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Here’s another solution just begging to beat soundbars at their TV audio game, while also looking, to our eyes, not only neater than any soundbar but also a darned sight classier. The Triangle Elara LN01A loudspeakers are active, so they need no external amplifier, and they have Bluetooth onboard, so you can stream directly to them. And that might be all you need for a phone-based music system. But take a look round the back — not only analogue and digital inputs suitable for plugging in TV audio, but what’s this? A set of phono inputs for a turntable, along with a substantial grounding post. We say hooray!
More to the point, these inputs come on the back of a very nice little pair of loudspeakers. They’re a French design, the smallest model from Triangle’s Elara loudspeaker range, but fitted with a 50W-per-channel amplifier and relevant electronics inside the right speaker. So far, the LN01A is the only active model in the range.
These mid-sized bookshelfers use a 25mm silk-dome tweeter with neodymium magnet, and a 135mm bass driver with a treated paper cone... or not quite a cone, it presents a concave spherical section to the world. Triangle says that avoiding a dust cap in this way increases the driver’s rigidity and efficiency. The bass reflex port is at the rear, and the enclosures are available in black or white. The grilles are removable, and we preferred their looks as well as sound that way.
That phono input can be switched to a line-level input using a slider on the back (see right). There’s also a permanent line-level input (via 3.5mm minijack), plus optical and coaxial digital audio inputs, and Bluetooth, with support for the aptX codec. That means the Bluetooth is kind to those Android phones which support aptX, though less so to iPhones which will have to fall back on the lower quality SBC codec. With the amplifier and electronics in the right speaker, the passive left speaker is connected via a supplied three-metre cable.
Not happy with the claimed 50Hz bass extension? Then add an active subwoofer to the system using the dedicated output. There didn’t appear to be any filtering on this output, so you’d do best with a subwoofer that has its own low-pass filter.
You will typically control everything using the supplied remote control, but there is a volume control on the rear of the right speaker. It doubles as an input selector (you press it to cycle through the inputs).
A bright light with sufficient intensity to push the photons through the grille cloth is located to the bottom left of the main driver, indicating that power is on. It’s green in most circumstances, but blue when Bluetooth is in use.
It was a genuine pleasure using these speakers. They were trouble-free in operation and sounded delightfully
smooth, including with digital audio inputs. We spent quite a bit of time just enjoying some vinyl, taking the opportunity to pull out some discs which apparently never made it to CD or other digital formats, such as ‘Cha’ by Jo Jo Zep, a wonderfully irreverant recording featuring a great mix of voices and instruments with big band, jazz and pop influences. It was nicely rendered by these speakers, with the kind of dynamic delivery needed to fully convey the delight of the performers.
Prince’s album ‘1999’ (a new pressing) was delivered with a tight bass control and timing fitting for both his musicianship and craftsmanship. Surface noise wasn’t unduly emphasised, though of course inevitable with vinyl. The inner tracks of Laura Marling’s ‘Short Movie’ were still marred with defects (as they were when brand new last year) but tolerable.
Which led us to going digital and Marling’s latest, the brand-new ‘Semper Femina’, played from Spotify, using a Denon streamer connected via optical to the speakers. Marling, it turns out, is getting better all the time. Her characteristic vocal, close-miked and pushed near to overload, sounded as immediate and with as much presence as on our regular much more expensive reference system. As usual, her voice verges on sibilance in some songs, but these speakers held it just the right side of being objectionable.
Switching over to Bluetooth, while remaining in Spotify, we continued listening with the music now being delivered by a Samsung Galaxy S7 (with aptX) via Bluetooth. There was a slight degradation, to be sure, essentially a harshening and a slight loss of imaging focus, but the delivery was still musical and pleasing.
Switching to high-quality FLAC, decoded to PCM and delivered again by the Denon streamer, we played some UB40 to check out the bass. The extension and control of the bass line on Madam Medusa completed the music. It actually seemed fully realised, and felt like it extended beyond the 50Hz bottom-end indicated in the specifications (which some measurements later indicated that it did.)
The optical digital audio input happily accepted 24-bit/192kHz stereo PCM when tested, so you can freely run your high definition audio into here.
The remote offers useful treble and bass controls on the remote, though a clear indication of the centre position would have been useful. The volume control changed the level by a little over a decibel on each press.
We thoroughly enjoyed these fine little speakers, then, with their excellent set of inputs for versatility, and truly hi-fi performance available from them. But there’s more — Triangle has just released a package in which you get the LN01A speakers along with a turntable ready to plug straight into its phono inputs. The turntable is badged to Triangle but we gather it’s a Pro-Ject underneath, and the package will have an Australian RRP of $1499, making the turntable quite the bargain add-on. The result is a vinyl system ready to play, with Bluetooth available for streaming, and with inputs enough to handle your TV audio — a powerful combination for today’s preferences.