Should hi-fi entertain, or merely inform without adding a tint to the recording? Your answer will decide what you think of Triangle's high-end monitors, the Duettos. The entry-level model in the company's five-strong Magellan SW2 range, they're a serious attempt to gatecrash the quality standmount party so long dominated by the likes of Sonus Faber, Wilson-Benesch and Focal.
They're superbly built and finished to a very high standard in a lacquered mahogany veneer. More intriguing is their sonic presentation, which walks a lonely path as far as high-end monitors are concerned.
You see, most of the competition is all about refinement and detail resolution, with qualities such as tonal purity not far behind, but the Triangles have different priorities, placing timing, dynamics and sheer liveliness above all else.
No lack of enthusiasm
Listen to anything remotely upbeat, say Timbaland's Shock Value, and the Duettos respond with an enthusiasm that borders on the embarrassing. Basslines are delivered with venom and a surprising degree of weight: these might be standmounts, but their bass output is strong enough to rival that of most similarly priced floorstanders.
What's more, pitch definition and agility aren't sacrificed at the altar of low-frequency weight – and that's something of a result for a pair of loudspeakers of this type.
However, make sure you give the speakers plenty of room to breathe and a solid pair of stands, or you'll wonder what all the fuss is about.
Perhaps even more impressive than the bass performance is the timing, by which we mean the ability to latch on to a rhythm track with purpose, while delivering sound as a cohesive whole. For the listener, it means music makes more sense, and so is easier to enjoy.
Have a listen to Thelonious Monk's Played Twice on equipment that doesn't time well, and this piece of complex jazz will simply sound like a jumble of instruments; through the Duettos, the musical thread is blindingly obvious. Add class-leading dynamics and the ability to deliver insight to the speakers' long list of sonic strengths, and it's clear this design is something of a superstar.
No piece of hi-fi is perfect, though. As we've already suggested, these aren't the purest or most even-sounding speakers, and there are colorations that alter the tone of instruments and voices. And while the Duettos' horn-loaded tweeter has good qualities, it lacks the refinement of those found in the priciest models from B&W and Focal.
How much these shortcomings matter will come down to personal preference. The character is strong, but it's a likeable one, provided you partner them sympathetically: avoid thin or brash electronics and you won't go far wrong. For our part, we wouldn't trade one percent of the Duettos' enthusiasm for better manners.
Music should entertain, energise and inspire: these speakers achieve this better than any rival we've heard.