Stereo Speakers Awards – Q1 2013 (Part 2)

3/14/2013 9:10:27 AM

Tannoy Revolution DC6: $600

It takes a special product to knock a multiple Product of the Year winner off its throne. The defeated incumbent, KEF’s Q300, had no answer to this Tannoy’s musical talents, particularly as the DC6 has enjoyed a massive $300 price-cut recently. At this price these Tannoys really are irresistible.

Tannoy Revolution DC6

Tannoy Revolution DC6

What do you get for the money? This is well-built Standmounter with a neat finish and what looks like just one drive unit. That’s not the case, of course.

The DC in the speaker’s name signifies the use of one of Tannoy’s trademark Dual Concentric drive units. This puts a 25mm titanium dome tweeter in the heart of a 15-cm treated-paper mid/bass. The idea is to try and emulate the theoretical ideal of ‘point source’, where all the sound comes from a single point. Sound dispersion is more consistent too.

In our experience, Dual Concentric Tannoys have never been the purest-sounding speakers. That tweeter buried deep inside the mid/bass has always skewed tonality a little, and robbed the final sound of little treble purity. Still, every new generation sounds just a little better in this respect and any tonal deviance is small and very easy to get used to.

Top tip: it’s tempting to compromise on stands, but a pair of well-designed supports is critical to getting the best from these Tannoys

Excitement and versatility

Everything else about this little speaker is wonderful. The DC6s are dynamic and exciting in a way that eludes most rivals. Feed them whatever music you like – it can be Adele’s Rolling In the Deep or Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata and they’ll make the most of it. Rhythmic precision is simply excellent, making the DC6s one of the most engaging speakers it’s possible to buy anywhere near this price point.

Add terrific integration between the drive units and an impressively stable sound stage, and you have a class leader.

Partner the DC6s with something like Rega’s Rrio-R amplifier or, if the budget allows, Heed’s terrific Obelisk Si and they’ll work a treat. At this price we haven’t come across a better alternative.

Best floor-stander: $525-$1,050

Q Acoustics 2050i: $570

While Tannoy’s DC6s are brilliant speakers for the money, sometimes you just need something that sounds bigger, goes louder and simply delivers more bass. Welcome to Q Acoustics’ mighty 2050i floor-standers.

Q Acoustics 2050i, the best floorstander: $525-$1050

Q Acoustics 2050i, the best floor-stander: $525-$1,050

While we’ve always liked the 2050s, it’s the introduction of this “i” model that has lifted these speakers to superstar status. No surprise: Q Acoustics has good record when it comes to revisions – its smaller 2010 and 2020 models both benefiting markedly from the “i” upgrades.

Sure enough, the technical improvements to this large model mirror those applied to the little 2020is. There’s new tweeter, updated cones for the mid/bass units and a revised crossover. Oh, and that decoupled tweeter too.

Put it all together and you have everything the 2020is do well, but magnified. There’s the same appealing easy-going character that makes these speakers un-fussing about recording quality and, to a certain degree, partnering equipment.

The 2050i’s high frequencies are smooth yet still insightful, while its midrange is easily as expressive and articulate as we’ve heard from any floor-stander at this price point.

As you’d hope, these speakers go mighty loud without issue too. That refined balance prevents things getting nasty, even at high levels, and those twin mid/bass units manage to deliver oodles of weighty and relatively articulate lows.

While we’ve always liked the 2050s, it’s the introduction of this ‘i’ model that’s lifted these speakers to superstar status

Precision with discernment

Unlike most floor-standing rivals, these are agile-sounding speakers. They track instrumental strands with admirable precision and have enough transparency to reveal readily the differences between, say, standard-resolution 16/bit/44.1kHz files and 24Bit/96kHz music. Few rivals are so insightful even higher-priced ones.

Move away from sound quality and the good news continues. Build quality is deeply impressive at this price so much so that it makes last year’s winner, Tannoy’d Mercury V4, look ‘thrown-together’ in comparison.

If you have a large room and need an affordable floor-stander to fill it with sound, we haven’t come across anything better than the 2050is to do the job. After a thorough running-in (which makes a noticeable difference), it’s clear they represent great value.

Best floor-stander: 1,050-$2,250

Tannoy Revolution DC6T SE: $1,500

Take the excellent Tannoy Revolution DC6 Standmounters, stretch the cabinet and add a dedicated bass driver, and you have the DC6T – our Award winner in this category last year. This new SE version features improved drive units, an upgraded crossover and a more stable plinth.

Tannoy Revolution DC6T SE, the best floorstander: 1050-$2250

Tannoy Revolution DC6T SE, the best floor-stander

For some of us, the phrase ‘Special Edition’ sends a shudder down the spine. We can’t fully escape the idea gifted to us by the car industry of painted allows, attention-grabbing badges and go-faster stripes. But with these Tannoys, we can heave a sigh of relief. The engineering changes over the standard floor-stander result in a quite dramatic lift in performance, even if the speakers’ character hasn’t changed much.

The engineering changes over the standard DC6T floor-stander result in quite dramatic lift in performance

Agile, enthusiastic delivery

The Revolution DC6T SE is immensely likeable. Its presentation is fast and agile and there’s plenty of attack when the music demands.

Play the likes of Drake’s Under Ground Kings and these Tannoys charge along with enthusiasm. They make sense of Drake’s rapid-fire vocal delivery, while keeping the rhythmic momentum of the track rolling on in what feels like an unstoppable manner. This is by no means a pristine recording, and the DC6T SEs are happy to reveal that, but they won’t go out of their way to highlight the flaws despite an impressively high level of insight.

Move onto something grander, such as Stravinsky’s The Ritte of Spring, and these floor-standers deliver a sound of huge scale and power. While some rivals deliver a purer tonal balance, the DC6T SEs counter with immaculate integration, expressive dynamics and a sense of rhythmic drive few rival can get close to.

There’s ample excitement in evidence here, but not so much that you could accuse the Tannoys of over-eagerness. And that applies regardless of genre or volume. We found that bi-wiring gives a more expansive sound, although you do trade a touch of that cohesion.

There are jewels beyond the SE’s dynamics, timing and insight, too. We’re really impressed by the solidity of the Tannoys’ stereo imaging. Provided you take a little time to optimize the speakers’ positioning in the room, these towers generate a pleasingly accomplished sound stage.

The original DC6T is great speaker. This new model is even better, and in our opinion the finest floor-stander anywhere any near this price.

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