Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceSome brands are so distinctive they become synonymous with a specific product or feature in the minds of consumers. Subaru designs all-wheel-drive vehicles, Nike makes Air Jordans, and Nintendo has Mario and Luigi. Audio is no different. McIntosh Laboratory brings blue VU meters and glowing green tubes to mind. Vivid Audio conjures thoughts of graceful, highly sculpted speaker cabinets, and Linn is known for suspended turntables. In the case of GoldenEar, the association I make is tower speakers with built-in powered subwoofers.

I first came across this concept when I read about Definitive Technology’s BP series in a flyer from Bay Bloor Radio, the Toronto, Canada, audio store, in the early 2000s. That’s fitting, given that Definitive Technology was founded in 1990 by Sandy Gross and Don Givogue, the same two men who would start GoldenEar, 20 years later.


Before this review, I’d never actually heard a pair of GoldenEar speakers, so while I can’t say I liked the sound, I liked the idea of speakers with built-in powered subwoofers. Even the owners of large floorstanding speakers can benefit from adding a dedicated subwoofer (or two) if their goal is to achieve full-range sound. However, as many readers know, integrating a subwoofer with a pair of speakers requires, among other things, experimenting with placement; a task that is unnecessary when a subwoofer is built into each speaker. Furthermore, two subwoofers will likely provide more uniform bass response in your room than a single sub—when a subwoofer is integrated into each speaker, you’ve got two of them by default.

So, I’ve been curious to hear GoldenEar’s tower speakers for some time, and now that my listening room is in my large basement, I have the space to accommodate them. When I was asked if I wanted to review the new T66, the first speaker launched by GoldenEar since the company was acquired by the Quest Group (owner of cable manufacturer AudioQuest), I was happy to accept the assignment.


While the T66 may be new, its cabinet shape and driver configuration are unmistakably GoldenEar. Each speaker weighs 60 pounds. The enclosure measures 7.5″W × 14.75″D × 48.8″H, but the speaker’s footprint is 11.8″W × 17″D, including the preinstalled base. The T66 is the first member of GoldenEar’s new T Series and looks remarkably like one of the firm’s Triton models. There is, however, one visible difference: while the Tritons are only available in Gloss Black lacquer, the T66 comes in both that finish ($6900/pair, all prices in USD) and Santa Barbara Red ($7200)—the color of my review samples. I thought the T66s looked striking in red, as their cabinets took on a slightly darker, richer tone in my dimly lit basement listening room.


Apart from that splash of color, the T66 can be distinguished from the Tritons by the cast-aluminum base, which looks different from the bases for the Triton models. The base helps stabilize the tall, slim cabinet, which could otherwise topple if someone were to bump into it. The height of the conical aluminum feet can be adjusted from above, a small but thoughtful detail. Steel spikes and rubber tips are provided for placement on carpets or hard flooring.

The T66 is a big speaker, but its narrow front baffle means it isn’t imposing, especially when viewed straight on. GoldenEar claims that the T66’s cabinet is the strongest the company has ever made. I wanted to remove the grille to see the driver assembly, but as the manual makes clear, this requires a special procedure and should only be done for servicing by an authorized dealer. Fair enough. The rounded metal grille not only protects the drivers, but also extends the shape of the cabinet outward while removing any straight edges. It looks clean and modern, far removed from the boxy appearance of much of its competition.

The driver complement consists of one high-gauss neodymium Reference HVFR (high-velocity folded ribbon) air motion transformer (AMT) tweeter sandwiched between a pair of 4.5″ midrange/bass drivers with cast-aluminum baskets. Wool felt is used on the tweeter’s mounting plate to minimize diffraction. The phase plugs of the midrange/bass drivers have multiple channels, which is said to improve their off-axis response.

Deep bass is provided by two 5″ × 9″ long-throw, quadratic (oval-shaped) subwoofer drivers, powered by an onboard DSP-controlled amplifier rated to deliver 500W RMS, peaking at 1000W. The motion of these subwoofers is coupled to a pair of 8″ × 12″ quadratic, planar passive radiators. A passive radiator is similar to a bass port in that it’s tuned to increase the speaker’s low-end output beyond what the woofers can produce on their own, while also conferring additional extension. The passive radiators are moved by the back waves emanating from the subwoofer drivers. They aren’t connected to the amplifier. GoldenEar says the T66’s anechoic −6dB point is 29Hz, meaning that it can play even lower in a room where the walls reinforce its output.


A Subwoofer Level dial on the back of each speaker allows users to tune the low-frequency output to match their room and listening preferences. GoldenEar suggests starting with the dial set at the default 12 o’clock position, and to experiment from there. Since the sub is integrated with the speaker, crossover parameters and phase control are factory set, so no further adjustment is necessary. This makes for an easier setup than with a standalone subwoofer.

With a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a high sensitivity of 91dB/2.83V/1m, the T66 should prove to be an easy load for most amplifiers. GoldenEar recommends an amplifier rated from 20 to 500Wpc, and indeed I had no issue powering the speakers with a Bryston B135 SST2 integrated amplifier, which produces 180Wpc into 4 ohms. With 91dB sensitivity, even a lower-powered class-A or tube amplifier should be able to play a pair of T66s at high volumes in all but the largest rooms.

Dual five-way binding posts near the base on the back of each speaker permit biwiring, and accept banana plugs, spades, or bare wire. These come with AudioQuest’s Perfect Surface Copper+ jumpers already installed for use with single wires. Initially I kept the jumpers in place so I could listen to the T66s using my Nirvana Audio Royale cables, which are terminated in spades. However, when it came time to compare the GoldenEars with my own speakers (which are also biwireable), it was a bit cumbersome swapping the spades between them. Stephen Mejias of AudioQuest was kind enough to send me a pair of Robin Hood Zero BiWire Combo speaker cables, terminated in banana plugs. Not only did these allow for biwiring the T66s, the banana plugs made it faster to swap the cables between the pairs of speakers during my review.


AudioQuest’s contribution to the T66 extends beyond the jumpers. All the internal wiring is made from the Perfect Surface Copper+ used for the jumpers. According to GoldenEar, this wire is direction-controlled, and features a layer of carbon to help dissipate radio frequencies. Furthermore, the bypass capacitors used to construct the crossover undergo AudioQuest’s proprietary Permanent Molecular Optimization process, which is claimed to improve clarity.

As well as the speaker-level connections, each T66 has a line-level LFE (low-frequency effects) input for use with A/V receivers or processors. The LFE connection allows an A/V receiver/processor to independently adjust the volume of the subwoofers. Unlike a dedicated subwoofer driven by a discrete LFE signal, the T66’s subwoofers are also fed by the speaker-level inputs. When employing the LFE input, GoldenEar recommends using the Subwoofer Level dials on the speakers to balance the sound for music, and the LFE level control on your receiver to adjust for movies and surround effects. I didn’t use the LFE input, so was unable to experiment with it.


As I’ve mentioned, I originally connected a Bryston B135 SST2 integrated amplifier to the T66s via Nirvana Audio Royale speaker cables before switching to AudioQuest Robin Hood Zero BiWire Combo cables. Most of my listening was from a NAD C 565BEE CD player tethered to a Bryston BDA-2 DAC using an i2Digital X-60 coaxial cable. I also sent music wirelessly from Apple Music on my iPhone to a Bluesound Node 2i streamer. The Node was linked to the BDA-2 with an AudioQuest Forest TosLink optical cable. The BDA-2 was connected to the B135 SST2 through Nordost Quattro Fil RCA cables. Vinyl playback was from a Thorens TD 160 HD turntable with a low-output Sumiko Songbird moving-coil cartridge mounted on a modified Rega Research RB250 tonearm. A Pro-Ject Audio Systems Connect it RCA-CC cable linked the Thorens to Pro-Ject’s Phono Box DS3 B phono stage (powered by a Pro-Ject Power Box S3 Phono outboard power supply). The DS3 B was linked to the B135 SST2 by Kimber Kable Tonik interconnects. All electronics were plugged into an ExactPower EP15A power conditioner.


As instructed, I started with the Subwoofer Level in its default position (12 o’clock) on both speakers. After some experimentation, found that I preferred setting it at 1 o’clock. In my room, this gave the right amount of low-end output without having the built-in subwoofers call attention to themselves. I enjoyed this part of setting up the speakers. The bass dials are like thickening agents for a sauce; when used gratuitously, they caused the subs to completely overpower the sound.


For example, on Big Boi’s “General Patton,” from Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (CD, Def Jam B001437702), I decided to have some fun and turn the bass all the way up, just to see what the GoldenEars were capable of in my room. It was impressive, insofar as they produced some serious rumble, moving a lot of air and over-energizing the room. It sounded terrible for music, and completely masked what was happening higher up the frequency range. But therein lies the most intriguing aspect of the T66’s design: the ability to dial each speaker in as you like and as the situation warrants. Maybe before settling in to watch the most recent installment of your favorite action-film series, you’ll want to turn up the bass to obtain more of the visceral experience one gets in a theater. Unlike most other speakers, the T66 gives you that option.

Setting aside a discussion of the low-end output for a moment, what most appealed to me about the performance of the GoldenEars was how balanced the pair sounded. There really isn’t anything about the sound that stood out for me. This was the observation I kept coming back to, the one I kept jotting down in my listening notes. There was an evenhandedness in the presentation that meant the speakers drew almost no attention to themselves. Even on a raucous track like Spiritualized’s “Medication,” from Pure Phase (LP, Fat Possum Records FP1752-3), the T66 speakers managed to deliver the rawness of the guitars and intensity of the harmonica without coming across as over-etched. Taking liberties with the volume knob, I found I could listen at high volumes without the GoldenEars ever breaking character, maintaining their composure at levels that would risk hearing damage over a prolonged period. For such big speakers, they did a fine disappearing act.


This was particularly true as I listened to Low + Dirty Three’s cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” from In the Fishtank 7 (CD, Konkurrent fish 7 cd). I love this version, but it’s not for everyone. Young’s song is a rock anthem, but this is an entirely different interpretation; the antithesis of the original. The music is sparse and open, and the recording reflects that with a cavernous quality, capturing the vast, brooding atmosphere. The track builds slowly, culminating in Mimi Parker’s beautiful, haunting voice. She’s restrained in her delivery, bestowing a sense of calm that is, in itself, a juxtaposition to the dark subject matter. I note these things because it occurred to me, as I listened to this tune through the GoldenEars, that I wasn’t paying attention to the stereo system at all: I was focusing on the music, not the sound. The T66 towers just did nothing wrong, insofar as I barely noticed them. They effortlessly conveyed the huge acoustic space, and their ability to uncover everything happening on the track made for a vivid and immersive presentation. Listening to music is about experiences, and this one was superb.

In addition to their even tonal balance, the GoldenEars were commendably resolving. On “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” from Jeff Buckley’s Live at Sin-é (Legacy Edition) (CD, Columbia Records C2K 89202), the big floorstanders offered the proverbial clear window into the performance. Buckley’s voice sounded intimate, matching the ambiance of the coffee house where it was recorded. His trembling vibrato was palpable as the T66 towers communicated the nuances in his voice. On “Mojo Pin,” I could sense the strain at the back of his throat when he sings “Screaming down from heaven,” so realistically was it reproduced. The performance unfolds against the clatter of glasses, plates, and utensils that occasionally make it through the sound of his electric guitar, gently reminding you where the performance took place. This is a superb recording, and the GoldenEars brought the atmosphere to life.


Listening to the final movement of Haydn’s String Quartet in D Major, Op.76, No. 5 by the Engegårdkvartetten, from The Nordic Sound – 2L Sampler 2009 (CD, 2L Recordings 2L-RR1-SABD), the speed and incisiveness of the Norwegian string quartet were duly rendered over the big floorstanders, which clearly delineated the position of each musician across a wide and open soundstage. The tempo of Haydn’s piece is infectious, and this was particularly well served by the way the GoldenEars handled the leading edges of notes; they were depicted precisely, appearing to start and stop instantaneously. The frenzied, almost manic playing of the ensemble was beautifully captured and effortlessly reproduced by the GoldenEars.

I was introduced to the work of Tori Amos as a teenager, when I first heard “Silent All These Years.” Even though I was listening to the track on a well-worn cassette through a basic car stereo, I was struck by the song’s intimacy. Playing the same track from Little Earthquakes (CD, EastWest 82358) through a good stereo system fronted by the T66s, one gets far closer to hearing what the producers intended, which in this case is the immediacy and tangible presence of Amos’s voice. The splash of finger cymbals was clear and communicated some stage depth, something that was enhanced when the orchestra joins in. The next song, “Precious Things,” has a more powerful, propulsive sound, driven largely by the drums and bass. The T66 towers easily conveyed the weight and impact of the percussion, bringing a sense of gravitas to the overall sound. As I’d heard on the Spiritualized record, the big floorstanders had no issues handling high playback levels, maintaining the same character at any volume I could comfortably tolerate.


On “Mother,” Amos’s sibilance gives some of her lyrics a hissing quality, the words sizzling from her lips. Once again, the GoldenEars lucidly demonstrated the intimacy and immediacy of her voice. As before, I was hardly aware of the speakers, because their evenhanded presentation left little imprint on the sound.


I compared the GoldenEars against my Monitor Audio Gold 300 5Gs ($9500/pair), which are designed in England and manufactured in China. Like the T66, the Gold 300 5G is a three-way design that also features an AMT-style tweeter. Monitor Audio calls its high-frequency driver a Micro Pleated Diaphragm, but the basic design principle is the same. The similarities between the two speakers mostly end there. Unlike the T66 with its powered sub, the all-passive Gold 300’s bass is generated by a pair of high-end but conventional 8″ woofers. To accommodate these large drivers, its cabinet is considerably wider than the GoldenEar’s, but not nearly as tall. Whereas the GoldenEar speaker augments its low end with a passive radiator on each side of the cabinet, the Monitor Audio has dual, rear-facing ports.

“Hold On,” from the Tom Waits album Mule Variations (CD, Anti- / Epitaph Records 86547-2), sounded pristine through both sets of towers, with each pair sounding squeaky clean and unraveling plenty of detail. However, the GoldenEars delivered more weight from the upright bass, and their fuller, warmer demeanor made “Hold On” sound bigger. But as clean as the T66s were, I found the Gold 300s to be a touch more revealing. Waits’s baritone is a major focal point of his recordings, and as rough and well-worn as it sounded through the GoldenEars, the Monitor Audios communicated an extra bit of hoarseness in his delivery; like a coarser grit of sandpaper. Ultimately, both sets of speakers had a lot in common, sonically—something you mightn’t guess, judging solely on appearances.

Revisiting Tori Amos with Boys for Pele (CD, EastWest Records A2 82862), “Caught a Lite Sneeze” provided another interesting comparison between the two towers. Tonally, I found both pairs incredibly similar, as each had a balanced character that didn’t seem to favor any part of the audioband. Through both the American and British floorstanders, Amos’s voice was as clear and expressive as the notes she played on her harpsichord or Bösendorfer piano. Where they differed was in the scale of presentation, which is where the GoldenEars distinguished themselves. This was particularly evident with the percussion, and was apparent from the opening drum sounds, which were more propulsive and powerful through the T66 speakers. They had a sense of impact that the Monitor Audios were unable to equal. Not only did this give the music a feeling of greater dynamics, it also had the side effect of conjuring a grander sense of openness within the music itself. Without the aid of a subwoofer, the Gold 300s couldn’t conjure the same degree of scale as the GoldenEars.

I think the GoldenEar T66 offers better value than the Monitor Audio. For $2300 less, the pair of T66s came close to matching the resolution of the Gold 300s, while producing far more bass. The Monitor Audios require a standalone subwoofer to equal the low-end output of the GoldenEars, further increasing the price discrepancy. While the British speakers offer a more luxurious level of fit and finish, there’s no denying that the American towers compete well sonically, and offer a more full-range sound for less money.


Sometimes the speaker marketplace seems a tad crowded, with too many models that seem like mere variations on a theme. I usually roll my eyes when a company claims that it’s made some acoustic design breakthrough, and it’s doing something nobody else has tried before. It could be true, but it could just as easily be marketing spin. GoldenEar is legitimately doing something that most of its competitors aren’t, and built-in powered subs are what the brand has become synonymous with. Standing out in a crowd is difficult, but GoldenEar speakers do, both literally and figuratively.


I said earlier that I’ve liked the idea of designing speakers with built-in powered subwoofers for a long time. Now, I can say I like the execution. Sometimes an idea that seems promising in concept doesn’t work in practice. This one does. Highly recommended.

. . . Philip Beaudette

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers: Monitor Audio Gold 300 5G.
  • Subwoofer: SVS SB-4000.
  • Integrated amplifier: Bryston B135 SST2.
  • Digital sources: NAD C 565BEE CD player, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Bluesound Node 2i streamer.
  • Analog source: Thorens TD 160 HD turntable, Rega Research RB250 tonearm, Sumiko Songbird MC cartridge.
  • Phono stage: Pro-Ject Audio Systems Phono Box DS3 B and Power Box S3 Phono outboard power supply.
  • Speaker cables: Nirvana Audio Royale, AudioQuest Robin Hood Zero BiWire Combo.
  • Interconnects: Nordost Quattro Fil (RCA), Pro-Ject Connect it Phono RCA-CC, Kimber Kable Tonik (RCA), generic RCA.
  • Digital links: AudioQuest Forest (TosLink optical), i2Digital X-60 (coaxial).
  • Power conditioner: ExactPower EP15A.

GoldenEar T66 Loudspeaker
Price: $6900 per pair in Gloss Black, $7200 in Santa Barbara Red.
Warranty: Five years, parts and labor, on drivers and cabinets; three years on electronics.

2621 White Road
Irvine, CA 92614
United States
Phone: (949) 800-1800
Fax: (949) 800-1888