Tannoy’s new Revolution XT 8F made quite an impression on me at the latest CES. I listened to it without knowing the price, and after hearing its open and uncolored midrange, wide dynamics, and deep bass (and seeing its wood-veneered cabinet) guessed its price at close to $10k. The XT 8F actually costs $2600, leading me to fast-track the review by Dick Olsher that appeared in Issue 255. Dick said of the XT 8F, “The vocal range was reproduced with exceptional timbral fidelity. My own personal reference, David Manley’s Lesley album, never sounded any closer to the original mastertape. This is high praise indeed, as very few speakers manage to get this right, regardless of price. They either reproduce Lesley’s voice as harmonically too thin or too thick. In contrast to much of the competition, the Tannoy 8F hits the harmonic Goldilocks zone, sounding just right. The range from 300Hz to about 10kHz left little to be desired in textural purity, microdynamic integrity, and tonal accuracy.” That’s saying a lot for a $2600 speaker.
In the meantime, Jonathan Valin, Julie Mullins, and I heard the XT 8F sound terrific at the Munich show. Jonathan even included the Tannoy in his Best of Show roundup, a list populated by many six-figure items. “Speaking of surprises! I could’ve picked many other speakers to fill this final slot, but I simply wasn’t expecting this modest floorstander from the storied British firm whose name was once synonymous with ‘loudspeaker’ to produce such high-quality sonics. The XT 8F produced an astoundingly robust, full-bodied sound. Oh, its midbass might’ve been a tad overfull, but it still had impressive definition, while its midrange timbre and transient response were excellent by any measure. Driven by Rega’s top-line electronics, the XT 8F was shockingly good for the money. Thus its inclusion in this illustrious company.”
Always on the lookout for those stand-out overachievers that bring high-end sound to accessible prices, I decided to give the Revolution XT 8F an extended audition in my own listening room as well as in a friend’s system. I drove it with a range of electronics, including a $2599 NAD 390DD, $5700 Hegel H360 integrated (a stunningly great integrated amp, incidentally), and the big Soulution 701 monoblocks (don’t ask the price).
Auditioning the Tannoys at length with familiar music, I couldn’t believe that I was listening to a $2600 speaker. What makes the XT 8F such as standout is its midrange—with its amazingly natural rendering of timbre. Female vocals through the XT 8F were as pure as I’ve heard from some very expensive speakers. The XT 8Fs projected vocals with a weight, body, and tangibility that you just don’t expect from a speaker under $10k (or even over $10k, for that matter). The Tannoys were also highly detailed in the mids, conveying nuances of expression usually reserved for the high-priced spread. Transient speed and snap were superb, adding to the impression of lifelike realism. The word “coherent” kept coming to mind as I thought about what made the XT 8F’s midrange so gorgeous.
As Dick and Jonathan noted, the XT 8F’s bass is a bit overfull. The bottom-end extension is remarkable for a speaker of this size, but it’s a bit too much of a good thing. Fortunately, there’s a remedy; a rolled up pair of socks in the port between the cabinet and the plinth takes out some of the excess energy. Interestingly, though, when I listened to the XT 8Fs in my friend Scott’s room, the bass balance was just right without the socks, even though his room is much smaller than mine and my room is outfitted with ASC 16" Full Round Tube Traps. Tannoy says that it will offer a port plug for those rooms that benefit from less bass output. None of this should overshadow the fact that the XT 8F has terrific weight and body in the lower registers, seamless integration with the midrange, and exceptional dynamic agility.
The treble is open and extended, contributing to the XT 8F’s clarity and immediacy. Above about 8kHz the treble gets a little dry and bright, but only in juxtaposition with that gloriously smooth and natural midrange. Vocals had a trace of excess sibilance, and cymbals took a step forward in the mix. But it seems churlish to mention this treble performance in light of the XT 8F’s price and all its other outstanding attributes.
The bottom line is that the Tannoy Revolution XT 8F is a terrific speaker and a jaw-dropping bargain for $2600 per pair. It’s also beautifully finished—the way the cabinet is raised off the plinth (part of its technical design) with chrome tubes is elegant. It’s also exciting to realize that Tannoy makes an entire range of speakers featuring similar technology (the coincident driver and innovative woofer loading) that tops out with the flagship DC10Ti, priced at $9998 per pair. Given the XT 8F’s superlative sound and stunning value, you can be assured that we’ll be reviewing more models from this venerable British company.