Triad One Streaming Amplifier
|Pros||Useful, easy to install product that fills a void for a whole home system, great sounding audio, easy to hide away.|
|Cons||No visual feedback for the volume level, no volume controls or mute on the unit itself.|
|Summary||If you're using Control4 for part of your system but haven't integrated the smaller AV systems into it, the Triad One might be what you need to complete the job. It is easy to setup for a Control4 installer, and once in place does the job invisibly which is what you're after.|
|Model||Triad One Streaming Amplifier|
|Inputs||Optical, Coaxial, Stereo RCA, Ethernet|
|Outputs||Left/Right Speakers, Subwoofer, 2x IR|
|Amplifier Section||2x 100 Watts|
|Size||3" W x 8.5" H x 10.25" D|
|Review Date||September 6, 2017|
In early 2017, Control4 bought Triad Speakers. With them in the fold, it gave Control4 a holistic approach to sending audio around your house. This end-to-end solution also gives Control4 and Triad the ability to come up with new solutions to certain problems. What if you have a TV in your bedroom or office where you also want to listen to music? Up until now, you had to go out and get a full fledged receiver to power even a basic two channel system, and then integrate that with Control4. Now you have a large, ugly box in the room with lots of features you don’t need, to be able to listen to the TV. Instead of going this route, Control4 and Triad are introducing the Triad One Streaming Amplifier as a solution for a single zone of audio.
A Receiver Replacement
Coming in white or black, the Triad One is a box that is much smaller than a receiver but packs inside it everything you need for a single zone of audio. It has a stereo amplifier with 100 watts per channel, a subwoofer output, optical, coaxial and analog inputs, integrated Ethernet and WiFi, and a pair of IR emitters. These IR emitters can eliminate the need for an EA-1 controller in certain rooms.
To test out the Triad One, I assembled a smaller system to run in a different part of the house than my usual system. Triad provided me with a soundbar and subwoofer that match perfectly to my bedroom TV, along with a Control4 EA-1. I wired these up to a Samsung MU8000, as it has a Control4 IP driver, along with the Samsung UBD-M9500 UltraHD Blu-ray player. This smaller setup is exactly the kind of system most of us have in our bedrooms, office or the kids’ room.
This entire system is designed to be as invisible as possible. Unless it’s my theater room, I don’t want anyone to realize the AV system is there. I just want it to look and sound good and be easy enough for everyone to use. Triad understands this and has designed their components to hide away. The sound bar, which was custom built to be the exact width of my bedroom TV, includes a mounting template to let it fit flush to the wall right below the TV. The slim in-wall subwoofer can slide under furniture, stand up slim next to the wall, or even order it to mount on the wall.
The Triad One doesn’t look like a receiver or piece of audio gear. Finished in white or black gloss plastic it can hide away in a cabinet or sit on top of a piece of furniture. With no buttons or display on the front, there is no need to access it once it has been setup and installed. A rear cover hides away the connections for a clean look. Once I had the Triad One connected, I put it behind the TV so no one would realize it was there at all.
Simplicity and Performance
With everything hooked up, I grabbed my Control4 SR-260 remote, hit the 4 button, and everything came to life. The interface popped up on the screen of the Samsung correctly, my music sources were all there, along with direct access to some streaming apps on the Samsung and my Blu-ray player. Since it was mid-day and I didn’t feel like watching anything on TV right now, I queued up some music. The Triad sound bar came to life along with the subwoofer. I had left everything at the defaults and it sounded pretty good, but there was a disconnect between the sound bar and subwoofer, where some music was getting lost.
The Triad One does let you go in and customize the crossover between the speakers and the subwoofer, so I raised it from 80Hz to 120Hz. Now that missing music was back, and the system sounded good. It blew away any sound you’re going to get from a TV, but it wasn’t taking up any more space than a TV typically would. The subwoofer was hidden away next to my dresser so you could never see it, the sound bar was below the TV, and the Triad One wasn’t visible at all.
Moving onto TV took a bit longer, as I misconfigured a setting in Control4 Composer, but got that fixed up quickly. Watching a couple episodes of Silicon Valley along with some football, the system continued to impress. I had been deliberately keeping the bedroom system as simple as possible to avoid things going wrong, but this just worked. My TV stations were listed on screen and on my remote, movies loaded and played fine, and accessing streaming services was a breeze.
I realized after a couple of days that I didn’t even need to have the EA-1 in this system since I had an EA-5 controller already running. Taking it out removes the Control4 on-screen interface from the room, but the Triad One has a pair of IR emitters built-in. As IP control and good drivers become more common, IR is less necessary. Here I needed only a single IR emitter for the Blu-ray player, and many players now are IP controlled. Starting content from the SR-260 remote control worked fine, though I preferred to use the on-screen interface or the app for my music library. Since the cost of an EA-1 is almost the same as a Triad One, being able to replace it and still keep almost all the functionality is great. Some complex systems might want it, or some people might want the on-screen interface, but I am quite happy with the Triad One instead.
One aspect of the Triad One I didn’t get to test in time is the ability to use it as a source for other Control4 zones. If this was a music system in a den, I could hook up a turntable to the Triad One, listen to it there, but also broadcast it around the house. If you’re listening to the game on the TV in the living room and want to now send the audio for it to the speakers in the kitchen while you walk back and forth you can do that. That is one thing you typically can’t do with a receiver that you can do with the Triad One.
Small UI Issues
While the Triad One worked flawlessly in my use, there are a couple interface issues that came up while using it. One downside for the Triad One compared to a traditional receiver setup is that I can’t see the volume on-screen. There are no indicators on the front of the Triad One, and I’d have to open up the Control4 app or have a tablet to see the current level. Similarly, it doesn’t have a knob on the front to be able to quickly grab and turn up or down when necessary. For people that are going to have the Triad One out in view, controls for Volume Up/Down and Mute wouldn’t be a bad idea.
It also doesn’t play well with digital signals that aren’t PCM. On the Samsung TV I was testing it with, you can set it to output Stereo PCM and not bitstream, but that’s on a per-input basis for the TV. Watching Netflix I had it working perfectly, but as soon as I switched to a different HDMI input, or to the TV tuner, the TV went back to bitstream and I had to change it in the settings. The Triad One doesn’t need to be able to play back 5.1 channels of audio, but if it could mix it down to 2.1 instead it would be nice.
A Useful Zone System
When we first saw the Triad One, the initial thought was to compare it to the Sonos Connect:Amp. It also streams music wirelessly, and has a stereo amplifier built-in, making it easy to add another zone. However it doesn’t offer any digital inputs for your TV, it doesn’t have IR emitters to let it control other devices in your system, and it can only play back music but not do much else. If all you want to do in a room is play back music then it works, but it can’t replace a receiver.
What I would love to do is replace the receiver system in my living room with this. If I didn’t have to use it for receiver testing, the Triad One would be out there today. I could run a nice pair of speakers or a sound bar with a subwoofer, use the IR emitters for the two devices that need it, and use IP control for everything else. It would integrate with my main Control4 system perfectly, it is rock solid in use and easy enough for the kids, and when we have guests they can use it as well. I might finally get around to adding my Alexa integration with it in that position as well.
Since I don’t install systems for a living, sometimes I see gear designed for that world and don’t instantly grasp it. I understand how powerful Control4 can be from having it in my home theater and house for a number of years now, but it’s always been in a theater environment. The Triad One looks set to make it easy for those custom installers to integrate a whole home into a Control4 system, with fewer parts and at a lower price than before. It bridges that gap for the room that doesn’t need a 5.1 receiver system but needs more than a pair of in-wall speakers, and it does it well. I would happily install three of these into my home (bedroom, office, living room) to completely integrate the AV systems together, and that’s still the best thing I can say about any product.