Review: Acapella Triolons Speaker
I currently own the Acapella Campanile Highs and have used them as a reference for about three years and hear Acapella Violins weekly at a friend's home. The remainder of the equipment and speakers were auditioned over a 30 hour, 3 day listening session. All amps mentioned and all equipment listed were listened to on the Triolons, carefully varying one component at a time with the Triolons remaining the one constant during the 3 days. The other speakers listed with the exception of the Campaniles and Violons were auditioned during the same weekend with the same equipment but for much shorter periods. The Coltrane Supremes were breaking in; the Coltranes were fully broken in.
The Triolons are an imposing sight. Two woofer towers, each 14" by 28" by 7' tall, each weighing 650# plus a cross piece holding a plasma tweeter attached to the woofers and a sword bearing two horn loaded speakers, one horn 30.5" in diameter, the other 18.5" in diameter. The Triolons can be driven by a single amps of 18 watts or higher power but must be triwired and have an efficiency of 97 db. Each side weighs 850# total. The crossover points are 200, 700 and 5000 hz.
The sound from 200 hz up to 40,000 hz emanates as a spherical wavefront. The Campanile Highs are similar but crossover to their woofers at 500 hz, use the plasma tweeter plus a single horn and are much lower in efficiency (92 db). The Triolons are typically a 6 ohm speaker but have an impedance at 30 hz of 28 ohms. The same is true of the Campaniles. Neither is a particularly easy load for an amp to drive; however the greater efficiency of the Triolons does open up the possibility of driving them with the right low power amplifier.
In my experience it takes a high power, high current, low output impedance amp to make the Campaniles come alive, with the exception of the Einstein OTL's which are used at the Acapella factory and do an admirable job of driving both speakers. The Triolons are much easier to drive than the Campaniles, but also more revealing of the associated equipment used to drive them. Different combinations of equipment resulted in different tradeoffs. Generally, the more expensive set ups involved fewer tradeoffs.
Another Audiogon poster has developed a nomenclature characterizing various pieces of equipment using the terms "workhorse", "realistic", and "magical", with magical suggesting that the system does some things so well that it results in a suspension of reality - you are no longer listening to reproduced sound in your room, but are somehow transported to the event. I have a bad tendency to think/listen in terms of how well a system does certain things and how well it avoids doing things which irritate me, which is to say that I have a bad tendency to focus on the pieces rather than the whole. In those rare instances when a system is so good that I stop analysing the sound and just listen to the music, then I know that something is right.
I am told that my initial reaction to listening to music on the Triolons was to stop talking and get a silly grin on my face. I don't know about the goofy grin but I do know that I did not say a word until the piece of music ended. If you know me, that says alot. I have now lived with the Campanile Highs for a number of years and they are by a significant margin the best speaker that I have ever owned. They are a difficult speaker to make work properly. They require a large room and are hard to drive. Amps that drive the woofers well do not ever seem to work as well on the midrange horn and plasma tweeters. The happy medium is either the best solid state amp which you can find or an OTL with at least 60 real watts of power (read the Einstein). The two types of amps sound different on the Campaniles and have different strengths and weaknesses.
The prime goal of the Acapella design team on the Campaniles was to get the best match between the woofers and the midrange horn and not the most extended bass response (the Campaniles are reasonably flat down to about 40 hz but drop off rapidly after that).
All of this is a prelude to talking about the sound of the Triolons. What makes the Triolons special? In many systems the soundstage is either localized between the inside edges of the speakers or perhaps extends to the outside edges of the speakers. With the Campaniles and the right equipment you can get a soundstage that extends from wall to wall and has excellent depth. Focus and image specificity are good but never pinpoint. Image size is believable, i.e. no sopranos with mouths the size of a baby grand. If the Campaniles have a problem in this area, it is that without proper set up and the right equipment some frequencies can localize on the horns. This is most problematic during the time when the speakers are breaking in but can happen with the wrong wire or associated equipment and is set up dependent.
The Triolons create a massive soundstage with huge amounts of air and space. The sidewalls of the room from the plane of the speakers and the back wall disappear. Instead of recreating the recorded venue in your room, the room no longer seems part of the equation. Its almost as if the space where the event occurred is appended to the end of your room and the recorded event is occurring there ( note that this is only true with certain recordings made in large halls and properly recorded and not with every piece of music played or with all associated equipment or wire). Imaging and focus are quite good but edges are a bit diffuse as in real life. Images are very three dimensional and fully fleshed out
A friend is driving Watt/Puppy 6's with MacIntosh 501's. This combination has great punch in the midabss. My Campaniles with my equipment never had this degree of punch in the midbass. With the Triolons this is no longer the case. Their midbass is extremely detailed, fast and well controlled with excellent slam.
The Campaniles will play loud and are very dynamic from pp to fff. The same is true of the Triolons but much more so. The Triolons significantly extend the dynamic envelope with excellent microdynamics and crescendo's capable of rattling walls, all with a vanishingly low level of distortion. Detail retrieval, particularly low level ambient detail is phenomenal. I am simply hearing low level detail that I never knew existed on familiar pieces.
The Triolons are very coherent and seamless. They have an effortlessness that is reminiscent of the Goldmund Reference TT which I owned for several years. Images have a solidity and three dimensionality. In comparison to the bass of the Campaniles, the bass of the Triolons is tighter, better controlled, goes lower with more authority and is faster with greater retention of harmonics. More importantly, by pushing the horn technology down to 200 hz and dividing the range between 200 hz and 5000 hz so that it is handled by two horns, there is a significant lowering of intermodulation distortion that effects the entire range. Acapella has been able to do this in such a manner that the two horns act almost as a single unit. You cannot pick out the crossover point and there are no discontiuities as the sound moves between the horns. Bells and other percussive instruments have a steep leading edge with a with a natural reverberrant tail. In this area, the Triolons remind me of the Colibri cartridge. Voices are a joy on this speaker, both male and female. The plasma tweeter remains the best high frequency driver that I have heard and that includes the superb diamond tweeters used in the Martens and Kharma's.
Finally, a word about amps used during auditioning. All the amps mentioned at the end of this review were excellent. For my particular tastes the Lamm ML2 at 18 watts and the Audionote Kegon at 20 watts stood out. I hope to have a pair of the Einstein 60 watt OTL's sometime this spring for comparison. Note that the Edge Reference was also excellent at significantly more power. With the Triolons, it is more the quality of the amplification than the power (although 18 to 20 watts is a minimum). Also note that the Jorma Prime cabling proved an excellent match for the speakers, although the Valhalla speaker cable was excellent. With solid state amps, particularly the Edge Sigs, a tube linestage sounded best.
My listening preferences are about 50% classical, the remainder jazz, acoustic and 60's and 70's rock. One CD that served as a reference for system changes was the soundtrack from American Beauty, particularly the first two tracks. We also played a number of Verve recordings from the 50's, rock from the 60's and 70's and quite a bit of voice.
Ultimately the enthusiasm for a product reviewed is best determined by whether or not the reviewer is significantly enough effected by the product reviewed to buy it. I am currently working on arrangements to buy the Triolons.
Audio Aero Prestige SACD
EMM Labs Drive and C/A
Edge Reference and Signature 1 amps
Lamm ML1.1 mono's and ML2 mono's
AudioNote M10 linestage and Kegon amps
Nordost Valhalla interconnect and speakerwire
Jorma Prime interconnect and speakerwire
HRS bases and couplers
Shunyata Anaconda power cords
Acapella Campanile Highs
Acapella Violon Highs
Marten Coltranes and Coltrane Supremes
Soundlabs Ultimate 1's