Building to a price inevitably entails compromises. The art is in choosing the right ones...
Although Tannoy built their reputation on dual‑concentric speakers, it could be argued that their more conventional two‑way nearfield monitors have made a bigger impression in today's home studio market. The original Tannoy Reveal active nearfield monitor impressed us with its sensible balance of performance and price, so we were understandably more than a little interested to see how its new replacement shaped up. Although a passive version of the new Reveal, the 601P, is available, the current trend leans more towards active designs, so I decided to focus this review on the Reveal 601A, which is the active version of the same design.
Measuring 341 x 210 x 273mm and weighing in at 8.3kg, the 601A is outwardly fairly conventional in appearance. The cabinet features contoured and curved edges on its newly designed front baffle, which helps to reduce edge diffraction (an effect whereby sharp corners scatter sound back towards the listener, causing phase issues at high frequencies). The baffle has also been designed to be very rigid, although tapping it suggests that it may be moulded, rather than machined from solid MDF.
For the top, bottom and sides of the cabinet, a straightforward black‑covered 10mm‑thick panel is used, and a flush‑mounted metal backplate houses the controls and acts as a heat‑sink for the amplifiers. The soft‑dome tweeter feeds into an elliptical waveguide that is part of the baffle moulding and is designed to control both the horizontal and vertical directivity of the high frequencies. Tannoy have also opted for a front‑mounted bass port, which avoids the interaction that can occur when speakers with rear‑facing ports are placed close to a wall. Here, the port entrance is flared, to avoid wind noise, or 'chuffing'.
At the heart of the monitor is the pairing of a 130mm (6.5‑inch) bass/mid driver and a 30mm soft‑dome tweeter. The bass driver, which has a distinctive silver‑coloured paper‑pulp cone, has been refined to offer greater linearity than its predecessor, and the tweeter's response has been extended to 30kHz, enabling this relatively compact monitor to deliver a 60Hz-30kHz frequency response.
The woofer is set back into the baffle, so that its edges are flush with the cabinet front, and there's a blue power LED set into the lower edge of the mounting ring. A total of 90W of amplifier power drives the woofer (60W) and tweeter (30W), with the crossover frequency set at 2.3kHz, and there's a three‑position +1.5/0/‑1.5dB HF trim switch, to tailor the high end to the room and to the user's preference. Of course, there's also a volume control. There's no low‑frequency control, such as you'd often find on larger monitors: the speakers are set for 'quarter space' operation, which is appropriate for typical small‑room use. For the audio input, there's a choice of balanced XLR or unbalanced jack connectors. Power comes in on a standard IEC socket, albeit with no ground connection (presumably to avoid ground loops), and there's a voltage selector for 110V and 230V regions at 50‑60Hz.
While these speakers don't quite match the clarity and focus of high‑end studio monitors, they do present a well‑balanced tonality and, best of all, they don't sacrifice top‑end smoothness in an attempt to create a false impression of detail. The outcome is that they're very comfortable to work with for long periods, and the all‑important mid‑range is not swamped by overblown bass or scratchy highs.
Though not quite as tight and controlled as some more expensive speakers, the low end is solid and full without being overstated, and, despite my comments about the smoothness of the high end, the tonality certainly isn't dull. The sweet spot is usefully wide, with stereo imaging about typical of what you'd expect from speakers of this size and a believable centre phantom image. The bass end also tightens up significantly if the speakers are placed on a solid platform rather than directly on a shelf.
With a maximum SPL per pair of 111dB at one metre, the Reveal 601As are adequately loud for nearfield work, but, as you might expect, the sound gets a bit messy if you push them close to their limits. At sensible listening levels, they work fine, producing mixes that translate well to other systems, and although those used to artificially bright‑sounding monitors may find them a bit 'reserved' sounding, I much prefer that to listener fatigue. If you really need to check out the fine detail in a mix, I'd recommend a run-through with headphones — but I'd recommend that regardless of the speakers you use.
As for the price, the Reveal 601As sit in the less‑populated space between budget and mid-priced monitors, and the increase in choice at this price point that these speakers bring is welcome. Tannoy's designers have kept the cabinet design fairly cheap and functional to allow them to spend the bulk of the cost on good-quality drivers and electronics, and it shows in the performance. Like the earlier Reveal models, I think the 601As will win a lot of friends in the home-studio arena.
There are actually not that many comparable monitors in this price range, though you might want to check out Fostex's PM series and the Alesis Monitor 1 Mk II.