If you read a lot of audio equipment reviews (who, me?), you’re aware that it’s de rigueur to note that: (a) the Scottish manufacturer Tannoy Ltd has been in business for a long time (since 1926); and (b) the word “tannoy” has been used in common parlance throughout the UK and elsewhere as a term equivalent to loudspeaker or, especially, public address system. At least in Dundee, Dover, Dublin, or Delhi, tannoy is a household name. That said, I wouldn’t recommend putting a couple of drivers in a box and marketing it as a “tannoy”—you’ll most certainly hear from the intellectual property department of the Coatbridge-based company. Well, the $9998 DC10 Ti, the next-to-the-top-of-the-line model in the Definition Series, is very much a Tannoy with a capital “T,” embodying the engineering experience and values that derive from 90 years of building loudspeakers for both railway platforms and domestic home environments.
Tannoy’s Revolution XT 8F, at $2600 a pair, got very high marks from both Dick Olsher and Robert Harley in reviews last year, plus positive mentions from Jonathan Valin and Julie Mullins in their Munich High End Show reports. It was designated a TAS 2015 Product of the Year at the “Affordable” level in the floorstanding loudspeaker category.
At twice the mass and roughly four times the price, the Definition DC10 Ti is aiming for a considerably higher level of performance. Unlike the trapezoidal form of the XT 8F, the cabinet of the DC10 Ti (and other models in the Definition range) is curved, which, in addition to aesthetic considerations, results in a more rigid enclosure. While the XT 8F is “hand finished with real wood veneers,” the DC10 Ti is constructed with high-grade birch plywood, and a proprietary methodology grandly called Differential Material Technology is employed to attach the drivers to the enclosure. The speaker sits on a substantial plinth, wider in front than behind, that’s equipped with an ingenious system of top-adjusted spikes with locking thumbscrews. As a result, leveling these babies is a breeze.
A consistent design feature of Tannoy loudspeakers for six decades has been the coaxial driver—they call it “Dual Concentric”—with the tweeter (in this case a 1" titanium dome with a Tulip WaveGuide) positioned at the center of a mid/bass cone (a 10" treated-paper driver with a fabric surround). A second 10" bass cone is positioned below the Dual Concentric driver. Tannoy, of course, is not the only speaker manufacturer to use a concentric/coaxial design, but it has been quite persistent in this approach, steadily refining its implementation over many years. The point-source behavior of the Dual Concentric driver has contributed to Tannoy loudspeakers’ popularity in recording studios. Compared with the drivers in the Revolution Series speakers, the Definitions have a more robust magnet system, and the chassis are cast aluminum rather than plastic. The specifications for all the loudspeakers in the Definition Series list a -6dB high-frequency response of 35kHz, a manifestation of Tannoy’s Wideband Technology. Tannoy doesn’t have much to say about what Wideband Technology is but notes that extending high-frequency response to a range where only your Cocker Spaniel can hear it has a beneficial effect on “time and phase response within the bandwidth of normal human hearing.”
The tweeter and mid/bass driver are crossed over at 1.4kHz using a second-order low-pass/first-order high-pass filter; the crossover point for the Dual Concentric cone and the bass driver is 200Hz. To improve conductivity, the crossover assemblies have been cryogenically treated—“super-cooled” to –190ºC and brought back to room temperature in a controlled fashion. This process is said to especially benefit the solder joints in the crossovers. The internal volume of the entire enclosure is 76 liters (2.68 cubic feet) There are two ports on the speaker’s rear surface that measure 3.5" in diameter where they meet the outside world. Below the ports is a panel sporting two pairs of speaker terminals. The DC10 Tis are bi-wireable but arrive with very substantial link bars in place for using the speakers in single-wire mode. A nice ergonomic feature is that the binding posts, which happily accept banana plugs, are offset and angled outwards, which makes typical bulky audiophile cables easier to manage. On a less-user-friendly note, it’s not clear what tool to use to tighten down the terminal nuts, as finger-tightening is definitely not sufficient, especially with big spades and the link bars in place. A standard hexagonal nut driver won’t work. The nuts do have a knurled edge, so it’s possible to grab them with pliers. I also discovered that the center hole in the nut (where a banana plug would go) will snugly accommodate a 5mm flathead screwdriver blade and turn easily. There’s also a mysterious fifth binding post, a “ground” terminal that’s unique to Tannoy products. Using a shielded or “screened” speaker wire, each DC10 Ti can be hooked up to the earth connection on an amplifier. Why? Tannoy observes that there are elements in every speaker—the voice-coil windings, for example—that are susceptible to RFI. Frankly, this wasn’t a problem I knew I needed to solve. I didn’t try it, but if you’re hearing the BBC between cuts while listening, knock yourself out.
Unlike the XT 8F and other less expensive Tannoy products that are manufactured in China, the DC10 Ti is made in Scotland.
As was mentioned previously, there is another loudspeaker model “above” the DC10 Ti in the Definition line. The DC10A, which runs $16,000 a pair, has a single Dual Concentric driver with an aluminum-alloy tweeter and an Alnico magnet. A special cone material is employed, the enclosure is larger, and the speaker has a “phase-loading cavity” to facilitate adjustment of bass output. Tannoy insists that the DC10A is more suitable for European and Asian audiophiles who, because of the size and construction of their listening environments, typically require less “low-frequency energy” than bass-crazed North Americans. Given this assertion, I’m not sure what to make of the fact that, on the spec sheet at least, the DC10A’s -6dB low-frequency response point is actually a little lower than that of the DC10 Ti.
The DC10 Ti’s are available in three high-gloss finishes—black, cherry, and dark walnut. My review sample was the cherry option and was gorgeous to behold. The grilles are, acoustically, fairly transparent but the owners’ manual advises zealots to leave them off. (Hidden magnets keep the grille covers in place, so reinstalling them when company comes is quick and easy.)
In my 15' by 15' listening room—ceiling height varies from 11' to 13'—the Tannoys replaced my usual Wilson Duette 2s, which are designed to work well close to room barriers. The recommendations for placement of the DC10 Ti’s are somewhat inconsistent: The owner’s manual suggests that the speaker be placed at least 0.5 meters from the front wall, whereas the instructions packaged with the supplied port bungs (more on those later) specify placement of at least one meter from that boundary. The Tannoys are quite sensitive to small changes in position and, for optimal spatiality and bass performance, a great deal of experimentation was required to find the best locations for them in my room. In the end, the front plane of each DC10 Ti was 9.5' from the listening seat, toed in with their acoustic centers 8' apart. The speakers were placed 26–27" from the front wall, and the middle of the Dual Concentric drivers were a minimum of 3' 4" from the nearest sidewall. Ancillary equipment for this review included my usual Anthem D2v pre/pro, Pass XA 60.8 monoblock amplifiers, and recent-vintage Transparent Ultra interconnects and speaker cables. An Oppo 103 served as a transport for CDs/SACDs/DVD-As, and a Baetis Reference played digital files. DSP room correction by the Anthem was utilized, with some tweaking of right/left balance using an SPL meter. The Tannoys, presumably fresh from the factory, were run in for 100 hours before any critical listening was undertaken.