Triangle Borea BR08 Loudspeaker Review
Ooh, la la! Jay Garrett is seduced by this saucily-priced French floorstander…
Borea BR08 Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Just over a year ago, Triangle's budget bookshelf Borea BR03 impressed me with its musicality and value – something a sub-US$500 standmount can achieve if the designers know what they're doing. However, when you're asking people to spend upwards of US1,000, then things get more serious, and that is precisely where the Borea BR08 sits. Granted, a three-way, four-driver floorstanding loudspeaker from a respected brand now selling for around US$1,300 certainly sounds the bargain klaxon. However, my Yorkshire upbringing reminds me that “there's no such thing as owt for nowt!”
The BR08 you see here slots between the 2.5-way BR07, the smaller floorstander, next in line after the Applause Award-winning BR03, and the range-topping, 5-driver, 3-way BR09 tower that's said to borrow heavily from Australe Ez. However, we're keeping it to three-figure sums right now, which is remarkable given that the BR08 is said to owe much to the French brand's Antal Ez loudspeaker that's double its ticket price.
Those familiar with Triangle and looking to spend around a grand for a pair of speakers may already be getting lofty ideas regarding performance. Indeed, those from the cult of 'source first' may well intend to push these French towers along with some pretty tasty front ends. Meanwhile, others will be matching the BR08 with similarly-priced products. That's the delicate balancing job this faces – it has to be articulate enough to let decent quality equipment shine, yet forgiving enough to still sound good with budget kit.
The BR08 uses Triangle's 25mm EFS silk dome tweeter to handle everything above 3.5kHz. It sports a neodymium magnet and a mechanical cooling system, and its partial horn-loaded surround is said to reduce reflections. The new 160mm midrange driver uses a cone made from the natural cellulose paper previously seen in Triangle's more expensive Esprit Ez. Twin newly designed 160mm fibreglass-coned bass drivers complete the driver complement, handling everything at 215Hz and below.
The Borea BR08's cabinet benefits from perforated internal MDF stiffening panels that use EVA foam gaskets between the drive unit and cabinet. Triangle has dubbed this DVAS (Driver Vibration Absorption System), as it aims to reduce vibration of the suspension system, as well as mitigate cabinet sidewall flex. Standing 1020mm high, it's a handsome looking tower, but that's a big cabinet to keep in check. Quoted frequency response is 40Hz to 22kHz (+/- 3dB), which by the standards of a decade or so ago is remarkably wide for an inexpensive speaker, and still excellent now.
Power handling is said to be 150W, which makes it robust enough for most domestic applications and, more impressive still is its claimed sensitivity figure of 92dB/1w/1m. This is superb, even by modern standards, and means it will go loud with relatively small amounts of power – it's an ideal choice for valve amp owners. The quoted 8 ohm nominal sensitivity means it's easy to drive for low powered Class A solid-state, too.
Being big, the Borea BR08 rewards the listener with proper placement. Triangle recommends siting them at least 40cm away from the back wall and at least 50cm from the sidewalls. The manufacturer also says they should be at least 2 metres apart, with the listening position no closer than 2 metres. Where some speakers may be less fussy, careful set-up really makes a difference for these finicky French towers to show what they are capable of. These instructions duly noted, I added some judicial toe-in and prepared for some serious music-making…
Running the BR08 at the end of an Anthem STR integrated had me wondering if Triangle had sent me the right speaker. Surely such a soaring sound couldn't have been coming from a budget box, I thought! I was struck by the open midband, allied to a bass that was grippy and articulate. Up top, there was little evidence of the keen treble that Triangle's tweeters have occasionally been criticised for.
You do have to match the speaker carefully, though. When playing Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights through my Musical Fidelity M6si, things were a little well lit, but firing up a Naim Nait X3 was a Goldilocks moment for the BR08. The top-end retained plenty of energy, but the Naim stopped it from ever getting shrill. Indeed there's much to like about the detailed high-frequency performance of this speaker, as it augments the open midband.
Properly positioned and well-matched, the BR08 served up a crisp, energetic and engaging sound that was fun across all musical genres. I enjoyed how rock classics such as Whitesnake's Fool For Your Loving would romp energetically through my listening space. The Triangle towers treated this tune to all the early eighties pomp they could muster. Coverdale's vocals were richly presented in a decently wide soundstage, considering the compressed nature of the recording. A truly grin-inducing performance which also illuminated the fact that these speakers like to be driven at volume, so be sure to have the room for this sort of hooligan behaviour.
Returning to Kate Bush and the title track from her Sensual World album for a moment, and each wonderfully annunciated word was delivered articulately. Her unmistakable voice was projected a little forward of the band, clear to hear in all its glory. The BR08 proved equally adept at handling lower-ranged vocals, from Shirley Manson laying down the law in The Men Who Rule the World to Leonard Coen's First We Take Manhattan. The thread holding these vocalists together was how well the Triangle could deliver them so tangibly, making every performance tactile and alive.
Soundstaging was very good too. Tchaikovsky's Symphony 1 in G Minor, op.13, and Dreams of a Winter Journey (Allegro tranquillo) played by the Berliner Philharmoniker with Herbert von Karajan at the helm, was an atmospheric joy. I was also impressed by the explosive dynamics. The passage starts with a soft, almost enchanting melody on bassoon and flute, which could have you increasing the volume as it's so delicate. However, as the strings start to swirl and a second melody is introduced, you soon find yourself amidst a vast brass fanfare. That escalation takes less than two minutes, and the BR08 kept up with every step change.
Actually, the big Triangle did more than that, as it was more than hanging on. It gave the orchestra width, depth and even some height, which you'd typically expect from the likes of Audiovector's R3 Arreté and other similarly higher-priced designs. The Borea isn't quite up to that level of presentation, nor should this be expected, but what was being lovingly decanted into my auditory canal was very impressive indeed.
Such programme material was also a good test of timing, as the Borea displayed plenty of energy and pace when required. In the slower movements of the symphony, I was aware of the excellent coherence with which this speaker treated the ensemble – and this was the case whether it's an orchestra or jazz trio you're playing. It's as if the BR08 lets the source and amp do all the hard work and then graciously hands you the results.
This speaker is surprisingly refined, given its modest price. Fun as it was pushing the groove-laden Maryland rock of Cypress Grove by Clutch through my review pair, more louche sounding soul songs like Isaac Hayes' Cafe Regio's dripped with slinky coolness. The BR08 retained the fundamental warmth of the recording while deftly picking out the flute and tambourine work. At the same time, it conveyed the rich woodiness of the bass, which was full-bodied yet foot-tappingly taut.
Given its price, Triangle's Borea BR08 works like a champ. The company has cleverly concentrated on the nuts and bolts of speaker-making while eschewing fancy cabinet finishes and complex designs that divert money away from the basics. The result is an excellent all-rounder that's happy to play any genre and – with some care taken in positioning and system matching – punches way higher than it should.
Considering this floorstander's modest price, it really delivers the musical goods. No one would seriously claim that this is one of the world's most analytical designs or the one to turn to if you want every last semblance of detail held up and inspected. Yet it supplies a really decent level of performance at a price that's ideal for people running budget amplifiers or even mid-price designs. This French speaker specialist has achieved excellent sonic results while keeping costs down to a level that mere mortals can handle.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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