Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviewers' ChoiceRecently wowed by French manufacturer Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique’s Borea BR03 minimonitor, I wasn’t shy in expressing my admiration in a May 2020 review. Now in my listening room is the BR03’s floorstanding big brother, the three-way, four-driver Borea BR08 ($1399/pair, all prices USD). I looked forward to this review -- it had been a while since I’d heard a budget floorstander that impressed me, and I wondered if the Borea BR08 would deliver the BR03’s exciting sound and exceptional value.

Description

The BR08 is the second-largest model in the Borea line, and the largest now available in North America. (Available in Europe and elsewhere are the larger, three-way BR09 and the smaller, 2.5-way BR07, both floorstanders.) The remaining Boreas are two minimonitors, the BR02 ($449/pair) and BR03 ($549/pair), and the BRC1 center-channel ($349 each).

Triangle

The Borea BR08 measures 40.1”H x 8.1”W x 12.4”D and weighs 43.2 pounds -- manageable for one able-bodied person to lift and move around. The design is nothing fancy -- essentially, a rectilinear box. It sits on an MDF plinth measuring 10.2”W x 1.3”H x 14.2”D that bolts to the speaker’s bottom panel and adds 1.3” to the speaker’s height. Because the plinth’s footprint is slightly larger than the speaker’s, it adds a bit of stability and helps make the speaker look more attractive. The entire Borea line is available in White paint or one of two faux-wood veneers: Walnut, or the Black of my review samples. The joinery is typical of speakers at this price: 90° edges and corners, visible joins around back.

As I mentioned in my review of the Borea BR03, Triangle has included some visual flair to the baffles of their Borea models, with accents that spruce up these otherwise plain boxes. The BR08’s midrange cone is white and its two woofer cones are black, each cone surrounded by a decorative white ring with small gaps at top and bottom. Those gaps vertically align with the pale silver rod that passes through the end of the tweeter’s proprietary phase plug (described below). Far below the woofers is a large port, and centered below that are Triangle’s name (baffle) and logo (grille).

The 6.5” midrange driver’s paper cone is borrowed from the Esprit Ez line, which, per Triangle, “avoids any coloration of the intermediate frequencies to offer stunning realism and tonality.” The cones of the two 6.5” woofers are made of fiberglass, which Triangle chose for its rigidity and “excellent vibratory behavior.” The tweeter’s 1” silk dome is coupled to that diffusing phase plug and rod in what Triangle calls their Efficient Flow System (EFS), to provide “diffusion throughout the room,” which, from what I can understand, means they’re trying to make the high frequencies less directional in a room.

Triangle

The Borea BR08’s specified frequency response is 40Hz-22kHz, ±3dB, its sensitivity is 92dB/2.83V/m, and its nominal impedance is 8 ohms; the crossover frequencies are not specified. Around back are two polished, chrome-finished, five-way binding posts. Magnetically attached grilles are supplied, but I left them off for serious listening.

Setup

Each Borea BR08 came packed in its own carton, with instruction manual, plinth, grille, and two sets of threaded feet to screw into the plinth: floor spikes and little rubber bumpers. I chose the spikes for my carpeted floor. After affixing the plinths, which proved straightforward, I placed the BR08s flanking my Focal Sopra No1 speakers’ stands, about 10.5’ apart, with the 15° toe-in angle I typically use and had found optimal with the BR03s. I left my stands in place to ease quick swaps of the minimonitors I had on hand and wanted to compare the BR08s with. The backs of the speaker cabinets were about 2’ from the front wall.

Triangle

My dedicated listening room is relatively small (15’L x 12’W), and I’ve treated it with broadband absorption at the first reflection points and on the long wall behind the speakers, as well as with homemade bass traps in each front corner. I connected the Borea BR08s to my NAD C 316BEE integrated amp using homemade speaker cables with conductors of 12AWG oxygen-free copper and terminated with banana plugs. A Bluesound Node streamer and its internal DAC served as my source, connected to the NAD’s line-level inputs via AmazonBasics interconnects (RCA). The Node was used as a Roon endpoint, with the Roon app installed on my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 laptop computer. I streamed music from Tidal, and from CDs I’ve ripped as lossless FLAC files and stored on a NAS.

Sound

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the Borea BR08 had the same detailed, open, transparent midrange I’d heard from the BR03 -- and a similar impression of exceptional value was never far from my mind for the duration of the time I spent with them. But from the opening notes of the double bass just left of center in “Fever,” from Michael Bublé (24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC unfolded to 24/88.2 MQA, Reprise/Tidal), I heard a bass fullness that -- no surprise -- the much-smaller BR03s hadn’t been able to manage. Through the BR08s, each plucked note had a weight and authority I could feel in my body, with little boom or excess overhang. The bass wasn’t perfect, but I can’t blame the BR08s for that -- my room has a bass peak at around 80Hz, and I wasn’t fixing it with EQ.

Bublé’s voice in “Fever,” reproduced dead center above and behind the Borea BR08s and sounding free of their cabinets, had a rich, palpable presence and a smooth sound. Without a direct comparison to far more expensive speakers, such as my Sopra No1s ($9990/pair), you’d never accuse the Triangles of lacking transparency -- they had that spooky, “out-of-box” realism that could fool me, with the right recording, into believing that a singer was in my room. When the music climaxes at 1:57, with powerful bass, percussion, and trumpet, the BR08s threw out a huge wall of sound that stretched beyond their outer cabinet walls while managing to strike the right balance of dynamic snap, bite, and rich smoothness. All of this took place without my having to push my little integrated hard, thanks to the Triangles’ relatively high sensitivity. In my room, the BR08s never seemed to run out of steam. They could play clean and loud -- I measured peaks of 100dB at my listening seat -- with only the NAD’s 40Wpc.

Triangle

I next cued up a well-recorded woman’s voice: Natalie Merchant’s, in “Carnival,” from her Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings (24/48 FLAC unfolded to 24/96 MQA, Nonesuch/Tidal). The track begins with powerfully plucked bass, complemented by Allison Miller’s gently brushed cymbals. The bass reproduced by the BR08s was taut and extended, and filled the room. The cymbals were delicate, not too forward, yet still expressive and extended, imaged precisely behind and to the left of Merchant, exactly where they should be. The Triangles provided lots of presence, palpability, and air, with the overall result of Merchant’s voice sounding eerily real. A subtly plucked acoustic guitar just to the left of the cymbals was reproduced with equally stunning realism -- every pluck sparkled, floating in mid-air. In this recording consisting of relatively simple arrangements, every sound was precisely chiseled on a 3D soundstage, with a laser-like precision of imaging similar to what the Borea BR03s had reproduced.

I threw on a track that can sound lean, bright, and sibilant through some speakers: “Invisible City,” from the Wallflowers’ Bringing Down the Horse (16/44.1 FLAC, Interscope), which has plenty of cymbals and close-miked voices. The BR08s passed this test with flying colors, walking the line that separates a satisfying balance of detail, presence, and treble extension from outright brightness. Jakob Dylan’s voice was projected high above the speakers and quite forward, with all his breathiness laid bare, yet his sibilants -- his esses -- while pronounced, weren’t irritatingly so. Throughout, the BR08s remained composed but not dull in the treble, presenting the brushed cymbal at left of center that begins the track with superb shimmer, and decay that seemed to go on forever. At 1:27, a woman’s voice subtly appears at center stage just behind Dylan, as if whispering over his shoulder, and the Triangles portrayed this subtle addition to the music with convincing retrieval of detail -- I had no trouble hearing her, or determining her precise position on the stage.

Triangle

I then turned my attention to “Zzyzx Rd.,” from Stone Sour’s Come What(ever) May (16/44.1 FLAC, Roadrunner). It begins with solo piano accompanying Corey Taylor’s singing -- but at 1:33 a powerful, unexpected, authoritative bass line kicks in. The BR08s reproduced the opening piano notes with impressively bell-like transient attacks on the leading edges, as well as the long decays of the lower-pitched plunks. Taylor’s voice floated on a cushion of air, convincingly suspended above the tops of the speakers. When the bass finally entered, I was impressed with the sheer authority of the BR08s’ output -- I’m accustomed to the deeper bass and greater slam produced by the two subwoofers in my reference system, but nonetheless felt that the BR08’s bass was extremely satisfying for the price. These budget towers filled my room with tight, extended bass I could really feel. Using my calibrated miniDSP UMIK-1 microphone, I measured an in-room -3dB point of 29Hz -- not quite full-range, but impressive for a tower speaker of this size and price.

French Duel: floorstander vs. stand-mount

I compared the Triangle Borea BR08 floorstanders ($1399/pair) to my Focal Chora 806 minimonitors ($990/pair), which I think offer extraordinary sound for the price. While comparing stand-mounts to towers might seem unfair -- and in terms of bass output, it generally is unfair -- when you factor in the $200 or more you’ll have to spend on stands for the Focals, these speakers’ prices are pretty close. I matched the output levels of the two pairs of speakers using pink noise and an SPL meter.

I began with Michael Bublé’s cover of “Fever.” Though the biggest difference was, as expected, in the lowest octaves of the audioband, the Chora 806es held their own. The difference wasn’t as big as I’d have guessed (though it probably would have been in a room larger than mine). Still, I felt more acoustic energy from the plucked double bass with the BR08s. When I focused on the midrange, in particular Bublé’s voice, the two speakers produced very similar sounds: detailed and slightly forward, yet smooth and engaging. But here, the Focals just edged out the Triangles in terms of air, space, and palpable presence.

Triangle

Next up -- Stone Sour’s “Zzyzx Rd.” Again, the image of Corey Taylor’s voice conjured by the Focals had a hair more three-dimensionality than through the Triangles. And focusing on the treble, I heard other small differences that favored the Focals. First, the BR08s made Taylor sound a fraction more sibilant, while the cymbal crash at 1:47 had more shimmer and delicacy, and took longer to fade away through the 806es. Still, the differences in treble performance were very small -- the Chora 806es’ exceptional tweeters rival what I hear from the beryllium tweeters of my Sopra No1s at ten times the price. Through the Choras, the decay of a well-recorded cymbal stroke is like very fine sand running through my fingers; the Borea BR08s provided nearly the same experience, this time with slightly larger grains of sand.

But this track’s beefy bass? No contest -- not only did the Borea BR08s go deeper, they delivered more slam and chest impact. The result was a “bigger” sound that satisfied me in ways the Focal Chora 806es couldn’t.

With Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival,” the differences I’d heard in the midrange were a bit more obvious. The Chora 806es seemed to produce more air and space around Merchant’s voice than did the Borea BR08s, which resulted in a more convincing image of her voice, one I felt I could reach out and touch. The acoustic guitar to right of center also seemed surrounded by more space through the Focals, with a hint more sparkle and bite on leading edges. Nonetheless, the laser-like imaging prowesses of these speakers were essentially on a par, as were the width, height, and depth of their soundstages.

Triangle

Despite the small edge in midrange and treble performance going to the Focals, if I had to choose one of these speakers to live with permanently, and I couldn’t have subwoofers, I’d choose the Triangle Borea BR08s for their clear advantage in the bass, a part of the audioband that is crucial to my enjoyment of music. That’s how close their sounds were through the midrange and top end. The equivalent floorstander in Focal’s Chora line, the four-driver, three-way 826, would no doubt make up the difference I heard in the lower octaves, but it costs $2190/pair -- $791 more than the Borea BR08.

Conclusion

At $1399/pair, Triangle’s Borea BR08 is a screaming bargain -- just like its kid brother, the Borea BR03 minimonitor, at $549/pair. This unassuming French floorstander has the sort of sound that, if heard from behind a curtain, might fool me into believing I was listening to a speaker costing multiple times its price. The highly detailed sound of its magical “out-of-the-box” midrange provides spooky presence, yet remains smooth and easy to listen to. Its top end is airy, delicate, and well balanced, and its ample, authoritative bass yields both stern punch and rumbly extension. Perhaps best of all, the Borea BR08 can be driven by relatively low-powered electronics -- using only the 40Wpc NAD C 316BEE, I played the BR08s LOUD, and their sound remained clean and composed.

Even if the cabinets of Triangle’s Borea line are the plain-Jane boxes you expect at these prices, they have very pretty faces -- I find the baffles, their black and white elements further accented by lines and curves, quite fetching. And the beautiful sound they produce complements that look. All told, my praise for the Borea BR08 is as high as was my praise for the Borea BR03. If you’re in the market for a floorstander between $1000 and $2000/pair, put this one at the top of your short list.

. . . Diego Estan
diego@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers -- Focal Chora 806 and 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 laptop computer running Windows 10, Roon
  • Analog sources -- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit turntable with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
  • Speaker cables -- homemade with 12AWG conductors of oxygen-free copper terminated with locking banana plugs
  • Analog interconnects -- AmazonBasics unbalanced (RCA), Monoprice Premier balanced (XLR)
  • Digital link -- AmazonBasics Optical (TosLink)

Triangle Borea BR08 Loudspeakers
Price: $1399 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.

Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique
Triangle Distribution France
44 rue Barreyre CS40099
33300 Bordeaux
France

Website: www.trianglehifi.com