Tannoy E11 loudspeaker

The Tannoy E11 ($349/pair) is the company's least-expensive model in a wide range of consumer loudspeakers. Tannoy is most often known for its professional models, especially their nearfield, dual-concentric monitors that have become de rigueur on the top of recording consoles. The E11 is a two-way, ported design with a 6.5" woofer and 1" dome tweeter. Both drivers are manufactured by Tannoy, instead of being sourced from a driver manufacturer. The woofer is made from a polyolefin co-polymer, a plastic material with high rigidity and good self-damping properties. To improve power handling and increase sensitivity, the voice-coil is edge-wound on a Kapton former. The surround appears to be made of butyl rubber.

The E11's tweeter is a 25mm aluminum-dome unit that sports Tannoy's name on the front plate. The tweeter surround is made from polyamide, which is said to give the driver linear, piston-like characteristics. Tannoy calls this use of two materials "Differential Material Technology." The tweeter's ferrofluid damping is said to contribute to the driver's high first-breakup mode.

Crossover frequency is 3kHz, with first-order low-pass and second-order high-pass slopes. Polyester caps and iron-dust core inductors are hard-wired into the system. Internal bracing helps reduce panel resonances. The E11 is unusual for an inexpensive loudspeaker in that two pairs of input terminals are provided for bi-wiring. Shorting bars are included for single-wire connection. Just above the input terminals, a port vents the enclosure interior to the outside world. Incidentally, the terminals were the best of this group of loudspeakers, and excellent by any standards. The large cup provided plenty of room for thick cable, the two pair of inputs are angled upward to make connection easier, and the spacing is well thought out.

Cabinet finish is black ash, and the front and rear panels are black anthracite. A black grille cloth with the blue Tannoy logo attaches to the front panel. Overall, the E11 is very attractive, and its fit and finish are excellent.

My first impression of the E11s was their much brighter and more open presentation compared with the Dana Model 1s tnat also review in this issue. There was more treble energy, giving the sound a lively quality not heard through the Model 1s. However, I felt the treble was a bit too bright, giving cymbals a spitty quality and making vocals a little on the sibilant side. Directly on-axis, the E11s were too bright to listen to for an extended period, but pointing them straight ahead greatly ameliorated the tizzy rendering. Even off-axis, however, the E11s still had a bit of edge to the treble. Strings had a slightly steely quality and sax had too much of a reedy edge. Overall, the brightness was not severe enough to distract from the listening.

The E11s had a tight, well-defined bass presentation. Although there was still some bloat, bass was better controlled and with greater pitch definition than the Dana Model 1s. In addition, low-frequency extension seemed better. Listening to Dick Hyman plays Fats Waller (Reference Recordings RR-33CD), the piano's lower registers had a greater sense of weight. Bass drum had more sock, with a greater feeling of extension. In addition, the bass resonances were less severe and did not produce such obvious excitations at the resonant frequencies as heard through the Dana Model 1s.

More important to the E11's overall sound, however, was the surprisingly neutral midrange. It was relatively free from the boxy colorations that can make speakers at this price level annoying to listen to. Vocals were smooth and uncolored, taking on a vocalist's character rather than the loudspeaker's. There was, however, a tendency for a degree of stridency in the upper midrange, particularly with instruments that are rich in harmonics. The harpsichord on Handel's Water Music (Harmonia Mundi HMU-907010) took on too much of a tinkly character. It was as though there was a coloration-free band in the midrange, but surrounded on the one side by an overly bright lower treble and on the other by some upper-bass anomalies. In general, the midrange was more laid-back than that of the Dana Model 1, giving a less forward presentation which I found more involving.

The E11s performed well on the LEDR test, with solid images presented outside the loudspeaker boundaries. Spatial presentation was excellent, with images well located between and behind the loudspeakers. Although image focus was far better than the Dana Model 1s', the E11s didn't exhibit the pinpoint imaging of the best mini-monitors. Considering their price, however, the E11s' soundstage width and depth were impressive.

I spent a few days with the E11s single-wired before switching to bi-wired connection. The difference was significant. The E11s' spatial presentation improved, the top end was smoother, and the entire rendering became more musical and involving. The E11 must certainly be bi-wired for maximum performance, even if it means using inexpensive cable like AudioQuest's 79 cents/foot F-14. The decision to include bi-wirable inputs in such a low-cost product was wise, and points to the designers' care about sound quality.

The Tannoy E11 is eminently musical for its price. It has a fairly smooth tonal balance, without gross colorations. The midrange, in particular, has an open, unboxy quality that is uncommon for a loudspeaker in this price range. Bass extension is excellent for the cabinet size, and the lower registers are quite well controlled. One aspect of the E11s I particularly enjoyed was their open, expansive soundstage. They have the ability to paint a big sonic picture, with good focus of instrumental outlines. Soundstage depth was similarly impressive, with the E11s resolving spatial cues in the recording. The amount of detail was exceptional for a loudspeaker at this price.

My only complaints are of an overly bright treble presentation that gave cymbals a "ssss" quality rather than the more natural "ssshhh" sound. Similarly, vocals exhibited a slightly spitty edge that exacerbated the unnatural sibilance on most recordings. The upper octaves tended to have a bit of a metallic quality that made violin, sax, and other instruments rich in upper-order harmonics somewhat strident. In addition, there were a few colorations in the upper bass that called one's attention to the loudspeaker.

Overall, I found the Tannoy E11s offered a surprisingly high level of performance for their low cost, especially in their spatial presentation. They were always musical and enjoyable, something that can only be said of a few inexpensive speakers. In addition, the E11s have an attractive appearance with excellent fit and finish. Bi-wiring the E11s is a must, and the designers' inclusion of this option is commendable at this price level. Recommended.

Review context
The Tannoy loudspeakers were auditioned in my dedicated listening room with the following ancillary equipment: VTL 225W Deluxe monoblock power amplifiers, Esoteric D-10 and D-2 digital processors, a Theta DSPro Basic digital processor, and the Electronic Visionary Systems Stepped Attenuator, a passive control unit. The analog front end was a VPI HW-19 Jr. turntable with an AudioQuest PT-5 tonearm and Sumiko Boron cartridge. A new outboard phono preamp made by Precision Audio allowed me to use the passive control unit for both CD and LP playback.

Speaker cable was AudioQuest Green Hyperlitz, and interconnects were AudioQuest Lapis and Music Metre by Second Opinion Audio. Speaker stands were lead-shot–filled and spiked Celestion stands. (I've found that the three words most likely to upset an audiophile's domestic tranquility are "carpet-piercing spikes.")

I began the auditioning with the E11s on the Celestion stands, which placed their tweeters 37" above the floor, 1" above my ears. I found the tonal balance too bright with the speakers toed-in toward the listener; it didn't take long to realize that the E11s work best pointing straight ahead, putting the listener off the main axis. Not only did this position tame the sizzly top end, but imaging and spatial detail improved as well. The E11s ended up 39" from the side walls, 53" from the rear wall, and 90" apart, with the listening chair 104" from the speakers' lateral axes.—Robert Harley

US distributor: TC Group Americas
335 Gage Avenue, Suite 1
Kitchener, Ontario N2M 5E1, Canada
(519) 745-1158