RMAF 2018: ListenUp, GoldenEar, Hegel, Audioquest and Shut Up and Take My Money


I don’t have a lot of experience with GoldenEar speakers, although plenty of audiophiles, not to mention most my old dealers, have given me an earful—they offer outstanding value, they’re incredibly dynamic, and whatever I’m representing better be able to compete with these products from audio legends Sandy Gross, Don Givogue and Bob Johnston.

Keeping It Simple

When I walked into the darkened ListenUp/Hegel/GoldenEar room at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was taken aback by the simplicity of the set-up which consisted of just the GoldenEar Triton Reference loudspeakers ($8500/pair), a Hegel Mohican CD player ($5000) and a Hegel H590 integrated amplifier/DAC ($11,000), all wired up with Audioquest cabling. This was a black-on-black system, designed to disappear into the room and just provide the listener with nothing other than glorious music for a reasonable price.

That idea of unparalleled value hit home again and again as I heard these big, dark and seemingly domineering monoliths produce a sound that I found simple, elegant and very easy to like. The Triton References made a very compelling argument for themselves—“for the price of a pair of premium two-way monitors that your grandma can carry around, you can have all this!” And when I say this, that includes lows that go down to 20Hz…flat.

As Seen on TV?

Yes, these are big speakers with plenty of drivers, but as they say in the late-night TV commercials, “That’s not all!” The Triton References include active sub-bass drivers, a new ribbon tweeter that goes up to 35 kHz, a fully balanced crossover and a 56-bit DSP control unit. The 6” by 10” active low-frequency drivers help to keep these towers slim, with a relatively small footprint. GoldenEar has even updated the Triton line with a hand-rubbed gloss piano black lacquer finish, so up close it looks like a much more expensive speaker than it is. It’s amazing how much speaker you get for just $8500, which is exactly what everyone has been telling me the last few years. I get it now.

I listened to most of Beck’s Morning Phase through this system and it was just as warm and expansive as it needed to be, which is a lot. As I said, the sound is simple and elegant with an almost limitless soundstage that instantly knocked down the room boundaries. I know firsthand that the high-end speaker market is notoriously competitive, and there are thousands of great speakers out there that are worth your hard-earned cash, but GoldenEar has obviously made it difficult for everyone else at this price point.