Through careful study and analysis of what, in its opinion, was missing in existing speaker design, French company Triangle prided itself on creating a brand with its own unique sonic identity.

And top of Triangle's budget Esprit series, the Antal Ex, (£1,125 per pair) bears this out, being the fifth version to come in for our scrutiny since the turn of the century. But the price has been steadily creeping up, with a 13 per cent increase in little more than a year. Triangle's brochure justifies this decision with what it describes as a number of engineering improvements.

That said, this is still plenty of speaker for the money, with four drive units in a solidly built enclosure with three internal bracing panels, sitting on a proper damped steel plinth. However, it looks more purposeful than pretty, with a slight curved front panel, painted dark charcoal with rather prosaic vinyl woodprint elsewhere.

There are issues too with the plinth: although it looks good and provides excellent stability, the pretentious 20mm spikes are without lock-nuts and tend to wobble if provoked, while the centre-front spike is blunted by a captive disc, which is nice for wooden floors but not much good for piercing carpets.

A full three-way design, the twin bass drivers, loaded by a large flared front port, have 115mm fibreglass diaphragms reinforced by large dust covers. Much more in the Triangle tradition, the midrange has a smaller flared paper cone with double-S fabric surround, loaded by a small rear port. The tweeter is a new version of Triangle's horn-loaded design and because the horn mouth is larger than a conventional dome tweeter, it's claimed to offer superior crossover integration.

Sound quality

Like its predecessors, the Antal Ex is clearly intended for siting well clear of walls, but unlike those earlier Antal variations, the sound quality as a whole is rather more of a mixed bag. The bass end does provide a decent degree of propulsion, but there's also some 'woody' coloration and the sound could have been lighter on its feet - one sentence in the listening notes commented that it actually sounded somewhat better in mono (with just one speaker playing) than in stereo.

However, the real difficulty with this speaker lies up in the presence band, which is a little too restrained to make lyrics and speech easily comprehended, and adds a degree of boxy and nasal coloration to the voice band. Furthermore, because the presence is so restrained, the top end is a little too obvious and exposed, even though it's undoubtedly crisp, clean
and clear.

Although the Antal Ex raises some issues regarding its tonal balance and smoothness, its performance still retains the fine coherence, dynamic brio and excitement that have long characterised Triangle's speakers.

The main worry about the Antal Ex is that, despite introducing a number of changes over its Esw predecessor, it is by no means clear that the net result is actually an improvement. Indeed, the measurements suggest otherwise.