Paul White finds out whether Tannoy's new Reveals have anything to hide...
Tannoy are most often associated with dual‑concentric speakers, where the tweeter is placed at the centre of the bass/mid driver, with a view to producing an accurate point sound source. The concept has considerable merit but invariably forces compromise in other areas of the engineering design, the outcome of which is that dual‑concentric speakers tend to have a characteristic sound rather than being ruthlessly neutral. Good dual‑concentric speakers are also costly to build, so when they're designing more affordable monitors Tannoy occasionally revert to the traditional separate tweeter and bass/mid driver topography, often with considerable success.
Show & Tell
The Reveal monitors we're looking at here fit in with this alternative approach for Tannoy — they're passive, 2‑way, nearfield monitors using discrete drivers in a rear ported cabinet. Up to 3kHz the bass and mid‑range is handled by a 6.5‑inch, synthetic‑coned driver in a roll surround, which hands over to a 1‑inch soft‑dome tweeter after this point, though no details regarding the crossover slope or filter characteristics are provided. Both drivers are magnetically shielded, so they can be used near computer or TV monitors. Because their overall sensitivity is a reasonably high 90dB for 1 Watt at 1 metre, in a typical half‑space situation (solid wall behind the speakers), amplifiers of between 50 and 100W per channel provide adequate power. Overall, the Reveals measure 340 x 210 x 260 (mm) and weight 7kg each. The MDF cabinets are finished in a grey suedette vinyl foil.
Taking Off The Wraps
Though the Reveals are largely conventional in concept, they feature several design points worthy of note, not least the convex dust cap at the centre of the bass/mid driver. Opinion is divided between designers on whether this is a good or a bad thing, but Tannoy obviously put it there for a reason. The distinctively profiled front panel is machined from 40mm MDF, making the whole assembly very rigid, and the port is located at the rear of the cabinet, both to conserve panel space and to reduce port noise. The baffle profiling will help reduce cabinet‑edge diffraction, but its main function is probably styling — hence the fetching shade of maroon! The flush‑mounted, soft‑dome tweeter (Tannoy model 1205) is positioned as close as possible to the bass/mid unit (Tannoy model 1690), in order to maximise the vertical angle over which the speakers produce a coherent image. Conversely, the bass/mid driver appears to be surface mounted, but the chassis surround has a rounded edge to avoid abrupt transitions that might cause diffraction. Rear connection is via colour‑coded binding posts that can also accept banana plugs, so there's no need to struggle with Speakon connectors. The crossover is fixed to the back of the terminal plate.
I'm pleased to say that the manual that comes with the Reveals is both informative and amusing. It covers all the basics of speaker placement in a studio environment, including warnings against placing pot plants in front of them, and also offers practical advice on simple ways to improve your monitoring environment, using little more than string and sticky‑backed foam — really! It's a little short on technical information, however, so although you get the basic specification, there's little detail in areas such as crossover design and driver construction. For example, we're told that the monitors' nominal impedance is around 6Ω and that the frequency response extends from 60Hz to 20kHz, but as we're not told how many dBs down the response is at these points, the figure is absolutely meaningless. Neither is the maximum SPL specified. From the frequency graph supplied, the response appears to be around 3dB down at 90Hz, 10dB down at 60Hz and barely down at all at 20kHz. Judging by the impedance plot, the cabinet is tuned at around 90Hz.
Overall, the speakers are tonally well balanced, and while the bass end lacks the extension of bigger monitors, it is still tight and quite solid.
Given their relatively low cost, the Reveals turned in a very respectable performance in listening tests. My test material showed just a slight tendency towards hardness in the upper mid‑range, when compared with the ATC SCM20s that I use as a reference, but the soft‑dome tweeters help keep the high end adequately smooth so that you can work for reasonable periods without experiencing fatigue. The sound has a few very minor rough edges to it, but the general impression is one of clarity and detail. Overall, the speakers are tonally well balanced, and while the bass end lacks the extension of bigger monitors, it is still tight and quite solid. The stereo imaging is also good, even some way off‑axis. Of course, you have to use these speakers in 'portrait' rather than 'landscape' mode to maintain good imaging — unlike Tannoy's dual concentrics, which can be used any way up. The manual explains this quite thoroughly, presumably to try to sell you the idea of buying dual‑concentric Tannoys next time around, but I bet we'll still see Reveals perched on their sides on more than one meter bridge!
Discerning listening tests on vocals revealed only slight traces of edginess at the upper reaches of the voice, and while this trait can increase the apparent amount of sibilance in some voices, it certainly isn't a major concern for a speaker of this price — and, indeed, this slight edginess is a lot less pronounced than on some monitors costing many times the price. The massive baffle pays off in keeping the sound tight and well focused, and although there is a certain lack of finesse when you do a direct comparison with a really good reference speaker, the ears soon compensate. What's important is that, in terms of 'broad strokes', the Reveals present a well balanced and largely accurate impression of how a recording sounds, and they seem fairly forgiving of imperfect listening rooms. If you can't afford to budget more on monitoring, the Reveals have to be one of the better value small monitors around.
- 5‑year parts warranty.
- Work well in most rooms.
- Well balanced, detailed sound.
- Slight coloration makes some sounds seem harder than they really are.
Given the challenge of providing good audio performance at such a low price point, Tannoy have come up with a very usable and attractive monitor that is well suited to small project studio mixing.