And then there were three (with due deference to Genesis).
First it was Acoustic Energy’s AE1 Active (review here), then PSB’s Alpha iQ (review here). Now it’s Triangle’s AIO Twin, more akin to the Alpha iQ in being a complete system rather than one with just amplification built in. Yes, the AIO Twin has streaming smarts, this time from Californian company Linkplay whose WiiM streamers we loved (reviews here & here).
The AIO Twin differs markedly from the Alpha iQ in one respect. At £699 / US$1,000 / €699 it’s nearly half the price. Is that a step too far, the budget spread too thinly? Or has the French manufacturer leveraged its speaker expertise to deliver a rounded product? Let’s dive in and see.
The low down
The AIO Twin comprises two speakers, one containing the electronics, the other a passive speaker. Connect them with standard speaker cable, of which a 3m length is supplied. Both speakers are rear-ported.
The drivers are a 25mm soft-dome tweeter and 130mm mid/bass unit. Power is provided by two 50W/4Ω amplifiers that operate in Class D. A number of inputs allow external devices to be used. Including vinyl – the AIO Twin has a MM phono stage (with ground). Indeed a £369 Triangle Turntable (made by Pro-ject) is available separately.
The MM input (on RCA sockets) can be switched to a standard line input. There is also a 3.5mm analogue and an optical SPDIF digital input. Plus USB-A for playing thumb drives or charging phones / tablets. It doesn’t handle computers.
A subwoofer output allows for more bass, Triangle suggesting its £420 Tales 340 as a good match. Completing the physical connections is an RJ45 socket for network hookup. The AIO Twin can run wirelessly as well, although as usual wired is the preferred option. Bluetooth 5.0/aptX HD is available but Chromecast and Airplay aren’t supported.
Finally a volume control on the rear also switches inputs, the front-mounted LED indicating which source is in play. What looks like a second LED on the front is a wireless receiver for the remote control, which handles volume and source selection amongst others. Its simplicity makes it useful.
All in all the AIO Twin is pretty well spec’d, the lack of HDMI the only disappointment.
Build / looks
The AIO Twin is a small standmount, similar in size to Acoustic Energy’s AE1 Active but notably bigger than PSB’s Alpha iQ. Build quality is good, with nice detailing such as the Triangle name on the front and the footer bars that support the speaker.
A magnetic cloth grill is provided. The AIO Twin sounds better without, but put them back on when not listening as the soft tweeter looks vulnerable.
The review speakers were finished in Frosted White, looking very smart. Or choose from Graphite Black, Linen Grey, Abyss Blue, Eggplant or Brown Maple. Overall the AIO Twin is quite a looker, with very nice build quality for the price.
Californian company Linkplay provides a streaming solution (hardware & software) to incorporate into other manufacturer’s products. Plus its own WiiM streamers. Manufacturers specify the modules they want, the AIO Twin not having the Airplay 2 option for example (you can’t have everything for £699).
The Triangle AIO app (iOS & Android) is both stable and very slick, consistently finding the AIO Twin faster than anything else I’ve used by a country mile. Finding your way around is also intuitive, and the screens look good. The range of music services covered (see screenshot below) isn’t as extensive as BluOS but covers most bases, including Spotify Connect. The main omissions are Apple Music (as usual) and YouTube Music. Bluetooth is your friend. You can also access music on your own network via UPNP.
A useful +/-5dB adjustment of both bass and treble (in 1dB steps) can be set within the app or on the remote control. There’s no subwoofer filter in the Triangle app though, which is a shame. The AIO Twin can also work with other AIO devices, meaning a multiroom setup is feasible (Triangle has an AIO Bluetooth speaker and a standalone AIO streamer as well).
Overall, the more I use Linkplay and its variations the more I like it. The system doesn’t have quite the reach of BluOS but in all other respects is very similar. Which puts it up there with the better streaming platforms.
If you read the AE1 Active and Alpha iQ reviews this will sound like a stuck record. The AIO Twin works best out from the front wall, 60cm in my case. But, it’s EQ allows close to wall positioning, which is how I suspect many people will use them. Just tweak the bass in the EQ. A 4dB cut allowed me to get them 10cm from the wall. The AIO Twins also sounded good on the coffee table that sits between my speakers.
The AIO Twin sounded very nice indeed. Not perfect, but very nice.
Snarky Puppy alumni Cory Henry went solo in 2018. His latest album, Live At The Piano, captures him solo, the lack of accompaniment shining a spotlight on his performance. It’s well recorded and comes over as a very personal set, the AIO Twins really putting you there with him, sharing the gentle intimacy. A quick listen ended up with me playing the whole album, always a good sign.
That ability to portray musicians in the recorded space proved to be one of the AIO Twin’s key characteristics. Surprising given the treble is slightly soft, rolled off before any nasties escape (it’s kind to poor recordings). Yet the speaker still threw a believable soundstage that kept me coming back for more.
Bass depth is commensurate with the AIO Twin’s size and price. It’s punchy when needed to be, if not the last word in solidity. Nor are dynamics a forte, everything from Grace Jones’ ‘This Is’ (Hurricane) to large scale orchestral works slightly muted in their impact. That doesn’t stop the AIO Twin from stepping up when a big sound is needed though. With Schiller’s Illuminate it absolutely nailed the dancefloor vibe. ‘Act Like You Know’ from Fat Larry’s Band sounded like the driving funk number it is. And so on. The AIO Twin’s bass may be a slightly mixed bag. Achilles Heel it is not.
When it comes to the midrange there are no reservations; the AIO Twin excels. Shawn Mullins on ‘Twin Rocks, Oregon’ (Soul’s Core) comes across beautifully, as does Shirley Horn on ‘Here’s To Life’ from the album of the same name. Jacintha’s version of the track is even silkier, a lovely old-fashioned chanteuse served well by a simple piano accompaniment and reverberant acoustic. The AIO Twin conveys her really well. The Jacintha track also shows the AIO Twin’s ability to eke out a lot of detail – the piano pedals in the opening section are clearly audible for example.
Overall we’re left with a speaker that’s rooted in the midrange, with slightly gentle frequency extremes. Which is how I think most people would describe the revered LS3/5a standmount (£2k+), so the Triangle is in good company. No it doesn’t perform at the LS3/5a’s level, but I thoroughly enjoyed music through the AIO Twin. Only when it was time for analysis & comparison did I start questioning a few things. That won’t be a problem for most people.
I checked out the AIO Twin’s internal streamer by pitching it against two options. One from the same stable – the WiiM Mini – into the Triangle’s optical input. And the NAD CS1, using its analogue outputs.
I was expecting all three streamers to sound similar. The NAD and WiiM do (through their digital outputs), and I assumed the AIO Twin’s streamer was very much a WiiM Mini built into the speaker. For once there were no surprises. Both the external streamers sounded slightly better – more open, the treble more extended, the soundstage better defined. Basically a bit fresher. But the differences were pretty marginal, not the sort I’d worry about.
I wouldn’t suggest using an external streamer with the AIO Twin anyway, it undermines its raison d’etre. It’s nice to know there’s no real need though.
With REL TZero III subwoofer (£450)
Oh boy, did a Triangle / REL combination deliver. And not just low down, the REL pulled off its usual trick of opening up the soundstage. Bass was so much more impactful too, the AIO Twin benefitting considerably from low end reinforcement.
Yes I let ‘Bliss On Mushrooms’ loose. Without the REL the sound was real fun. With it, fun became awesome, bass bouncing around the room, the sound much much bigger too. BoM as it was meant to sound. Anna Lapwood was another winner. Hans Zimmer’s ‘Cornfield Chase’ gained power and solidity, the music had more impact. The opening upper registers benefitted too, the Royal Albert Hall seemingly bigger, the soundstage expanded.
And so it continued, a combination of bass-centric tracks and music recorded in a big acoustic all sounding notably better with the REL in supporting mode. As with the PSB Alpha, the AIO Twin doesn’t ultimately need a subwoofer. And I doubt many people will want to drop an additional £450 or so for one. Not least for the additional boxes and wires, which undermines the elegance of the AIO Twin solution. If that’s your starting point maybe don’t try a subwoofer, you may not be able to go back.
Playing a Pro-ject Debut Carbon Evo with Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge through the AIO Twin’s phono stage was really interesting. Long story short, it sounded great.
With ‘Katrina’ from Hans Theessink’s Slow Train – used for consistency with the Alpha iQ review and because it’s a great recording – the archetypal digital clarity vs analogue warmth was there. Leading edges to notes were clearer when streaming the track, bass was more taut.
Compared to vinyl it sounded more artificial though. Sure, Theessink himself was upfront and prominent with digital, but he drowned the choir out slightly. With analogue it was more of a balanced ensemble, the beautiful harmonies of the choir coming through better. The soundstage was also slightly wider. Nor did analogue sound softer overall than digital (it did with the Alpha iQ’s phono stage).
Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ was similar, the digital version ostensibly more impressive, analogue sounding more natural. On vinyl there was less spotlight on the leading performers, greater insight into the band as a whole, plus a bigger soundstage.
My external Pro-ject Phono Box S2 Ultra phono stage (£220) elevated performance further. Greater clarity, more detail, a smear I didn’t know about was removed. Worth considering if you’re using the Triangles at the heart of an all-analogue system. The AIO Twin’s internal phono stage sounded fabulous with the Debut Carbon EVO though. Bottom line – I preferred it to digital. I wasn’t expecting that.
Comparison: PSB Alpha iQ
At nearly twice the price PSB’s Alpha iQ should perform better than the AIO Twin; it does, notably so.
Treble is more extended, there’s greater detail and a more tangible soundstage. Dynamics are also stronger. Through the Alpha iQ the power of the thunder crack opening ‘Comfortably Numb’ (Roger Waters, Lockdown Sessions) caught me by surprise. With the AIO Twin it was less impactful, more muted in comparison. Bass also reaches lower with the Alpha iQ, most notably when used to underpin music (Comfortably Numb being a good example, or try any good soundtrack to a sci-fi film).
The takeaway seems to be you get what you pay for. That’s good for the Alpha iQ more than a comment on the AIO Twin.
Comparison: Q Acoustics M20 HD
At £399 the M20 HD is lower cost than the AIO Twin even after adding a WiiM Mini as a source. The resultant solution is not quite as elegant – more wires, an extra small box etc – but may prove to be more flexible in the long run. Pros and cons, you make the choices.
The M20 HD does sound better though, not least because its treble is much more extended. That ‘Comfortably Numb’ thundercrack bristled with energy for example, making you jump. There was also more detail through the M20 HD, with performers more clearly defined in the soundstage. The AIO Twin was more shrouded in comparison, more broad brush. The M20 HD removed a smear from the sound, letting music through better.
‘Africa’ by The Tingvall Trio (from Birds) drove along more confidently through the M20 HD, the bass in particular slightly muddied through the AIO Twin. Cory Henry’s ‘Dreamin Of’ (Live at the Piano) was more tangible through the M20 HD, the live effect stronger. The different strands of ‘Broken Skin’ by Nitin Sawhney were easier to hear through the M20 HD, even if this was one track where the AIO Twin nailed the strong underpinning bass.
So yes, this was one comparison that wasn’t difficult to call. Bear in mind the M20 HD was one of HiFi Starters’ Products of 2022 though. It would have taken a lot to knock it from its perch.
I really liked the AIO Twin. Particularly once the penny dropped that it’s not meant to be an audiophile speaker per se, even though it gets pretty darned close. The target customer won’t crave that last few percent of sound quality. In the real world the AIO Twin delivers a sound that will delight most people as much as its low price will surprise them (a pair of Sonos Era 300 speakers is 30% more). And you can always add a good subwoofer to the AIO Twin to elevate the sound further.
It looks great and is well built. And the functionality on offer is good; an excellent streaming platform coupled to enough inputs for most needs. Plus a very creditable phono stage. All of which means the AIO Twin gets a big thumbs up from HiFi Starters. Enough to merit a Best Buy Award thanks to the completeness of the overall package. Bravo Triangle.