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Triangle Antal EX
Sound quality
Conclusion
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From Hi-Fi World - July 2010 issue

Triangle Antal EX loudspeaker review

 


Three Pointed Stars

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Noel Keywood is dazzled by Triangle's Antal EX loudspeakers...

 

A recent trend in loudspeakers is the 'no holds barred £6,000 super speaker'. Unfortunately, too many of these use drive units and materials little better than today's norm and they don't do enough to justify their high price tags, I feel. A lot of hot air comes from the designers, but peek under the surface and what you are getting comprises a few well known tweaks to a pretty average design package. Commercially, it's bold, perhaps, but aurally it's anything but...

 

A loudspeaker like the Triangle Antal reviewed here cuts the ground from beneath such loudspeakers. It's a well designed, high accuracy loudspeaker that stands tall (1,140mm) and sets up a wonderfully wide and deep sound stage, it's lively and dynamic and has strong bass of good quality. The new Antal EX uses modern technologies well, adds some nice technical flourishes, yet costs just £1,500. Here is a loudspeaker that sets standards at its price point and  makes life hard for conventional designs costing any more.

 

The Antal is a loudspeaker for bigger rooms Triangle say, its twin bass drivers able to handle 120 Watts. It does have a towering presence and Triangle recommend  320-540 sq ft. I used it in our 800 sq ft listening room, large enough not to impose room modes upon its bass. The front baffle is well ornamented, with an unusual horn tweeter at top, replete with matt gold bullet shaped phase plug in the deep compression chamber to control internal reflections. Triangle use an unusual soft rubber surround to interface this unit with the front baffle, to control and direct the surface wave, it appears. All this suggests Triangle take high frequency behaviour seriously. When working on World Audio Design loudspeakers I found that 'every little helps' in this area; attention to detail adds up to a subtly but perceptually better end result.

 

Within this assembly lies a titanium dome tweeter that crosses over to a relatively large cellulose pulp cone midrange unit with a pleated suspension. Triangle eliminate the usual plastic dust cap, that commonly delivers ragged highs, replacing it with a fixed phase plug. Phase plugs reduce off-axis energy and give a 'darker, quieter' demeanour, by bouncing less energy off side walls. This perceptually tidies things up I feel; I am no great fan of bouncing treble energy around a room, because it adds to muddle. So again Triangle control off axis radiation from the Antal EX. The midrange is backed by a sealed rear chamber.

 

Below the midrange unit sit two bass units possessing woven fibreglass cones, working into a shared reflex loaded chamber. The large port exhausts at front, close to the floor. This is a normal enough arrangement, but it has been carefully engineered to give better results than usual. Again, Triangle pay attention to detail and proportion the whole to work better than most. As a result the Antal EX worked well with both our Icon Audio MB845 valve power amplifiers, and also with our transistor, Class A Musical Fidelity AMS50. Like most large loudspeakers the Antal EX is sensitive and needs little power. It may seem counter intuitive, but the bigger a (box) loudspeaker gets, the less power it needs. Giant Tannoys need 5W-10W and 20W into a Westminster Royal SE will blow you across the room, for example. Because its bass behaviour is well sorted, Triangle's Antal EX is an easy amplifier load and gives consistent results between different amplifiers, working happily with a Leema Pulse I found, in a check of its matching ability. So although Triangle quote 120 Watts as a tolerable maximum power, it will go very loud from 20W. I keep a check on the power I'm using when reviewing and found it difficult to get more than 25 Watts or so into the Antal EX in our room – and this was running very loud, loud enough for people to complain, were there any around to do so at the time!

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The cabinet is well finished, ours coming with a Cognac artificial veneer and an ornate Triangle badge to add to appearances. The badge and fittings carry the same matt gold finish seen in the tweeter, making for a cohesive visual whole. The Antal sits on a plinth for added stability, having four rubber ringed feet. As with the Quartet, the rubber inserts came adrift with the sort of heavy movement we impose during positioning, measuring and what have you. Triangle supply a set of large diameter, sturdy spikes as alternatives, adjustable from above with a key.

 

The phase matching of the drive units was so good I did not need to lean the cabinet either forward or backward by adjusting the spikes, for solid images. Move up and down in front of these loudspeakers whilst listening and their sound stays even and consistent, still not a common phenomenon, even though drive unit phase matching is a well understood process. Designers still ignore this requirement though, irrespective of price, as they choose to ignore load characteristics and amplifier matching. It is this lack of design rigour that opens the door to those who are willing and able to try harder and do better. I hear so much from loudspeaker designers trying to justify sloppy design work and the obvious blemishes that result, it's heartening to encounter a loudspeaker like this where a bit more thought has gone into the design. You can actually see this not only in the peculiar details I have described, from the phase plugs to the tweeter's surface wave deflector, but in our measurements.

 

Connection can be made through biwiring or, with shorting links in place, single wiring. A total weight of 22kgs (50lbs) makes the Antal heavy, but not absurdly so.

 


SOUND QUALITY

Like the Quartet I first heard at a Manchester Show some years ago now, the Antal is a lively, punchy sounding loudspeaker, helped by its light cones and high efficiency. Triangle judiciously tread the fine line between accuracy and immediacy to get a sound that has a little extra treble and bass zest to keep things sounding lively even at low listening levels, whilst not taking this so far as to make the Antal either boomy in its bass or lacerative in its treble. Triangle hone this basic presentation by using a tweeter smoother than most, other than ring domes and ribbons. And by keeping bass nice and even too, so the walking bass lines and lone drum strikes in Angelique Kidjo’s 'Fifa' album that I use as a strenuous bass test of bass quality, were kept in good proportion to one another. The drum was weighty but sounded taut and impactful. Bass playing was very even across the scale and the fine low end damping gave the strong bass line a control that was there to be heard. With 'Tatchedogbe' from her 'Aye' album the low bass line walked around the lower bass lift of the Antal and teased out a rumbly quality that derived from the slight under-damped quality.

 

I found the Antal delivered strong and even bass with our MB845s, slightly heavier on the 4 Ohm tap than the 8 Ohm; I stayed with 8 Ohm tap in this instance. But although the loudspeaker’s copious bass output was obvious and underpinned the Benin rhythms manfully, it was in fact the wide, clear and lively soundstaging that initially caught my attention – and held it. The loudspeaker’s strong but even treble gave it delicious clarity, without the pains that accompany obvious brightness, the spikiness and coarseness. A long instrumental sequence at the end of 'Lon Lon Vadjro' brought out a riot of fine instrumental detail as bells were rang, cymbals lightly brushed and maracas gently shaken in a broad sweep of sound across a wide and deep sound stage.

 

 

Not only is the Antal intensely detailed, it is also clean and tidy – and I suspect this comes down to its controlled dispersion characteristics. Although our listening room is acoustically treated to suppress side wall reflections, the Antals threw less out at them, and the ceiling, and built solid, deftly hewn images in front of me. Everything was locked into place and with Angelique Kidjo sounding full of voice and clear as a bell in front of me, her backing singers providing a amusing backdrop of sounds as well as words, I found myself having fun listening to the rich orchestration used on 'Aye'.

 

The Antal is a loudspeaker that is dynamically lively right across the audio band, but crisp as a fresh green apple and with plenty of bite to it. There was little change in basic balance with our resident Musical Fidelity AMS50 amplifier, interesting because the AMS50 can impose tremendous low frequency drive and grip. In this case though it did not and with a less atmospheric midband and flatter perspectives, it did not present itself as a preferable alternative to the MB845s. Spinning 'Yaleo', from Santana’s 'Supernatural' album I changed back to the MB845s, whose darker balance seemed a better foil to the Antal’s slight hardness.

 

'Love of My Life' from 'Supernatural' starts suddenly and violently, driven by a powerful roll across the drum kit and solid deep bass. The bass line sounded well controlled and seemingly effortless as it went up and down the scale. Santana’s guitar cut out strongly, fast, solid and clean. Vocals from Dave Matthews were fresh and clear centre stage and Carter Beauford’s drums worked their fast rhythms, strung out as a wide image behind them. Everlast’s gravelly tones in ‘Put Your Lights On’ rasped out at me with a strength that was captivating. It was the forceful midband again, yet at the same time the Antals sound full bodied and powerful whilst also coming over as fast and brimming with detail. They’re simply a very exciting listen.

 

Not all recordings are good; in fact many are poor and Duffy’s 'Rockferry' album has digital distortion added in to produce ‘graunch’, according to an interview with the producer. Many loudspeakers have problems reproducing the messy 'Rockferry' track in particular, but the Antals kept it all under control. Here their talent at sorting out a complicated mix and presenting its various elements, delineated well one from the other, made sense of what was going on and lifted Duffy sufficiently out of the muddle to make her voice appreciable.

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Moving to the well recorded Lady Gaga album, the sound staging grew into a big wide arc stretching out beyond the left and right ‘speaker with ‘Bad Romance’ the insistent disco beat thumping strongly through the room, Gaga’s lyrical assault coming straight at me. There’s a lot of out-of-phase info in this recording to spread the image far and wide, yet a clean spread of images clearly wrought between the ‘speakers and the Antals made the most of all this. The persistent club beat within this album made bass sound a little boxy at times and here I suspect the front port was delivering box noise forward, a common problem with front mounted ports. This isn’t much of a problem for Rock but can be less pleasant when staining cellos in classical music, which I was to duly test. Grumbling cellos? That’ll be Wagner, then...

 

With the 'Overture of Reinzi', horns blared fruitily from slightly above me and were forceful, clear yet wonderfully smooth and easy to enjoy. It was a 'turn it up' moment, because Wager’s music can be rousing fun and the Antals conveyed this well. Kettle drums rolled and strings soared around the horns.  The clarity of the Antals, their superb soundstaging and lively dynamics brought Wagner to life. With a selection of Wagner excerpts, however, I didn’t hear boxiness induced by cellos, nor plucked basses, so the effect isn’t particularly obvious. 

 

Nigel Kennedy, playing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from Four Seasons, sounded fresh and clear. His violin had a forceful sheen yet lacking the coarseness of so many metal dome tweeters, it shimmered vividly from the Antals. As modern loudspeakers go the Antals handle violin well, throwing it forward a little; the Antals aren’t electrostatics, but then this is the greater problem £6,000 loudspeakers have, since Martin Logan’s lesser models, with their electrostatic panel, cost less and perform better with violin and strings than most box loudspeakers could dream of, magnetic planar tweeters excepted perhaps.

 

Good reproduction of orchestral scale always goes down well, not just with Wagner but also with the Berliner Philharmoniker behind Leif Ove Andsnes playing Rachmaninov’s 'Piano Concerto No 2'. A well balanced recording from EMI made in 2005, piano had weight and strings pushed out of the performance firmly. Plucked bass was clear in the background and Andsnes' precise playing wonderfully conveyed, little trills on the keys dancing out at me clearly, followed by a sudden, almost violent orchestral interjection. There’s delicacy and clarity in abundance here, but dynamic scale too, and no sign of stress as level goes up, as it often did as I spent hours with the Antals driven by a nicely warmed pair of MB845s.


 

CONCLUSION

Probably the tidiest and easiest loudspeakers I have heard for some time, the Antal EXs are a well designed floorstander that get a lot very right. Coming from the paper tradition, Triangle use light cones to capture speed and dynamics, but they have moved the technology forward to get away from the sharpness that accompanies paper, especially when volume goes up. With the Antals it’s obvious Triangle have worked to get a level of smoothness into their sound sufficient to confound competitors. At the same time they haven’t lost the liveliness of paper; the Antal is both clear and dynamic. But as good as it was in so many ways the one that held me was its wonderful sound staging. It’s been a long time since I heard such a wide and clear  array of rock solid images set against a deep background. Here the Antals put up a sound that is both exciting and special. Spending six grand isn’t easily going to better this, making Triangle’s Antal EX loudspeaker a great value floorstander.

 

 

verdict four globes

Expansive sound stage, pin sharp and deep too. Dynamically lively and with strong bass. A very engaging loudspeaker.

 

TRIANGLE ANTAL £1,459

Triangle, France

+33.323.753.820

www.triangle-fr.com

 

FOR

- fast and well defined

- superb vocal rendition

- broad soundstage

 

AGAINST

- slightly hard sheen

- weak rubber feet


MEASURED PERFORMANCE 

The complicated, horn loaded tweeter of the Antal, complete with phase plug, looks unusual but provides a good result our frequency response analysis shows. Treble was surprisingly smooth and this should allow the Antal to avoid the spiky sound of most dome tweeters. The upper midband is well supported, as crossover between tweeter and the paper cone midrange at 2500Hz is fairly smooth. The midrange exhibits some lift in output that will boost vocal presence, and a sharp drop below 600Hz that brings level back to the median average. Crossover to the bass units occurs at 250Hz, Triangle state, and is smooth our analysis shows. Bass output extends smoothly down to 100Hz, but a pink noise analysis shows there is some peaking (+2dB) around 80Hz to add a little bass zest. 

The trace of port output (red) shows a fairly broad and smooth pass band, suggestive of good damping upon the bass units. With output +6dB above the bass drivers at 80Hz (not shown) the big port makes a substantial contribution to deep bass and it runs low, to 23Hz. The impedance curve reflects this situation, showing a wide dip around 35Hz with low residual peaks either side of port damping. This is a very good result, showing well damped bass and a good load characteristic that will ease amplifier matching and power transfer, especially with valve amplifiers. Low rates of change of Z show little reactance exists in the load too, to improve matching with high feedback transistor amps.

A sensitivity of 89dB means the Antal goes loud with little power and can be used with low power amplifiers, although at least 20 Watts is advisable. Our 200mS decay analysis shows the bass is a little ‘hot’ around the peak at 80Hz, as expected, and there is a little overhang in the midrange around 1kHz, probably linked to a peak in port output, both linked to a cabinet mode.

Bass distortion was very low, measuring just 1% from the drive units at 40Hz (for 90dB SPL at 1m) and 2% from the port – a very low port value. The midrange unit measured a normal 0.3% or so across its operating range.

The Antal measures very well in most areas and has considerable strengths. Although our decay analysis shows a little time smear, this is unlikely to be very audible. Smooth treble and well controlled bass are positives, plus a midrange that will be projective. Amplifier matching is excellent too. 
NK

FREQUENCY RESPONSE
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Green - driver output

Red - port output

 

IMPEDANCE

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