The Sensible Sound, Nov/96

Manufacturer: Coincident Speaker Technology, 51 Miriam Cr., Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 2P8 905/886-6728, -2627 (fax)
Price: $799/pr.
Source: Manufacturer loan
Reviewer: Tim Parker

In other speaker reviews I've mentioned my approach of reviewing the sound of speakers without regards to their actual cost during the review process, bringing their price-performance ratio into account only when assessing the overall value of the speakers. Usually this ends up with few surprises for me: most $600 dollar speakers sound like $600 dollar speakers and definitely can't be confused for $10,000 giants. The other way around doesn't always work: I've heard quite a few pairs of speakers that sold for many times their auditory value, but that's just a few marketeers taking advantage of the "higher price is better" audiofools.

Every now and again, though, I get a surprise at the lower price points. Not often, mind you, but the Coincident Speaker Technology Triumphs are one such pair.

To cut to the chase right away (for those who read the last paragraphs first, this will mess you up), I had these speakers pegged as costing around $2,000 a pair, perhaps as high as $2,500. They would sound very competitive with many other small bookshelf speakers from Totem, ProAc, and Celestion, yet after completing the listening process I found out they sell for only $799 a pair. Put simply, these are amazing speakers for the price, and deserve to have their praise trumpeted to everyone who's sensible about buying bookshelf speakers (and even those who are not quite so sane). But back to the story.The Triumphs arrived in a nondescript box with routine packaging and no advance fanfare. I'd heard of Coincident Speaker Technology only in passing, so the Triumphs got put in a corner for review when I had a few spare weeks. After completing the Sound Dynamics 300ti review, I went back to using my favorite ProAc speakers in my smaller system and gloried in the sound. While cleaning up the room that accumulates audio, photographic, and computer hardware and software for review, I decided to get the Triumphs out to give them a quick listen. If they didn't perform well, I figured, I could write a few quick notes and send them back, freeing up a corner of the room for something else.

The Triumphs are bookshelf-size speakers, measuring 14" high, 11" wide, and 11.5" deep. They are heavy for their size, probably due to internal bracing. Two things struck me as I was lifting the Triumphs into position. First, how solid they are. The enclosure feels totally nonresoant. Rapping knuckles on the surface results in sore knuckles and no dull thwap that accompanies poorly braced speakers. I'm not sure what the cabinets are made of, but they are well constructed and immovable as any speaker I've run across, at any price. Second thing of note was the simplicity of the speaker: there is no grill, only two drivers, and two gold-plated five-way connectors at the back. Forget biwiring, forget fancy grills.

The Triumphs are finished in a fine black lacquer that is really attractive. There are several different finishes available, including several veneers, at a higher price (about a $200 premium). For those who really want a grill cover, there is one available for $25 that is held in place by Velcro. This cover is foam, and is supposed to be acoustically transparent, but unless you have kids with prying fingers or cats who like to claw, I'd leave the Triumph without grills. They sound better that way, and look kinda high-tech, too.

The tweeter, which is centered above the woofer, is a .75" unit that looks similar to some very expensive tweeters made by VIFA (the VIFA tweeter is currently used on a range of expensive high-end speakers). The 6.5" woofer below the tweeter completes the driver compliment. Both drivers are black, contributing to the all-black look of the speakers. These are very clean looking units, and when coupled with solid stands such as the Targets, provide a room accent that most will find pleasing. Although black lacquer is not a match with either of my listening rooms, I found the speakers very attractive.

My small listening room uses a Copland integrated amplifier driven by a Sony CDPX707ES CD player, and usually has ProAc Response 1s speakers (which I heaped well-deserved praise over in an earlier review) connected through AudioQuest bi-wire Dragon cables. Because the Triumphs have a single pair of connectors, I replaced the Dragons with MIT MH 750s. The Triumphs sat on my sand filled sand-filled, spiked Target speakers that are almost a necessary part of the ProAc Response 1s speakers.

Speakers connected, I powered up the Copland and hit "Play" on the Telarc Mikado CD that was already in the player. I didn't have to burn in the Triumphs when they arrived as they obviously were used, but I still like to give speakers arriving for review at least 24 hours of music to settle. Right away I was arrested by the Triumphs. The sound was liquid and smooth, just like the ProAc Response 1s. As the Mikado CD played, I found myself listening intently to the soundstaging, which was just as good as my Response 1s reference, and to the bass, which wasn't as controlled or deep, but was still amazing. Drum whacks from Telarc's well-known bass drum come over fine, albeit a wee bit down in power.

Intrigued by the bass response from the Triumphs, I dug out my SPL meter and tone CD. The 6.5" woofer does an admirable job. As far as I can tell the bass is flat to about 40Hz, then falls of fairly quickly but still produced audible and measurable response at 30Hz. I'd say the useful bass is good to about 34Hz, where it's about 6 db down. That's amazing for a small woofer. The Target stands helped. When I replaced the heavy Targets with regular stands from another vendor (not sand fillable), the response rose a little to peter out a few Hz higher. At all times, the bass was controlled, clean and undistorted. Coincident Speaker Technology does offer a subwoofer that mates with the Triumphs, extending response flat to about 28 Hz, but I didn't have one in to test.

The woofer crosses over to the tweeter somewhere about 3 kHz (I don't have a spec sheet of any kind, but I think there's a 1st-order crossover at that point). The tweeter is another little miracle, producing crystal-clear highs right beyond the threshold of hearing. My tests couldn't go above 20 kHz, but the response was flat out to that point.

The woofer and tweeter together do a dance that I've found in only a few expensive speakers like the ProAc Response 1s and a couple of Totem models: they produce sound far in excess of what you expect from a small box speaker with two drivers. These babies are flat from about 40 Hz to 20 kHz, with no box resonance modes I could find, and have a tight crossover that is undetectable. The crossover is made from the highest quality parts, and this shows in the sound. The midbass and the midrange are superb, and while the bass extension won't rival floorstanding speakers, the rest of the range easily stands up.

So, do you get the idea that I'm impressed? As I mentioned, I figured these speakers would retail for upwards of $2,000 per pair, so when I found out they sell for $799 I knew I'd found a super value. You can increase the price by adding optional woods, grills, or biwiring capability (which the manufacturer doesn't think improves the sound unless you are biamping), but for $800 these speakers are a steal. Couple them with superb stands like Targets, and use the money you save over better known expensive minimonitors to buy top quality speaker cables and you have a speaker that will rival many competitors at any price. Will I trade in my ProAc Response 1s? No, because I love the ProAc sound, but they sell for more than three times the price of the Triumphs. Had I only known about the Triumphs at the time, though... well, consider yourself informed. Be sure to listen to these speakers if you are in the market for a pair of $800 speakers that sound like $2,000 minimonitors.

- TP

I recently attended a manufacturer presentation of the Coincident Triumph loudspeakers at a meeting of the Western New York Audio Society. The setup room conditions for this club's demos are notoriously poor and it can be politely said that most demonstrators struggle, squirm, and apologize a lot.

The demo was a completely different experience. The "Coincident Man" arrived with his speakers and a fairly small box containing all the electronics. The implied effort here was to show that you don't need lots of money, power, and space to enjoy wonderful music. (I thought it a little naive to assume that the intention audiophiles was to enjoy music).

There was a CD player (no transports or outboards DACs) of unknown origin, a little passive preamp of Coincident's design, two very small (almost palm-sized) 25-watt mono amps from VTL, and a set of bi-wire speaker cables from Wireworld connecting to the Triumphs. That's it: Certainly one of the most simple demo setups in the 12-year history of this club.

The sound was great. I don't want to get crazy here with superlatives, but you should know that for the first time in the history of this club, the majority of the members present (about 40 this evening) sat for almost two hours and listened to the music. Usually, 20 minutes into a demo, the drone of members talking obliterates any further effort at music playing and the members begin questioning the manufacturer about what color capacitors he uses.

In fact, before the night was over, the club officers took an informal poll and bought a pair of the Triumphs for future club reference use. This circumstance takes on its true significance only when you consider that most of these guys still have their First Communion money.

- JAH




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