Help me tame the brightness of my Triangles

I bought a pair of Triangle Zerius speakers a month ago, and in some ways they're the most amazing speakers I've listened to. Incredibly open, detailed, fast, and dynamic (as advertised).

But I also find them to be too bright and too hard for my ears, at least with a good amount of my music. I've taken care of the obvious things, like break-in (approaching 300 hours now) and matching with a warm system (Rega planet 2000 cd player, Unison Research Unico integrated amp with Mullard cv4003 tubes). I put little thought into cables .. i'm currently using straight wire rhapsody 2 interconnects and 20 feet of audioquest gr8 speaker cables.

The hardness comes in the upper midrange/lower trebble, typically at high or moderately high volumes, and typically on vocals and guitars. Especially if the recording is at all aggressive. The brightness is just an overall sense of the tonal balance. It seems lighter weight than what I hear in live music. I expect the music to have more weight and roundness (this is why I have the Planet and the Unico to begin with).

I've played with position and toeing in. My room is large (about 16 x26 feet with 10 to 11 foot ceilings). It's slightly bright and splashy, although i believe most of what I'm hearing is the direct sound of the speakers (the tonal balance is the same when I get real close).

I'm wondering about new interconnects .. perhaps cardas. the Quadlinks seem like they'd make the most sense. Any thoughts on this? How big a difference they might make? Would the Cardas Cross cables be unreasonably pricey in this system?

I'm also wondering about tubes. The Unico with the mullards has a wonderful, liquidy midrange, and great transients and dynamics. Are there any tubes that might darken the sound and soften the lower trebble without killing detail, dynamics, transients, and soundstaging?

I suspect most people would find my system sounds more balanced than I do ... my ears seem to be pretty sensitive to brightness and hardness. But it still seems strange that these speakers that everyone seems to like can sound bright even with these other componens I've chosen.

Thank you for any thoughts you might have.
Try different spikes under your speakers. Stock spikes are sometimes made of standard grade steel and impart the unpleasant sound in the upper midrange that you describe. I would recommend brass, stainless, or heat treated steel (each will sound a bit different). You might also consider some type of bearing support like Aurios.
You don't mention how the bass or lower regions sound. And I don't recall hearing anybody consider the Triangles to be a 'warm' speaker.

Based on what you say above, I'd focus first and foremost on speaker placement and room acoustics. Room acoustics, as they say, can affect the sound you hear upwards of 80%.

This probably is not your problem but Totem makes some 'beakers' that you sit on top of speaker cabinets. I listened to a pair of Totems floorstanders without the beakers on top. The highs were somewhat shrill and beaming and causing a near ear bleed. The saleman then put the beakers on and the beaming stopped instantly.

Apparently, Totem had discovered that the highs like to gather at the top of the cabinet and then shoot straight into your ear and the beakers prevent that gathering from occurring and their subsequent beaming. (or something like that).

I believe they sell the beakers seperately if you think this at all could be contributing to the problem.

Altering the room acoustics may solve most of your problem. But in the end, you may have to switch to a warmer speaker with a soft or silk domed tweeter.

I don't mean to be a smart-ass, but I would try contacting Sam Tellig from Stereophile to see what he recommends. He is supposedly very familiar with all of the gear that you mention and may have personal insight as to why you are running into the problems that you are. All of the products that you have mentioned are very high on Sam's list of recommended components. Sean
Straight Wire imparts detail and imaging but can often be bright and the combination with these speakers fatal. Try some Wire World, LAT International or something less bright.
I am not familiar with the wire you mention but I would at least try something else. I have been raving about Acoustic Zen wire as being very full and detailed sounding without being bright and maybe it will work for you too.

I have recently learned (relearned?) the dramatic effect wire can have on a stereo, and maybe this is biasing my information, but it is worth a shot.

BTW I used to own the Planet 2000 and it is very smooth and not bright in the slightest from my experience as well.
I have Cometes and have found the speed and detail addicting, but I do believe they require tremendous attention to tweakage to sound their best, and not take your head off. I found that putting them on truly massive stands helped. Not a factor with the Zerius, but maybe the spike thing is worth looking at. I also use a relatively mellow integrated (Audio Refinement), and discovered that it's a great combination if everything else is in order. I use Wireworld Eclipse ICs with Harmonic Tech Pro-11 speaker cable and this, to my ears, totally kicks ass. But you will need a smooth, high quality source to tie it all together. The best sound in my system is from vinyl or SACD. I'm not familiar with the Planet 2000 but my guess is it's no slouch. I would say try some different wire before you give up on the Triangles (but hey, do what ya gotta do!)

Have fun,


BTW: Wireworld is the most neutral cable I've tried in my system...I know this means virtually nothing but I want to emphasize that IMHO it is neither zippy, nor a dark cable you'd use to "mellow out" your system.

If your CV4003's are the mid 80's version which has recently popped up on the market (mine were marked "KQDD"), then this may be your problem. Pick up a pair of 1960's GE/RCA/Sylvania 12au7's (all are a safe bet).

Both the 12au7/CV4003 and 12at7/CV4024 versions of these tubes sounded like nails on glass in my system, which is not on the bright side to start with. I have received emails of likewise results from other owner's/user's of these tubes.
You might try audiopoints. There are many threads on this product which you can search. I bought sistrum racks with the brass audiopoints integrated in the rack. They had a very positive effect on the soundstage. I also agree that brightness could result from acoustics. Frankly before spending a lot on new cable and other core equip. I would work on acoustics and racks to get the environment of the listening area straight and then see what you need.
I'll piggyback off Sean and Philojet. Like Tellig, Srajan Ebean is very familiar with Triangle speakers(he uses Triangle's Ventis in one of his reference systems). His sight is and he may prove to be very helpful.

I'd also recommend the new Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref. II, which is detailed but resists harshness and will not cheat you on the upper mids/lower treble -- very musical. If they don't work I would try Zcables, which offer similarly priced cables and I've heard are just a tad warmer than the AZs in a head-to-head comparison.

Best of luck.
Your speaker cable might be a factor in the brightness.

My limited experience with Audioquest speaker cable is that they are great, but do have a slight hardness in the range you described, which can be fatiguing over a long listening session, depending on your taste and system.

JPS ultraconductor or IXOS (some of the lower-cost IXOS) might be worth checking out. Music Metre (?) is also rumored to be a little smoother in the treble than Audioquest.

If it turns out the speaker cable is not the issue, another
possibility is component isolation. Sometimes hardness in the sound is cleared up by changing the isolation method for source/amp/etc. IMO Audioquest sorbothane pucks are a good starting point simply because they are fairly neutral sounding.
I agree with Dekay. I got a pair of Mullard 4003's from a VERY BIG name expert tube "Guru". Turned out to be CRAP! (lots of noise!) Your 4003's are most likely '80's garbage that should not be confused with the earlier and premium vintage Mullards. I have done some tube rolling, and have found that the real Telefunkens are absolutely wonderful! (I do have a pair of Amperex on the I will compare them to the Telly's shortly...should be fun!) Andy at Vintage Tube Services had some Telly 12AU7's a few months ago, but you will pay $200- for a premium matched pair, if still availible. Well worth every penny for the sound quality, and his expertise! Also, I have a used pair of RCA's for short money, also from Andy. These blew away the, Mullard 4003's. Contact me, if you are interested (Paulraphael ONLY, please!) I like holding on to my variants of NOS 12AU7's, but this may be a nice (and cheap) fix for your problem. And like chicken couldn't hurt!
It could be interesting to know what your previous speakers and set up were before the Triangles. Was the new speakers the only change you made?
Do you have carpet / sideall acoustic treatment?

Very interesting comments on the tube performance variation

A friend of mine has the same Triangles. They are in a smaller room than yours, but still of good size. Cables are APO. His CDP is an ?Electrocompanient?. His amp is an old model Levinson, as is the pre. Like you, Paul, I am sensitive to glare and brightness. I detected none with my friend's Triangles. I thought they were some of the best dynamic driver speakers I have heard. He does say you need to give them lots of time to break in.

Now here is my sermon: Your room, is it a walled in room, or open to other areas of the house? Is there glass along one side, and wall on the other? The reason I am asking, is my friend with the Triangles has gone gaga over my Apogee Duetta Signatures. They are doing Christmas duty as I write. My room is seventeen/twenty one/ten and it's windows are symmetrical. That is the kind of room you need for these incomparable speakers. They can be had for a pittance on Audiogon and Ebay. There are Ferrari drivers, people that have the money to buy anything, that own and love these treasures.
Thanks for all the advice, everyone.
Curious about the impressions of the 80's mullards. My only frame of reference is the USA Jan/Philips tubes that the amp came with. These were grainier and more forward in the midrange, but had similar tonal balance. I don't find one to be brighter than the other.

Has anyone used Cardas cables? Lots of people have recommended them. People are pushing me toward the Cross, which I may be able to pick up used for $200 ... seems like a lot for this system. I can get used quadlinks for more like $130, but I've been warned that they can sound slow and sloppy in the bass. Any experience with these cables?

Have people really heard significant changes with power cords on CD player? And by significant, I men ones that you notice just sitting back and listening to the music, not just squinting during an A/B test. I've never experimented, so I don't know.

Thanks again,
Did you try any other speakers in this set-up? Maybe Triangle is not a good match for Unico/Rega combination?
I have listened to a few of the upper end (I forget)Cardas cables and they lack the open sound I crave and yes they are big and sloppy in the bass.

I have just recently gotten some PCs and I recommend them to everyone. The kind of difference they make are hard to discribe but most people say your system takes on a more musical quality with a lower noise floor which lets nuances thru.

I have had good results with Vibrapods which helped my stereo to be more focused and lower resonences.
My previous speakers were interim only .. cheap Onkyo bookshelf speakers. They sounded fine with everything, but managed this by having very little frequency extension in either direction.

I have heard the Unico/Triangle combination with other sources .. it sounds great. Triangle uses the Unico to demo speakers at their trade shows, so it ought to be ok. It would seem odd for a warm source like the Planet to be a problem in this combination.
Paulraphael, what you are describing about the Triangles is common. The upper mids/lower treble is a bit harsh.

This is related to three things. First, Triangle keeps as much crossover out of the mid - tweeter as they can. Traditionally, a single capacitor(in series with the tweeter) was the only crossover component used in this region by Triangle. They want no intrusion of a capacitor or coil, which in their opinion(and I agree) these components can only slow down the music, reign in dynamics, and change the sound. Secondly, the mids and tweeters overlap more in their speakers than what is usually encountered. The midrange operates as high as it can go, which results in beaming and uneven response which can show up in raggedness and distortion. The tweeter also plumbs down lower than it probably should, again leading to raggedness and distortion. Thirdly, emphasizing with my second point, I find the response of the tweeter to be a bit unsettled in general. Depending on ancillary equipment, volume, musical tastes, and room, this tweeter can easily turn nasty. I find this from a great many metal domes, but factor in the lack of crossover to filter out the lower frequencies the tweeter sees, and you end up with exactly what you describe.

Do not try to do too much other than setting the speakers on a good pair of spikes. Triangle speakers eschew the use of most of the damping and vibration control solution sacred cows of audio. That's the way they are designed. Like a violin or other musical instrument, Triangle speakers(like most speakers before the 1970s), are supposed to "sing along with the music". These resonances and vibrations in no way add up to shrillness or the problems you are seeing.

I would say the first thing you need to do is move away from the StraightWire Rhapsody 2 interconnects. StraightWire has always produced some of the most forward cables in the business, and in many cases, they are downright bright. Most audiophiles no longer talk about or know much about StraightWire these days, but think back to about 1990 and the lightbulb will come on for many. Whether you move to Cardas, or most other copper interconnects(you may also want to think about Alpha Core Goertz or Analysis Plus), I think you will see a fair amount of your problem solved there.

Second, you also need to find a different speaker cable. AudioQuest cables do not nearly spotlight brightness as mush as StraightWire, but they also do nothing to tame it. Again, move to something along the lines of the interconnect you go with.

Most of your problem should be solved by cable. Although I am not the world's biggest advocate of cable solving problems, in your case, I think the solution is appropriate and will work. The combination of cables which highlight detail and speed, coupled with what I laid about the Triangle crossover/tweeter is a recipe for pain.

Apart from my suggestions, it seems wise to also investigate the tube suggestion(can't hurt), but I think cable will be an area which you will need to address in your system regardless of what happens otherwise.
Based on Joe's very informative post, i can see how the problem starts to snowball as volume is pushed harder. While i think that some of this will soften up over time due to speaker break-in, i too would follow the basic path that Trelja recommends.

Personally, i would try different interconnects before i would speaker cables. I think that the AQ stuff is more neutral than the StraightWire stuff and i think Joe does too. As such, start with the cables that will make the most difference right away and work your way down the line from there.

If this were my rig and i was experiencing that specific problem, i would probably aim for some Tara Lab's interconnects. Very warm and smooth and ( depending on model ) slightly reduce upper mids. This is great for getting rid of glare and harshness. You might want to try contacting the Cable Company and see what they have to say. They can give you a pretty educated recommendation based on what they have in stock to suite your situation and save you some money by buying used at the same time. Monster M-1000's might also be a reasonable choice and are available both used and brand new at discounted prices.

Depending on how well the interconnects work towards solving / reducing the problem will tell you how far and if you need to change your speaker cables. Just changing to interconnects that are better suited to your system might be enough for you.

Out of curiosity, how are the conductors of the AQ speaker cable configured ? Changing how the wires are configured in terms of geometry might help things out if they are arrayed as i think they are. Sean

Not sure what you mean by how they're configured. Are talking about the basic design of the cable?
Paul, I would disagree with recommendations on Cardas interconnects, especially the budget ones like the Cross. Yes, they tend to be warmer than most, but they introduce a veiled sound in the mid range and offer a muddy and ill-defined bass. You may be better off with an Acoustic Zen cable which, I believe, offer much better value and performance (also warmish sounding w/o brightness, but cleaner sounding than intro Cardas cables).

Also, the Black Diamond MK3 (NOT the MK4) cones tend to take some "edge" off the top end. You might want to borrow a set from a local dealer to see if it helps.

As for power cords, I find that it makes a reasonably significant impact on the Rega 2000. I have tried Synergistic, NBS and PS Audio power cords with great success. The result is a quieter and more dynamic sound with improved detail and imaging. I do not think this will fix your brightness problem though.

Good luck!
I have battled the midrange glare and lower treble harshness with great success. I had a pair of JMLAB cobalts which are similarly voiced to your Triangles from what I have heard. My speaker cables were at the time Straightwire Quartets and interconnects were Straightwire Rhapsody 2. I found that my system had too much glare and upper freq's were way too unforgiving. I bought a pair of Cardas Cross speaker cables and Magnan VI intereconnects. Both of these cables are known for there warmish but detailed sound. The cable switch helped make sense of the upper midrange and lower treble...therefore making the overall sound MUCH MORE musical and pleasing to the ears. There was more body to bass and midrange. In my experience the Cardas Cross cables DID NOT veil the midrange or create a muddy bass region. I believe getting a cable upgrade will definitely move you into the right direction, in making your system sound more musical. I also found that my speakers sounded warmer when there is NO toe-in. Don't omit the Quadlinks,I would definitely give those a try.
Aniwolf, how did you decide to try that combination of Cardas and Magnan? Did you try all Cardas at one point and find the others better?

Has anyone tried Virtual Dynamics cables?
I've read some high praise and spoke to Rick at VD .. he's sending me a power cord and some ICs to try out with no obligation.
Paul, I think that the concensus at least seems to be that you should look into different cable.

While I don't have much experience with Cardas over the past few years, I would suggest that you just try something else. Something with a warmer reputation than StraightWire and AudioQuest. Be it Cardas, Tara, Alpha Core Goertz, Analysis Plus, Tara, or what have you.

At least, if you are able to solve your brightness problems, your biggest problem/complaint will be solved. Afterwards, you can go down the road we all must walk. Which cables are most fitting to us and our systems. At some point you will find bliss, but at least you won't be chased from your room by your speakers any longer.

I talked to more experienced audiophiles and read alot. Demoing is a must! Combination of different cables is SOMETIMES better. Cables are one of the easier things to demo...take that advantage. A great inexpensive powercord to try on your amp would be the Harmonic Tech Pro ac 11. This is a forgiving cable yet detailed. I don't know anything about the VD cables...but when you get them,make sure you let them settle in before doing any critical listening.
I certainly am not a cable expert, but I do have some experience with the GR-8.
I originally purchased the GR-8 because it was fairly inexpensive for the 30 ft. run I needed to my rear surround speakers. Just for the heck of it, I tried the GR-8 out on some other speakers(Magnepan 1.6 QR, Magnepan SMG-A, Aerius I, Apogee Centaurus Minor, and a friend's homebuilt Vifa based speakers).The same high frequency harshness was there on every speaker, except the Vifa system. The temporary surrounds that I am using also utilize an off the shelf Vifa soft dome tweeter(Acoustic Energy Aegis One).
I agree with many of the posters above, that the cabling is a good place to start, but may not be the whole answer. I hope this helps a bit.
Trelja gave great advice. I still don't know what your room is like. Hard floor or carpet. Ceiling height and composition. Windows,drapes, bookshelves. To some extent all of these features can highlight the problems your describing even in speakers designed to replicate those features. You can guarantee that Triangle didn't design the speakers to give the results you are describing. Contact the manufacturer and ask them what they think. Virtually every piece of equipment I have has been accompanied by dialog with the manufacturer.