Publisher’s note: Also read Doug’s February, 2016 PureAudioProject Trio15TB Review.
Some time ago, after I had a chance to do some critical listening to the PureAudioProject Trio15 Voxativ, the company asked me to comment on the sound. I wrote:
“I have been blindsided by the beauty of the Trio15 Voxativ. I didn’t expect this experience, and it has caused me to reconsider what top end sound is about. With the Voxativ there is a leap upward in terms of the refinement, the characteristics associated with the most beguiling systems. I could take an hour to discuss this – and I will in my –-but just as one immediately sees and feels the difference between a sport sedan and a supercar, so also my ears hear the intensity, the focus, and the brilliance of design of the Trio15 Voxativ.
Frankly, this speaker is causing me to reconsider my conclusions regarding premium sound. I had summarily dismissed single driver speakers over the years as inherently incapable of achieving the experience I want, mostly because of their limited frequency response. I also didn’t like the hulking cabinets and the coloration those cabinets contribute to the sound. These perceived drawbacks are both removed by the Trio15 Voxativ, and my ear tells me I am hearing a caliber of sound as legitimate as full range multi-driver dynamic speakers, big ESLs, line source designs, and omnidirectional speakers. In a nearer field setup, the Trio15 Voxativ is second to none in refinement, something I would not have predicted. I have to toss away my preconception that single driver speakers are more convoluted and less articulate than multi-driver speakers.
I’m still wrapping my head around this development; it’s forcing a paradigm shift in my audio worldview. I always knew that as I am a System Builder I would need to explore single driver speakers. I didn’t expect this one to perform at such a level that, from the get-go, it has to be included among the very best I have used. But, that is precisely what has happened.”
Another go round
It is significant that I am following up on the Trio15 speaker line. Increasingly through the years my time is tight for reviews and if a product is merely good I’m not highly motivated to consider a follow up review. Only the best stuff gets another go round. The Trio 15TB (Tang Band) was quite pleasant, so here is another look at the speaker, this time with an upgraded Leonidas crossover and Voxativ AC-1.6 5” full range drivers.
One change to the speaker occurred while I was still working with the Tang Band model, the replacement of the Eminence Alpha 15a woofers with the NEO15 woofers. The changeover to the NEO15 woofers was highly efficacious. The already respectable performance in the low frequencies was improved significantly by the insertion of the NEO15. The speaker has become more prodigious, and both the tonal quality as well as cleanness of the bass has improved. The increased output of the NEO15 is a perfect solution to address any lack of bass impact inherent in an open baffle design. I appreciate that PureAudioProject continues to improve the product and allows for owners in the field to readily access those improvements. It means those who have purchased will not be left behind as a remnant of progress.
I will not recount the particulars of the design discussed in the Trio 15TB review, but will focus on the unique aspects of the Trio15 Voxativ. In addition to the Voxativ drivers the most significant change is the complementary “Leonidas” crossover to be assembled by the owner. It is high-grade DIY audio; you do the work and save the money. The middle baffle that holds the primary driver also is exchanged because the bolt pattern of the full range drivers is different.
The Voxativ is a significantly heavier driver attributable to its massive magnet structure. As with the Tang Band the owner must be cautious to protect the delicate paper driver cones. One brush against it could spell disaster, so keep active pets and small children away! The easiest way to mount the driver is to place the baffle on the floor, place the Voxativ driver into the cutout, raise up the baffle to line up with the driver’s mounting holes, and drop in the bolts. Once the round bolts are secured the driver is safe. The aesthetics are similar to the Tang Band as well. I give a slight nod to the Voxativ driver for being a touch easier on the eyes as it blends better with the natural bamboo baffles I am using.
The “internal” wiring has changed between the Tang Band and the Voxativ versions. This is not an insignificant development, as internal cables push closer to or pull further from a speaker’s optimum performance. I was not able to compare entirely the sets of speaker wiring as the Tang Band version has unusual slip on connectors which prevented easy use with the Voxativ driver. However, the real excitement in regard to the wiring is found in aftermarket cables, and an example from Verastarr is mentioned below.
What you get with the move up the line from the Tang Band and standard crossover to the Voxativ driver and Leonidas crossover is a sea change in quality across the board and more ability to tailor the system to your taste. The Voxativ is an ultra-refined driver made by a world-class company. It represents the introductory level of the Voxativ family, but that introductory level is more refined than many driver manufacturers’ top models! Not just great performance at a bare bones price point, but attainment of a larger percentage of the ephemeral beauty of top performance speakers – that is the goal of the Trio15 Voxativ version. If you have ever driven an auto manufacturer’s mid-level sedan and then driven one of their finest vehicles, instantly you feel the “upgrade” in the driving experience. So it is with the Trio15 Voxativ, as it elevates holistically the PureAudioProject experience.
The major advantage of the Trio15 series is offering potential for that upgrade without the company or owner having to adopt an entirely new speaker. The chief benefits of the PureAudioProject design remain intact, while the shortcomings of the more economical version are addressed. It is among the safest, lowest risk upgrades to a speaker in the industry. I strongly recommend those who own the Tang Band version consider upgrading when possible. If you have a second rig it would not be out of line to use the Tang Band model in the secondary rig and the Voxativ in the primary.
A big advantage the Neo15 Voxativ is the Leonidas crossover. It was designed for convenience as much as for performance. While one would normally expect soldered contact points, the Leonidas uses connections that are affixed by screws. Heresy, right? Only if you consider the capacity to tune the speaker of little importance. As you might guess, I do not consider such configurability to be unimportant. There are dozens of variables in speaker manufacturing, any one of which can pull down the performance. It is as simple as this: if you can’t get past the lack of soldered contacts, then get them soldered – as long as you realize it would be at the expense of configurability, and perhaps might void your warranty. I am not a master of the soldering iron, yet have done speaker driver changes. If you can handle that, the crossover would not be much more difficult, as long as you are not sloppy. The board for the crossover is so generously laid out that one does not have to be a pro. It also would be inexpensive to have it done by a skilled repairman.
I assure you the speaker is not ruined by lack of soldered connections. The truth of the matter is that companies across the industry use a combination of soldered and unsoldered connections. For example inside some high-end speakers reside slip on pressure clip connections on speaker driver terminals. Another example is the Eastern Electric Minimax DAC series with its socketed Opamps that allow for Opamp rolling. I discuss a couple versions of that DAC extensively in several articles highlighting the Opamp rolling experience. One listen to the benefit of rolling opamps would silence the critic who suggests that it is poor build quality to opt for non-soldered connections.
Therefore, you may want to stop and consider that the Leonidas crossover in the Trio15 Voxativ allows the average audiophile to become a speaker tuner, not merely via cables but via crossover components! This is an outsized benefit that vastly outweighs the disadvantage of the connections. It is the kind of forward thinking that puts power into the hands of the owner, for which I commend PureAudioProject. Configurability is something that appeals to me on nearly a visceral level. As a System Builder I daily encounter the advantages of choices in setting up rigs. I assiduously avoid tone controls – one exception was the commendable controls on the SST Thoebe II Preamplifier/DAC – but look for alternatives provided by the combination of components (I consider cables collectively to be a component). A configurable crossover is a bonus for the owner, and it can mean the difference between satisfaction and elation.
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