Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceAs their logo reveals, French manufacturer Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique named itself for the simplest musical instrument -- but did they also consider that triangle has the same meaning in at least two languages? This occurred to me a few weeks ago while sitting at the anechoic chamber of Canada’s National Research Council, helping SoundStage! founder-publisher Doug Schneider measure some speakers, including the Triangle BR03. Doug and Randy, the NRC technician taking the measurements, stared at the BR03 and said, almost simultaneously, “I wonder why a French company named themselves Triangle?” I, the only French Canadian in the group, responded with a coy smile: “You do know, guys, that in French, triangle means . . . triangle?” My fellow Canadians looked somewhat embarrassed.

Recently, Triangle has won much buzz with their new, affordable line of loudspeakers, the Borea models. Available now in North America are the Borea BR02 ($449, all prices USD per pair) and BR03 ($549) minimonitors, the BR08 floorstander ($1399), and the BRC1 center speaker ($349 each). In Europe and elsewhere, Triangle also offers the Borea BR07 and BR09 floorstanders (no USD prices yet). My YouTube and Google feeds show the stand-mounts winning such accolades as “great bang for the buck,” making the larger one, the BR03, a perfect candidate for a SoundStage! Access review.

Triangle

Description

The Borea BR03’s dimensions -- 14.9”H x 8.1”W x 12.4”D -- describe the usual shape for a two-way minimonitor costing $549/pair: a rectilinear box. The speaker weighs 15.4 pounds and is available finished in White vinyl veneer or one of two faux-wood vinyl veneers: Walnut, or the Black of my review samples. The joins of the rear and side panels are visible at the back.

The black front baffle has some nice visual accents, in addition to feeling quite dense -- the midrange-woofer cone is white, with a black surround and dustcap, and it’s circumscribed by a white ring with small gaps at top and bottom. Those gaps vertically align with the pale-silver vertical extrusions of the tweeter’s phase plug. In each of the baffle’s lower corners is a port, and below and between the ports is Triangle’s name. The Borea BR03’s baffle is an example of exceptional industrial design nicely prettying up what would otherwise be a plain-looking box.

Triangle

The cone of the 6.5” midrange-bass driver, made of natural-cellulose paper, is borrowed from Triangle’s Esprit Ez line and, Triangle says, “avoids any coloration of the intermediate frequencies to offer stunning realism and tonality.” The tweeter’s 1” silk dome, coupled to that diffusing phase plug, together comprise Triangle’s Efficient Flow System (EFS), to provide “diffusion throughout the room.”

Triangle’s specifications for the Borea BR03 include a frequency response of 55Hz-20kHz, sensitivity of 90dB/2.83V/m, and a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. On the rear panel is a pair of attractive, chrome-plated, five-way binding posts. Magnetically attached grilles are supplied, but I left them off for serious listening.

Setup

The Borea BR03s came packed together in a single box with their instruction manual and grilles. Although Triangle offers the S02 stands ($225/pair), which are designed for the Borea minimonitors, I wasn’t sent these. Instead, I placed the BR03s atop my 24”-high Focal Sopra No1 stands in the positions speakers usually occupy in my room: with their rear panels 22” from the wall behind them. The speakers and my listening chair described a 9’ equilateral triangle. I experimented with toe-in angle, to hear if my usual 15° or so would be optimal, and it was: A little less toe-in, and image size and specificity suffered; a little more, and the sound was too bright.

Triangle

My dedicated listening room is relatively small: 15’L x 12’W. It’s treated with broadband absorption at the first reflection points on the sidewalls and on the long wall behind the speakers, and I’ve placed homemade bass traps in the front corners. I connected the BR03s to my NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier with homemade speaker cables that have conductors of 12-gauge, oxygen-free copper and are terminated with locking banana plugs. The source component was my Bluesound Node streamer, its built-in DAC connected to the NAD’s line-level inputs (RCA) with AmazonBasics interconnects. I used the Node as a Roon endpoint, with the Roon Remote app installed on my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 laptop controlling the Roon core application installed on a separate, dedicated Windows 10 Acer laptop connected via Ethernet to my network. I streamed music from Tidal and from my library of CDs, which I’ve ripped to FLAC files and stored on a NAS.

Sound

After letting the Triangle Borea BR03s break in for about 24 hours, I sat down to do some critical listening, my expectations held in check. Nonetheless, my first reaction was, in a word, Wow! The Triangle’s overall sound quality struck me as exceptional for a speaker costing $549/pair.

The first thing I noticed was the midrange -- it reminded me of my reference Focal Sopra No1s, which, at $9990/pair, cost more than 18 times the BR03’s price. Listening to “Make a Mistake,” from Colin James’s Traveler (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Warner Bros.), I was instantly struck by the immediacy and transparency of the electric guitar at center stage, behind the plane described by the speakers’ frontmost edges. The plucked notes were completely divorced from the speaker cabinets, with plenty of leading-edge bite. When James’s voice enters 29 seconds in, I was again taken by the BR03s’ ability to conjure up a palpable aural image, dead-center between and above the speakers, clearly delineated from the guitar and the bass from the drums. James’s smooth, throaty singing was convincingly conveyed, the sound’s inviting forwardness coupled with a rich, meaty quality.

The BR03 also had a well-controlled, extended, airy top end. The crashed cymbal just a few seconds into “Make a Mistake,” struck to left of center stage and well behind the speakers, was rewarding, and the gentle crashes throughout this track never sounded metallic or edgy -- instead, I heard subtle shimmer and long decays. In the song’s first chorus (1:10), the backing vocals can be heard mixed hard to left and right, likely recorded out of phase to create the effect. The Triangles heightened this effect with a wide soundstage that extended past the speakers’ outer side panels. When James’s voice reenters, in the middle of the backing vocals, it remained very stable, tightly focused, and dead center, floating above the speakers, which I found exceptionally realistic. The other singers appeared behind James and way off to left and right, clearly delineated from him at center stage.

Triangle

Next up was “Last to Know,” from Blue Rodeo’s Lost Together (16/44.1 FLAC, Warner Bros.). From the strummed acoustic guitar at the beginning, just left of center, the BR03s’ imaging prowess and transparency were again evident -- I could hear every nuance of the sounds of plucked strings, untainted by any speaker-cabinet colorations. The reproduction of Jim Cuddy’s voice was particularly impressive -- its precisely chiseled aural image gently floated high above the speakers, again dead center. Here, as with James’s “Make a Mistake,” the midrange, and particularly voices, sounded forward and lively, yet with a rich, smooth tonality. I liked what I heard a lot.

The Borea BR03s remained composed at high volumes. In the chorus of “Last to Know,” when his singing becomes more emphatic, Cuddy’s voice never sounded shrill or irritating when I raised the volume above my comfort zone. Not only that, the images of the players’ instruments and their separation remained consistently stellar, even when the mix became more dense -- never did the Triangles sound congested. At 1:02, the track begins to crescendo, yet when I played it loud (90+dB) I was still able to clearly “see” and follow everything -- Cuddy’s voice at center stage, Greg Keelor’s subtle backing vocal just behind him to the right, electric guitar and brushed cymbal farther to the right, acoustic guitar and cymbals to the left -- even as the Triangles reproduced the heavy bass produced by busy drummer Glenn Milchem.

About the Borea BR03’s bass -- while it wasn’t as impressive as the midrange, I was still satisfied for the price. The bass was reasonably quick and nimble, with good punch and dynamics. Bass extension and fullness were a bit underwhelming for a ported minimonitor of this size, but by no means was the BR03 a slouch in this price category -- when I focused on the drums in “Last to Know,” their pace and slam got my toes tapping. Still, a little of this track’s overall fullness and bass output went missing. When I measured the BR03’s in-room -3dB point with my calibrated UMIK-1 microphone, I got 33Hz: respectable, but nothing extraordinary.

Triangle

Wanting to hear women’s voices, I turned to “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have -- But I Have It,” from Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! (16/44.1 FLAC, Interscope/Tidal). Del Rey’s voice in this track can sound edgy, even irritating, through lesser speakers, but I heard none of that through the Triangles -- what I got, in spades, were smoothness, detail, and reach-out-and-touch-her presence. It was impressive. The acoustic piano to the right of her voice was reproduced with transparency, the leading edges of the keystrokes had weight, and decays lingered long, with rich tonal reverberation. The BR03s conveyed the subtleties of Del Rey’s singing, including her inhalations, little inflections, even the very-low-level sounds of her lips and mouth as she formed syllables -- no detail was left obscured.

Wanting to hear how well composed the Triangles would remain at rock-out volumes, I cued up a hard-hitting, well-recorded track from Audioslave’s Audioslave (16/44.1 FLAC, Epic): “I Am the Highway.” The relatively sensitive BR03s were easy speakers to drive -- I had no trouble reaching almost-painful volume levels with just the NAD C 316BEE’s 40Wpc into 8 ohms. The song’s first chorus (1:16) has a densely complex arrangement, the late Chris Cornell’s voice occupying center stage, a foundation of gritty grunge laid out to left and right of him by electric guitars. Yet all I heard was each aspect of the musical arrangement, uncolored and separate on the soundstage. Cornell’s guttural howls emerged to float high above the pulsing of the rhythm guitar, the bite of the lead guitar, the punch of the drums -- his voice was reproduced with strong yet smooth presence. Even amid all this loud chaos, I could clearly hear drummer Brad Wilk’s subtle hi-hat, its precise image about 2’ to the right of the left speaker and 1’ behind it. Still, as before, I thought that the BR03s, even for speakers of their size, could have provided that extra bit of bass fullness that would have rounded out the sound. But that’s a small complaint, considering how much these speakers achieved at this price -- throughout the midrange and top end, the Borea BR03s consistently put a big smile on my face.

Comparison

After using pink noise and an SPL meter to match their volume levels, I compared the Triangle Borea BR03s with my Bowers & Wilkins 685 S1 minimonitors (discontinued; $600/pair when available, 2008-2014).

The Triangles outperformed my aging B&Ws in almost every category of reproduction. With “Make a Mistake,” the Borea BR03s presented a more spacious, detailed, and airy midrange. Colin James’s voice was re-created with more presence through the BR03s, with a more tightly focused aural image that seemed more tangible, and freer of the speakers producing it. The BR03s also exhibited better high-frequency extension, with a slightly more refined cymbal sound than the B&Ws’. The Triangles’ bottom end was faster and punchier than the B&Ws’, if slightly less full-bodied -- the Borea BR03s lacked the full bass roundness I hear from the 685 S1s. But when I focused on the backing singers, recorded out of phase in the chorus, the Triangles’ soundstage was wider than the B&Ws’, extending beyond the speakers’ outer side panels.

Reproducing Lana Del Rey’s voice in “Hope . . . ,” the BR03s delivered a livelier, more detailed sound that was also smoother -- when I play the chorus at high volume, Del Rey’s voice can sound a bit glary or glassy through the B&Ws, with an unpleasant edge. But not so through the Triangles, which maintained their composure, sounding smooth and silky, with rich body and tone through the loud vocal passages.

Triangle

In terms of transparency and detail retrieval, it was no contest -- with “Hope . . . ,” the Triangles made the B&Ws sound boxy, particularly when I focused on the voice and piano. The Triangles also let me hear more of Del Rey’s subtle mouth sounds in quiet passages -- all those details were easier to hear than through the B&Ws. The BR03s did occasionally slightly accentuate vocal sibilants -- something I didn’t hear through the B&Ws -- but overall, and without hesitation, I’d choose the Triangles.

I compared these speakers’ bass performance with some hip-hop: “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” from Drake’s Nothing Was the Same (16/44.1 FLAC, Cash Money). My initial impressions were confirmed: the B&Ws provided a greater sense of extension and fullness, the Triangles a bit more punch, slam, and speed on the leading edges of quick synth-bass notes. Though I give the edge to the B&W in this aspect of sound, the differences weren’t large -- certainly not enough to tip the scale in favor of the B&Ws overall.

This comparison provided another example of how much better many loudspeakers are today than those of not many years ago, and for much lower prices, particularly when inflation is factored in. The B&W 685 S1 cost $600/pair in 2010, which would be $710 in 2020 dollars. The Borea BR03 costs $549/pair -- a boon for the consumer.

Conclusion

To say that Triangle’s Borea BR03 is a steal is an understatement. At $549/pair, it punches far above its weight in most categories of sound quality. In my room, the pair of them delivered a lot: tightly focused aural images on a wide, tall soundstage; high frequencies with superb extension and articulation; and an open, airy, lively midrange that was smooth yet rich, and with inviting tonality. In these ways, the BR03’s midrange reminded me of that of my reference Focal Sopra No1s. The BR03’s bass performance couldn’t match its superlative midrange, but at this price there’s nothing to complain about -- the bass I heard was punchy and fast, lacking only slightly in terms of extension and fullness.

Triangle

You can’t have it all for $549/pair, but the Borea BR03 proves that you can get a lot. If you’re looking for minimonitors in the $500-$1000 range, heed the buzz about the Triangle Borea BR03 and check it out -- you won’t regret it.

. . . Diego Estan
diego@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers -- Bowers & Wilkins 685 S1, Focal Sopra No1
  • Subwoofers -- SVS SB-4000 (2)
  • Integrated amplifier -- NAD C 316BEE
  • Power amplifier -- McIntosh Laboratory MC302
  • Crossover -- Marchand Electronics XM446XLR-A (between preamp and amp)
  • Preamplifier-DAC -- McIntosh Laboratory C47
  • Room-correction EQ -- miniDSP DDRC-22D with Dirac Live 2.0 (between digital sources and DAC)
  • Digital sources -- Rotel RCD-991 CD player, Bluesound Node streamer, Microsoft Surface Pro 6 computer running Windows 10, Roon
  • Analog source -- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit turntable with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
  • Speaker cables -- homemade, with conductors of 12AWG oxygen-free copper and locking banana plugs
  • Analog interconnects -- AmazonBasics unbalanced (RCA), Monoprice Premier balanced (XLR)
  • Digital link -- AmazonBasics optical (TosLink)

Triangle Borea BR03 Loudspeakers
Price: $549 USD per pair.
Warranty: Three years parts and labor.

Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique
France

Website: www.trianglehifi.com