Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

If you’re like me, you probably don’t know much about the Triad brand, but as it turns out Triad has been manufacturing speakers in their factory in Portland, Oregon, for 30 years now. Triad specializes in the custom installation of complete audio systems in homes and commercial spaces, and an interesting aspect of their product line is that they make multiple versions of each speaker: in-ceiling, in-wall, on-wall, and freestanding, to suit your room layout. At the 2014 CEDIA Expo, it was Triad that Dolby Labs partnered with to debut the Dolby Atmos home-theater system. Since then, Triad has designed and installed more than 600 Dolby Atmos home theaters.

When a prototype speaker model has been built, it’s tested in Triad’s own anechoic chamber, then tweaked in their listening rooms using both music and films. The drivers are made to Triad’s specifications by speaker-driver specialists. In keeping with their reputation for customization, the Triad factory also has a comprehensive cabinet and paint shop, which allows customers to specify any cabinet size, request custom paint matching, or select from over 20 wood-veneer options to blend seamlessly into the decor of their projects. In 2017, Triad was acquired by Control4 Corporation, best known for whole-house audio, lighting, and climate-control systems. Though their speakers aren’t typically found in the few remaining high-end audio retailers, Triad has its own dealer base and is also available through Control4’s worldwide network of custom installers.

When Triad approached SoundStage! to have us review one of their systems, I was willing to try almost any configuration, and at first suggested a stereo pair of on-wall speakers, having just completed a similar test. But in a conversation with System Designer Steve Colburn, one thing led to another, and soon a Triad Bronze 11.4-channel home-theater system retailing for a total of $13,444 (all prices USD) was on its way to me.

From concept to delivery

Steve Colburn walked me through how they specify and recommend systems to clients. We began with a phone conversation in which I suggested that we start with the OnWall Bronze LCR speaker. From there, I described my room, and provided a sketch of its layout. I said that I could accommodate on-wall and ceiling speakers, and that my T-bar ceiling would ease their installation and removal. Colburn quickly got a very good grasp of my room and system, inquired about the amplification available, the locations of my video projector and screen, and any other challenges or problems the room might present.

A week later, Colburn e-mailed me a ten-page document detailing the models he’d selected, and why. The Triad Bronze system he proposed numbered 15 speakers, and most surprising were his recommendations for the low bass. He explained that, because my room’s shape would make it difficult to get an even bass response throughout the space, he recommended a total of four subwoofers -- more about that later. I agreed to accept the system, the order was added to Triad’s production line, and a few weeks later they were delivered.

Description

Triad uses the same drivers throughout the many models in each of their speaker lines. This means that the outputs of the 21 Bronze models, from InRooms (i.e., freestanding speakers to be placed on stands or the floor) to InWalls, should perfectly match, timbrally, and thus seamlessly blend with each other. Here are the models Steve Colburn put together for me.

The main front speakers were a pair of OnWall Bronze LCRs ($650 each), a large speaker measuring 28”H x 10”W x 4”D and weighing 16.4 pounds. The cabinet is made of MDF in an acoustic-suspension (sealed-box) design; a removable metal grille runs the speaker’s full height. At the center of the rear panel are the speaker binding posts. The vertical WTW (woofer-tweeter-woofer) driver array comprises a pair of 5.25” fiber/paper-cone woofers, between them a 1” silk-dome tweeter. My samples were finished in matte black, but other stock colors are available, as well as four real-wood veneers. The cabinet is pierced by two holes that go all the way through, from front baffle to rear panel, to make mounting the speaker easy -- all you have to do is hang it on the mounting bracket (provided) and bolt it down.

Triad

The OnWall Bronze LCR’s frequency range is specified as 80Hz-20kHz, its nominal impedance as 4 ohms, and its sensitivity as 89dB/W/m. These figures indicate good bass response for an on-wall speaker, as long as your amplifier is powerful enough to drive them to loud levels.

Although a natural fit for the center channel would be a third OnWall Bronze LCR, in my system it’s easier to use a conventional box speaker. Triad sent me an InRoom Bronze Center ($650 each), which measures 15.5”W x 7.5”H x 9.5”D and weighs 19.8 pounds. Like the OnWall Bronze LCR, the InRoom Bronze Center has a sealed cabinet finished in matte black with a metal grille, and the same finish options. The same drivers are used in nearly the same arrangement, though here they’re horizontally arrayed, and the tweeter’s center is an inch or so higher than the centers of the woofers, for better dialog intelligibility. The InRoom Bronze Center has the same frequency-range, impedance, and sensitivity specs as the OnWall Bronze LCR.

Triad

Because my listening seat is close to the wall behind it, Triad recommended four bipolar OnWall Bronze Surrounds ($550 each) for the left/right surround and rear channels. The OnWall Surround has a driver on each of three angled surfaces: a single 5.25” fiber/paper-coned midrange-woofer firing directly forward, between a pair of 3” broad-dispersion polycone drivers, each firing away from the 5.25” driver at an angle. The OnWall Surround comes with a snap-on grille of white metal, and a mounting bracket. These speakers have the same specified frequency range as the InRoom LCR and InRoom Center, but a higher nominal impedance (6 ohms) and a lower sensitivity (84dB/W/m). The OnWall Bronze Surround is designed to be mounted flush with the wall; to facilitate this placement, a groove for a speaker cable runs conveniently down its rear panel.

For the Dolby Atmos height channels, Triad sent four InCeiling Rotating Silver/9 Sat speakers ($800 each), plus two InCeiling Retro Kits ($132 each) to mount them. The Silver/9 weighs 16 pounds, and has overall dimensions of 13.5”H x 13.5”W x 8.825”D and, unlike many in-ceiling models, has a sealed enclosure. This ensures that the sound is less influenced by the interior of the ceiling the speaker is installed in, and keeps more of the sound from being transmitted to the space above. The Silver/9 has many features for optimizing setup: its 1” silk-dome tweeter, mounted on a flexible gooseneck, can be aimed in any direction desired; its 6.5”-diameter fiber/paper-coned woofer is mounted on an angled baffle, and the entire drive-unit can be rotated within the enclosure to aim the output in any direction. The Silver/9 is also equipped with a laser pointer, to help in precisely aiming the speaker at the primary listening seat. Although the enclosure proper is hexagonal, the baffle is surrounded by a square outer baffle, for easy mounting in a ceiling. The InCeiling Rotating Silver/9 Sat’s specs are: frequency response, 75Hz-20kHz, ±3dB; nominal impedance, 8 ohms; and sensitivity, 86dB/W/m.

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Of the four sealed-box subwoofers chosen for this system, the two larger were the InRoom OmniSub 12 model ($950 each), which has a 12”-diameter, long-excursion cone of coated paper driven by a built-in 500W class-D amplifier. All controls -- for setting the volume, phase, and crossover -- are behind the grille. The InRoom OmniSub 12 measures 18”H x 15.875”W x 14.75”D, weighs 44 pounds, and has a specified frequency range of 17-300Hz. It comes only in matte black.

The two smaller subwoofers were a pair of InRoom Bronze SlimSubs, which weigh 19 pounds each but are striking in being only 5.375” deep (x 14”H x 19.5”W). The SlimSub has a 10”-diameter aluminum-cone woofer and a specified frequency range of 35-200Hz -- it’s not designed to go really low, but to augment the bass from the main subs. In fact, the InRoom SlimSub is so shallow that it lacks room for a built-in amp, so Triad also sent a pair of their RackAmp 700 DSP amplifiers ($1800 for each subwoofer and amplifier).

Triad

Triad sent me two RackAmp 700s, one for each InRoom SlimSub. The RackAmp 700 is designed to fit in your rack and drive the SlimSub through speaker-level outputs, much as you’d power a regular speaker. Measuring 18.87”W by 14”D by only 1.75”H, this slim, class-D subwoofer amp is specified to output 700W into 4 ohms, and includes the usual subwoofer controls: volume, polarity, and crossover frequency, as well as presets for Music, Cinema, Night, and three user-defined equalization curves.

Setup

Being a custom-installed system, the Triad Bronze rig was a bit trickier to set up than the usual surround-sound system comprising freestanding speakers, and was made more difficult by the fact that I didn’t want to cut into my drywall. However, the existing wood accents in my home theater made it easy to install the pair of OnWall Bronze LCR speakers, one on each side of my screen (11’ away from my listening position), and the rear-channel OnWall Bronze Surrounds behind my listening seat, 4’ away. The OnWall Surrounds for the left and right surround channels were placed farther away than usual: 90° to left and right of my listening seat, the right surround speaker 6’ away and the left surround 9’ away. I placed these OnWall Surrounds against the wall on bookshelves, with the vertical midpoint of each speaker roughly at ear level.

The T-bar ceiling over the middle part of my home theater made the height speakers easy to mount on their provided brackets. The InCeiling Rotating Silver/9 is nearly 9” deep -- be sure that your ceiling is deep enough to accept the speaker’s full depth while still being mounted flush with the ceiling. I didn’t have quite enough room -- each InCeiling Rotating Silver/9 protruded about 1” below the ceiling tile. The front height speakers ended up 8’ apart and some 11’ in front of my listening seat; the rear height speakers were also 8’ apart, and slightly in front of and 6’ from my seat.

Triad

I usually place my center-channel speaker atop a 16”-high stand. Triad recommended that I place the InRoom Bronze Center as close as possible to the height of my ears when I’m seated, and sent along the Bronze Center Pedestal ($330), a hefty stand to which can be added lead shot or sand, to make it even more inert to vibrations. On the stand, the InRoom Center was 23” above the floor and within 2” of the bottom edge of my screen.

The subwoofers proved trickiest to set up. Finding spots for the two front subs was easy: one each in the room’s front corners. The two SlimSubs were a bit more difficult: At first I tried them in the room’s rear corners, but Colburn then suggested moving the right SlimSub up to the midpoint of that wall, to better even out the bass -- an easy switch to make. The tricky part then began -- I now had four subs to connect, but my Anthem MRX 720 A/V receiver has only two subwoofer outputs.

Because the MRX 720 treats each sub output as one subwoofer, to set the delay, I averaged the distance from each sub to my listening seat. Then, one at a time, I hooked up each sub, and used the Quick Measure function of the Anthem Room Correction (ARC) software to adjust output and phase until each sub measured 65dB at my listening seat. That done, I used a Y-connection to connect the two front subs to one of the Anthem’s LFE outputs. Because each SlimSub was powered by a RackAmp 700, the Anthem’s second LFE output went to one RackAmp 700, which was daisychained to the second RackAmp 700.

Triad

ARC automatically set the crossover to frequencies that seemed a bit high, so I reduced it to 80-90Hz for each speaker. Throughout my listening sessions, I toggled ARC on and off, to make sure I was getting a good sense of the sound characteristics of the Triad Bronze system with and without room correction.

Listening

To give Triad’s Bronze system a workout, I dug up as many BDs with Dolby Atmos soundtracks as I could find. First up was Mission: Impossible -- Fallout. The Triad system fooled me -- with the Triads’ excellent speaker-to-speaker matching, the OnWall Bronze Surrounds so effectively diffused sound throughout the room that in many scenes I thought the height channels were active when they turned out not to be. In chapter 7, a chase scene through the streets of Paris had Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) pursuing Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the rest of the MI team. As Faust’s motorbike whizzed by columns, I could hear the sound transition seamlessly from front to surround to rear-surround speakers. In chapter 12, the final chase scene, this time with helicopters, made judicious use of the height speakers. The Triad system made my room’s ceiling seem to disappear. The Triad Bronze system provided a breathtaking experience that heightened my excitement in this scene.

Glass, too, has a great Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and this time there was no confusion about whether or not the height channels were active. They’re used extensively throughout, beginning with the first scene: a couple of troublemakers are recording a video of one of them jumping up and punching someone on the street. You can hear the sound of his jumping prominently in the left front ceiling speaker. Then, as the troublemakers are followed, and a ticking clock gets louder and louder, the tension builds throughout the scene. This scene gave the Triad subs a workout as they filled my room with deep, impactful bass, and all 11 speakers contributed to high sound-pressure levels all around my listening seat. This scene showed how a great sound design and its great reproduction through the Triad system could put me on the edge of my seat, anticipating what would happen next. Chapter 16 contains a battle between the Beast and the Overseer. As they throw each other around, again, the Triad subs filled my room with deep, tight bass. I could follow the sound of crushed metal through each of the Triad speakers, the sound remaining identical as it moved around my room.

Triad

Up next was the dystopian fantasy Mortal Engines, with another Dolby Atmos track. As the Traction Cities motored around the devastated Earth, the sound tracked beautifully through successive speakers of the Triad Bronze system. The choice of bipolar speakers for the surrounds was particularly satisfying, matching the huge machinery depicted by the onscreen visuals. The sounds of this film’s many cavernous spaces were nicely reproduced through this system. This is another action flick with relentless surround effects throughout, but by the end there was none of the listening fatigue I sometimes feel with lesser systems. I attribute this to the balanced tonal quality of the Triad Bronze system, and the absence of strident high frequencies.

The InRoom Bronze Center provided excellent clarity and intelligibility of dialog throughout my room, with none of the comb filtering you get with the WTW driver arrays typical of center-channel speakers. Elevating the speaker to the height recommended by Triad undoubtedly helped with matching voices to the onscreen action. I noticed while watching M:I -- Fallout that the dialog remained clear even as the characters moved from outdoor scenes to reverberant underground tunnels. In Mortal Engines, characters had a variety of accents and vocal qualities, yet I was easily able to follow the dialog.

Triad

The Triad Bronze system excelled at putting across the soundtrack of Us, the thriller by writer-director Jordan Peele. From the opening scene I was on the edge of my seat, freaked out as I waited for the next scare to pop out of one of the Triad ceiling or surround speakers. These speakers shone in the title theme, the freaky chanting all around me providing an awesome immersive experience, the subwoofers kicking in with tight bass on the drums. I was very impressed with how the deep bass ramped up the tension in the Hall of Mirrors scene. This tension got more impressive as the story progressed, and the Wilson family’s doppelgängers begin breaking into their house. My walls shook, the booming moving from the right sidewall to the front wall, and then to the ceiling behind me. I thought someone was breaking into my house.

Comparison

Although I haven’t reviewed a comparable custom-installed home-theater system, I’ve used many on-wall speakers. Most recently, I reviewed Sonus Faber’s Sonetto Wall speaker ($1199 each), which is nearly twice the price of Triad’s OnWall Bronze LCR. For the extra money you get a high-gloss finish and a curved cabinet to replace the Triad’s more utilitarian appearance. However, the Triad speaker can be augmented with optional finishes and wood veneers, enabling you to spruce them up if that suits your décor better.

When I listened to “Robot Lovers,” from Casey Abrams’s Put a Spell on You (24-bit/192kHz FLAC, Chesky), the OnWall Bronze LCR’s treble was slightly less airy than the Sonetto Wall’s. Jacob Scesney’s saxophone sounded more polite than through the Sonus Fabers. However, the OnWall LCRs produced some very impressive imaging as Scesney moves through the studio, and made it easy for me to follow his sax’s sound around my own room. To even approach the Triads’ imaging prowess, the Sonetto Walls had to be toed in more toward my listening seat.

Triad

Another home-theater system I recently enjoyed was SVS’s Prime, featuring the Prime Elevation height speakers. This entire system of nine speakers and one subwoofer retails for only around $3200, compared to $13,444 for Triad’s 11.4 system. The comparison was hardly fair, and the Triad Bronzes handily outperformed the SVS Primes. For starters, though I was impressed with the SVS SB-2000 subwoofer ($799), the Triad InRoom OmniSub 12 performed comparably. Additionally, the four subs of the Triad system put it over the top in the low end, with impressive depth, impact, and evenness of bass throughout my room that a system having only a single sub simply can’t match. The ability of the Triad system to draw me into any movie I watched, due to its consistency and seamlessness from speaker to speaker, was far more pronounced than with the SVS Prime system. There are also advantages to going the custom installation route, such as the variety of speakers that Triad can match to your room’s size and shape and furnishings. Customization also gives you more options in hiding your speakers without compromising their sound, as well as the advantage of working with professionals like Steve Colburn, who can offer advice on speaker positioning and recommend ancillary products, to take the guesswork out of choosing individual speakers for your surround system.

Conclusion

Setting up Triad’s Bronze home-theater system was more complicated and time-consuming than any other review system I’ve had, requiring a lot of time spent mounting speakers in my ceiling and walls. Setting up four subwoofers was also more involved, and required some tweaking of their positions and settings.

But the effort was worth it -- the result was an extremely immersive sound experience with deep, powerful bass. The timbral match of these six different speaker models was spot on, and all speakers were well out of the way, either up against a wall or corner or in the ceiling. If you want a system that will take up very little floor space with no compromise of sound quality, I encourage you to find a custom installer and demo a Triad system. Their Bronze system took my home theater to another level entirely, and gets my very highest recommendation.

. . . Vince Hanada
vinceh@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • A/V receiver -- Anthem MRX 720
  • Amplifier -- Integra DTA-70.1
  • Speakers -- Definitive Technology: BP8060ST main, CS8060HD center-channel, ProMonitor 1000 front surround and height, Mythos Gem rear surround. Angstrom Ambienti in-ceiling height speakers; SVS Prime home-theater speaker system; Sonus Faber Sonetto Wall speaker
  • Subwoofers -- Paradigm Servo-15 V2; SVS SB-2000
  • Source -- Oppo BDP-95 BD player
  • Cables -- Analysis Plus Super Sub interconnects and Blue Oval speaker cables
  • Projector -- Epson Home Cinema 3500

Triad Bronze Home-Theater Speaker System
System Price: $13,444 USD.
Warranty: Ten years, speakers; three years, subwoofers and electronics.

Triad Speakers
15835 NE Cameron Boulevard
Portland, OR 97230
Phone: (800) 666-6316

Website: www.triadspeakers.com