At £299 a pair the Tannoy Eclipse Three loudspeakers certainly look like a lot of speaker for the money. Dave Robson takes a listen.
So here I am, 35 years in our hobby and I have my first pair of Tannoy speakers, the Eclipse Three. The company has been in the speaker game for over 90 years. The brand probably needs no introduction, but it is worthwhile knowing that in 1947 Tannoy successfully invented the Dual Concentric Driver which has been used by other manufacturers since and can be found in their current high end speaker systems. Its speakers have also been used in Abbey Road studios and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” was recorded using their Lancaster monitors fitted with Monitor Gold drivers. The Eclipse Three speakers I have here for review are part of their Hifi entry range. The box contains each speaker with its removable grill attached, a pair of plastic feet with bolts to fit them, a full set of carpet penetrating spikes and small metal cups to fit under said spikes if you don’t have carpet and don’t want your floor damaged. There is also an instruction/assembly manual included. The Elcipse 3 are designed and engineered in the UK and built in China.
Design and Packaging
These are a floor standing two way designed speakers and are bass ported at the rear. Each speaker incorporates two 127mm multi fibre paper cone woofers and a 28mm polyester tweeter. Frequency response is a claimed 38hz – 32khz and sensitivity is rated at 90db (so an easy load to drive for lower powered amplifiers) and have a single pair of 4mm sockets for speaker plugs but which will also take bare wires. Physical dimensions are 95.9cm x 26.96cm x 28.7cm (HxWxD) and are a pleasing size that does not feel too domineering in my room. These are actually a second pair as the first was damaged in transit by the delivery company. At a smidgeon over 12kg there isn’t a lot in the box to protect the speakers once the cardboard outer has been breached. I also found one of the inserts for the spiked feet on the first example would not take the spike. On the second batch all was good as the speaker box carcases were very soundly wrapped. The only problem here was that one of the bass port liners had come adrift in transit. Once pushed back in it was fine. If you do order a pair I’d ask your dealer to fully check your speakers before leaving the shop. A few little niggles but nothing that can’t be sorted easily. Once fully assembled I left the speakers running for a good few days to loosen up. After approximately 50hrs the sound had settled and to be fair really didn’t need the full time as they seemed to burn in very quickly.
I remove the grills and place the speakers 2m apart, under a metre forward of the rear wall and 40cm from the side wall and facing straight out. (The instruction manual recommends some toe-in but I preferred without.) I start the listening review by playing some Robert Cray and “Sweet Potato Pie”. This album, having great vocals, brass and a good wallop of Mr Crays Bass guitar is a well recorded little gem. “Nothing Against You” has a funky verve, the bass guitar is easily clearly defined and well integrated, each chord can be heard and followed without having to strain. The music from the Tannoys has me loving the bass lines, (my personal speakers are a little lean) the long lead guitar solo again having good clear crisp tonality without being too hard or harsh. “Save It” has a good smattering of drums within the track, drum skins have a decent smack, although they may lack a little in texture to produce a full realism, but that doesn’t detract from enjoying the music. The sound produced seems well balanced, there isn’t anything that is sticking out as glaringly annoying or obvious. “The One In The Middle” is a more soulful and bluesy track. This song picked for demonstrating the high frequencies and brass section. The transients from the tip tapping on the cymbals has a good feel and crispness to each strike, I was expecting a bit of an ill-defined shush shushy sound, but the tweeter seems to have a hold on this. The brass section comes out across the rear of the soundstage, they are quite defined and in their own space, you can hear the individual instruments so it’s detailed enough to separate from the rest of the music, but the Eclipse Three just can’t manage that last tiny bit of detail to take an accomplished sound up to the next level. The overall presentation here is very inoffensive. The speakers produce a good sound stage, not 3d as such, but it has width, height and vocals and instruments have separation, which in my opinion moves them away from just making a noise and into proper Hifi territory.
Swapping CDs to the new highly acclaimed (by the media) Rick Astley “50” album. Rick has a great and unique voice in the glut of high pitched squawkers of popular music. “Angels On My Side” has a nice blend of gospel with the thump of disco thrown into the mix. Mr Astley’s voice hovers centrally, the driving electronic beat is unfortunately compressed and lacks extension, this I’m afraid is more down to the recording and engineering processes, which is a shame as I feel he, like so many other artists are being robbed of producing classic tunes and albums… (I digress, moan over!). What I am happy with is the fact the Tannoy Eclipse has enough transparency to see this flaw, they just don’t pump out noise, they are trying their very best to produce exactly what’s being fed into the plugs at the rear. “Pray With Me” like the other tracks on the album has a church like vibe, with a twist of disco funk. Here on the bass heavy and complex multi layered track, Ricks vocals take on a slightly coloured or wooden tone, I’m listening at a high-ish volume and there seems to be a bit of bleed-over and this muddies the music a tad. Back down at a more civilised volume level things perk back up and clearer and cleaner vocals present themselves yet again.
Going from the “Pure” to the “Downright and Dirty” rock thrashing of Foreigner and my second ever CD I bought, the classic “4”. The atmospheric “Juke Box Hero” with its rock heartbeat beginning rhythmically banging out has me turning up the volume to hear the Threes low bass tones ripple up my listening room, the Tannoys go quite deep and again, beyond my expectations, keep it all under control, never getting sloppy or ragged, but an even and quite addictive rendering. Only on tracks like “Break It Up” do the vocals of lead singer Lou Gramm get a slight hardness about them and only then when volume levels are pushed upwards. Playing “Girl On The Moon” has the speakers giving a concert like performance; their ability for the two pairs of easily driven drivers to fill the room with music has the twang of the lead guitar play from rearward of the speaker, and to project up and overhead while the drum beats are positioned behind with Gramms talents sitting bang in the middle. Yes, there is a little lack of “feeling” due to having a little less detail, but there is enough not to sound cold or heartless and keep you engaged with the music.
Timing and rhythm plays a good part of the likable characteristics of the Tannoy Eclipse Three, along with a sweet, deep and controlled bass. For £299 these speakers do a great job of playing music “musically”, they are fun and even in what they portray, and never offend. The high and low frequencies marry well and don’t leave you feeling like there is something missing or un-natural. Fed with a good source material these won’t disappoint.
AT A GLANCE
Build Quaity: Some issues with packaging but overall reasonably well put together speakers, but there is room for improvement.
Sound Quality: Fun and even handed sound that does not offend.
Value For Money: For £299 there is little not to like about these speakers. They offer those on a tight budget a real feel of what Hifi is about.
Great bass response, powerful and even sound, easy to drive
Sound hardens up at higher volumes. Could have a little more detail. Fit and finish could be better (over 2 samples) but at this price and sound this is easily overlooked