Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique, of France, has been making loudspeakers for over 30 years. Although the company doesn’t enjoy the footprint in North America that would give them the broad name recognition of a Paradigm or a Bowers & Wilkins, they are one of the larger speaker manufacturers in Europe. Boasting their own anechoic chamber -- something possessed by only a very few speaker makers -- and designing and manufacturing their own drive-units, Triangle has impressive technical capabilities that must be the envy of many companies.
Today, Triangle has six loudspeaker lines with models ranging in price from hundreds of dollars (their Color models) to many thousands, for the flagship Magellans. Clearly, Triangle wants to serve a diverse market by covering as many different price points as they can manage. Wanting to experience the best of what Triangle offers, but also wanting a speaker whose size and cost were still approachable by many serious audiophiles, I chose the smallest Magellan floorstander: the Cello, which retails for $12,000 USD per pair.
The Cello is a four-driver, three-way floorstander that measures 44.4"H x 16.5"W (measured at the plinth) x 14.5"D and weighs about 75 pounds. It is specified by Triangle to play from 35Hz to 20kHz, +/-3dB. With a usefully high sensitivity of 91dB, the Cello is capable of turning modest wattage into impressive acoustical output, which can be seen in its maximum sound-pressure-level spec of 112dB. One way Triangle accomplishes this above-average sensitivity is by use of a horn-loaded, titanium-diaphragm tweeter. Wikipedia says this about horns: “The horn serves to improve the coupling efficiency between the speaker driver and the air. The horn can be thought of as an ‘acoustic transformer’ that provides impedance matching between the relatively dense diaphragm material and the less-dense air. The result is greater acoustic output power from a given driver.”
Although the horn certainly does increase sensitivity, theoretically it should also lower distortion, because the driver can operate with lower excursion for a given SPL. Triangle has also optimized the horn’s mouth, in order to control the driver’s acoustical directivity. This should mean that the Cello will interact less with a room’s sidewalls, directing more energy at the listener and less off axis. A phase plug helps smooth the tweeter’s frequency response, and a dimpled outer ring surrounds the horn assembly to reduce cabinet-related diffraction effects. The tweeter is crossed over to the midrange driver below it at 2800Hz, with a 24dB/octave slope.
That 6.3” midrange has a diaphragm made of latex-impregnated textile fibers, as well as some interesting design features. Its S-shaped surround reportedly permits more low-distortion travel than conventional half-roll surrounds. Triangle states that this driver operates linearly from 70Hz all the way to 4kHz, meaning that within its passband of 400-2800Hz its action should be almost purely pistonic -- the goal of any high-fidelity speaker driver.
Taking over below 400Hz are the Cello’s twin 6.3” woofers, which are vented through a large-diameter port that sits below them on the front baffle. Each cone, comprising a core of cellulose pulp sandwiched between layers of fiberglass, is fitted within a basket of die-cast aluminum.
The Cello’s array of high-tech drivers, all designed and made in-house, is clearly intended to produce low-distortion sound at high SPLs. For example, features such as the rear covers on the midrange and woofers act as heatsinks to keep the motor systems cool, which hopefully also means greater long-term reliability.
The finish options for the attractive, nine-layer HDF cabinets are High-Gloss Black, High-Gloss White, Bubinga, and Mahogany. The finish work of the highly lacquered wood veneer of the review samples was some of the best I’ve seen, on a par with that of the higher-end Sonus Fabers, which are considered industry benchmarks. The rounded sidewalls give just a bit of character to the enclosure and make it look less boxy. The spiking system used to anchor each Cello to the floor is also a Triangle design; the Spec system, as Triangle calls it, features a single spike at the front of the cabinet and, behind this spike, a wide wooden plinth with four adjustable spikes, for a total of five spikes per speaker. Spec was designed to drain vibrations out of the cabinet and into the floor, to ensure this resonant energy would not be transferred to the drive-units.
Adding a touch of luxury to the Cello’s appearance is a polished plaque inset between the lower woofer and the port, and engraved with the speaker’s serial number and the signature of Marc Le Bihan, Triangle’s chairman and managing director. The Cello’s impedance is specified as a nominal 8 ohms with a minimum of 3 ohms; the speaker can be biwired or biamped via its two pairs of custom-made copper binding posts set into an all-metal connector block. Jumpers are included for single wiring.
Positioning the Cellos in my room was no more or less difficult than with most speakers. They and my listening chair ended up forming an 11’ equilateral triangle, with the rear panel of each speaker 6.5’ from the front wall. I toed them in so that their tweeter axes crossed about a foot behind my head when I sat down. It was fairly easy to level each Cello by primarily using its front spike. The speakers were laterally pretty stable, but had a tendency to tilt forward until I got each front spike set just right; I can imagine that this will be more of a problem the thicker your carpet is. I used the Triangle Magellan Cellos almost exclusively with the Devialet 120 integrated amplifier, also made in France. It proved a great match.
When I first fired up the Cellos, I noticed right away their vivid, upfront sound. The Cellos punched sound right out into the room, making me feel directly connected to the music. The more tracks I listened to, the more this initial observation was confirmed. For example, when I listened to Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through the Static (16-bit/44.1kHz ALAC, Universal Music) all the way through, I couldn’t help but enjoy how close I felt I was sitting to the band. The sound was delivered with lots of presence -- it was as if the band were right there in front of me. It was quite easy to appreciate the comfortable tonal qualities of the vocals, and how they were kept separated from the surrounding instruments. Although the upfront nature of the Triangles’ overall sound made it quite easy for me to hear deep into instruments of all sorts, the sound never became fatiguing or too intense.
The Cello’s forward perspective and ability to deliver visceral listening experiences weren’t limited to the upper frequencies. In fact, punchy bass and midbass were two of the speaker’s strongest qualities. Patricia Barber’s Café Blue, specifically her cover of Miles Davis’s “Nardis,” has for many years been a great test of any speaker’s bass-to-midbass region. Mark Walker’s drum solo, which really takes off about halfway through the track, should sound hard-hitting and lightning-quick, and the speaker must keep distinct the sounds of the various percussive elements. Over the years, I’ve heard many speakers sound congested and muddled in this passage -- or, just as bad, not deliver the physical intensity these drums should possess. Not so the Triangles. The drums had substantial dynamic range, and impacts were delivered with impressive volume: the overall image presentation grew and grew the louder I played the system. The Cellos also managed to keep good separation between notes.
Part of the reason the Triangles sounded so alive and present must be credited to that horn-loaded tweeter, which could really sail. It could play loud and clean, and produce tons of detail all the way into the very upper reaches. It was also well integrated with the outputs of the other drivers, calling attention to itself only with overly hot recordings, when it could sound a touch splashy. It certainly didn’t sound like a forgiving soft dome. If you like the sound of Dynaudios, for example, you might not like the Magellan Cello. On the other hand, on more than one occasion I was impressed by just how big the Triangles could sound. The title track of Sade’s Soldier of Love (16/44.1 AIFF, Epic) filled my room with punchy, vibrant sound, the Triangles delivering the song with ease.
As time went on and I logged more and more hours with the Cellos, I came to appreciate how versatile they were. Their upfront sound meant that they could be intimate and revealing with small-combo jazz -- and then could switch gears and rock with the best, due to their ability to turn a modest amount of power into an abundance of sound. In that sense, the Cellos were more horn-like than most speakers -- but remember, only the tweeter is horn loaded, and Triangle has done a good job of making sure the midrange and woofers can keep pace with it. If you like a good helping of jump factor in your audio system, the Cello won’t disappoint you.
Imaging and soundstaging could also be counted among the Cellos’ strengths. The lateral spread was quite wide, extending past the outer edges of the speakers’ baffles when the recording called for it. Images within the soundstage were precisely located and always appropriately sized -- unless I played the speakers too loud. The upfront highs and lows made for only average depth of soundstage, but that was something that would be noticed only in comparison with speakers that have an overly recessed sound that can lead one to hear more depth. I guess you could argue that, since the Triangles have exactly the opposite presentation, that true neutrality is probably somewhere in between. I could agree with that. There is no question that the Triangle Cellos are for listeners who want more direct involvement with their music than those who want to be distant observers.
I discovered a side benefit of the Cello’s punchy sound when I watched films using my two-channel system. On more than one occasion I was impressed by the Triangle’s ability to make movie soundtracks sound visceral and exciting. Many audiophile speakers just fall apart when faced with the task of reproducing explosions and dialogue with equal accuracy. The Cellos could pull this off with seeming ease. Again, I attribute a good portion of this to the Cello’s high sensitivity.
To understand where the Triangles fit in the marketplace, I refer you to my April 2012 review of the Sonus Faber Amati Futura ($36,000/pair). Although that fine speaker costs three times the Cello’s price, they’re about the same size (the Futura measures 46"H x 16"W x 25"D). Considering that both speakers offer some pretty sumptuous woodwork, I think each could find homes in some very high-end domestic environments. Neither is designed to be hidden away and ignored, but rather celebrated and enjoyed. The Cello couldn’t quite hit the upper-20Hz bass depth that the Futura manages, but it had no problem getting down to 30-35Hz.
That difference won’t stand out with most music, but it doesn’t mean they sound the same. I described the Sonus Faber’s bass this way: “If you prefer a more rounded, full bass sound, but one that can also provide physical impact, then the Amati Futuras will suit you just fine.” The Triangle might not have played quite as deep as the Futura, but it was just as satisfying, due to the quickness and agility of its lower register -- and I could see some listeners actually preferring the Triangle’s faster bass. To some audiophiles, the Sonus Faber might sound a touch laid-back in the treble, where the Triangle was definitely livelier. Both speakers could deliver excellent bass weight and midrange fullness, so they have some definite similarities. In comparison with the Amati Futura, the Magellan Cello could easily be considered a bargain.
The Triangle Magellan Cello is a well-built, beautifully finished speaker that made music come alive in my room. It can play loud with very little power, and can provide a visceral listening experience for those who prefer a close perspective on the music. The Cello can easily do double duty in your home theater -- it has wide dynamic range, and can instantly provide that elusive jump factor that some audiophile speakers just can’t. Also, the Cello is full of proprietary drivers and bespoke parts that will give the owner considerable pride of ownership. If it sounds as if I liked the Cellos, then I’ve done my job. I do like ’em, and recommend that you find a way to hear them.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- Speakers -- Magico Q7
- Integrated amplifier -- Devialet 120
- Amplifiers -- Ayre Acoustics MX-R monoblocks
- Preamplifier -- Ayre Acoustics KX-R Twenty
- Sources -- Apple MacBook running OS X Snow Leopard, iTunes, Amarra 2.6; Resonessence Labs Invicta Mirus DAC
- Cables -- Nordost Valhalla interconnects, speaker cables, power cords; Siltech Explorer speaker cables, interconnects, power cords
Triangle Magellan Cello Loudspeakers
Price: $12,000 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
Triangle Manufacture Electroacoustique
Avenue Flandres Dunkerque
Z.I. Les Etomelles
02 200 Villeneuve Saint-Germain
Phone: +33 (0)3 23 75 38 20
Fax: +33 (0)3 23 75 38 21