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Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Burson HA160D, Audioquest Carbon USB, Ocellia Reference USB [in for review]
Analog Source: Acoustic Solid Classic Wood, AS WTB211, Dynavector DV20X-2, Esoteric E03
Pre-amplifier:Burson HA160D
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5, Yamamoto A08s
Speakers: FJ OMs, Rogers LS 3/5a, Zu Essence
Cables: Ocellia Reference interconnects, speaker cables [all in for review], Genesis Absolute Fidelity speaker cables
Power Cords: Ocellia Reference power [in for review], Genesis Absolute Fidelity Power
Powerline conditioning: Isotek Nova
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics, ASI resonators, ASI HeartSong rack
Room size: 12.5’x18’x8’.
Review component retail: $5.000

I cannot remember the last time a review announcement generated so many emails, questions and audition requests as the Trishna has. If that was any indication of the growing awareness Jacob George’s unconventional yet resolutely groundbreaking speakers have garnered, Rethm's future looks promising. In his Maarga review Srajan narrated in much detail the genesis of this newer generation of Rethm speakers and the creation of their proprietary wideband transducers. I won’t repeat what he so eloquently covered. This actually leaves me with little else to add about the design and philosophy of the Trishna. Compared to the Maarga, the Trishna is an effort to package, for smaller listening spaces, very similar sonic qualities in a smaller enclosure while driving costs down substantially. Compared to an $8.500 pair of Maargas the smaller Trishna only commands $5.000. Although not obvious in pictures, to deliver at this price Mr. George had to reduce the wideband transducer from 6 to 5 inches in diameter, shrink the isobaric loading chamber of the two bass drivers per side from 14 liters down to 10 and shorten the horn-loading labyrinth from two meters to 1.68 whilst also dropping a few watts on the FET amplifiers he drives the bass modules with (80 watts in the Trishna versus 110 watts in the Maarga).

Far more important than what the practical concessions were to reach his target price is whether Jacob George delivers on the promise of a high-sensitivity speaker without the midrange peakiness which is usually associated with Lowthers—modified or not—and without the bass discontinuity that's so often observed when active bass is paired with broadband transducers.We already know from Srajan’s review that the Maarga delivered beyond these promises. What this review will reveal is whether Rethm was able to sustain the charm for 40% less coin. Let’s start with sensitivity. At 95dB/m the Trishna is a few decibels less sensitive than her larger sister but in practice this small drop translated to no issue with low-power triodes I could hear. Actually the Zu Audio Essence is equally rated as 95dB but did not do as well with my 2wpc Yamamoto A08s. The Zu always seems on the edge of pushing the Yamamoto into heavy distortion. The Rethm offered a much easier load, probably never taxing the A08s beyond its first watt at even lively levels.

I believe the difference stems from two factors. One, the Rethm simply is more sensitive than the Zu. Although identical on paper, I listened to the Rethm with my Burson HA160D preamp set 2 clicks lower than with the Zu. I would translate this to a probably 2 to 3dB difference in actual sensitivity. Two, Rethm’s active bass module pulls very limited current from the amplifier. Zu’s passive bass taxes the amplifier far more despite a high impedance throughout the range.

In the end both speakers can thrive on low power but the Trishna does so unchallenged on a 2-watt diet while the Essence prefers at least 8 to 10 watts to give its best. This is indeed great news for lovers of micro-power triodes. Finally we have a full-range option that won’t stress wallets too badly or force us into serious compromises. When the Trishnas arrived in Canada they had already burnt-in for a few hundred hours so I can’t comment on how long the usual break-in process takes. Jacob George indicated that the new driver requires far less time to come on song than the modified Lowthers which he felt continued to improve even beyond the 500-hour mark. Nevertheless the Trishnas did require a few more days of continuous playing to flesh out and stabilize. More importantly they required quite some effort to optimize. As indicated in its manual, the Zu Essence is very easy to set up. Just drop ‘em wherever they look good, hook them up to about anything and they will likely give you 90% of what they can right from the start. No such luck with the Trishnas. They are more demanding but well worth the effort as we'll see in a moment.