Tannoy Revolution XT 6 loudspeaker

I've been wrestling with my elders about new ways to measure loudspeakers, lobbying for methods that might correlate more directly with a listener's experience. And wouldn't you know? Right in the middle of this Socratic dialogue, I put the fresh-from-UPS, $1000/pair, Tannoy Revolution XT 6s into my reference system, plunking them down on my 24" Sound Anchor Reference stands in the same spot my Harbeth P3ESRs had been sitting. And I freaked! I was using the Rogue RP-7 preamp and the Rogue Stereo 100 (100Wpc) amplifier, and I could never adequately describe how bad the shiny white Tannoys sounded. Imagine sound that's thin, metallic, herky-jerky, dull, and rolled off completely below about 90Hz.

I repeat: rolled off completely below 90Hz.

I tolerated their horridness for about two hours and then considered the possibility that somehow the oldest, most revered British loudspeaker company had mistakenly put some wrong parts in the crossovers. I was getting ready to call Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio (Tannoy's new importer) and tell him something was wrong. But I decided to wait.

I figured some break-in would help, so I let them mumble and squeal for a few days. They sounded bad the second day too. The third day, while I was out for the afternoon, I forced the XT 6s to play through all the Ry Cooder albums on Tidal.

When I returned, my favorite Ry Cooder album—Jazz (16/44 FLAC, Rhino/Warner Brothers/Tidal)—was playing. Cooder's voice, on my favorite song on that album, "Nobody," sounded the way it sounds when it sounds good on an expensive hi-fi. When my second favorite song, "We Shall Be Happy," came on, I noticed a full octave of bass had magically appeared as I was riding the subway and shuffling the streets. Finally, after about 20 hours, the sound was as rich and clear and full as I could expect from a 6" driver in a 0.38 cu.ft. box.

The bass drum on "We Shall Be Happy"—mostly in the 50–100Hz octave—came through weak but clear, doubling a tuba belching the same beat in the same frequency range. (That tuba would have been really sad if it knew how desperately the Tannoy's multifiber cone was struggling to give its song-stealing efforts a clear, "happy" voice.) After three full music-playing days, the XT 6s were still a little iffy below 120Hz.

Above 120Hz, they played a little soft but detail-rich, true of timbre and a touch on the warm side of neutral. I hoped they were still breaking in.

History
Founded in London by Guy Fountain in 1926 as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company, Tannoy is among the oldest loudspeaker manufacturers in the world. The company name was changed to Tannoy Ltd. in 1928. Like Altec and Western Electric in America, Tannoy originally manufactured public address systems serving the military and public sectors during WWII.

In 1947, the year Klipsch was founded in America, Tannoy premiered their first "Dual Concentric" (co-axial) driver, which would become the technology most closely associated with Tannoy loudspeakers. In 1974, Tannoy was acquired by Harman International Industries; Fountain, Tannoy's founder, retired. In 1976, the company moved from London to Coatbridge, Scotland. Next, Tannoy merged with British loudspeaker company Goodmans, forming Tannoy Goodmans International (TGI). In 2002, TGI was acquired by Danish company TC Electronic to form TC Group. Then, in 2015, TC Electronic was acquired by the Music Group, a Philippines-based holding company, which in 2017 changed its name to Music Tribe (footnote 1). On the back of the Revolution XT 6 cabinets it says "Music Group Manufacturing PH Ltd" and "Designed and engineered in the U.K." On the cardboard shipping box, it says "Made in China."

620tannoy.bac

Description
The front of the Tannoy Revolution XT 6 is 8.7" wide and 16" tall, but the back of the cabinet is only 6.5" wide; the cabinet has a trapezoidal footprint. The actual enclosure is only 14.5" tall and is separated from a 1" thick plastic plinth by four 0.5" high chrome-finished plastic spacer columns that allow the XT 6's bottom-firing port to breathe. I presume this bottom-port architecture—and the handsome look of the whole speaker—was intended to make the XT 6s more shelf-and-bureau friendly.

Top-front, behind a flimsy, magnetically attached plastic-and-fabric grille, lies a single 6" multifiber-cone woofer with a coaxially mounted 1" "Linear PEI" (polyetherimide) dome tweeter located at the throat of a waveguide with what Tannoy calls "Torus-Ogive" geometry; Tannoy calls this assembly "Dual Concentric." Second-order low-pass and first-order high-pass filters separate the tweet from the woof at 1.8kHz. Nominal impedance is specified as 8 ohms, sensitivity as 89dB/2.83V/m. Except for the grille, the fit, finish, and quality of materials make the Revolution XT 6 look considerably more expensive than its modest $1000/pair price would suggest.

Setup
When I placed the Tannoy XT 6s on the shelf above my desk, they sounded extremely good. Bass response was smoother here than on stands. But out in the room, on my 24" Sound Anchor stands, I experimented: I moved the XT 6s nearer and farther from the front wall, trying to make the 50–200Hz octaves come into focus. But wherever I positioned them, they sounded the same. This speaker is relatively unaffected by the proximity of room boundaries.

Upscale Audio's Kevin Deal says the XT 6's concentrically mounted tweeter and its "Torus Ogive" waveguide allows the tweeter's output to combine with the bass-midrange output to generate a forward-expanding "mushroom cloud" of phase-coherent energy.

Listening with the Rogue Stereo 100
I have never owned Tannoy loudspeakers, but several of my golden-eared friends do. Every time I hear one of their systems, all of which are powered by low-wattage tube amps, I feel the speakers need more amplifier power than their owners are giving them. My gut feeling is that these coaxial drivers require at least 30W to sing and 100W to dance. Therefore, I started my auditions with the 100Wpc Rogue Audio Stereo 100, wired in Ultralinear mode.

My first post-Cooder notion about the XT 6's sound character came while playing the record I use to set phono cartridge VTA/SRA: Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours (LP, Capital W 581). When "Deep in a Dream" puts a full Frank in front of me; when the distorted hi-fi part of the sound disappears leaving only Frank's voice and the Nelson Riddle–conducted orchestra; when the smoke from Frank's cigarette climbs through the air and I fall deep in a dream of her: That's when I know my system is right. The Rogue/XT 6 combination let that happen. Ol' Blue Eyes sounded incredibly natural and Nelson Riddle's orchestra had a most agreeable tone—no hint of stridency.

Switching to the present era and a more demanding program, the Stereo 100 drove the XT 6s to 90+dB peaks (at 2m, C-weighted) playing David Byrne's "I Dance Like This" from American Utopia (24/96 FLAC, Nonesuch/Qobuz). The bass power on this recording can humiliate small speakers, so, naturally, below 60Hz there was some noticeable distortion on the synth bass and drum machine, but it was subtle and minor. The little Tannoys showed a bit of force and a ton of coherence. For the next issue, I am doing a follow-up review on Rogue Audio's latest version of their Sphinx integrated amplifier, the Sphinx V3 hybrid tube–class-D amplifier ($1595). (The original Sphinx was my first review for Stereophile.) So of course I tried the V3 with the XT 6s. Stereophile reviewers avoid using unreviewed ancillary equipment in our reviews, but I would be remiss in my honest reviewer duties if I did not now at least mention how the 100Wpc Sphinx V3 drove the Tannoy XT 6s with more excitement and raw musicality than the three-times-more-expensive RP-7 + ST-100 combination. It was a "Wow!" moment.

Listening with the Schiit Aegir
One March morning, I made coffee and installed the $799, 20Wpc Schiit Aegir stereo amplifier behind the Tannoy XT 6s. I was curious how the low-power Schiit would play "I Dance Like This" from the abovementioned David Byrne album. I listened critically as I sipped my coffee. The 20-watt Schiit sounded liquid smooth, with exceptional texture reproducing Byrne's voice, but the Tannoys grumbled and distorted trying to reproduce the heavy-driving bass energy. When I turned the volume down (to 80dB average at two meters), things cleared up a lot, and the sound of Byrne's voice and the synth background became sweeter and mellower and very nicely sorted.


Footnote 1: Probably the parent company's best-known brand is pro-audio manufacturer Behringer.—John Atkinson
COMPANY INFO
Tannoy Group Ltd.
US Distributor Upscale Audio
2058 Wright Ave.
La Verne, CA 91750
(909) 931-9686
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

I agree ...... Ortofan is an 'astute' reader :-) .......

davip's picture

"...Imagine sound that's thin, metallic, herky-jerky, dull, and rolled off completely below about 90Hz. I repeat: rolled off completely below 90Hz..."

That, Herb, was what I heard from the Tannoy DC2000s that I stupidly bought online in 1989. Unlike your experience, they Never broke in and sounded as sh1t on Day 300 as they did on Day 1. I could never understand why a speaker with two 7-8" woofers in an IB enclosure over 1-m tall could sound so anaemic in the bass. By Day 300, I didn't care and sold them for 1/3 purchase to someone to sit aside his Sony Profeel monitor.

I kid you not when I say that I have heard loudspeakers the size of a 2lb bag of sugar with better bass-response than those Tannoys, and I eventually chalked that absence of bass and crap, shouty sound quality down to simple lack of engineering -- anyone who understood what they were doing in Tannoy is long-dead and gone. I will never buy anything from this junk brand again -- and will happily shout my experience for anyone who's thinking of putting money their way.

It might not seem like a particularly "astute" comment, but when you start a review with "...sound that's thin, metallic, herky-jerky, dull, and rolled off completely below about 90Hz. I repeat: rolled off completely below 90Hz...", it's questionable that you should finish that review with the words "Highly Recommended". This isn't 'break-in', it's Acceptance, and quote 1 mirrors my experience of the Tannoy Dual Concentric driver exactly...

beave's picture

It's a good thing you don't hold a grudge for long! ;-)

davip's picture

I'll remember you said that... X-/

beave's picture

Believe me, I was afraid to submit that post! :-)

emir's picture

Yes certainly Tannoy is not the brand it used to be when they introduced their coaxial drivers back in the four ties and their huge loudspeakers Westimster for example.Now they are just a name uses by some international group more interested in profit than in high quality.Note as some engineers left the brand and started a new brand Fyne Audio to continue the legacy

AJ's picture

The true nature of the beast.

cheers
AJ
Soundfield

beave's picture

I definitely like seeing the non-normalized plot along with the normalized one.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It would be nice if Stereophile includes non-normalized response curves on a routine basis ..... The ripple effect between 2kHz and 3kHz is better shown in the non-normalized graphs for example, with these Tannoy speakers ....... The FR jumps up almost +7 db from 2kHz to 3kHz ..... Non-normalized graphs are some what similar to the 'Spinorama' graphs obtained at Harman International :-) ......

Erin's picture

Some prefer one method. Others prefer another. I provide the data in both ways just so people won't raise pitchforks. For example:
https://www.erinsaudiocorner.com/loudspeakers/neumi_bs5/

AJ's picture
Quote:

Others prefer another.

Well, one shows what hits the walls, one doesn't.
To each their own.
Nice site.

cheers

AJ
Soundfield

Erin's picture

Absolutely. Just saying that I wish more would provide both to catch both sides of the coin.

funambulistic's picture

I know you from the AH site! Loved your reviews of the Buchardt and Jamo speakers.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It would be interesting to see the measurements of MC Audiotech and Endow Audio speakers ....... They were shown in Florida Audio Expo 2020 and RMAF 2019 ........ Both JM and JVS liked their sound during those shows :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Nice listening room ..... BTW, are those copper infused socks? :-) .......

Erin's picture

Yes, yes, they are copper infused socks. Not because of their ability to help stuff ports properly. But because of their conductive properties when it comes to blood flow. Gotta keep those toes a-wigglin'. :D

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1 routinely provides port FR measurements ...... See, Fig.3 red trace in measurements section for this Tannoy speaker model :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Take a look at Stereophile port FR measurements of Totem Skylight speakers ....... Fig.3, red trace in measurements :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Take a look at 22 song playlist Rolls Royce uses to fine tune their car audio systems, posted on Sound & Vision magazine website ........ How come you don't have 'Hotel California' on your playlist? ...... Rolls Royce has it on their playlist :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

Geez,

the factory is supposed to have Quality Control burning everything in, with a final test sign-off! ( one more china problem )

Keven Deal should've checked these Loudspeaker's performance before he let them out the door.

Deal and Tannoy got very lucky that this reviewer persevered , put the drivers thru a full 100 hour initial break in. I doubt that I would've had the patience of JOB like Mr.HR displayed and I doubt that buyers in today's marketplace will put up with such a defective 'First Impression'.

I can't recall ever getting a "Highly Recommend" on any product that didn't dazzle right out of the box.

I'm wondering: How long will this broken-in Loudspeaker System perform adequately before it's hidden problem re-surfaces. We need accurate, no-bs explanations from Mr.Deal ( don't we? ) and from the Tannoy people considering that Stereophile is the highest integrity Audio Journal.

Mr.JA1 described the complexity of this design and highlighted a persistent problem lurking in it's presence region.

Tony in Venice

ps. these things might sell quite well on the shelves of Best Buy, probably discounted down to some attractive 'Street Price'

er1c's picture

Herb you work so hard to find redeeming qualities in things, ie, critical comments followed by a reason to praise; and I find this endearing. And you write like a painter (Oh yeah, you are that) I own nos tubes purchased at Upscale, a few great a few so so in my Rogue Sphinx v2 and now v3. With Kevin (and I very much enjoy his enthusiasm) everything is fabulous as if he's partaken of very high quality sacred herb just prior. I mean no offense, just saying. I am acquaintance of two very high profile recording engineer/producers who use early Tannoy Monitor Golds with custom cabinets, as studio monitors and since they can afford and obtain anything they want, these must actually be fabulous. I mean they use damn original RCA 44s on drums for crying out loud (I am actually crying) Judging by the artists they've recorded and how amazing the records sound I have no doubt in thier choice of gear. So there must be TANNOY and then tannoy Thanks Herb, I own Spinx v3 and love it whether you do or not, it is a wonderful sound in my economic reach.

Herb Reichert's picture

of the Sphinx V3 (Followup to follow) as well Tannoy Monitor Golds. Also...

I am a forever fan of Tannoy Arden and Tannoy Red or Black drivers on open baffles - just sayin'

hr

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is it possible to get measurements of Sphinx V3? :-) ......

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
Is it possible to get measurements of Sphinx V3?

Herb's followup appears in the August issue and is accompanied by a full set of measurements. And yes, he does evaluate the headphone output.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be HR could also review the new PS Audio Stellar Strata integrated amp ($3,000) :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Hope HR evaluates the headphone output of Sphinx V3, also :-) .......

dial's picture

A bit overpricey for chinese gear. This break-in period is strange.

davip's picture

As said earlier, I don't believe this is "break-in" (my shouty, bass-less Tannoy dual-concentrics never changed and were disposed of at considerable loss).

What's really worrying about this Review is that Tannoy will advertise this junk with the flash "Highly Recommended, Stereophile 2020" -- parting unsuspecting buyers from their hard-earned thereby.

The more I reflect on this Review's Conclusion the more I think that it does a disservice to readers and customers -- the first such that has struck me this way in this magazine. I think that 'Highly Recommended' should be withdrawn, or at least suspended unless this Kevin character comes up with another review-pair to address this loudspeaker's numerous issues.

beave's picture

It would be interesting to have measurements for both a "broken-in" speaker and one straight out of its box. If not measurements, at least listening comparisons might be worthwhile, to see how much the break-in is the speaker changing and how much is the reviewer's perception changing.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Breaking news! ........ After 100 hours, the speakers have finally broken-in! :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Friend: Herb, is there a new construction going on in your listening room? ..... I hear jackhammer sound ....
Herb: No, those are my new speakers breaking-in :-) .......

Ortofan's picture

... better off by instead submitting for review the Revolution XT-8F?

Measurements accompanying the Hi-Fi World review indicate that the low frequency response peaks at about 60Hz, which would likely address HR's comments regarding a lack of output below 90Hz for the XT-6. Foam plugs for the ports are available if the low frequency output is too great. Also, the ~7-8dB peak in frequency response at about 3kHz, shown in JA1's test data, appears to be absent in the XT-8F. Note that the HFW reviewer remarked that the XT8 "had an expansive, immersive sound that encouraged me to extend listening sessions just a little bit longer."

http://www.navratilaudio.cz/pr_tannoy/Test%20Tannoy%20Revolution%20XT8F%20-%204%20str%E1nky.pdf

In another review, the XT-8F was declared a Hi-Fi Choice group test winner, besting competitors from DALI, Epos, GoldenEar, KEF and Q Acoustics.

https://www.aaaelektronika.cz/user/related_files/rs10761_revolution_xt8f_group_test_winner_-_hfc404_-_december_2015.pdf

Certainly the $2,300 XT-8F costs more than double the price of the XT-6, but perhaps that added expenditure might yield more than proportional gains in sound quality. In between, there is the $1,700 XT-6F, which received a 5-star rating from What Hi-Fi.

https://www.whathifi.com/us/tannoy/revolution-xt6f/review

Bogolu Haranath's picture

KEF R5 ($3,000/pair) competes well with Tannoy XT-8F :-) .......

Ortofan's picture

... make that determination?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

KEF R5 was reviewed by TJN for S&V magazine (along with other KEF HT models) ....... Judging from the KEF R3 and R11 models reviewed by Hi-Fi News, most likely the R5 is also a good value for the money :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Because XT-8F is a 2 1/2 way design, they may provide slightly more low bass extension than the KEF R5 :-) ......

Ortofan's picture

... the 2-1/2 way XT-8F might provide slightly more low bass extension than the 3 way KEF R5?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Tannoy XT-8F has two 8" mid-bass and bass drivers ...... Since XT-8F is a 2-1/2 way design, both 8" drivers operate into bass frequencies, up to the port tuning frequency ...... KEF R5 is a 3-way design with two 5.25" drivers operating in the bass frequency up to the port tuning frequency ...... So, the XT-8F could have as much as 10 Hz low bass frequency extension than R5 ......

It is possible that the R5 could have less TIM distortion in the midrange with better midrange resolution than the XT-8F, because R5 is a 3-way design :-) ........

Kal Rubinson's picture

...... Since XT-8F is a 2-1/2 way design, both 8" drivers operate into bass frequencies, up to the port tuning frequency ..

Both 8" drivers will operate down to (and below) the port frequency as well as up to the LP filter for one of them.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes, agreed ......There would be rapid fall-off of bass frequency, below the port tuning frequency :-) ......

Kal Rubinson's picture

I was too subtle. They both perform down to the port frequency, not up!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes, the lower woofer rolls-off above 250 Hz :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ha, I it see now ...... I should have said 'both drivers operate 'down' to the port tuning frequency' ....... Thank you for the correction ....... I should work on my English language :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Aha ..... KR's next reviewing project, Tannoy XT-8F :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

HR could review the NHT C3 ($1,000/pair to $1,100/pair) ...... Was reviewed and measured by Home Theater HiFi :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

SVS Prime Pinnacle ($1,600/pair) is another floor-standing speaker favorably reviewed by S&V magazine and Hi-Fi News :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... in regard to (apparently high) levels of distortion, over on this site:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/tannoy-revolution-xt-6-speaker-review.14662/

Roger That's picture

…in an relatively recent online interview, break-in should apply mainly to the woofer(s), and it should be accomplished in a matter of seconds by applying a very low frequency signal (that makes the cone and its suspension traveling in high excursions without applying too much power to the voice coil/thus less heat).

He even defends that the parameters don’t change significantly after those seconds of hard work (except for the mechanical wear and tear that time, years and/or operation will unavoidably bring along), and that a loudspeaker that isn’t used for a very long time can benefit from that process again.

I don’t have any credentials to confirm or deny statements by someone like Andrew Jones, although I can say that I’ve measured the resonant frequency and impedance curve of used drivers (woofers) that were stored for quite some time before and after that exercise mentioned by AJ, and they definitely changed.

I ended up not taking the extra steps in my measurements and go through the Thiele-Small parameters, but I’d almost bet that it would likely be different before and after that exercise (I used a sine wave around 12 Hz or so for less than a minute).

I assume that this was a pure anecdotal experience, but it does correlate with what a very respected loudspeaker and driver designer says (he doesn’t seem to have much faith in “breaking in” tweeters and other smaller drivers for a long period of time, and honestly, neither do I in my experience*).

And all of this to say that breaking-in these specific Tannoys won’t ever change one of the following facts:

  • Either there was a problem on manufacturing and these units were not up to specifications, or
  • This is a poorly designed loudspeaker which shouldn’t be sold by this brand at any price, let alone $1000;

None of these scenarios is positive, because one would suggest a terrible quality control at the manufacturing stage, and the other would suggest just plain wrong engineering (which doesn’t make sense in a brand with these resources).

But that FR is way too flawed to sound anything close to “right”, let alone neutral. That is a ridiculous response any way we look at it.

That “thin, metallic” sound does correlate to what JA measured, and the “rolled off completely below about 90Hz” wouldn’t be surprising if the nearfield rise in level is removed, and other room-related issues combine in a way that’s not favourable to this underachieving loudspeaker.

In the end, almost any loudspeaker can sound “ok” if a combination of factors happens at the same time (the music used for testing, the interaction with the room and partnering equipment’s, and even reviewer bias (we all have our own, whether we realize it or not).

Comparing these measurements with almost any reputable British manufacturer (as reviewed by Stereophile) paints a very clear picture, even at lower price points.

In all fairness, JA (in all its amazing diplomacy) is very clear on his final assessment, which is definitely not something worth a “Highly recommended” measured performance.

I would like to see the in-room response in the reviewer’s room at the end of the review, in order to see if we could make some sense of what made this poorly engineered loudspeaker deserve such a high accolade by the reviewer.

I cannot praise Stereophile enough for having measurements at the end of a review, because (without any disregard for the reviewers opinion at all), this is why people (myself included in the past) would buy a recommended product from an audio magazine, only to find out that the harshness (or any other problem) would never go away.

By making the “complex sum” of the reviewer words with JA’s measurements, things tend to become a lot clearer (or harsher -literally in this case).

*To be clear, my personal experience and beliefs are only mine, without any pretension to be right.

trynberg's picture

It's appalling this poorly engineered speaker earned a "highly recommended" designation. The frequency response is so awful and the woofer rings like a bell. This kind of performance shouldn't be excused on a $300/pair speaker, let alone a $1,000 pair. Pathetic.

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