Coincident Speaker Technology Mini Triumph
by John Stafford
Israel Blume of Coincident Speaker Technology has had tremendous success with his Triumph speakers over the past few years. To build on this success, Coincident has developed a low-cost variation on the design called the Mini Triumph Mk II that rings in at just $499 per pair. Yes, there was a Mk I, but after a small change to the crossover and cabinet, Blume felt the speaker was worthy of the Mk II moniker. While the new version is not significantly different in design from the original Mini Triumph, the subtle changes that Coincident has made in developing this speaker have raised the bar for entry-level speakers in general.
The Mini Triumph is based closely on the standard Triumph ($799 per pair) with many similar design parameters. The Minis cabinet is made of 1" MDF and is somewhat smaller in size than the Triumphs, mapping out at 7.5"W x 11.5"H x 8.5"D. The Mini weighs in at 13 pounds. There is a 1" hole in the back for porting, same as with the Triumph. The front of the cabinet is beveled to ensure proper dispersion -- and it also looks good. The drivers in the Mini are a 3/4" silk-dome tweeter and 5" woofer, both from Vifa. The tweeter is actually the same as that used in the Triumph. The overall design makes for an extraordinarily rigid cabinet with little in the way of resonance to color the sound. Blume is particularly excited about the fact that these speakers use the same construction techniques and crossovers as his more expensive speakers.
Typical of the speakers in Coincident line, the Mini Triumphs are easy to drive --Coincident claims a 90dB sensitivity and nominal 8-ohm impedance for them. I primarily used the SimAudio Celeste 4150se solid-state amp as well as the Anthem Amp 1 tube job. The Anthem Pre 1L tube linestage fed signals to the amps. A Rotel 955 AX CD player was used as transport and connected via an XLO Pro digital cable to an Assemblage DAC-2 with upgrade. I used Cardas Quadlink interconnects and speaker cables, and a Blue Circle Powerline Pillow to clean up AC power. Speakers for comparison were PSB Alphas, a budget reference. The Mini Triumphs are quite revealing, so I personally liked them best with tubes. I found that the hardness on lower-end solid state comes through, so dont look to the Minis to soften any problems you may be encountering upstream in your system.
Designing speakers that are easy to drive is a real art form these days. With the ability to use crossovers that create unrealistic performance specs from small drivers and small enclosures, its refreshing to get a small speaker that not only has a good bottom end, but is also easy to drive. I recall talking to a manufacturer who was designing a home-theater subwoofer that was easily mounted against the wall and had a frequency response that was fairly flat down to 20Hz. The problem was that a 2000W digital switching amp had to be designed to drive it because the crossover had to be so steeply sloped that a more standard amp couldnt do the job. While an extreme example, this philosophy is becoming typical of the speaker industry these days -- if you want more bottom end, tweak the crossover to the point that you need big power to drive the speaker.
An example of the rigidity of the Mini Triumphs enclosure came via one of my tweaks for speakers. I take four medium-sized freezer bags, fill them with sand and put them on top of the speakers, two on each one. Generally speaking, this is a good inexpensive tweak that helps to add to the mystique of the "crazed audiophile" that most of my house guests have come to associate with me. Oh, and it does help the performance of the speakers in most cases. With the Minis, however, the effects of this tweak were marginal at best. As an aside, another way to do this is to buy a couple of bags of lead shot, but that turns this from a 50-cent tweak to something more like 50 dollars.
First, the Mini delivers sonic characteristics quite similar to the regular Triumph, but with a couple of differences. The midrange and bottom end are actually faster on the Mini. You get a little better pace and dynamics on the bottom end, although you lose an octave or so of extension. They go to about 50Hz, maybe a little lower, but the bass is rock-solid, and that includes some pretty slammin kick drums on rock and pop. The speed of the midrange adds quite an immediacy that makes it somewhat reminiscent of an electrostatic speaker. On the downside, you do get a little more edge to the top end and mids than I found with the standard Triumphs.
As you may guess with small monitors, imaging was excellent, and the speakers had little trouble disappearing. I use "Corcovado" from Oscar Petersons We Get Requests [Verve 810047-2] to check a number of sonic characteristics of equipment that I bring in, and imaging is one of them. The piano is dead center and near the back of the soundstage, the double bass is just in from the right speaker at the front of the soundstage and the snare drum should actually come from behind and to the left of the left speaker. Thats right -- it should sound like its placed outside the speaker. The Minis recreated this image very well.
The extension of the bottom end is obviously limited with the size constraints of the speakers. However, I was impressed with the robust sound of the bass lines. You lose some of the double bass on jazz recordings, but what is there is controlled and well defined. On rock and pop, there is plenty of slam to go around. In fact, I found these speakers were able to take a greater pounding than the $1500 Totem Model One Signatures, which are no slouch in this respect.
I had mentioned that the midrange has a little more edge than that of the standard Triumph. This characteristic comes through more on female vocals than anything else. Dont get me wrong -- this speaker does the mids extremely well in its price range, and the effect makes females sound more "breathy" than they might otherwise. This is a characteristic some may find kinda sexy -- I know Dave Duvall likes a breathy Holly Cole.
I had a chance to compare the Mini Triumphs to the PSB Alphas, which some may consider the benchmark for entry-level speakers. The two are, however, quite different. The Minis are fast, clean, and uncolored. While the Alphas have a more rounded and pleasing sound, they are quite colored, particularly on the bottom end. Youll get far less definition out of the Alphas than you will with the Minis. The Alphas do a lot for $200, but lets not forget that the enclosure is almost tuned to vibrate its way down another octave that the speaker is not really capable of.
I also managed to hear the Mini Triumphs with Coincidents new subwoofers, the Mini Subs, for a short period. These passive subwoofers are designed to work with both the Triumphs and Mini Triumphs. They actually have the same cabinet dimensions as the Triumph stands that I wrote about in the fall of 1997, with an 8" woofer, rear tuned port, and the same metal binding posts used on many of the other Coincident speakers. The cabinet dimensions are 9"W x 23"H x 11.5"D, and the Subs weigh in at 40 pounds a piece. The woofer uses a long 2" voice coil, a 13-pound assembly with a paper-treated cone and a thick butyl rubber surround. This gives the woofer excursion capabilities that exceed one inch. These subs can move a lot of air.
So often you need big amps to drive the bottom end with definition and power, but this is not the case with the Mini Subs, which deliver outstanding midbass impact, even when driven with tubes. The Mini Subs will take you down to about 30Hz. While this is not plumbing the depths of the pipe organ, it will take you down to the low notes on a double bass and give you a good sense of the ambience of a decent-sized hall. Once you get below 30Hz, bass is actually as much room ambience as it is musical tones that you hear. The Subs themselves are a reasonable match, particularly for the Mini Triumph, ringing in at $899 per pair. The sonic match is quite good and imparts no feeling that there is a hole or hump as the speakers and subs cross over.
If you already own some Minis or are thinking of getting some better bottom end down the road, the Mini Subs are a good consideration. If you are looking at getting some combination of minimonitors and subwoofer, I would go for the Triumph Signatures ($999 per pair) and the Mini Subs. The basic premise here is that if you can afford $1300 for a speaker system like the Mini Triumphs and Mini Subs, spending a bit more money will get you a system that is more refined, slightly better sonically matched, and visually matched as well.
As for the Mini Triumphs, I would heartily recommend these speakers to the budget-conscious audiophile who is looking to move up in electronics at some point. These speakers will grow as you add better gear upstream without breaking the bank. Their clarity and speed will keep your toes tapping, and you can drive them with inexpensive tubes and still get a decent bottom end. At their price, the Coincident Speaker Technology Mini Triumphs are easy to like and hard to beat.
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