Triangle Borea BR03 Bookshelf Speaker Review
Can Triangle bring its signature sound to the budget standmount speaker sector? The new Borea BR03 is “le coup de foudre” for Jay Garrett…
At this year's Munich High End Show, I came across Triangle's Borea range – which inherits technology from its high end Esprit Ez-series stablemates. The £399 Borea BR03 is arguably the staple of the range, a two-way standmounter that looks so good on paper that it risks biting the ankles of the slightly pricier Comète Ez. The company says that its main focus was bringing the accomplishments of the Esprit Ez range to an affordable market sector, declaring that “with Borea we feel that we have reached a new step in terms of quality and performance.” So does this new baby box deliver on that promise?
Triangle was keen to point out that people shouldn't pay too much attention to tech specs, but that doesn’t mean they’re shabby. The manufacturer quotes a frequency response of 46Hz to 22kHz (+/- 3dB), 100W power handling and an 8 ohm nominal impedance. Still, the company says that a hi-fi loudspeaker is all about balance, musicality, speed and tonal precision. I was also told that the Esprit EZ range takes Triangle's trademark open sound further than the Borea, also that they, “reproduce the sound identity of transparency, air and detail more finely.” We shall see…
The Borea range is said to be made for people looking for their first ‘real hi-fi’ loudspeakers, perhaps to improve lifestyle systems or modest separates systems. Despite this, the company hasn’t scrimped on the build. The cabinet features a stronger construction than the Comète Ez, with 20mm MDF panels and Triangle's unique cabinet reinforcement system dubbed DVAS. The Driver Vibration Absorption System uses perforated internal MDF panels and EVA foam gaskets to stiffen the transducer/cabinet combination and serves to both reduce and absorb unwanted vibrations.
One concession on price is that the cabinets are finished in a vinyl wrap rather than fancy real-wood veneers. However, they still look good in the black version I have before me. Well, they call it black, but it's more of a wash-effect that shows the (fake) grain through the ‘stain'. Excusable at this price, so we’ll let them off.
At the front, set into the chic grey front baffle, you will find the partially horn-loaded 25mm silk dome EFS (Efficient Flow System) tweeter. What at first appears to be a natty guard for the delicate driver is in fact a phase plug designed to make high frequencies less directional, thus improving off-axis performance. Taking care of the mid and bass registers is the natural cellulose paper cone developed for the Esprit Ez. Central to the 165mm driver is a bullet that is said to not only prevent air leaks but also use 100% of the cone's surface to cover a more extensive frequency range.
Being small bookshelf speakers designed to work with a wide range of amplifiers, you would expect this design to be reflex-loaded, and so it proves. There are two front-firing tuned tube ports, which potentially make positioning easier than firing from the rear. The BR03 measures 206x314x380 mm and weighs quite an impressive 7kg, more than most small speakers at this price. Grilles are magnetically affixed as per modern best practice, at the rear of the unit are two good quality speaker cable posts.
The BR03 was auditioned with amplification ranging from Musical Fidelity to YBA, taking in Naim's Unity Atom system too. As well as the Atom, digital music came courtesy of using Roon connected to a NAS drive, with a Chord Qutest and Mola-Mola Tambaqui taking turns to perform the conversion to analogue. I also span some records using a VPI Prime turntable loaded with a Cartridge Man Music Maker III cartridge.
The Triangle Borea BR03 may look the part, but how does it sound? Pretty impressive, actually. Firstly, this is a hi-fi speaker and not a studio monitor – so if you’re looking for a perfectly flat response with zero coloration, then look elsewhere. However, if you are in the market for a great, entertaining standmounter with plenty of mid-band dynamism, then strap yourself in and prepare for the ride.
Kicking off my listening session with one of my favourite tracks, Dusty Springfield's rendition of Son of a Preacher Man, the first thing that struck me is how naturally and expressively Dusty's vocals came through. The backing band was just behind the lead vocal, but remained uncluttered and distinct. However, the cymbal bell played in the outro really leapt forward out at me, especially with the Mola-Mola/YBA pairing. This was better handled when the speakers are partnered with the Naim. Treble wasn't quite enough to put my teeth on edge, but did stick its head above the parapet from time to time.
With Marillion's Heart of Lothian /Wide Boy/Curtain Call, the BR03 presented a full and robust soundstage with a potent midband full of definition. However, there were points where the bass registers got slightly confused by the low range synths and bass guitar. The top-end and upper mids did their best to clarify the situation, doing a sterling job as long as you were not fixating on pulling things apart. The Curtain Call section of the track allowed the speakers more room to breathe, and things got much better. The Triangle’s relatively slender cabinets served up a good deal of bass considering the speaker’s size.
The typically dark, lean vocals and acoustic guitar of Chelsea Wolfe on her latest single, The Mother Road, is mostly backed by the tribal-like pounding of drums with occasional cymbal washes. This is later joined by what sounds like a bowed guitar wet with effects. Again, this speaker rendered the vocals and acoustic guitar extremely sincerely, thanks to the talented mids and treble. This moody piece became practically cinematic at the 2:50 marker, with vast swathes of spatial sound filling the room.
The groove-laden instrumental that is Mary Always by Khruangbin is punchy and in the pocket, retaining the self-confident swagger that you associate with the trio's funk influences of the nineteen sixties and seventies. Here, timing could have been tighter – but that never detracted from the overall feel of the tune through the wee Triangle. Its tweeter's presentation sat just behind the midband, letting the high mids do much of the heavy lifting here. This made for enjoyable and relaxed listening.
Dua Lupa's Swan Song, taken from the ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ soundtrack, has bass aplenty – and the BR03 proved more than capable of handling this, as well as keeping vocals and orchestral synths in their places, allowing the full effect of the track to hit its target. This little speaker seems most happy with contemporary recordings, a fact further confirmed when Bebe Rexha's Not 20 Anymore kicked in. Deep sub-bass and a sparse, metronomic drum track gave foundation to Bebe's vocals. The song is as straightforward as it gets, but the placement of the parts that make up the arrangement was faithfully presented, and with real zeal.
Concluding the session with some jazz in the shape of Esbjoern Svensson Trio's The Rube Thing, and this live recording starts with Esbjoern's solo piano playing that came over well weighted with the Triangle. Then at just under two minutes in, the drums of Magnus Öström and Dan Berglund's upright bass join in. The reverb following the cracks of the snare reminded me that they were playing in an auditorium, and the BR03 relayed that sense of space well. There's not as much separation as you'd get from more expensive speakers, but still the BR03 doesn’t embarrass itself. The bass solo had a woody, grainy realism but lacked some warmth and richness, yet again it was far from unenjoyable. In this piece it's the piano and drums that win, and this speaker was happy to convey this.
The Triangle Borea BR03 is a highly impressive little loudspeaker for the money. I was never expecting the last word in detail, definition and soundstaging – yet still it managed to impress with its musicality. For those taking their first tentative steps into the oft-confusing world of hi-fi, it’s a pretty special sound. And if you’re only used to Bluetooth speakers, then this baby box will blow your mind.
It is strongest with contemporary music, likely because this is what it has been voiced for – with its punchy bass, crisp midband and sparkly treble. Yet still it is lots of fun with classic rock and jazz – so I wasn’t exactly pining to plug more talented and spendy speakers back in. Overall then, here’s a serious small speaker in the sub-£500 market. It looks stylish, sounds great and has a certain charm that you never tire of. That’s why it gets a gong – making it one of the least expensive recipients of the coveted StereoNET Applause Award around.
For more information, check out Triangle.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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