GoldenEar Triton Reference or KEF Reference 3?

To Doug Schneider,

A couple of years back I bought the KEF Reference 1s blindly based upon your review, and I sure have been pleased with the speakers, but I am eager to try a full-range speaker. I am considering the Reference 3 or the GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference. What I am wanting is a clean, fully transparent sound, with a fantastic soundstage. My room is only 200 square feet, and the speakers will be powered with an Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier. Do you have a recommendation?

United States

That’s an outstanding integrated amplifier you have that will work well with either speaker, particularly since it has Anthem Room Correction (ARC) built in, which helps mate any speakers to any room. The thing is, I can’t tell you which speaker to buy exactly, but I can give you some guidance since I have reviewed both.

I am sure that if you love your Reference 1s, you’ll love a pair of Reference 3s just as much. Within a series, but even from series to series, KEF’s speakers sound similar. What you normally get as you go up in price from one model to the next is deeper bass, as well as slightly higher sensitivity and output capability. With your small room, the increased sensitivity and output capability won’t matter much, but the deeper bass that the Reference 3s deliver will definitely flesh out the bottom end. Insofar as soundstaging goes, I suspect the Reference 3s will perform similarly to the Reference 1s, but with the deeper bass they can give, you might find that gives you a sense of larger soundstage spaces and a more enveloping overall sound.

GoldenEar Technology’s Triton Reference is an outstanding loudspeaker that, at about $9000/pair, is something of a bargain as far as full-range speakers go. Right now, I’m actually reviewing the new Triton One.R, which, at about $6000/pair, might be an even greater bargain, so you could also consider that model, particularly since your room isn’t that big.

With its three woofers driven by a high-powered, internal amplifier and augmented by four passive radiators, the Triton Reference will go much deeper in the bass than the Reference 3 can -- or probably even what the larger Reference 5 can. You’ll be getting true full-range sound. Thankfully, with ARC and the Reference’s own control to adjust its bass output, you shouldn’t overload your room if all that bass energy proves to be too much -- you can turn it all down. All GoldenEar speakers are known for producing wide, deep soundstages, so that shouldn’t disappoint should you go with a pair of References. The Reference is very neutral sounding and with fairly low distortion, so that should help provide the clean and transparent sound you desire. But a pair of Triton References won’t sound exactly like KEF Reference 1s or 3s, so it’s impossible for me to say if you will like the move to GoldenEar as much. Only you can decide that -- unlike with your Reference 1s, I suggest you listen before you decide. . . . Doug Schneider