It had been almost 15 years since I had a pair of small monitors for review. In the interim, I've had a number of speakers visit my home and, while none of them were behemoths, all of them required a bit of muscle to install and move about the house. I heard the Triangle Esprit Titus EZ speakers in the Adirondack Audio suite at last November's show in New York and, quite impressed, asked to review them. Triangle's modest-sized Esprit Titus EZ minimonitors thus constituted a refreshing change of pace for me. For one thing, I actually carried them downstairs to my listening room in one arm.
So yes, they are pretty small, especially compared to my own long-term references, the Ars Aures Midi Sensorial II i reviewed a few years ago, which weigh over 130 lbs. each and are a little unwieldy to boot. Even more, the Esprit Titus EZs (hereinafter "EZs" or just "Titus") represented something different for me, in that I would need to evaluate a sound that, while "full" and satisfying, does not aim to cover the bottom of the musical spectrum. That said, there are many small stand-mounted speakers that sound quite impressive, so it was with some excitement and anticipation that I welcomed the arrival of the EZs.
The EZs come very securely packaged in a box that is nonetheless easy to carry, in one arm or two. I suppose that they can be placed on a shelf but those of you who are reading this are more likely to have them mounted on stands to be able to control placement. To jump ahead just for a minute, I would state that, as with most small monitors, controlling the placement in the room was essential to getting the best out of the EZs.
I placed them on 28" Pangea stands that have spikes set on footers placed on the floor, as there is no carpet directly under the EZs (fortunately, my listening room does have an area rug that helps to smooth the sound out). I found that the 28" height set the center of the speakers at approximately ear height. Your results will of course depend on your chair or sofa, and how tall you are, but I had no need to sit taller or shorter in my seat; it was just right.
As you will see, I did experiment quite a bit with placement, as the differences were noticeable, if not dramatic. I set up the Triangle Esprit Titus EZs placed a bit wider from than some other speakers I have had in the room – maybe just over 8 feet apart, center to center. I also placed them a bit closer to me, so that I am about 9' from the center of each speaker. That put them about 3.5 feet off my rear wall and 4 to 5 feet off the side walls (they are not perfectly centered in the room). Finally, I toed them in about 15 degrees, which seemed to work well – but more about that later.
Build And Technical Details
Previous versions of the Titus have been well-reviewed over the past 15 years. Nevertheless, Triangle wanted to make the speaker more versatile and appealing, both visually and sonically. While it has always been a very detailed speaker, to some ears it ran a little "hot" on the high end, and most listeners thought that it mated best with tube amplifiers. The objectives for the EZ were thus to permit a wider range of successful amplifier pairings, keeping the detail but avoiding brightness, as well as to give the sound a little more heft on the bottom.
The Titus is a smallish two-way minimonitor, measuring 12" x 6.2" x 10.5" (HxWxD). It weighs about 13 pounds and is easy to move about, unlike most of the speakers that have passed through my home. It can be had in black or white lacquer, or in walnut. The aesthetics are pleasing to my eyes and it is hard to imagine a room where it would not fit in very nicely. My first reaction upon seeing it was that it looked (like many minimonitors) like the ideal apartment speaker – only a bit better than most. Perched on a pair of suitable stands, the Titus EZs take up very little space.
The tweeter in the EZ speakers, descended from the more expensive Signature line, is something different. Like all Triangle drivers it is designed in house . As with almost all speaker systems in this price range, the drivers are manufactured in Asia; Triangle have their own staff in Asia to oversee production. It is described as a horn-loaded titanium dome with a compression chamber and an improved phase plug. It is worth looking at the detail of the tweeter on the company's web site to appreciate all that goes into it.
According to Jacobsen, the many modifications in the Triangle Esprit Titus EZ amount to an "overhaul" of previous versions. Among the most important to the sonic quality are a few key ones. First, a great deal of effort went into the changes to the phase plug in order to yield a wider and smoother dispersion pattern. Jacobsen says – and my listening confirmed – that there is still a sweet spot, but there is only a gradual dropoff as one moves away from the center. Second, the neodymium ring and the compression chamber are said to give a smoother response in the high end than in previous tweeters, which enable the Titus to be paired nicely with even smoother-sounding class D amplifiers.
The sensitivity is claimed to be 89dB/W/m, and while I did not measure it, the Titus took very little power to be driven to normally loud listening levels in my medium-large room (approx. 18'x15', with a large opening to another 10'x20'). A byproduct of the fairly high sensitivity is that the speakers do nicely at low levels.
For the 5.5" bass driver, Triangle has as usual prioritized speed and accuracy. Even in their larger speakers, Triangle has used smaller bass drivers so as to get the bass right, as opposed to striving for ultimate or maximal power output. The bass drivers, too, have been modified, with improved membranes and tighter manufacturing tolerances for greater accuracy and efficiency. Of course, in a speaker the size of the Titus, it is difficult to produce a great deal of bass energy. Those who seek thunderous bass are probably not (a) targeting Triangle or (b) shopping for minimonitors. However, it is not out of the question to pair the EZs with a subwoofer (about which more later).
I should mention also the binding posts on the Triangle Esprit Titus EZs. Not that they are made of some esoteric material or of a new design, but rather that they are of a solid, brushed-nickel finish, and as easy to use and accommodating of different cables as any I have seen. They make a solid connection. I prefer them to the fancier, more expensive, gold-plated ones on my Ars Aures because of the functionality.
Triangle is known for fine rendering of unamplified music and you'll find no exception here. Female voices, like Sharon Van Etten on Are We There [Jagjaguwar LP], strike the right balance between delicacy and muscle, with good articulation. I perceived a prominence in the mid to upper midrange that I chalked up to listening to a minimonitor with less bass energy than the larger speakers to which I am accustomed.
The sound was lively, in a word. On The Great Ray Charles, an instrumental album of his piano music (the superb 180-gram Atlantic reissue), the piano sound has a resonance that rightly or wrongly, I associate with the 1950s or 1960s. I can't say if that is the experience of other listeners, but that old-fashioned character itself was very familiar to me. Definition, for example of the brushes on the drums, is good, although not at the level of far more expensive speakers. The perspective is fairly upfront, as though one had a close seat in a club. My notes described a spectrum that was "well-balanced, not weighty", with "very good articulation but not the last word in transparency". Lower ranges of the piano – the mid-to-upper bass region -- are tight, with good timbre.
For One to Love, the fine album from Cecile McLorinSalvant [MAC 1095], allows the Esprit Titus EZ monitors to work all around Salvant's great vocal range and depth. I love this terrific-sounding record on my own speakers, and found that the EZs presented a lighter, airier picture, and one that really emphasized the rhythm and drive in the piano. I'll signal two cuts, "Wives and Lovers" and "Left Over", that differ in rhythm and mood, but that are both excellent illustrations of the strengths of the Triangle Esprit Titus EZs on voice and piano.
I'm not sure why, but the previous record impelled me to pull out the Trouble in Mind soundtrack by Mark Isham with Marianne Faithfull, from the quirky 1985 film by Alan Rudolph [Island 90501]. If you haven't heard this record, it is worth tracking down a copy if only for the excellent sound. The music may not be to everyone's taste (it is to mine), but it helps to have seen the film, which gives the music some additional heft. However, Faithfull's voice on the title track is superbly reproduced, wavering between liquid and sandpaper. Again, the perspective is a little forward – with the front of the stage maybe a foot in front of the speakers. The rest of the soundtrack, while perhaps less interesting to many than the title cut, is ethereal, dark, and spacious, much as I remember the film from 30 years ago.
At about this point, I still had some concerns about an overall lightness and the forward quality of the midrange and a feeling that there was some "crowding" on denser passages. My very positive comments above notwithstanding, I felt that I had not heard an overall coherence and consistency that had characterized Triangle for me in the past. Figuring that the first culprit is usually the listening room, I fooled around again with the placement.
And voilà – it didn't take much. Even though I had fussed with the placement and the toe-in at the outset of my listening and thought I had things about right, over time it must have become apparent that something was off. I moved the EZs about two inches farther apart and faced them straight ahead, with no toeing in at all. And everything clicked. I will ascribe this delay in getting it right to my own prejudice; I had never yet liked any speaker in my room without some angling toward the listening position. Until now.
Suddenly, the clear, clean mids and highs were accompanied by a sense of calm and ease. On The War on Drugs' great Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian SC310), the drive and rhythm were present as they were on the Ray Charles and Salvant records, but the forwardness disappeared. The denser parts of "Under the Pressure" and "An Ocean Between the Waves" played without strain or congestion, and the timbre of the guitar and voice were spot on. Even more, there appeared to be more low end, though that may likely just be due to the slightly reduced prominence of the upper ranges. Everything was in balance. I should note as well that the same album in digital form sounded very much the same, with similarly improved results.
I got more of the same with Father John Misty's I Love You Honeybear [SubPop 1115], with a welcome silkiness and no loss of definition. The improvement I cite above with the revised placement of course caused me to go back to listen to the music played earlier on. And yes, the stars were better aligned. What few reservations I had more or less disappeared.
Finally, I should add a comment for those who desire more bass. And let's qualify this by saying that I might ask this about any speaker of this size, as the EZs deliver a full and eminently satisfying sound. I asked Rune Jacobsen of Triangle about adding a subwoofer. He said that it is less common to do so in Europe. Perhaps that has to do with smaller rooms, apartments, or houses, and less need for thunderous sound. He is aware, though, that customers have paired earlier versions of the Titus with subwoofers and gotten good results. While the Triangle Esprit Titus EZ speakers were designed to have more extension and a fuller sound than previous iterations, they could mate very well with a subwoofer. Triangle does make some very fine and compact subwoofers; that choice is up to the individual listener. I myself will put the EZs in my (very compact) weekend house but will not add a subwoofer unless and until there appears to be a need for one.