Triple P Designs Pyramid Studio Monitors
by Stephen Murphy
Ah yes, Auratones: those walnut-covered cubes of average audio, ubiquitous in control rooms of yore — speakers of such limited fidelity that engineers frequently referred to them as “horrortones.”
That nickname was not unaffectionate, however, for Auratones provided valuable use in checking what an audio mix will sound like on television speakers and speakers found in other typical consumer items of the day. Yet that day has passed.
While Auratone’s presence persists in many control rooms, they are seemingly destined to join the U-Matic in the machine room in the sky. One reason for this is the company’s slide into relative obscurity, with one major distributor describing the company as being “in vague existence.”
But this might be related to another reason they are falling from favor: they have become principally irrelevant. The audio quality in current televisions is of significantly increased fidelity compared to that which the Auratones approximate. They no longer represent the “average Joe” of speakers.
Enter the diminutive Pyramid Loudspeakers ($299/pair) from Triple P Designs.
The Pyramid speakers are squarely aimed at the void that Auratone once occupied. They were designed with the intention of providing a relevant mix reference akin to the speakers found in current stereo television sets, and also to function as a decent small format reference speaker in general.
Triple P Designs, Inc. founder Paul Perret says he studied and measured the audio properties of a number popular TVs and other consumer products. Ultimately, Perret aimed to emulate the sound of a Sony 27” stereo TV because it represented the average of his research. By basing the design loosely on the cumulative average of his listening tests, Perret approximates the sound of the most commonly found small speaker-equipped consumer products, ensuring the greatest relevancy for his Pyramid speakers.
The final product, officially introduced at the 2001 AES convention in New York City, is about as far from the “square” (in all senses) look of the Auratone speaker cubes as one can get.
The sleek Pyramid speakers feature pup tent-shaped (not quite an actual pyramid) plexiglass enclosures. The smoke-colored translucent enclosure measures 7.12 inches high, 7.87 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep, with a single exposed 2.92 inch by 5.4 inch oval speaker mounted parallel to the base of the front panel.
Both the oval speaker and the use of plastic for the enclosure are nods to the most common manufacturing standards in Televisions and consumer audio in general.
The enclosures weigh 2.8 pounds each and use two-way posts (binding and banana) for speaker wire connection. Speaker impedance is 8 Ohms, power handling range is 5-30 Watts and stated frequency response is 80 Hz to 18 kHz (no +/- dB tolerance given).
I was looking forward to getting a pair of the Pyramid speakers into my personal post-production-oriented studio from the day I saw them at AES. Although I was never “fond” of the Auratones for their fidelity, I relied on them heavily at Avalon, the Washington D.C.- based recording studio I built and ran during the 1990s.
It was there that I referenced the ubiquitous Auratones nearly every day while working on post-production audio for The Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, National Geographic, PBS, BET and other broadcast/video productions.
It is essential that each mix destined for broadcast be referenced on a variety of speaker sizes in both stereo and summed mono (I also regularly employed the single reference speaker in my trusty Studer A807 1/4-inch reel to reel). Potentially great changes can occur in the leap from pro studio monitors to small speakers with limited bandwidth.
These changes are particularly evident in the mid range, where small speakers are most efficient. This, of course, also happens to be the range in which the human voice is centered. Also, low frequencies tend to mask higher frequencies — since small speakers are unable to reproduce the bass present in the larger studio monitors used for mixing, the mix will sound different.
Post-production engineer and facility manager Paul Perret designed the Pyramid speakers out of frustration with the increasing irrelevancy of Auratones in the real world balanced with his facilities absolute need for small format reference speakers — a frustration I have felt for some time now as well.
I have filled the void with a hodgepodge of small speakers, from powered computer workstation models to the popular Radio Shack Minimus 7 speakers. But none felt quite universal enough to establish a confident reference point, so I welcome the idea and existence of the Pyramid speakers, designed by an post-production audio engineer who recognizes the professional requirements of such speakers (unlike the Radio Shack and computer speakers).
I have been using the Pyramids for several months, mixing and testing a variety of audio-for-video and audio-only projects on the compact monitors. They are being powered by a Crown D-50 power amp and are one of three speaker sets from which I can audition audio program material (the other two being Westlake LCW8.1s and Yamaha NS10s).
I have also compared the Pyramids directly with both Auratone cubes and a sampling of television speakers. But the best test of the relevancy of the Pyramids was burning a couple of heavily Pyramid-referenced mixes (i.e. I actively changed the mix depending on what I heard in the Pyramids, as opposed to simply taking note and incorporating certain measures) to a DVD for easy audition on a number of systems.
While the fidelity of the Pyramids, when taken on its own, is not impressive (in other words, these are not pint-sized replacements for hi-quality speakers), their universality, function and utility are worth the price of admission.
Kudos to Paul Perret at Triple P Designs for recognizing the need for updated, professional small format reference monitors. Their intended purpose and resulting design implementation hit right on the mark.
Stephen Murphy, former editor of TV Technology’s sister publication, Pro Audio Review, is a freelance audio and video producer with over 15 years experience in integrated media production.
Single 2.92” by 5.4” oval speaker; 2.8 pounds each; two-way posts (binding and banana); 8 Ohms impedance; 5-30W power handling range; stated frequency response is 80 Hz to 18 kHz.
Triple P Designs