all deserve some pampering and making life easy for ourselves from time to time.
The wise ones amongst us will already practice this philosophy. If you are like
me – unwise – your audio obsession with perfection takes you to places such as
using a calibrated microphone and room measurement software to help set up DSP
room correction. This can be great and I mean really
great but most sane people would say; Stop! What's your problem with speakers
you can simply plunk down in a room, move around a little to optimize their
sound and then just get on with the pleasure of listening? My alter ego won and
I resolved to find some "normal" speakers to try in a couple of my rooms.
The simplicity of not needing to spend time setting up room correction is very
liberating for an OCD type such as myself, roll on the therapy!
The speakers in question hail from Germany; Andreas Paul is the proprietor of Zugspitz, the manufacturer of the speakers. Andreas offers a series of vinyl, tube amplifiers and speakers which are tailored to his ideals for finish and sound. The Zugspitz speakers I auditioned are built to an exacting level of finish, the final finish can be chosen by the customer; creativity is allowable and even encouraged. I've seen photos of a set of speakers with driftwood or maybe just rough wood baffles; they must look quite something in a seaside setting or perhaps as a statement in an ultra-modern slick room. Traditional German handcrafted woodwork is the order of the day; from what I've seen of the finishes available I find they support the claim of Andreas Paul to offer products which are amongst the finest available.
I classified the Zugspitz Triumph as "normal"
speakers but in truth they are anything but that. Their normality for me comes
from their being fully passive speakers. The Triumphs use a 12" wideband
driver which is horn loaded for the bass; from measurement I found they go down
to around 35 Hz in-room. The wideband driver is crossoverless and is extensively
treated to allow it to perform up to 8 kHz without breakup while it naturally
rolls-off. The direct connection of the amplifier to the wideband driver is
ideal and the benefits of this are most audible. The tweeter is a dipole domed
unit which sits on top of the main enclosure in its own moveable pod. The
Triumph speakers are loosely based on the BastanisWildhorn. I say "loosely based" as Robert Bastani designed specific modifications for the Zugspitz
drivers, tweeter crossover. The striking cabinet is unique to Zugspitz too along
with options to customize the cabinets to your personal taste. The speakers are
an 8 ohm load with efficiency being 100dB/W/m. This is your opportunity to use a
low-wattage high quality amplifier. I used a few; a 300B SE monoblocks, EL84 SE,
E1r solid-state SE monoblocks and Temple
Audio T-amp monoblocks.
The Zugspitz Triumph combine very high efficiency
via a crossoverless 12" wideband driver with powerful bass performance via
floor–firing horns. As floor-firing horns go these speakers are relatively
compact, indeed they are a mid-sized floor-stander when judged by normal
standards. This will come as a great comfort to those used to trying to
accommodate massive bass horns as well as maintaining a marriage at the same
time! According to Robert Bastani developing the Zugspitz Triumph wideband
driver has been his greatest design challenge to date. Combining very high
efficiency wideband drivers for mid-range excellence with clean and dynamic bass
from backloaded horn cabinets I'm told looked to be an unlikely task when he
started work on this project. Floor-firing bass horns will react differently and
in a more forgiving manner than traditional speakers making room coupling less
hit and miss, at least that's the theory. Robert Bastani explained that the
virtual horn mouth is defined by the free floor space so this varies in size
depending on room size. In small rooms the speakers produce less bass and with
bigger rooms you get more bass, which is just what's needed.
Now for some vital statistics; the Triumphs weigh
in at 77 lbs. each, measure 43" high, 15" deep and 14.5" wide. The
cabinets are fabricated from Birch Ply which clearly is of high quality, I could
not spot any voids between the exposed edges of the plies. The fit and finish of
the cabinets is very good with the edges being very smooth and clean. Finally we
have the finish of the baffles. These are very striking in the flesh. Even the
female members of my family loved the looks of these speakers. There's a range
of finishes you can specify so you can be inventive and find what suits your
The dipole tweeters are very nicely done, free-standing and sitting on stainless steel supports isolated via small o-rings. The tweeter wiring plugs into the top of the speaker cabinets. The rear of the tweeter enclosures are covered with the same black material as is used over the 12 inch wideband drivers. The tweeters are horn-loaded to the front and are very well finished indeed. The tweeters being free-standing allow you locate them left, center or right on the baffle. Locating them slightly outboard adds space to the soundscape. This is a useful tweak which most speakers do not permit.
I found positioning the speakers easy, as they
are not especially fussy and integrated well with the rooms I tried them in.
They worked surprisingly well in a room with a 7 foot high ceiling, I had
thought this would be their Achilles heel. There's a lot to be said for
avoiding speakers which go down very low e.g. 20 Hz, if you have smallish rooms,
the 35 Hz reach of the Triumphs strikes a good balance. In the UK room
dimensions are often around 16 feet to 21 feet in length and width around 12
feet to 15 feet. Very low bass in such situations will often cause grief as it'll likely sound poor without room correction.
My usual speakers which are open baffle exude great depth; this is hardly surprising as sound emanates from both front and rear of the baffles. The Triumphs can't quite match this trick but make up for this with what I can only describe a tremendously natural sounding presence. The mid-range does manage share an important quality with open baffle speakers, a lack of boxiness. With so many box speakers I hear the box singing along with the music. The Triumphs manage to totally avoid this foible. Without boxiness to cloud the sound I found the mid-range to be incredibly lucid and life-like, the open sound and "in the room" nature of the mid-range is really rather special, especially for a box speaker. I found that bass frequencies were surprisingly constant around the various rooms I placed these speakers. By this, I mean that as moving around the rooms I wasn't traveling between massive nulls and resonant peaks. In other words room coupling was good. One room had quite a troublesome 50Hz room mode but to be fair this was caused by the room being almost square, the laws of physics apply and the usual hi-fi advice to avoid square rooms is very salient. In another room I found the bass more typical, not as good as the DSP room corrected bass I'm very familiar with. Bass from the Triumphs was lithe and well developed.
Treble is excellent and totally governed by the
quality of the recording and rest of the system in use. With the crossover areas
between wideband and tweeter occurring at 8 kHz it is out of harm's way, the
treble being shared between wideband and tweeter works very well, indeed it's
hard to fault it. If there is sparkle to the music you get it, there's no
artificial brightness or problematic harshness. Any vocal sibilance is deftly
handled, it's not covered up and it is rendered in a natural manner. Soaring
female vocal and trumpets had me worried but I was needlessly concerned, rarely
am I so much at ease with such a detailed and live sound.
So, what exactly is the likely market is for
these specialized, and very interesting, speakers? The most important thing to
appreciate is that they sound fabulous, live and alive, plus very natural to
boot! Should these speakers suit your sonic taste you will likely find their
being passively driven, very high efficiency, ease of placement and stunning
looks are a virtually unique combination. The Triumphs suggest, but don't
demand, low-wattage amplifiers. There are options to personalize cabinet finish
and it's possible to be very creative here. The finish of the speakers is high
quality in a craftsman-like, hand-built manner. Each one is lovingly created and
not just rolling off a fully automated production line by the thousand. Buyers
of the Triumphs are likely to be as particular about the cabinet design fitting
with their décor as they are the resulting sound. Zugspitz will likely be a
treasure trove for such buyers as Andreas Paul offers full systems, which match
the individuality and quality of his Zugspitz Triumph. Taking looks and sound
together, I have to say I find these speakers are a "triumph" and very
special indeed. The price for the standard finish is €12,500, and all things
considered the price is reasonable given what it is possible to pay for other
high-end speakers. Connoisseurs will surely luxuriate in the looks and sound
Music Used During Review
St Germain - Tourist