The search for great-sounding speakers is one of the joys of being an audio enthusiast, and upgrading the speakers is one of the most effective ways to improve the performance of a sound system . There are hundreds upon hundreds of companies making speakers, so finding the best performers—and the best bargains—can be quite an adventure.

When I explored the halls of CEDIA and CES over the past couple of years, there were more speakers than any one person could properly audition in the few days of the shows. Also, many of the speakers being demonstrated are extremely pricey, costing as much as a new car or even a nice house. As fun as it is to check out the audio bling, I mainly use these two shows to search for speakers that offer exemplary performance at approachable prices.

Before I request equipment for review, I want to know that it performs at a high level; I'm always searching for systems that I would be happy to own. Consequently, one of the first things I do when I walk into a room at CEDIA or CES is inquire about the price of the gear on display.

Ultimately, I strive to select speaker systems that are worth hauling up two flights of stairs in my Philly row house and dialing in for optimum performance. It's not something I want to do for speakers that don't offer exceptional performance, even in a difficult show environment. Because I am selective in this manner, the gear that does come through the door of my studio typically performs quite well.

One of the brands that has consistently impressed me at both CEDIA and CES is GoldenEar Technology, a speaker company founded by Sandy Gross, co-founder of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology. From the first moment I heard the Triton One towers at CES 2014 , I was hooked on GoldenEar. Those speakers possessed all the qualities I look for in towerspeakers , especially when it came to clarity, precise imaging, and bass response.

Between CES and CEDIA 2014, Dolby introduced Atmos for home. CEDIA that year featured a lot of Atmos, including over a dozen different demos. GoldenEar's Atmos demo was the best small-room system I heard at the show.

After the excellent experience in the GoldenEar room—featuring the best bass and the deepest sense of immersion—I resolved to acquire a similar system from GoldenEar to review. I wanted to experience equally compelling immersive Atmos audio in my own studio.

At CES 2015, GoldenEar unveiled two new products : The Triton Five tower speaker ($2000/pair) and the SuperSub XXL  subwoofer ($2000). The Triton Five is the company's second passive tower speaker (following the Triton Seven) and the fifth overall entry in the Triton lineup. The other three Triton models—the One, Two, and Three—each include powered-subwoofer sections integrated into the towers.

Based on what I heard in Las Vegas, I determined to get my hands on a pair of Triton Fives. Despite being a passive design, the bass I heard coming from them was deep and had tangible, physical impact. I put in a request for a pair to review on the spot, and I'm glad I did, because the listening experience at home was even better than what I heard at the show.

It was tempting to add subwoofers to the 2-channel mix—I have a pair of SuperSub XXLs on hand—but I'm saving that for an upcoming review. For now, let's look at the performance of the passive Triton Fives when running full-range in a subwoofer-free stereo system.


The Triton Five is a 2-way tower speaker featuring a folded-ribbon tweeter and dual 6" woofers arranged in a D'Appolito array . The tall, sleek tower looks thoroughly modern and almost mysterious wrapped in matte-black cloth. GoldenEar's aesthetic is perfect for home-theater applications; in a dark room, the Tritons simply disappear. In a brightly lit room, the speakers easily blend in and look stylishly modern. As long as you are not looking for a wood finish, GoldenEar Triton Fives will fit into almost any décor.

A look at the Triton Fives's drivers arranged in a D'Appolito array.

None of GoldenEar's Triton speakers, including the Fives, feature traditional speaker grills. If you look behind the cloth—which is easy to remove and replace—you will see a baffle that's specially designed to reduce diffraction. I usually review speakers with the grills off, but with the Tritons, I kept the cloth sock in place since that's how the speakers are designed to be used.

GoldenEar specifies a frequency response from 25 Hz to 35 kHz for the Triton Five, with a rated sensitivity of 90 dB/W/m. Each speaker can handle up to 400 watts worth of amplification, and the crossover point is set at 3000 Hz. Four passive radiators—two on each side of the cabinet—enhance bass performance. The rated nominal impedance is 8 ohms, and each one weighs 40 pounds. The cabinet's dimensions are 6.625˝ (front W) by 8.125˝ (rear W) by 12.375˝ (D) and 44.25˝ (H).

One of the most important features of GoldenEar speakers is the design process itself. The company develops its speakers using an anechoic chamber that is a duplicate of the National Research Council of Canada's facility. The NRC's anechoic chamber is the birthplace of modern, science-based speaker design. Having such a facility at its disposal means GoldenEar can aim for perfection, allowing the engineering team to build on Sandy Gross's decades of experience designing speakers.

Here's a picture of the Triton Five in GoldenEar's anechoic chamber.

There is a detachable black-gloss cap on the top of the cabinet as well as a detachable black-gloss base on the bottom. On the back, you'll find gold-plated binding posts of all-metal construction. For what it's worth, I like the look of the Tritons with exposed drivers, and I've used the speakers that way with great success.

A close-up view of the binding posts.
An interesting technical feature of the Triton Five is the use of a balanced crossover—the circuitry is mirrored on the positive and negative inputs. According to GoldenEar's engineers, this design reduces stray capacitance in the magnetic gap, which results in improved detail rendition.

Great imaging combined with neutrality is a GoldenEar specialty; it's the quality that originally drew me to the company's speakers. Part of the reason they exhibit such precise imaging is the HVFR (High-Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter, a feature all GoldenEar speakers have in common. Another name for tweeters of that type is AMT (Air Motion Transformer) , but whatever you call it, the defining characteristic of this type of transducer is the accordion shape of the ribbon.

The large surface area of the folded ribbon allows it to reproduce audio with minimal physical movement, while its low mass lets it respond to an audio signal nearly instantaneously. The result is a tweeter capable of rendering very fine details.

For midrange and bass, the Triton Fives rely on dual 6" woofers as well as four 8" passive radiators. Both my ears and my microphone confirmed the excellent bass extension this combination produced.


The Triton Fives arrived fully assembled and in pristine condition. Since this is a 2-channel speaker review, setup was relatively minimal.

My primary music source was a Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro laptop—with Windows 10—running iTunes , Google Play, and Tidal HiFi. A Pioneer SC-55 AVR served as the pre/pro, with a miniDSP nanoAVR DL handling room correction and EQ. I limited Dirac Live processing to frequencies of 300 Hz and below, which is the range where room modes dominate frequency response.

I connected the speakers to a Rotel RB-1590 350 watt/channel stereo amplifier ($3000) using a pair of ten-foot, 12-gauge  speaker cables . I followed GoldenEar's instructions on placement—the manual recommends forming an equilateral triangle between the two speakers and the listener.

I wound up placing the speakers seven feet apart. The instructions also suggest positioning the speakers at least eight inches away from the wall behind the speakers, and as far from the side walls as possible. In my set up, the speakers were 15 inches away from the wall behind them and 30 inches from the side walls. Furthermore, I followed the manual's suggestion to toe in the speakers so they were pointing at a spot just behind me.

A couple of quick measurements using Room EQ Wizard confirmed that Dirac Live had a positive effect on in-room response. Midrange and treble were well-behaved, so I saw no need to apply any EQ in that range. When I toggled Dirac Live on and off while listening to music, the primary difference was notably tighter, more even bass. However, the overall character of the speakers did not change. This is the configuration I used for all my listening.


I was pleasantly surprised when I measured the in-room response of the Tritons Fives. Bass extension was as deep as GoldenEar's specs claim it to be—25 Hz—which is excellent for a pair of towers of their size. GoldenEar's engineers clearly made the most of the compact enclosure using the four passive radiators.

With its 90 dB/W/m rated sensitivity, the Triton Five will reward you for providing ample power. As long as your amplification is up to the task, it offers a deep-enough bass response that a subwoofer is not needed—once EQ'd with Dirac Live, I measured flat response down to 24 Hz.

The compact size of the Triton Fives hides the fact that they can belt out tunes at impressive levels without distorting or suffering dynamic compression. The Klipsch RP-280Fs I reviewed a while back could play louder than the Triton Fives, but the RP-280Fs are much larger speakers, and they lack that last little bit of finesse in the treble—mind you, I'm splitting hairs here—that make the GoldenEars so good at extracting fine detail from music.


I did a lot of listening with the Triton Fives, and I found it remarkably easy to get lost in the music thanks to the transparent way they project a soundstage. The audiophile cliché of speakers disappearing and leaving you with nothing but the music holds 100% true for these Tritons. When a track was playing, I never thought about the speakers—I only thought about the music. I also wound up appreciating how the minimalist aesthetic and hidden drivers enhanced the perception that the speakers were simply not there.

A lot of the music I listen to includes synthesized sound, so there's a lot of deep bass that dips into what's traditionally considered subwoofer territory. Daft Punk's "Disc Wars" from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack is a great test of any system's bass balls; I've overheated amps and shut down AVRs by playing it at reference level. With the beefy Rotel amp pushing out almost as many watts as the Triton Fives can handle, the speakers performed admirably. I can only marvel at how much high-quality deep bass GoldenEar managed to tease out of two 6" woofers mounted in a speaker that compact.

I use "The Hawk Talks" and "Cotton Tail" from the album Duke's Big 4 by Duke Ellington as a universal reference. The tracks are always appreciated at audio shows, and I've played them on dozens of stereos in the last year alone. Both tracks feature drum solos that sound utterly and convincingly real when rendered on great stereo systems. The performance delivered by the Triton Fives rivaled what I've heard coming from systems that cost far more. In fact, the system in this review presents a serious challenge to much of the gear I hear at high-end audio shows—gear that can easily cost five or ten times as much as these Tritons paired with the Rotel amp and Pioneer AVR.

I used a wide variety of music to judge vocal reproduction on the Triton Fives, including Enya, Queen, Michael Jackson , Cocteau Twins, Christina Aguilera, Nas, Air, The Beatles, Bjork, and more. Vocals served to highlight the Triton Five's capacity to extract the finest, faintest nuance while remaining easy to listen to and utterly non-fatiguing—even at higher levels.


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Triton Fives are the best-sounding tower speakers I've reviewed this year. They are not the loudest; that honor goes to the also-excellent Klipsch RP-280F towers . Nor are the Triton Fives the priciest speakers I reviewed—that was Thiel's TT1 towers . The bang-for-the-buck prize belongs to the SVS Prime Tower , and PSB's Imagine X2Ts were notable for doing many things right. Nevertheless, the GoldenEar Triton Fives somehow managed to sound more magical more of the time.

Listening to music on the Triton Fives is a true pleasure, regardless of the genre. Given how well they perform without a sub, they are an exceptionally great choice for 2-channel listening. These speakers deliver the high-end experience for what you'd pay in sales tax for some other high-end systems—that don't necessarily sound any better.

The excellent 2-channel performance of the Triton Fives offers a clear hint they can also handle home-theater duty as part of a surround system. That review is coming soon, and it will include the SuperSub XXLs as well as Dolby Atmos height channels using Invisia HTR7000 in-ceiling speakers . It's a system inspired by GoldenEar's 2014 CEDIA demo.

Triton Fives have earned a spot on my A-list of affordable, high-performance tower speakers . To my ears, it is about as honest and engaging as any speaker system designed for residential use that I've heard. Sure, JBL's M2 is better, but at the Triton Five's price point, I'm hard-pressed to think of another speaker I'd rather own for 2-channel use.



Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro (Windows 10) running Tidal HiFi, Google Play, and iTunes

Amplification and Processing

Pioneer Elite SC-55 AVR
miniDSP nanoAVR DL with Dirac Live
Rotel RB-1590 stereo amplifier


Monoprice 12-gauge OFC speaker cables
Mediabridge Ultra Series HDMI cable
KabelDirekt 3-foot RCA interconnects