it still has much of Triangle's trademark resolving ability and expansive soundstage presence. It starts and stops on the head of a pin, which was always a principal strength, and at times it is like listening to an electrostatic rather than a moving coil loudspeaker. I was also surprised to discover how easy it was to set up for the listening room. It needs some space behind the enclosures to breathe properly, but the optimum distance is of the same order as most large speakers in the same environment. 70cm or so from the back panel to the rear wall, and a meter or so from the side walls worked best, but it simply isn't very fussy. The tweeters are mounted well above ear height when seated, but such is the new found evenness of the sw2's dispersion that even this doesn't cause any noticeable problem. The listener is still within the useful output dispersion cone when seated normally, and incidentally when standing also, as in this case the tweeter is a similar amount below the ear axis as it is above when seated. Of course there are phase problems to allow for when listening on the 'wrong' axis, but the treble crossover slopes are steep, which minimizes problems associated with overlap.

Musically, the prognosis is almost mostly favorable. The Concerto sw2 has an easy, relaxed quality when compared to the original version, which had many fine qualities, but which would occasionally sound forward and over-explicit, even sharp, and with a bright edge at high frequencies associated with a rising response into the extreme treble. This has finally gone, almost. The tweeter is palpably smoother and sweeter than before, and there is little sign of the edginess that would creep into the picture at times. On its own, this is a major improvement that delivers an easier, smoother and more euphonious quality. The original Concerto was to an extent at least led, and at times it was dominated by the treble output. With the new model there is less of a sense of artifice; musical structures flow more readily, and the whole effect is one of greater transparency, and where the music allows, repose.

My suspicion is that this is not all down to a more linear tweeter, but may have something to do with the polar response, which ensures that early reflections from the back wall and elsewhere will be less beset by phase and other problems; in other words the reflected room energy is itself cleaner. There is plenty of published evidence, anecdotal and more scientifically based (it underpins for example much of what Mirage has done over the years), that the quality of room reflections has a key effect on the auditioning process, and in this case the reverberant soundfield is partly (but not wholly) determined by the stuff that's radiated from the back wall. Partly as a result, a number of listeners sitting separately in the listening room will benefit from the improvements that have been made, where previously the Concerto disproportionately favored the inhabitant of the central hotseat. Remember all these improvements are registered from a very high initial baseline.

But the changes are far from being limited to the high frequency region. The bass was always quick and tuneful; now it has real muscle and authority too. The improvements are perfectly obvious with the cellos and string bass sections of symphonic recordings, but there is also more of a sense of scale and color to proceedings, where the old model sometimes suggested a rather pallid tonality. Again no surprise here: adding to the low frequency end of any system often has the most obvious apparent effect in the upper mid and even the treble region, paradoxically enough, which is easy enough to demonstrate in any system by replacing a small well designed speaker with a bigger one. The musical effect will be obvious extra bass when the recoding features a prominent bass riff, or instruments with an extended bottom end - orchestral organ for example. But with more mainstream material the effects tend to centre on a greater sense of air and space, and most of all a richer and more varied tonality.

All these changes are combined with a midband performance that is simply, well, better. The Concerto sw2 is more fluid and together, the palpably improved midband does a better job of tying the two frequency extremes together. Make no mistake, there is still room for improvement if the designers have a mind to. Compared to some smaller speakers (including a non-commercial home designed two-way of unusual design with an un-optimized LF limited to almost an octave shy of the Triangle's reach), the midband has a slightly edgy feel, though the Concerto sw2 is incomparably more dynamic and open, and the sense of depth and space, and the level of detail are much greater, so there's no comparability here. But the comparison did serve to show that the Triangle design has its own limitations, which is perhaps inevitable with any loudspeaker whose time signature is bound to be compromised by the rich spectrum of early room reflections.

 

Verdict
In part perhaps reflecting my own personal prejudices and musical tastes, I see this loudspeaker primarily as a precision tool for the exploration of high-resolution acoustic recordings. High resolution reflects its capabilities, and the fact that it makes greater sense with high-res material, and specifically SACD orchestral and jazz recordings. It has the qualities necessary to succeed with rock and electronic material too, but despite trying an enormous range of material from Tom Waits to Eric Bibb, from the Beatles to Eels, it is generally less compelling with such music. But the high resolution is always an advantage with well made recordings, bass definition has been enhanced with extra weight and authority, the mid and treble have improved in quality, and the system appears to be capable of very high SPLs given the space and input power to do so. Plus it looks much better than its already impressive predecessor.

But it's not an altogether straightforward proposition. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Concerto sw2 is in some ways less idiosyncratic, less compelling, less 'in your face', and that ultimately it has less personality than its predecessor. It has clearly been tweaked for an easier system and room match, and is generally easier on the ear. As a result, there will be those who may find the old model more to their taste, and regret the new softer edge which makes the new speaker a more anonymous and perhaps ultimately a less interesting proposition. But I have no hesitation in concluding that the new Concerto is a better, more transparent and wider ranging loudspeaker overall, and certainly among the best in class.

 

Specifications
Type: 3-way, 7 driver bass reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Drivers:
Tweeters: two horn loaded 25mm dome
Midrange: two 160mm SVA (Sandwich Vert Alvéolaire) composite 3-layer cone
Bass: three 210mm SVA cone units
Frequency Response: 32Hz to 20kHz
Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m
Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
Minimum Impedance: 2.5 Ohms
Crossover Frequencies: 350Hz @ 12dB/octave, 3.5kHz @ 24dB/octave
Power Handling: 200W
Biwire speaker terminals
Dimensions: 1600 x 600 x 450 (HxWxD in mm)
Net Weight: 66kg each
Cabinet Finish: Mahogany veneer 
Price: $19,900 per pair

 

Company Information
Triangle Industries S.A.S
Ave Flandres Dunkerque
Z.I les Etomelles
02200 Villeneuve St.Germain
France

Website: www.triangle-fr.com

 

United States Distribution
Epitome AV, Inc.
210 Springview Commerce Drive
Building # 140
DeBary, FL 32713

Voice: (321) 283-2266
Fax: (253) 981-9158
E-mail: info@epitomeav.com
Website: www.epitomeav.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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