Tannoy Stirling Prestige Gold Reference loudspeaker

Founded in 1926 by Guy R. Fountain in London as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company, Tannoy—a portmanteau (footnote 1) of "tantalum" and "alloy," after a tantalum-lead alloy used in rectifiers—took on its current commercial identity in 1928. Through the war years and beyond, the company specialized in public-address (PA) systems. Indeed, today, "tannoy" is a widely recognized generic term for a PA system in the UK; there's an entry for "tannoy" in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Tannoy was 20 years old when the company introduced, in 1947, its Dual Concentric drive unit, the basis of much of the company's subsequent commercial success, at home and in studios. By the '70s, Tannoy was one of the world's best-known manufacturers of studio monitors. In the 1990s, Tannoy expanded its reach into commercial and home audio installations; their in-ceiling speakers made their way into many restaurants and churches. In a way, it was a return to the company's PA roots.

Tannoy's orientation toward installation and pro audio led to its takeover, in 2002, by Denmark-based pro-audio company TC Electronics; the resulting new company was renamed TC Group. Then in 2015, TC Group was acquired by Music Group, a Philippines-based, pro-audio–focused holding company that, a couple of years later, renamed itself Music Tribe.

After this last acquisition, the new owners announced that Tannoy production would be moved from Scotland to China and the Scottish factory would be closed. That led key Tannoy personnel—quite a few of them—to leave the company. It became a major local controversy: Even Pete Townshend went to bat to keep Tannoy Scottish (footnote 2). Subsequently, Music Group announced that products would continue to be produced in Scotland, at a new manufacturing facility.


Today, the old Tannoy factory still exists but seems destined to become a housing development. So, where are these speakers built, specifically the classic, wood-body Tannoys—the Canterbury, the Westminster, and the speaker under review, the Stirling Prestige Gold Reference ($6990/pair)? Did that that new factory ever get built?

"There is a new factory in Scotland," said Kevin Deal of Upscale Distribution, Tannoy's US distributor, in an email. "The cabinets have been made in a furniture factory in Poland for decades and continue to be. Tannoy cabinets, drivers, and crossovers are handmade."

On the back of each speaker, a sticker reads "Designed, engineered, and manufactured in the United Kingdom."

Tannoy's technical history
The original Dual Concentric driver—the Monitor Black from 1947—was developed by Tannoy engineer Ronnie H. Rackham. This driver combined a 15" woofer with a compression tweeter, the woofer cone acting as a wide-dispersion horn for the tweeter; a 12" version was introduced the same year. Coaxial designs were not new, but most others suspended a tweeter in front of a woofer or attached a compression driver on the backside of the woofer magnet. Tannoy's Dual Concentric design allowed the voice-coils of the tweeter and the woofer to share the same magnet and the woofer cone to horn-load the tweeter. The goal was to simulate a point-source transducer, with optimal dispersion characteristics.

First used as a calibration instrument for testing microphones, the Dual Concentric driver was eventually employed in many classic Tannoy loudspeakers, including the Cheviot, Balmoral, Caernarvon, Arundel, and Edinburgh. Tannoy refined its design for decades, creating drivers that are now regarded as collectible: the original Monitor Black, the Silver, Red, Gold, HPD, Royal Blue, and K and D lines, among others.

Tannoy's timeline chronicles its achievements and milestones: a major redesign of the Dual Concentric driver in 1967, with the Monitor Gold; the 1973 recording of The Dark Side of the Moon, which utilized Tannoy studio monitors with the Gold concentric drive unit; the introduction, in 1978, of Anisotropic Barium Ferrite magnets, replacing the Alnicos in high-end Tannoy models; the 1982 introduction of the Prestige range; the introduction, 10 years later, of the Tulip Waveguide Prestige series, including the very first Stirling; the 1999 introduction of the Prestige Dual Concentric Driver with hard-edge twin-roll fabric surround; in 2006, the introduction of the Prestige SE series, including the Stirling SE; in 2013, the introduction of the Gold Reference series—including the Stirling Prestige Gold Reference loudspeaker, the speaker under review, which incorporates all the technologies mentioned above including Dual Concentric drivers, Barium Ferrite magnets, Tulip Waveguides, and HE fabric surrounds.


There have been no giant parties I'm aware of, but there's a lot to celebrate: The Dual Concentric drive-unit is 75 years old this year; the Tannoy Stirling family is having its 40th anniversary. The current iteration—the Stirling Prestige Gold Reference—remains unchanged as it approaches its 10th anniversary, next year. How is Tannoy doing?

The Stirling may have been introduced in 2013, but aesthetically it's a product of the mid-1970s. The handsome cabinet is constructed of MDF and birch ply finished in oiled-walnut veneer. With Tannoy, you're getting both its sound and its cosmetic legacy. One decidedly untraditional aspect of the Stirling is its front-firing ports, which consist of three wafer-thin slots cut along the beveled front edge of the cabinet on either side, spanning almost its full height. "Yes, the ports are ... [slots] on the ... sides of the baffle," Deal of Upscale Distribution wrote. "Dimensions aren't given, but it's calculated to provide the best bass response from this cabinet."

The Stirling's 1"-thick grille, which is inset flush with the cabinet edge, is the heaviest and thickest I've ever seen. It's covered in a tweedlike fabric that reminds me of a blazer worn by a character from a '60s TV show. The grille snaps into place magnetically and is also held in place by the same mechanism found on earlier Tannoy speakers, released with a gold-plated key near the bottom. "This is a classic Tannoy design," Deal explained. "Fans like the big grille and key for removal. Tannoy avoids the use of plastic pins in this design. ... Owners leave them either on or off."

Around the back, four large, sturdy binding posts allow for biwiring; a fifth post enables optional earth-grounding to the amplifier chassis, presumably to reduce EMI reception. Four thick, color-coded wire jumpers were included to connect high- and low-frequency posts.


Also included are two small booklets in a faux-leather sleeve with a wraparound gold string. One is a quality certificate, dated 11/19/19—presumably the date these speakers were built—which includes approval signatures for various stages of production: cabinet and grille inspection, driver assembly, termination-panel assembly, and acoustic test including high-power switch. The other is an information-packed owner's manual, which includes a section on Tannoy's history, replete with vintage photos of Tannoy's old factory and detailed setup instructions. A tin of wood wax is also supplied. The Prestige Gold Reference arrived very well packaged.

The driver
"Tannoy's Dual Concentric [design] is a two-way, time-aligned, partially horn-loaded, coaxial driver," Deal wrote in an email. "Dual Concentric doesn't refer to a two-way driver or a coaxial driver, but to a driver that is concentric (shared center) in two dimensions: on-axis and perpendicular to the axis. The center being the point of propagation of sound. This makes the Tannoy Stirling a true point-source loudspeaker and not just a coaxial loudspeaker. By integrating the high-frequency driver within and on the same axis as the low-frequency driver, Tannoy aligned phase and locked in imaging."

Footnote 1: Although Wikipedia prefers the term "syllabic abbreviation" for cases like this.

Footnote 2 "I feel that the quality of the product will inevitably suffer without the skill and experience of the local workers" if production were to move to China, The Who's guitarist said, according to an article in Scotland's Daily Record. "The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Clash—we all used Tannoys to make our records that 50 years later still generate income and kudos for the UK."

Tannoy Ltd.
US importer: Upscale Distribution
1712 Corrigan Ct.
La Verne, CA 91750
(909) 931-0219

avanti1960's picture

can these be properly evaluated subjectively in a 10' X 12' room?
You guys are great but man the small NY apartments you have will in no way reflect how any speaker will sound in a larger suburban listening room- or do justice to any larger speaker.
PS- send some speakers my way for review- 19' X 27' baby !

Archimago's picture

I seriously hope the listening room wasn't just a small 10'x12'. Hard to imagine that such a space would be able to provide a fair reflection of the sound produced by speakers like these.

Given the importance of room acoustics, I would hope that subjective reviewers make sure to assess products in environments that such products are likely meant to grace.

I doubt customers of speakers like these would be putting them in a 10x12.

Jack L's picture


Good question !!!

My basement is some 700sq ft being evenly rectangular shaped. So I only used one end of it out of the air-free-flowing spaceous area: measured 17'x15' only. Simply because I don't want to sit so far away from the loudspeakers.

Free air flowing is crucial for any home audios. When soundwaves from the loudspeakers are forced to bounce around in a too confined space is nooot a blessing at all, musically & sonically ! This is physics.

Listening to believing

Jack L

Olaf H C Pries's picture

Not having heard the Stirlings but owning the similar Kensington SE speaker I think I can say that a large room should be no problem. before buying my speakers I heard them at a dealer in a huge room sitting about 6 m from the speakers, and they sounded amazing. We were there to audition The the current Sonus faber floorstander costing about half of the Kensingtons that the kid running the demo offered as comparison.

David Harper's picture

Why in the world would a speaker with a dynamic cone driver in a wooden box cost $7000???? Is anyone really this dumb? This speaker is worth maybe a hundred bucks. But I guess those who believe the more it costs the better it must sound will buy this.

ChrisS's picture

Ever wonder if every item in a 99cent store is actually worth 99cents?

Have you?

Indydan's picture

"Is anyone really this dumb?"

Just look in the mirror David.

RH's picture

Do you actually think speakers (or any other consumer item) should cost (your ill-assessment) of the sum of their parts?

Do you really think that's how businesses work?

Have you ever tried to run a business where you sell manufactured products? No other expenses other than parts to cover?


I went to the doctor who assessed me. In the end he just handed me a sheet of paper on which he wrote a prescription. I'm enraged that he's charging more than the cost of that piece of paper, which must be worth, what, 25 cents?

Jack L's picture


If you think David Harper doesn't know "how businesses work". you think YOU would know better in this Tannoy case ?

The hidden agenda of manfaucture off-shore is to make bigger profits by saving the high cost of local manufacture in term of materials & assembly labour, undermining its long term quality & reputation in case of premature failure.

One word: profiteering, IMO.

Jack L

Jack L's picture


Good question, Davd. But also hold your breath as well !

"The handsome cabinet is constructed of MDF (medium density fiberboard..with oiled-walnut veneer." qtd K Micallef.

For whoever don't know what is MDF board, it is widely used in cheap furniture to replace much much expensive real timber. MDF boards are made of recyled wood bits & pieces, pressed together with certain ADHESIVE under high heat/pressure. It looks "handsome" like real timber, but tons money cheaper !!!

It is the adhesive used raised health concern worldwide. The adhestive used is urea-formaldehyde/urea-methanal formaldehyde, which can escape as gases in its surrounding.

Centers for Disease Control & Preventioin found high levels of such adhesive "off gasses" can irritates the skin, eyes, nose & throad, enventually increase lifetime risks of getting cancer !!!!!!
Estimated 6-30 extra cases for every 100,000 people per year.

US Government passed a law of such chemical levels in composite wood products in 2010: not over 0.11ppm, Europe not over 0.07ppm. California Air Resources Board set it at not over 0.05ppm.

Thanks goodness, my young son & family live in the Silicon Valley. Better health protection from MDF furniture!

So hold your breath in case you already owned $7,000 Scotish made loudspeakers & the like built with MDF boards.

Good luck, good health & God bless you who already own loudspeakers built with MDF boards.

Jack L

Homer Theater's picture

Good loudspeakers are NEVER made with mdf. Let that sink in for a moment, and let all the negative "bullshit" thoughts build to a big boiling crescendo. But before you say anything, understand that the product actually used is HDF, or high-density fiberboard. The fibers are much smaller, air gaps between particles are exceptionally tiny. Yes there's resin involved, but there is VERY LITTLE left after the HDF product is "squeezed" during the manufacturing process to remove all of the excess resin. For some reason, the loudspeaker manufacturing universe has never really explained this very well. MDF has been used since the 1980s, taking over from particle board with veneer. But HDF is a much better and much more expensive way to manufacture loudspeakers. The pressure applied to HDF during manufacturing is described as being "immense". This makes HFD much denser and much more effective at rejecting resonances and vibrations that are undesirable in loudspeakers. HDF weighs 2 to 4 times as much as the same volume piece of MDF. That mass and "deadness" from all the small fibers (there are NO "chips" in HDF, it is all powdered wood fiber before being made into HDF. And while MDF is quite inexpensive, HDF is not NEARLY as cheap because the manufacturing process takes longer and uses more highly processed fibers. HDF produces much "deader" cabinets than ANY type of "solid wood" or plywood or MDF or particle board. Some of the best loudspeakers in the world use HDF specifically because it has proven to be one of the BEST materials to resist resonances. Furthermore, both HDF and MDF are available in formulas with small amounts of formaldehyde and ZERO formaldehyde. But the high amount of "squeezing" HDF receives in manufacturing eliminates huge amounts of the resin used to bond everything together so there's really not much left and 95% of any outgassing if there is any, is gone before a consumer receives the speakers made with HDF. I cannot explain why speaker manufacturers keep referring to speakers made with HDF as being fabbed with MDF when HDF is clearly a better, more expensive, and more widely used product for loudspeaker manufacturing. In fact, there may be ZERO speakers (outside of the ones you buy out of a van parked in the parking lot of a closed/shuttered Circuit City store) made with MDF any more. People have made speakers with boxes fabbed from glass, aluminum, plastic, cement, stone, liquid silicone resin that hardens to a stiff rubbery consistency, stone, and metals other than aluminum... none of those materials is as good as HDF for high performance loudspeakers. And with 100s of millions of loudspeakers made with HDF exist in the world and NOBODY has even the SLIGHTEST side effects, including those most exposed to HDF in manufacturing where all manner of production tools cut, router, and otherwise shape HDF for each speaker model. Those workers are exposed to the "freshest" HDF 8 hours a day and 5 days a week and there's no history of illness including cancer among those workers. The fact that you did not KNOW there are low-formaldehyde and no-formaldehye versions of HDF and that speakers are not actually made with MDF (I have a pair of tiny 2-way desktop speakers that sell for $280 per pair that are made with HDF, for example) unless they are the ultra-cheap "sold out of a van" variety or some super-low-priced speaker with no intentions of sounding good. And your thoughts that "real wood" is better for making loudspeakers is 100% WRONG. No real wood is as dense and resonance-free as HDF. That's why HDF is a TERRIBLE material for making musical instruments... because THOSE DO WANT RESONANCES in the wood they are made from. That makes real wood a bad choice for speakers. For speakers you need the complete absense of resonances to make the best sounding loudspeakers. And FURTHERMORE... since most HDF loudspeakers also have wood veneer over the HDF, the adhesive for the veneer and the veneer itself help suppress fumes from escaping if there are any. The inside of the HDF is completely sealed in many speaker designs so no gasses from formaldehyde can escape into the room... they are "trapped" by air-tight cabinets (again, not that HDF has much outgassing compared to older and cheaper materials). Your message this reply addresses is remarkably built on "old tapes" that have never been updated with actual current knowledge of production processes and how easy it is to find HDF without formaldehyde.

Homer Theater's picture

This (this $7000 speaker should be sold for a couple of hundred bucks) is what we like to call "internet level knowledge" meaning, wrong. In the audio world, you typically multiply the cost of the raw materials by 5 to determine the retail price of a product (there can certainly be exceptions when products have a lot of hands-on tuning to produce a higher quality sound than high production volumes without the manual work being equired. And that 5X markup of parts cost has to cover the expenses of making HDF or metal parts for the speaker, making or buying drivers, assembling crossovers, assembly of subassemblies and complete finished speakers, advertising, the cost of the shop time, the "office" time (parts procurement and all the other activities that bring all the bits together to be assembled into complete products. And from that markup, the manufacturer keeps about 50% of the sale price and the seller keeps the rest. Well established brands that have stores beating down their doors to sell those products may give retail stores only 45% of the sale. Newer players in the market often have to give dealers 55% of the sale in order to get representation in retail stores. Please write back after you've had 10 years of experience creating high-precision products that requires you to pay people salaries, get them health and dental insurance, pay for their vacation time, staff an office, staff a production shop, buy and maintain tools used in production, and ALL OF THAT and when the product has precision tweeter and woofer integrated into a single basket/frame with precision magnets and voice coils. Those have to be assembled very carefully with incredible precision, because the closer the magnets are to the moving voice coil, the better controlled the speaker's sound is. So the more expensive the speaker, the more expensive the driver. Centering is critical and essential for dynamic drivers in speakers. Loudspeakers are precision instruments for recreating sound from an electrical signal. This isn't anything that can be accomplished with a $10 box, $10 tweeter and woofer, $5 in crossover parts. The total for parts in this theoretical speaker is $35. Using the typical 5x markup, a speaker with those component part costs would have a retail price of $175 EACH, or $350 per pair. That happens to be a very competitive price point in loudspeaker manufacturing. Also, people underestimate how incredibly perfect Asian factories can build cabinets and speakers without them having to cost an arm and a leg. Few manufacturers sell inexpensive components for very high prices. And the ones who have tried that in the past have all failed in the marketplace. The speaker costs $7000 because you can't make and sell it for less without going out of business. Remember, the manufacturer only gets half the retail price, roughly. An extablished brand like Tannoy may have a marketplace strength that allows them to keep 55% of the sale price. It doesn't matter what you think of all this, this is how the industry works. Everybody who thought they could come in and "clean up" with a $500 speaker that sounds as good as a $3000 speaker has failed because no matter how many they sold, there was no profit after their take on the sale.

vince's picture

Why would you think the value of something is equal to it's component cost? If this is really what you think, I suggest you purchase the components and heap them in two little piles in your listening room. While you're enjoying the classic Tannoy sound, reflect on the value of the design, manufacturing, engineering, testing, reputation, service and support employed by the company offering these speakers.

No, I don't work for Tannoy. I am an engineer and I find your comment offensive.

Jack L's picture


So Mr."Engineer", would you consider my comment on $7,000/pair loudspeakers using cheap & health-hazardous MFD boards "offensive" ???
With such hefty price tag, should we consumers expect a reputable loudspeakers manufacturer as such would have used natural timber boards to build the cabinet ??????????

Jack L

PS: I am an engineer too, decades involved in the electrical power industries. Audio electronics is only my hobby to supplement my addiction to vinyl classical music.

michelesurdi's picture

and where is this magic scottish factory?does it disappear at dawn?

Anton's picture

Speakers in the middle of a line tick me off.

All they do is make me want to upsell.

It's like telling my realtor my budget but then they show me stuff above my budget!!!!

I'm an easy mark for salespeople, I guess!

volvic's picture

I love the timeless look of these speakers. Admittedly, I have never heard them, but their iconic status probably means I would love them. I keep returning to this page just to look at that beautiful cabinetry.

Jack L's picture


"All that glitters is not gold", my friend, Hopefully, it were not "a wolf in sheep's skin" to the owners' health !

Jack L

joh_mac's picture

Where are these products really manufactured? I visited the old Tannoy factory in Coatbridge pre-Music Group, where they manufactured everything including drivers and crossovers – the workmanship was fantastic.
You state everything is supplied from China and you provide a Tannoy factory address….but this address belongs to a Healthcare and a Logistics company who are not connected to Tannoy, in fact Tannoy is not listed as a client on their website.
So, are these products legally “Made in the UK” or is this a scam?
Expensive price for Chinese made copies either way.

joh_mac's picture

Ken, why have you removed the statement from your review "Drivers and crossovers are actually made in China and were shipped back even prior to the factory closing"???

Jonti's picture

I'm also skeptical about the "Made in the UK" tag. There's probably a legal loophole whereby simply assembling something (drivers from China, cabinets from Poland, etc.) in the UK means a company can claim to have made it there.

Reminds me of how in Japan rice can be sold as "Japanese rice" even if a bag contains only a single grain of rice actually cultivated in Japan (with the bulk imported from Thailand and elsewhere).

It's a sad state of affairs. The bottom line in both situations is that transparency (a new word for honesty) would have a negative impact on consumer perception and reduce the price the sellers can charge.

mikepittarelli's picture

Provenance. Anyway, I've had Turnberry SEs for 10 years. Had many others previously in the same room/location (Spendor, Harbeth, Magnepan, Klipsch, B&W, Vandersteen, etc.). No urge to replace these.

mikepittarelli's picture

Provenance. Anyway, I've had Turnberry SEs for 10 years. Had many others previously in the same room/location (Spendor, Harbeth, Magnepan, Klipsch, B&W, Vandersteen, etc.). No urge to replace these.

Jonti's picture

And please don't get me wrong: I love dual concentric Tannoys. I just think it would be a better world if the manufacturers of speakers (Tannoy included) were more open about their processes.

Homer Theater's picture

TVs assembled from Asian parts in Mexico are labeled "Made in Mexico".

Jack L's picture


Good question !

I don't see any information of its country of origin from the pictures of the Tannoy cabinet panels as shown in the above review despite the specifications following the review stated clearly: "designed, engineered & manufactured in the United Kingdom".

So why "made-in-UK" is not imprinted on the cabinet ?????

Jack L

PS: even my vintage KEF standspeakers with cabinet made of natural wood still got a small metal plate at the back panel showing model no, serial no & "made in England".

cdc's picture

Devores are listed as associated equipment but no comparison.
Odd not to see some type of comparison in the review.

sidneyb's picture

I've owned Tannoy Sterling Gold Reference for about the last three years. Without question they are wonderful speakers not only in looks but sound wise. I have them paired with a Luxman L-507 UX Amp. Both the the speakers and the amp were purchased from authorized dealers at deeply discounted prices. I feel very lucky to have them in my collection but the icing on the cake was the price I paid for both.

Friendly Volcano's picture

According to Upscale Audio’s web site:
The Stirling GR cabinet is hand built from the finest plywood using traditional joinery methods to ensure that attention to detail and unique styling go hand in hand. A distributed port design for exemplary LF response from the 85-litre enclosure, the cabinet is finished in Prestige oiled real walnut wood veneer and complimented with solid walnut trim and edging, machined metal trim and adjustable HF power.

It is NOT made of MDF. I believe Ken has it wrong. I have a pair of these speakers, have removed the driver, looked inside and can confirm this. So all this caterwauling about speaker companies ripping folks off is way off way base. The Gold Reference series is designed as a luxury enclosure. Tannoy also makes studio enclosures and modern enclosures at all different price points. But the top end Tannoys have always been relatively expensive. The dual concentric design is fairly unique and is a Tannoy signature. The materials in it are top notch and this is a precision piece of kit. You may decide that these are overpriced, but base it on facts and build quality. You don’t have to spend more than 5 minutes inspecting them to come away with a favorable impression of the build quality and attention to detail. And I have them in a room that has a bunch of odd angles and open areas and they sound great: punchy, efficient and involving. Just my 2 cents worth.

Bill Way's picture

I have these, and, for me, they're keepers.

The cabinets are plywood - I found no MDF/HDF.

One fault: the gold-plated flat-tongue connectors used inside are very weak. I had two fail. Suggest owners replace them with soldered connections, which is very easy for anyone with basic soldering skill.

The bottom end is good to the mid-40's, which is fine for music. Adding a sub to extend the bottom is easy. Thanks to the 12 dB/octave rolloff, the sub doesn't affect the overall sound of the speaker, other than adding a little bottom for, say, some film audio, which sometimes goes lower.