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PureAudioProject Trio 15TB speaker Review

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Does it work?

I have a fairly high degree of confidence in my basic system and assembly skills, but I always mentally hold my breath when firing up a rig for the first time. I recall helping a friend at his place with an approximately $50K rig who was afraid to swap in some amps with particular configuration settings. When I had just about finished I said, “I sure hope this doesn’t blow up!” After a hearty laugh I assured him that I conducted my check on connections three times. He still physically left the house until my, “All clear!”

It worked in both instances. In the case of the 15TB it had to work very well, because the speaker it displaced in the listening room was my beloved Legacy Audio Whisper DSW Clarity Edition, a formidable hybrid open baffle design with multiple 15” bass drivers. These two speakers share design elements in that they employ top and bottom larger bass drivers (the Legacy has a “stacked” bass driver configuration with a second baffle immediately behind the front baffle). The 15” drivers of both speakers are open baffle design. The differences are found in the number and type of Midrange and Tweeter elements, however both are mounted mid-speaker.

As would be expected, the 15TB showed itself as a younger cousin to the Whisper. The latter is a physically much taller speaker, and with additional 15” bass drivers it dug deeper with less effort than the 15TB; however, the pleasant fullness of relaxed bass was characteristic of the PureAudioProject as well. The simplicity of the 15TB allowed it to be tighter in bass performance than the Whisper. The impact of bass notes was lighter and the weight of lower frequency music such as the acoustic bass was less, but with more tautness.

I have not been overly enamored of single driver speaker designs, so my experience with the likes of coaxial drivers such as the Tang Band is limited. My primary gripe about wussy bass has been addressed by PureAudioProject. It did not take long for me to warm up to the magic of the coherency of a single coaxial driver. The center image was commendably clean, and the timbre exemplary. I enjoy relaxing to Checkfield’s collection Reflections on A Decade. The first track, “Distant Thunder,” was rich and noticeably more localized than through the four mid-bass drivers of the Whisper. The 15TB struggled to create “presence” in the low end as the Whisper had, but the trade off was the feel of moving from impressionist sound to realism.

Trio15TB with New Alu Frame Open Baffle Speakers by PureAudioProject Up View

Elevation and baffle slope

This is not to say the design is flawless. Having worked with many panel speakers over time, I hear a couple of weaknesses in the design of the 15TB. These weaknesses would be found in any version of the speaker, whether the central driver were the Beyma or Heil. The first weakness involves the lower 15” Eminence bass driver being quite low to the floor. I found that the bass performance could be improved easily by placing my trusty hard rubber hocky pucks under the spikes. This approximate 2” elevation diminished muddiness in the bass.

Another improvement was to rake back the slope of the front baffle. As the speaker is fairly short, and the midrange and treble emanate from a point significantly lower than the listener’s ears, I found the soundstage to be sunken, nearly as hearing sound coming from an orchestra pit. I am sensitive to the height of the soundstage, and I strongly prefer a higher soundstage to a lower one. There are limitations to this; I don’t care at all for the jacked up position of the mid and tweeter elements of the YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3, which struck my ears more like a ceiling speaker than a floor standing speaker. Such a high placement makes the performers sound like they are dangling by harnesses above the stage, like the guitar player hanging out front of the Doof Wagon in the movie Mad Max: Fury Road.

A simple way to address such problems is by altering the designed front baffle slope. I recently took possession of a true super-speaker, the Vapor Audio Joule White 3, which is a two cabinet design over $20k. I found it necessary for various reasons to place the speaker on casters, which added three inches to the total height. Once gain, the elevation of the bass cabinet resulted in a more direct wave launch and the perception of better bass in my ears. In addition, the speaker was made to sound taller, but within reason. In the process the tweeter was raised above my ear level, so I placed some additional thin supports under the rear of the top module, thus angling the tweeter and midrange downward to an appropriate degree to make the soundstage the correct height, that is, just above eye level.

In the case of the 15TB I simply removed the rear spike. The resultant baffle slope along with the elevation on hockey pucks provided a portion of the grandness of a larger speaker. Such simple changes can provide a surprising amount of improvement to your listening experience. The Tang Band driver was even cleaner and the center image better focused by these maneuvers.

 

Coherency with bass extension

The appeal of the PureAudioProject speaker is the use of esoteric drivers with bass support. There is no denying the appeal of the simple cleanness of a single driver design. Though the sound is localized it is particularly tight, and the imaging uniquely focused. This results in a smaller “event” unfolding in front of you, but it is uncluttered.

One of my biggest reservations about high efficiency speakers is their paltry bass performance. Some of these designs cannot even achieve 40Hz extension to the downside, which is completely unacceptable for me when it comes to HiFi sound. I am unwilling to accept for my personal systems a voluntary limitation of such an important and easily audible segment of the audio band. Time and again I trade off coherence for frequency extension, because to limit such is to move toward a table radio as a source.

Speakers like the 15TB show that it doesn’t have to be a win/lose outcome. By supporting the Tang Band driver with proper light footed woofers the sensation of a full range speaker without the heaviness associated with a full cabinet can be achieved. My ear likes this quite a bit, and I consider it as compelling a choice as the ubiquitous panel speakers like Magnepan.

One does have to make a hard choice in this regard, as a panel will have a more immersive sensation. It’s hard to turn away from a “wall of sound” experience, however, the accompanying lack of impact in the bass and splayed treble are significant enough drawbacks that one might find the more compact soundstage of the 15TB to be less offensive. Since it is not possible to hear the 15TB, nor the Beyma or Heil versions outside of at audio shows, it behooves prospective owners to hear a close approximation of the Tang Band driver in an open baffle design, then translate the experience to the form of the 15TB mentally. This should get you a feel for what is to be expected from the speaker. It should allow you to resolve the decision over the type of technology to pursue.

For those with smaller listening spaces the decision should be easy; the 15TB would win. Dipole speakers muck things up in small spaces. I have at my office a vintage pair of Eminent Technology LFT-VI speakers that due to space constraints sit about a foot off the head wall. My space is also irregularly shaped, which doesn’t help things. Then why do I use these speakers in such an abnormal environment? Quite simply, their pleasant characteristics are worth hearing despite the drawbacks. I have no doubt, however, that a speaker like the 15TB would perform better in that space.

 

PUREAUDIOPROJECTION TRIO15TB

I’m shamelessly borrowing the speaker’s name and adapting it to my own ends! My “projection” for this version of the TRIO15 is, pure and simple; coherency and open baffle freaks will love this speaker. Those who have heard high efficiency speakers will enjoy the fluidity of the Tang Band driver. They will appreciate the rock solid center image and laser-like clean lines of instruments that hang together on a smaller stage.

Open baffle enthusiasts will appreciate the boxless sound, free from cabinet resonances. The reverberant use of the back wave adds dimensionality to the speaker not easily obtained with box speakers. In several respects the TRIO15TB is more erudite than lower end magnetic planar speakers, and unlike many panel speakers is most agreeable to lower powered tube amplification. So, the TRIO15TB deserves a listen before buying a panel speaker. The real thrill for me, however, is the Tang Band-Eminence setup with higher power. Dynamics are off the charts with high power and high efficiency, and those seeking the attributes I have described will find pure guidance via this audio projection.

 

Associated Components:
Source: Macintosh Mac Mini; Sonos Digital Music System; Musical Fidelity M1CDT Transport
Playback Software: HQPlayer; Amarra 2
NAS: Buffalo Linkstation 500G
DAC:  Eastern Electric Minimax DSD DAC Supreme with Burson, Dexa NewClassD and Sparkos Labs Discrete Opamp Upgrade; Exogal Comet DAC and upgrade power supply; ifi Micro USBPower and Micro DAC
Preamp: TEO Audio Liquid Preamplifier; VAC Renaissance Signature Preamplifier MkII; Cambridge Audio 840E
Amps: Red Dragon S500; VAC Phi 200; First Watt J2 (two)
Integrated Musical Fidelity M6i
SpeakersKingsound King III; Legacy Audio DSW Clarity Edition; Kings Audio King Tower omnidirectional; Vapor Audio Joule White 3
Subwoofers: Legacy Audio XTREME HD (2)
IC’s: TEO Audio Liquid Cable Splash-Rs and Splash-Rc; TEO Liquid Standard Mk II; Clarity Cable Organic RCA/XLR; Snake River Audio Signature Series Interconnects; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
Speaker Cables: TEO  Cable Standard Speaker; Clarity Cable Organic Speaker; Snake River Audio Signature Series Speaker Cables; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
Digital Cables: Clarity Cable Organic Digital; Snake River Audio Boomslang; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
USB: Verastarr Nemesis; Clarity Organic
Power Cables: Verastarr Grand Illusion; Clarity Cable Vortex; MIT Oracle ZIII; Xindak PF-Gold; Snake River Audio Signature Series; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
Power Conditioning: Wireworld Matrix Power Cord Extender; Tice Audio Solo

 

Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden

12 Responses to PureAudioProject Trio 15TB speaker Review


  1. Dave Hagerty says:

    Nice review! Would be great if you could tell us how it performs with a 2A3 or 300B amp. There is also now a Voxativ driver version–hope you can report on that version too!

    Dave

  2. Dave,
    God’s Peace,

    Thanks for the compliment; I believe I will be using a lower powered amp in the future with the speaker, so keep watching!

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  3. To the Readers
    God’s Peace to all,

    In the aftermath of the TB15 review I was sent a set of upgrade woofers, the NEO15, which I installed on the speakers. PureAudioProject has now moved to the NEO15 as its standard woofers, which I feel is a good move.

    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.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  4. God’s Peace to all,

    Here is an update that those interested in the PureAudioProject speakers may enjoy; I hereby reveal that I am working on an article regarding the Trio 15 Voxativ. Here is a teaser of my experience to date:

    I have been blindsided by the beauty of the Trio 15 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 review (Actually, it will take many hours to distill it to a review.) -but just as one immediately sees and if given opportunity to ride, sees and feels the difference between a sport sedan and a supercar, so also my ears hear the intensity, the focus, the brilliance of design of the Trio 15 Voxativ immediately.

    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 wanted, mostly because of their limited frequency response. I also didn’t like the boxiness associated with hulking cabinets and the coloration contributed to the sound. These caveats are both removed by the Trio 15 Voxativ, and my ear tells me I am hearing a genre of sound as legitimate as full range dynamic, big ESL, line source, and omnidirectional speakers. In a nearer field setup the Trio 15 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, 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.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  5. Scott Lamitie says:

    I have had the TB-15 NEO for about a week now and like them very much.
    I was wondering what the differences were when you installed the Voxativ, I am considering it but was not sure if it was really worth the extra $, it is quite a jump in price.

  6. Paul says:

    Hi Doug. How is it going with the Trio 15 Voxativ review? I am very much looking forward to it!

  7. Gary Anderson says:

    Going to order the V on Monday. I like D’s thinking on these speakers!!

  8. SamIam says:

    Is there an ETA for the Trio 15 Voxativ review? Your May 8 post has my plans on hold.

  9. Gary, Samlam,
    God’s peace to you,

    Good move, Gary! You’ll love ’em!

    Samlam, as concerns the review of the Voxativ, there have been delays due to logistics with the speakers. I’m working as expeditiously as I can. It will be a while yet. However, if it is between the Tang Band and Voxativ, I suggest you move ahead with the Voxativ, as it is in an altogether upper class of performance in terms of finesse.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  10. Gary Anderson says:

    Fired up!! Killer sound. Sanders type sound. Running on 325w Maker Audio NL 14+. EAR 890 coming to A/B. Can you say dynamic and fast with MR to live for!! Got upgrade wire coming to re wire the crossover to speakers. Want to run all SilverSmith Silver but the crossover has microscopic kook up spaces.

    Thanks for the review as it “made” me buy 🙂

  11. Gary,
    God’s Joy to you,

    I’m glad you like the speakers! They are a compelling alternative to the other technical options available today. You will enjoy the upgrade in the wiring. You are going to hear every nuance in the changes you are comparing and it will make the speaker even more compelling for you. Kudos!

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  12. Gary Anderson says:

    Fully broken in with the upgraded wire. I have read many reviews in my 15 years of being a Phile but this review just hit me in the right way where I had to buy and try. Did all the little tweaks D recommended. Upgraded the speaker feet from spikes to …… Running the EAR 890 Amp with great sound.

    Thanks for the review as it changed my whole audio world when it comes to speakers and SQ. I don’t need to buy a HIGH $$$ box. Hallelujah

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