Dominic Marsh takes a listen to the Tannoy Revolution XT8F floorstanding loudspeakers costing £1499.

TANNOY.  Now there is a name many people will recognise and it’s one of the few names that are deeply embedded into the way people around the world would describe a loudspeaker system.  The name actually occupies the same lofty and unique territory in our everyday language as the name “Hoover” is used to describe vacuuming your home, as in “I’m going to Hoover the carpets”.  How many times have you read in a newspaper, book or magazine, or perhaps watched a TV program or film containing these words:  “An announcement was/will be made over the TANNOY system for all passengers to . . . . . . . “ and is still in regular use even today?   No surprise either that Tannoy are still manufacturing Public Address systems as well as a huge range of professional studio equipment.

I was curious about where the name was derived from and I found the answer on the Tannoy website under the history heading.  The name was formed from the metals they were using in the production of their rectifiers as in Tantalum / Lead Alloy and adopted as the formal company name in 1928.

It is truly refreshing to see that the name Tannoy is still 90 years later still at the forefront of loudspeaker design and that I have the honoured task of reviewing the Revolution XT8F loudspeaker.

CONSTRUCTION

The first thing that strikes you is the trapezoidal shape of the cabinet which you either warm to or you don’t.  Looking at them squarely face on means you don’t see the side walls at all anyway.  Unusually too, there is a factory fitted plinth that the speaker sits on which does two jobs no less.  Through the aperture between cabinet and plinth is the bass reflex port firing downwards and the plinth having a larger footprint than the cabinet, means it adds additional stability to the speaker as well as some additional mass. Three jobs then, for the keener eyed readers amongst you.  Nice to see real veneer on the cabinets, in this instance a pale honey Oak colour, with a choice of Dark Walnut as an alternate option.

The speakers are supplied with a dark colour fabric covered grille, attached to the cabinets by secreted magnets within the cabinet.

Driver complement consists of Tannoy’s “Dual Concentric” array, with a 200mm multi fibre bass cone and a centrally integrated 25mm PEI dome tweeter that Tannoy refer to as being mounted in a “Torus-Ogive waveguide”.  In other words the tweeter is set back into the driver array throat for phase and timing alignment.  To augment bass output there is another 200mm driver mounted below and in line with the Dual Concentric driver.

To the rear of the cabinet we find a set of four biwire terminals with gold plated jumper strips.

All in all then it is a sturdy well built package built upon a long line of Revolution models that have gone before, yet enhanced even further in this latest incarnation.

SOUND QUALITY

Fresh out of the box they are a pleasant enough listen, so please be patient and if you intend to audition a pair then ensure they have some running hours on them before making any judgements.  Thankfully they mellow very quickly and are listenable within an hour or so, so I recommend you connect them up, feed them some music to work with and let the XT8Fs iron their own wrinkles out for a while.   As with most speaker running in periods the XT8F speaker will follow an exponential curve whereby they quickly lose the raw edges and then gently and slowly mature to full potential, which in this instance was roughly 20 hours or so, which is pretty quick I say.

First into the CD drawer was Hugh Masekela’s “Hope” album and those of you who also own this album will know that it has a good spoonful of dynamics and subtleties to play with and it was obvious the XT8Fs carry the same DNA their smaller siblings the XT6 speakers are endowed with, although the larger drivers in the XT8F put right the bass power shortfall the smaller speakers were endowed with.

My first impression of the sound they produced was how weighty and dynamic they were, full of verve, sophistication and controlled energy. The kick drum in the opening track of “Hope” was conveyed that it was an actual kick drum being played, while the high hat strikes sounded very clean and metallic sounding.  It is the trumpet that defines this track and I have heard some raspy nastiness in some speakers but glad to say the XT8F speakers were not one of them, as the instrument sounded silky smooth and yet still full of vibrant energy and harmonics.  All of the music strands stood apart from each other with no clashing.  The immense benefit of housing the tweeter within the base cone centre in this Dual Concentric configuration is that you get a huge amount of pin sharp imaging focus from that point source.  Sit yourself spang in the middle of that sweet spot and you can positively BATHE in the imaging and sound staging these speakers produce.  Move a foot either way though and that magic becomes a bit ordinary in the way imaging is structured and that very trait means you are going to be firmly glued in that sweet spot for as long as you possibly can.  I know I was.

Next into the CD drawer was my old favourite in the shape of Fink’s “Wheels Beneath My Feet” album which has a whole raft of benchmarks that review components have to surmount.

The verve of these speakers was amply manifested in the way they could capture the very essence of cymbal strikes.  No fizz or tizz, just good clean rendition of wood striking metal with associated harmonics and ringing decay.  Once again that sweet spot revealed the venue ambience accuracy perfectly and musician placement supremely defined, plus you did get the feeling you were actually sat in the audience around two or three rows back from the stage, which was impressive.  Bass guitar and kick drum were well up my benchmark ratings and the Floor Tom strikes that the drummer really does drive down into in the track “Sort Of Revolution”, easily managing to shake my listening room.   Not only must there be heft and weight to it, it must also be very clean by portraying the skin and shell of the drum, with no boom or overhang artefacts and at this the XT8Fs excelled, so I could feel as well as hear those drum strikes.

Another favourite live album of mine is Peter Gabriel’s “Real World” album and this too has plenty of musical variety to keep you entertained across two full CDs, yet his studio albums do very little for me as they comes across as too sanitised, whereas this album abounds with free flowing musicality.  Manu Katché playing the drums is highly enjoyable in his own inimitable style, so little wonder that Sting also uses his unique drumming talents, so that same expertise underpins Peter Gabriel’s Real World album, even though the recording quality isn’t good enough to use as a reviewing tool like I use Fink’s live album.  Nevertheless it must entertain and engage with you and has some complex musical arrangements to unravel. On both counts the Tannoy XT8Fs easily fulfilled those criteria and then some.

A change of pace and genre too, in the shape of Loreena McKennitt and her “An Ancient Muse” album to see how the XT8F speakers portrayed female vocals.

I cannot begin to describe any of the instruments being played in the track “The Gates of Istanbul” but my attention was focussed purely on Loreena and her voice, which was beautifully airy and crisp, soaring sweetly and melodically as only her voice can, dead centre stage with the instruments wrapped around her in a shallow arc.  The drums in the track had the deep thump and impact which eluded the smaller XT6 speakers that my resident speakers also clearly demonstrate, again no criticism given from me here on this aspect of their performance.

Now this should please the classical music fans out there, because that glorious sweet spot really does unpick complex pieces with ease and orchestra placement is about as good as it gets, at least that is for my limited exposure to the genre.  They are equally at home playing Jazz and you can almost picture yourself seated in a darkened smoke filled room listening to some of the great Jazz classics.  The closest I can get to this is Dave Brubeck’s crisply played “Take Five” in my music collection and even so the drumming and piano playing is rich in dynamics, harmonics and timbres.

CONCLUSION

I expected the XT8Fs to be a scaled up version of the XT6 speakers I recently reviewed, but there are major differences even though they have the same basic design DNA running through them.  For a start, the bigger bass drivers not unnaturally produce a bigger bass output which was expected of course, but there is also a huge amount of control, effortless power and refinement, which in turn is most satisfying to listen to, with the treble and midband beautifully balanced with the bass and that makes this speaker very easy to live with long term.  The entire audible spectrum had a slight hint of warmth and sophistication that the smaller XT6 lacked and I suppose that cannot be a critique of either speaker because one is designed for a bookshelf, the other is a big box speaker for open space in a big room, so swap either speaker into the other’s environment and neither would be comfortable being there. I was however expecting progression in sound quality moving up the Tannoy hierarchy and the truth is I haven’t been disappointed.

I wouldn’t pair them into a budget system, because to get the best out of them you need the best put into them and you will be amply rewarded.  Pair them with lesser ancillaries and you might not be pleased, because the XT8Fs are very good at highlighting deficiencies as all good quality speakers do.

With nearly 90 years of Tannoy loudspeaker design expertise behind them, they are going to please many listeners for sure.

AT A GLANCE

BUILD QUALITY:  A cut above with real wood veneer finish, good quality terminations and above all, the superb Dual Concentric drivers.

SOUND QUALITY:  Locate yourself into that central sweet spot and it really does open windows into the music.  

VALUE FOR MONEY:  The sound quality and build more than balances the asking price.

PROS:  Sound and build quality.  The Tannoy badge.

CONS:  I’m struggling to find any, so I will conclude with the word “None”.

Price:  £1,499.00

 

Dominic Marsh

SPECIFICATIONS

 

Recommended Amplifier Power
(Watts RMS)
25 – 200
Continuous Power Handling
(Watts Peak RMS)
100
Peak Power Handling (Watts) 400
Sensitivity (2.83 Volts @ 1m) 91 dB
Nominal Impedance (Ohms) 8
Frequency Response (-6dB) 34 Hz – 32 kHz
DRIVE UNIT
Dual Concentric™ High Frequency 25 mm (1”) Linear PEI dome with Torus Ogive WaveGuide and Omnimagnet technology
Dual Concentric™ Low Frequency 200 mm (8”) multi-fibre paper 44 mm (1.75”) voice coil
Bass Driver 200 mm (8”) multi-fibre paper pulp cone with rubber surround. 44 mm (1.75”) edge wound voice coil
CROSSOVER
Crossover Frequency 250 Hz & 1.8 kHz
Crossover Type Passive low loss 2nd order low pass, 1st order high pass
CONSTRUCTION
Enclosure Type Downwards ported twin cavity coupled reflex
Volume 48.8 l (1.72 cu. ft.)
Dimensions H x W x D
(incl. plinth)
1080 x 317 x 345 mm
(42.5 x 12.5 x 13.6”)
Weight 19.9 kg (43.9 lbs)
Finish Dark Walnut
Medium Oak
 

 

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