Tannoy - The Truth Revealed

Three years ago I purchased two pairs of powered monitor speakers for two music studios.

I made several visits to the audio store and auditioned many speakers with my favourite CD recordings. The deliberations tore me apart. I had tasted paradise but one pair cost far more than half the budget amount. I couldn't buy the sweetness for both studios. Now I'm not the sort of guy that would say "don't waste your money on a new set of speakers" and I was smitten.

In the end I divided the expense budget unequally between the two studios.

For one studio I purchased some "low-cost" Behringer Truth powered monitor speakers. I installed them and they have been working great ever since (now 2009). The sound is pretty darn good for the money and there is plenty of power available for the size of the studio room.

For the other studio I purchased some expensive (about 3 times the price of the Truths) Tannoy Reveal 6D powered monitors. I was buying some other gear also and the store was able to do me a deal so I could fit in one set of the Tannoys.

These speakers are THE BEST I HAVE EVER HEARD (excepting some ridiculously priced esoteric items in Singapore's Sim-Lim tower). There is PLENTY of low-end punch and more importantly (to me), the high-end is crystal clear. I can hear fingers sliding on nylon strings of acoustic guitars, the spine tingling sounds of the horse-hair traversing the gut-made strings sounds falling from the upper bout of the violins, the tasty high-frequencies of flutes and the immense detail of non-harmonic crashing cymbals. The skilfully tinkled ivories like having a full auditory massage. I can hear the musicians drawing breath... I reckon I can even hear the gorgeous first fiddle's stockings laddering!

Additionally, the high-frequency staging, or imaging, is wonderful. I don't know how to describe it other than to say that the stereo image doesn't collapse and disappear the moment I move the position of my head. It feels like the sweet-spot racing harness on my seat has been released and I am free to move about the cabin .... err, mixing desk.

(A third lovely thing about them is that they pump a beautiful camphorwood aroma into the room for several weeks when they are new - more highs than just from the audio!)

HOWEVER, the powered Tannoy Reveal speakers have been so unreliable! Their audio quality has been inversely proportional to their reliability.

Within the first few weeks of using them for a jazz recording, wind blew across a sensitive microphone and this caused one of the tweeters to fail. I examined the broken speaker coil under a microscope and about six windings of the coil had melted together! Now I really appreciate an amplifier that can deliver a large reserve of power at extremely short notice, but I also expect that a self-powered monitor would have a little more speaker protection than it seems to. Anyway, a mere $100 for a new tweeter and I was back in business... for a short while.

Then the second failure. Suddenly one morning all that would come from the other speaker of the pair was white noise. No matter what I did, only white noise. Fed up and fearing an expensive repair, I put the speakers into the storeroom for a long while.

Recently I took the white-noise speaker and had it repaired by Tannoy's authorised agent. A week later I got the unit back with the succinct note "repaired faulty amp module." and a bill for close to $200. Not too expensive for a repair, but still a hassle. Anyway I'm back in business again.

Then the third failure! First, a bit of background. One of the things I love about these speakers is that they have digital inputs on the back of them. That is, S/PDIF in and out. I connect digital audio from my mixing desk or computer straight to the speakers and confidently know that the speakers sound as good as the Tannoy designers and engineers intended them to. I do not have to be concerned with matching the correct type of esoteric and expensive amplifier to them with the right type of cables and all that snake-oil stuff. The very first conversion from digital to analog occurs inside of the speaker cabinet and I do not have to worry about it.

Well this is all great except that THE VERY DAY that I received the repaired speaker back and reinstalled it, the other speaker now refuses to detect the digital audio signal! It happily passes the digital signal through the speaker to the other one (so the cables are fine) yet the red error LED stays on, instead of turning green. The speaker will not recognise the digital data being sent to it.

Sigh... I guess those quarter-of-the-price Behringer Truths have well and truly Revealed the reliability of the Tannoys. :-(

It is extremely disappointing because I want to buy more of the Tannoy Reveal 6Ds... they sound fabulous... but I'd be stupid to do so with this level of reliability.

Should I buy the (even uglier) red unpowered Tannoy Reveal 6 speakers and muck around with various amps?

Ah, who am I kidding? Despite all my whinging, if I want the Uptown Girl of monitor speakers I guess I have to put up with some mysterious unpredictability and just say, She's always a Woman to me.

What has been your Tannoy Reveal experience? Let me know in the comments below.

EDIT: 23 September. I've had barely a day of enjoying these speakers once again and the high frequencies in the just-repaired speaker just faded to zero over about an hour and it's loosing its low-end response also. All I've been listening to is some Billy Joel and a female singer with her acoustic guitar ... no over-driven distorted death-metal music. FOUR FAILURES ... it's looking pretty unlikely that I'm going to buy any more of these now.

* Images used without permission from Behringer and Tannoy.