Tannoy TS2.12 powered subwoofer Page 2

Playing my favorite pipe-organ recordings, I was delighted by the deep-bass response. JA's recording of the Widor Toccata had solid, room-locking pedal notes that lifted the 32Hz display bar of Audio Tool's RTA display higher than adjacent frequencies. The lowest pedal notes underpinning the soprano singing the "Pie Jesu" of John Rutter's Requiem, with Timothy Seelig conducting the Turtle Creek Chorale (CD, Reference RR-57CD), thundered with an authority, solidity, and clear pitch definition that I didn't hear from the Quads alone. The massive pedal note that concludes organist James Busby's performance of Herbert Howells's Master Tallis's Testament, from Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago 101), produced room lock and a tightening of the air. However, the TS2.12 didn't sort out the various ranks of pedal pipes underpinning Gnomus, from organist Jean Guillou's transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (CD, DOR-90117), nor did it enhance the ominous, sustained 25Hz pedal note that opens Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, in the recording by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops on their Time Warp (CD, Telarc CD-80106).

Synthesizer recordings were enhanced by the Tannoy, sounding more articulate, linear, musical, and fast. The TS2.12 improved the pitch definition of the sawing, massive bowing of the double bass, with synthesizer and contrabassoon, in "The Caravan Moves Out," from Philip Glass's score for the film Kundun (CD, Nonesuch 79460-2). With James Horner's score for Patriot Games, the Tannoy enhanced the concussive thuds that punctuate the suspense-building mix of synthesizer, chimes, cymbals, and breathy pipes (CD, RCA 66051-2), and further tightened and solidified the ominous heartbeat that threads its way through "Breathe," from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (SACD/CD, EMI 82136-2).

Percussion instruments gained snap and pace, as I heard in Mark Walker's exploding tom-tom solo at the end of "Too Rich for My Blood," from Barber's Café Blue. Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, in the recording by the Minnesota Orchestra under Eiji Oue (DVD with 24-bit, 176.4kHz WAV file, Reference RR-70), revealed the timbres of the delicate reeds while increasing the impact of the explosive bass-drum whacks in Adoration of the Earth and Dance of the Earth. And the bass line of Lyle Lovett's cover of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil," from Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead (CD, Arista ARCD 8669), had just enough punch without thickening his voice.

The ambience retrieved by the Quad-Tannoy system sounded most dynamic and the soundstage deepest when the Quads were driven via the amp's high-pass filter. This was most evident when I listened to the DSD64 file of Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony's recording of Beethoven's Symphony 7. I was bowled over by the music's dynamics, and the Tannoy TS2.12's capacity to enhance the timbre of each instrument. Additionally, the TS2.12 deepened and widened the soundstage, engulfing me in the ambience of the hall. David Bowie's "Been So Long," from the Cat People soundtrack (CD, MCA MCAD-1498), was reproduced with its full dynamic range, and I could determine the relative positions of instruments on a wide soundstage: electric bass at center, Bowie's close-miked voice left of center, and a rasping scratching noise, like a cat, appearing on the right.

More important, the addition of the TS2.12 didn't obscure the Quads' reproduction of solo-piano music: Keith Jarrett's treble notes in "True Blues," from his The Carnegie Hall Concert (CD, ECM 1989/90), weren't muddied by his thudding foot stomps.

Subwoofers I've reviewed in my system have included the B&W DB-1 ($4500), the SV Sound SB13-Ultra ($1599), and the Revel Ultima Rhythm2 ($10,000). Interestingly, only the Revel and the Mark Levinson No.585 integrated amp had high-pass filters clean enough not to flatten, distort, or color the Quad ESL-989s' upper bass, mids, and highs. However, the Tannoy has the smallest cabinet of these four subs, so it was no surprise that its in-room response on the AudioTools RTA display showed a reduced contribution below 40Hz. The other three subs went substantially deeper in the bass, down to 25Hz and below. The Revel, B&W, and SVS had better pitch definition, and more readily produced room lock in my large listening space.

The TS2.12 was at its best when the Quads were driven by the ML No.585 with its 80Hz high-pass filter turned on. You get what you pay for: Revel's Ultima Rhythm2 greatly exceeded the TS2.12's dynamic range, deep-bass extension, room lock, pitch definition, and slam—at more than 10 times the cost and almost five times the weight.

Although I realize that the TS2.12's small size and light weight limited its ability to reproduce a pipe organ's deepest notes, it performed impressively well when properly set up with its volume control fine-tuned using a wide range of vocal and instrumental recordings. Its quick, musical, well-articulated bass blended well with that of my Quad ESL-989s. And while the little TS2.12 costs just $921, its substantial build quality, elegant finish, and easy-to-use controls were as good as those of more expensive subs I've used and recommended, such as the SV Sound SB13-Ultra.

Its bargain-basement price means that the Tannoy TS2.12 doesn't come with the accessories or features found in higher-cost subwoofers—eg, an internal high-pass filter, self-adjusting room equalizer, calibration mike, or remote control—and that I had to spend more time than usual in trial and error, taking measurements and tweaking the TS2.12's controls. But trying different volume and crossover settings ultimately paid off. My listening sessions confirmed that the TS2.12 could provide refined bass reinforcement in a small or medium room, as long as the main speakers were preceded by a clean high-pass filter.

Tannoy's TS2.12 did a restrained and subtle job of providing low-bass reinforcement for my Quad ESL-989s. Its combination of pitch-perfect output, a weight and size that make it easy to move around the listening room, rugged construction, and superb finish puts the TS2.12 on my list of recommended budget subwoofers. For those who associate Tannoy with the PA systems of English railway stations, the TS2.12 will be a refreshing change!

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

Chet Roe's picture

Well....how do you think the Tannoy would do/integrate ie SOUND? with a pair of KEF LS50 speakers in moderate size room? thanks, Chet