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July / August 2004
Superior Audio Equipment Review

Triangle Magellan Loudspeakers
Does size really matter?
Review By Alvin Gold
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 

Triangle Magellan Loudspeakers  A few years ago, French loudspeakers meant next to nothing on the world stage. Focal.JMlab, Cabasse and Triangle, the three leading names in the French loudspeaker firmament, were known to the cognoscenti, as often as not for the idiosyncrasy of their designs as for their musical excellence. Until quite recently they had little market presence in the UK, but finally this is beginning to change. Focal.JMlab has been a major success story here and in North America, as we have catalogued with some of their designs in Enjoy the Music.com. Cabasse continues to be best known on the French domestic market, and has little presence outside French shores, but Triangle has started to make an international impact, led by their new flagship model, the Magellan.

First, Triangle the company. With no intimate knowledge of the brand before receiving the Magellan for review, I can only draw on the potted biography that appears on the company website, which recounts that Triangle was founded in 1981, and that it is a true manufacturer that makes its own drive units, crossover networks and enclosures. This makes it one of a select shortlist of loudspeaker producers that really does roll its own rather than choosing components off the shelf, and assembling them into complete products.

There is also talk on the website that the 'determination of Renaud de Vergnette (founder and CEO) to offer no-compromise products has led him to surround himself with people who share the same philosophy and passion. This perfect communion between the employees of the company gives Triangle a profound unity in its vision of development strategies - a requirement for the long-term efforts necessary to achieve ambitious quality and development objectives. The synergy at work at the "individual-product-communication" level ensures that Triangle is a label with a strong identity, able to outlive fleeting fashions; the company has thus quickly attained a premier position in the high-fidelity market'.

This kind of self-aggrandizing fluff is a consistent feature of manufacturers assessments of themselves, and on the whole is not to be taken too seriously. In this case however I suspect the warm words are more meaningful than usual. The contact I have had with Triangle has been relatively fleeting, though it did include a session at a London hotel where the Magellan was unveiled to the UK press, and I was struck at the time by the unusual, perhaps unique voicing of the speakers, and by the very good demonstration that was laid on. It was not just the quality of the source material (which was excellent, sonically and musically), but also the effectiveness with which it laid bare the qualities of the Magellan. From my own experience, demonstrations of this integrity don't happen from an outfit that doesn't have a complete understanding of the products it produces. From everything I have come to understand about Triangle in general and the Magellan in particular, those responsible for the company direction have real passion for what they do, and a clearly mapped out path to get there.

 

When You Desire Only The Very Best...
And so to the Magellan itself, this is Triangle's magnum opus. And what a loudspeaker it is! The Magellan consists of three similar size enclosures constructed from multiple layers of MDF, fully braced internally, with narrow flat front and rear panels and curved side walls veneered in a rather fabulous burr walnut, which sit atop one another. Metal straps that carry the electrical signals, and are decoupled by plated brass spikes on aluminum supports that are designed to reduce mechanical intermodulation link them. An overhanging plinth, decoupled from the rest of the speaker by a rubber strip, is built into the base section, which is fitted with two adjustable spikes, and a fixed cone which bears in an small inverted cup which sits on the floor. The latter acts as a mechanical earth. The agglomeration tops out at 2.18 meters, slightly more by the time the spikes are added (sorry, we're dealing with European design here, so no feet and inches) and weighs some 80 kg per complete loudspeaker. Dividing the speakers into three makes technical sense given the desire to avoid intermodulation between the various drive units, and also helps make it more manageable than other flagship speakers. But installing a pair is still effectively a two-man job, and you'll need some kitchen steps or a short ladder.

Unusual as the enclosure is, the drive unit complement is nothing less than unique. There are four identical bass drive units in total, two fitted to the upper enclosure, mirrored by two in the base section. Each unit is loaded by a large area, deeply flared front facing port. The bass drivers, in common with the others, are designed and made in house. They are fitted with 16cm paper pulp cones, which clash with Triangle's desire to engineer loudspeakers with the maximum possible speed. The other key design parameter is linear power handling, which is addressed by a number of measures, including a very strong and aerodynamic diecast chassis, a massive magnet with a convection perforated shield fitted over the magnet to dissipate heat, a dual layer voice coil and a suspension system with an S-shaped cross section which is designed to remain linear over larger than normal excursions.

The midband is handled by a dedicated midrange cone unit, which also has a 16cm diameter cone, identical in diameter to the bass units. In fact there are not one, but two midrange units, one on the front and one on the rear of the central enclosure section, an arrangement duplicated by the tweeters, and which is designed to ensure the widest possible dispersion. Bass dispersion is intrinsically wide anyway without needing multiple units facing in different directions. Again, Triangle has opted for a lightweight pulp (they call it cellulose) cone for speed, in this case with an unusual pleated front surround to maintain geometric accuracy and to extend distortion free power handling. Other design points include a carefully optimized magnet geometry and voice coil design, resulting in an extended frequency range, extending from a claimed 60Hz to 12kHz.

The tweeter is a titanium dome unit, fitted with a deep, flared horn with a central diffuser which ends in a rather brutal looking point, though it is effectively protected by the outer horn flare, which adds high electrical efficiency and controlled wide directivity. This unit too is equipped with a dual layer voice coil and a powerful magnet system, plus a large back chamber behind the diaphragm to reduce compression and reduce also the main LF resonant frequency. Fins are employed to help with heat dissipation.

Triangle Magellan Loudspeakers Rear PanelTying the knot (as it were) is a crossover which uses 4th order (24dB/octave) acoustic slopes, with accurate phase response as a major design priority, and secondarily to minimize impedance variations. The hardware roster includes Triangle's own Silver Ghost wiring (5 strand copper and four 20 silver plated strands per conductor), Triangle designed heady duty gold plated copper 4mmn binding posts, low inductance resistors, polypropylene capacitors and so on. The crossover points have been placed at 450Hz and 3kHz, the latter a conservative figure given the extended treble response of the midrange cone, and the rapid crossover slopes, but the design priority was clearly to maintain the widest possible dispersion through the crossover, not only thanks to the 3kHz crossover frequency, but also the doubled up forward and rear facing mid and treble drivers, and the narrow, curved vertical baffle edges. The Magellan has a high 94dB/W/m sensitivity, and is rated for 400 Watt program material, from which you will understand that this is a loudspeaker designed to be comfortable at high replay volume levels.

Triangle has not gone for the best possible bass extension, the Magellan being rated at a comparatively conservative 30Hz at the bottom end and 20kHz at the top, within a 6dB envelope. But if bass extension is not as deeply extended as some, bass quality is difficult to surpass. Impedance hovers around 3 to 4 Ohms over much of the band, despite which Triangle rates the Magellan for some indecipherable reason as a nominally 8 Ohm load.

Even ignoring its exotic vital statistics, and in particular its cost and its almost overwhelming physical stature, the Magellan is not a loudspeaker for everyone. This is a loudspeaker with a passion, a loudspeaker that exudes the excitement and sense of occasion that is part and parcel of great musical performances - but it is an acquired taste. I recall from its original hotel function room presentation to the press that some of those present gravitated to the back of the room, and only partly because of the high replay levels that were used. One reason was clearly that the Magellan is very 'in your face'. French loudspeakers have a reputation for having a forward balance, a presence band boost if you will, and although I detect no signs of this from current Focal.JMlab designs, it is certainly the case with this loudspeaker.

 

Does it Deliver The Goods?
So what do we have here? Looking at the bits first before trying to make sense of the whole, the horn loaded compression tweeter is perhaps the most controversial element of the loudspeaker, at least if the comments of others at the press demonstration are anything to go by. It has an unusual clarity and precision, and is an excellent tool for scavenging fine detail from recordings, but it undeniably has a touch of 'sharpness' about it that can make the music rather edgy and insistent, especially at high replay levels. But the review speakers, which were the same samples used in the press event, quickly settled down, as though on their original showing they had not been fully run in. Even though I listened from closer quarters in my own 8 meter listening room than in the much larger hotel room, the treble turned out to be relatively unobtrusive. Sharp, perhaps yes, but also detailed, highly articulate and clearly very sophisticated. The sound retained its balance from well off axis, and the presence band effect, which is only partly in the domain of the tweeter, appears to have less to do with the direct output of the speaker than the very lively nature of the reverberant soundfield.

At the opposite extreme, the Triangle is much easier to sum up. It's bass extension is impressive, but as already noted above, it is not remarkable in this respect, Indeed Triangle is apparently in the process of designing a subwoofer to accompany the Magellan, which will extend its LF response from 30Hz to around 20Hz, which should make it totally awesome if it can be achieved without throwing the special qualities of the Magellan bass out of the window. And these qualities are integration, timing and tunefulness. This is a loudspeaker that is capable of sustaining a rhythm without any sense of dragging behind the beat. It always sounds propulsive and agile, and bass pitch never becomes obscured or cloudy.

Knitting these extremes together is a midband that has more in common with the treble than the bass. Again there was that slight but noticeable emphasis of upper midband detail that almost, but doesn't quite amount to glare, and again it is rescued by the speaker's exquisite articulation and refinement. Listen to a dense orchestral recording and you'll hear a sound that is perhaps less sonorous and architectural than from one of the big B&Ws, Avalons or Focal.JMlabs, but which somehow seems to get at least as close to the heart of the music. Each instrument can be followed and although the soundstage tends to be pressed a little forward, the ability to differentiate the layers of sound in an apparently three dimensional stage is simply exquisite.

In the end of course, it doesn't really matter what this or any other loudspeaker does in any particular part of the audio frequency band, it is how it all meshes together to produce a musical performance that either gels or fails to do so that counts. I can well understand that many will regard the Magellan as strong medicine, that they may want something a little more relaxed. This is not perhaps the ideal tool for gentle background listening to mainstream commercial recordings. Think of it rather as a precision instrument for extracting detail from fine recordings, one that does compelling where others do relaxed, one that maintains the tension in a musical performance like few others, and which makes complex music understandable in a way that is unusual.

This is a lively transducer, and capable of precision stereo imagery in depth (albeit slightly foreshortened in perspectives as already described) and laterally. It needs a reasonable amount of room to breathe. Although it is by no means as critical a factor as I had originally anticipated, it does need to be pulled well clear of rear walls, by at least a meter, and ideally by around a metre and a half, though this should be taken as a starting point which can be varied according to room acoustics and personal whim. Of course it is demanding of the hardware that you use with it, but it doesn't require enormous amounts of power, even though it does know how to deal with it if it is there on tap. For appropriate matching amplifiers think in terms of a spectrum of designs ranging from Krell at one extreme to Hovland or BAT at the other.

 

Specifications
Type: large floorstanding loudspeaker, 3-way, 3 enclosure front vented bass reflex floor standing loudspeaker

Drivers:
Four 160mm cellulose cone bass, 30mm voice coil
Two 160mm cellulose cone midrange
Two 25mm titanium dome tweeters

Frequency Response: 30Hz to 20kHz (+/-3dB)

Sensitivity: 94dB/W/m

Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms

Minimum Impedance: 3 Ohms

Crossover Frequencies: 450Hz / 3kHz with 4th order slopes (acoustic)

Maximal Power Handling: 400 watts

Dimensions:  2180 x 280 x 340 (HxWxD in mm)

Net Weight: 80kg each

Cabinet Finishes: burr walnut

Accessories: spikes and cups included

Price: $34,000

 

Company Information
Triangle Electroacoustique (France)
Website: www.triangle-fr.com 


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