If one has the pleasure of auditioning a pair of two-way, stand mounted Triumph Signature Extremes, I strongly, strongly recommend inquiring if these speakers have been fully broken in. In my listening room it took at least two hundred hours (for those who do not want to do the math this equals more than eight days of continuous use) before they even began to sound their best. Before that time the frequency extremes did not approach anywhere near their full potential, and their overall sound was rather un-involving.
When they finally settled in they morphed into one of the most responsive pieces of hi-fi equipment I have ever heard — that is, these speakers from Coincident Speaker Technologies (CST) were almost totally dependent on upstream components, and especially the quality of the recording, in determining their sound. Even the most seemingly insignificant change in set-up, a recording's attributes (or lack thereof), or the arrangement of associated gear was audible. Lest one think that this would be a liability when listening to less than perfectly recorded material, because these extremely speedy and transparent speakers are also some of the most musical two-ways I've heard, letting the quality of the recorded performance shine through — and since you and I only listen to good music (naturally) the content of the recordings compensated for any deficiencies in a disc's production.
The Extreme's took up residence in my second system that uses a pair of 70-Watt vacuum tubed PrimaLuna ProLogue Six monoblock power amplifiers. The preamplifiers were either a tubed Balanced Audio Technology VK-3i or VK-3iX, and at times an Audiobuoy Scorpion. Digital sources were an Arcam CD player used with and without a Benchmark DAC1PRE digital converter, and an Oppo universal player. During the second half of the review period I connected an Artimus SA-1 turntable with a Lyra Helikon cartridge mounted on a Tri-planar tonearm with a Lehmann Black Cube SE performing phono preamplifier duties. Everything except for the hardwired tonearm was hooked up with a rotating array of MIT, Cardas, Monster, and Kimber cable.
The Extreme's were shipped with their matching stands that retail for $230. I was skeptical — how could relatively inexpensive, self-assembled stands with MDF pillars be any good? Well, as it turns out, very good. The heavy top and bottom steel plates kept everything extremely stable, and as a bonus the stands are also very good-looking. Both spikes and hard rubber feet are provided, and the later held the stands in place on our hardwood floor very well — the speaker/stand combination wasn't going anywhere.
The Extremes do not have any grills protecting the drivers. This didn't bother me that much, but I was concerned that curiosity would get the best of my nine year-old daughter and she would damage the speakers. My worries about her ended up being for naught – although I had to caution some adults more than once when their inquisitive fingers were inches from the tweeter's dome. Groan.
The stated low frequency response of the speakers is 45 Hz, which was low enough for the bass drum and timpani whacks to reasonably convey a sense of heft, and to suggest that there was a considerable amount of air moved in the recording venue. I informally tested the speaker's frequency response and got readings into the mid 40s as CST specified, but things dropped off steeply below that. The cabinets of these two-ways is relatively large for a "small" two-way, so I was surprised that I couldn't get more bass out of them, and this was surely their greatest (if only, really) weakness. But thanks to the very tight sounding upper bass the low end was extremely punchy and pitch stable. The missing lowest octave didn't detract from the reduced forces playing this very alluring arrangement of the Shostakovich masterpiece.
Later in the review period I played a few tracks from clarinetist Don Byron's A Fine Line release on Blue Note that features different singers performing arias and standards. On the Stephen Sondheim tune The Ladies Who Lunch Cassandra Wilson's vocals seemed to reflect the sound of the particular microphone and the reverb effects used at New York City's Avatar Studios as much as her vocal talent. Yet the Extreme's transparency combined with its exceptional musicality made obvious that her commanding voice could easily prevail over any limits of the technology. When comparing it with some reference discs it was easy to tell that the slight cupped-hand coloration was the fault of the recording. Later, when I skipped back to the first track, "Check Up", the Ornette Coleman tune with wordless vocals by Mark Ledford, the inaccuracy I spoke of on the Cassandra Wilson cut was nowhere to be found, and in its place was a sound that was much more unaffected. Was it recorded on a different day with a different mic? Whatever the cause, the Extreme's made the incongruity between sessions obvious. Throughout the entire album the speakers kept their composure, sorting out the intricate support of the band, most notably Uri Caine on piano behind Byron's clarinet. Paulo Braga's drums and various percussion were spread out across the man-made soundstage, and even though the piano was also spread out within the same margins of the ‘stage, each occupied distinct areas within it. Bryon's clarinet was panned hard left, and details such as the sound of his keys hitting the instrument's barrel made things all that more convincing.
What I wasn't expecting was how much I enjoyed time spent listening to these speakers with what I previously thought of as less than stellar recordings. I'm not saying that the Extremes euphonically colored the sound to make crummy recordings sound "good" — poorly recorded or poorly pressed records and CDs were revealed as such. But the speakers clearly exhibited that the musicians and engineers had the best intentions when making these recordings. I would like to think that there are few that set out to make a poorly recorded or otherwise produced product, and the Extremes brought to light their intentions, misguided as they may have been. So, even though I've played this record constantly since I was about 15 years old, I was shocked when I played the 1968 live recording at the Forum in Los Angeles of the Howlin' Wolf penned "Sitting On Top Of The World" on Cream's Goodbye album.
Here I was, enjoying a record I'm used to hearing on huge speakers at nearly the volume it was originally played on stage, and enjoying it as much, nay, more than I ever had before. Sure, the Extremes can pump out some serious SPLs, but even when I played the track back on a low-ish volume the close mic'ing didn't really make me feel as if I was at the actual event, but it sure brought me close to the feeling as if I was sitting in the room where they were mixing the tape. Even though this recording hardly approaches what would be termed as "audiophile" or "reference", Eric Clapton's guitar amps were there, and even though the drums sounded quite rolled-off in the highs I could "see" engineering details in my mind such as the distance between the drums and the microphones. Speaking of mic'ing distance, I could sense Jack Bruce voice weaving in and out of the microphone's sweet spot, which further brought me closer to the into the recording's world, and thus, closer to the original event. And, by the way, this live recording is the most intense rock versions of this song you'll ever hear, and the Extremes made this quite obvious that this is a fact, not opinion.
I would be remiss in not making mention of the Triumph Signature Extreme's stable impedance characteristics and especially its high sensitivity. CST states in its specifications that the speakers can be driven with as little as three Watts, and although I did not attempt using, for example, a low-powered single-ended triode (SET) amplifier, I have no doubts about their claim. Driving the speakers in my system with the sixty Watt per channel PrimaLuna ProLogue Six monoblock amps were more than enough power, and practically speaking, were almost overkill. What's more, the two tube preamplifiers that I had on hand while the Extremes took up residence have particularly black backgrounds; in fact they are two of the quietest preamps of their ilk that have passed through my system in quite some time. Yet when using the Extremes their behavior was even more unobtrusive -- their volume controls were set at a much lower level than when using other speakers that I had in house. This led to a blacker background and an increase perceived dynamics as well as demanding less from the power amplifiers. Whether the speaker's high sensitivity was the cause for the speakers to be so revealing when I switched between different components and cables, I don't really know, but the end result was that I sensed as if the speakers were competing to be the least colored component in the chain.
Makes A Point
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