Trident Audio Developments is a venerable name that has always been linked to that of Malcolm Toft, who worked at Trident Studios in London as far back as 1968. The Trident website tells us that Toft mixed "Hey Jude" which was recorded at Trident because it had an 8-track recorder... That's quite some history.
Toft founded Trident Audio Developments in 1971, and soon the A Range split-design console came about, these days still available as a 2-channel rack-mountable version. Another console followed, the B-Range, also still available as a rackmountable 2-channel version, and in 1980 the Series 80 followed, a modular live console. Malcolm Toft also designed the currently available Series 82 24-bus recording console.
So why do I hark back to those iconic products? To point out that Trident doesn't just come out with any old short-lived product, and that in all these years Trident has never produced a studio monitor -- until now. This one is not Malcom Toft's baby, it is the brainchild of another industry veteran, Harvey Gerst of Indian Trail Recording Studios. Was it worth the wait? You bet, as long as your room and budget are up for it.
This active monitor is black and beautiful, with a shiny grand piano-like finish. It is larger than most nearfield monitors we've reviewed, and its most striking feature is something we've never seen elsewhere: a rotating module containing both a midrange speaker and a tweeter, almost separated from the remainder of the box. Take a look at the product picture: There is a vertical gap between the bass speaker and the module; that module can rotate more than 90 degrees, from a slight "toe-in" towards the bass speaker to the opposite direction, literally "looking around the corner".
The literature from Trident calls the bass speaker a subwoofer, which would make the midrange element the woofer. To avoid confusion among those who are used to two-way systems and separate subs, I'll call the big guy the bass speaker, and the other the midrange and tweeter units. Fair enough?
The movable module has a silk dome tweeter above a midrange speaker, and each element has its own pot for -2 dB attenuation or 2 dB boost. Straight up (12 o'clock) is flat, and turning the pot full left turns the drivers off.
The tweeter measures 1-1/8"; there are no speaker dimensions given for the other two, the midrange speaker is roughly 4" across, the bass speaker roughly 7".
In the top corner above the bass speaker is the port hole; the only other two visual items on the front are a green LED, signifying power-on and turning red if distortion should be sensed, and the logo.
The rear and more
Around back there's a volume knob that can completely silence the unit. It shows -10 at the top and has four dots on either side of that -- the pot is not stepped and moves smoothly.
The inputs are so versatile as to leave no user in the lurch: Dual-purpose XLR-1/4", accepting balanced XLR and TRS or unbalanced TS, and an unbalanced RCA phono connector.
Power comes via a regular 3-prong IEC AC cord, the correct voltage needs to be selected for the user's country, and the brochure warns that the heat sink will get hot. Really.
With three speaker units you'd expect three power amps, right? Well, there are indeed three power amps inside, but two of them are powering the bass speaker, while the third serves both the midrange and the tweeter elements.
That unusual swivel unit begs the question of how to place the monitor. If the monitor's somewhat larger than usual dimensions make you want to place it further than the equilateral triangle suggests (equal distance from your ears to the tweeters and from tweeter to tweeter), thinking that you can compensate by angling the swivel unit, think again. I found that these speakers served me best when I ignored their heft and placed them exactly where I would place smaller ones. They only look like midfield speakers, and while they can certainly be placed farther away, you would lose a lot of the fine precision that they have to offer.
Another question comes up relative to that swivel unit: Should the entire box itself be set up parallel or toed in? I experimented and found that the best sound comes from having the bass speakers parallel, not toed in, but the swivel units adjusted so as to face me at the appropriate "equilateral" angles. This could well have to do with the fact that when the speakers in the swivel unit are not on a parallel surface with the woofers, the edges don't "bend" the sound as they tend to in fully rectangular boxes, even when the edges have been rounded. With the swivel unit dispersing the mids and highs at an angle, somehow the ears, mine at least, perceive a cleaner sound than when I align the swivel unit's front with the bass element. I can't swear to any empirical evidence since I'm not equipped to do test measurements, it's just what I heard.
These boxes could sit on a (hefty!) meter bridge, if that's what you have in your studio; they weigh 36.5 lbs. each and their footprint is 17-3/4" (wide) x 13-1/4" (deep). The height is 12-1/4". If you can seat them on separate stands, possibly aided by antivibrational devices, you most likely get even better results if that stand positioning means that you have to put up with fewer surface reflections in front of you.
About that equilateral triangle: It certainly is the correct formula for perceiving the best imaging and other finer points, but it can get tiresome to glue oneself into that one position. The HG3 has fairly generous dispersion of mids and highs, but for the critical listening you still need to be right in the sweet spot. Now with most two-way systems, as you leave that sweet spot, if only to stretch your legs or straighten your back for a while, the first thing you lose is the critical highs. Not so with the HG3 -- simply adjust the angle of the swivel units and you still get most of those highs coming straight at you. The only problem -- as you roll your chair back, your arms aren't long enough to do the adjusting of the swivel. Don't laugh, at times I was wishing for a remote control. Well, okay, laugh, until you're in the same situation... Maybe a rubber-tipped stick would do it?
This is where your money really goes, right? And we're talking serious change here, way more than what most speakers cost that we have written up in these pages for consideration by individual recording musicians. So maybe it's not a case of apples and oranges but apples and, ahem, pumpkins (sorry, it's the season...)?
Well, these pumpkins are mighty tasty. Let's start at the bottom. Once you have the likes of Ray Brown, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller ("Infatuation" off the album Tales, with a huge kick drum under his bass...), and Christian McBride coming through the HG3s, you realize why Trident calls the bass speaker the subwoofer and devotes two power amps to it. I don't know how the two amps share the task, but the fruits of their labor are marvelous.
I've never been fond of a freestanding subwoofer in a critical nearfield monitoring situation, its output just doesn't ever seem to gel with that of the nearfields. But with all that tight and deep and balanced bass coming right from in front of you, there is no lack of cohesiveness within the entire spectrum you're hearing -- the bass simply "belongs". We always talk about bass being non-directional. Can you call bass "focused?" This one sounds focused.
Get your best bass and grand piano samples, sequence a scale from way down there up past middle C, at equal velocity values, and see if you find any bumps, dips, booms -- I didn't. But that's not music, so back to listening to a few greats, like John Clayton on a fabulous AIX disc of Steve Huffsteter's big band, and -- for good measure, a digital recording of Bach's Toccata in D Minor. There is some heavenly rumble going on in that Toccata, but it sounds clean and clear, unless your recording has too much cathedral ambience.
My conclusion: If ported bass cabs go against your belief system, maybe this one will convince you that there is merit on the other side of the aisle?
A bit further up we come to the mud range, but there is no mud here. Even mixes that sound doubtful on lesser speakers are being treated more kindly by the HG3, bringing out exceptional clarity and detail, which makes me think that cross-checking your mixes from the HG3s, should you spring for them, will be even more important than ever. Just because you heard everything just fine on the HG3s doesn't mean others will do the same on their systems, even if they are quite respectable.
Voices project well; I'm tempted to say "they stand out" to my ears by a dB or so. No trace of an audible crossover, on voices or anything else. That could be because the crossover is set way lower than is often the case, at 320 Hz. I was delighted to hear no shrillness on a fabulous recording that often suffers that fate on playback, Berg's "Lulu" (Boulez, DGG) -- even in the densest and most delightfully hysterical passages the voices remained balanced rather than shrieky.
High strings, high winds, triangles and bells were crystal clear, I couldn't discern the 3.5 kHz crossover range on any material. Brass bites when it is supposed to bite -- for a moment, turn the front controls to their minimum settings and experience what a "smiley" curve on pretty-sounding speakers is like by comparison. Quite educational...
Suffice to say that with that kind of fidelity, drums, pianos, guitars and other wide-spectrum instruments sounded just great throughout their entire ranges, especially since I couldn't detect any fault with transients and abrupt changes in dynamics.
No doubt the HG3s can remain distortion-free far beyond what I would consider reasonable listening levels, especially when used in a nearfield setup. I'm quite happy at 85 dB, but those who like it hotter will not be disappointed. What is even more impressive is the fullness and accuracy that the HG3s provide at low listening levels. Messrs. Fletcher and Munson, can you explain that?
All in all
To this listener, having the HG3s for a few weeks was a most enjoyable luxury. It helped to re-calibrate my ears and put certain things in perspective. Some very familiar music revealed new and exciting details while coming from the HG3s, and I'll be sorry to see them go back.