The DC10 Ti’s single most enticing sonic attribute is the coherence with which the speaker reproduces instrumental and vocal signatures. This has a great deal to do with the behavior of the point-source coaxial driver that assures that sounds produced by two very different transducers maintain their phase coherency above and below the crossover point. It’s particularly apparent with instruments with a wide usable range, where the relative contribution of fundamental and overtones varies across that range. A good example is the bassoon. This member of the woodwind choir has a range of fundamental pitches from approximately 60 to 1000Hz, all well within the range of the DC10 Ti’s mid/bass cone. But the harmonics the bassoon produces extend to well over 8kHz, the domain of the Tannoy’s titanium tweeter. Those harmonics are what give the bassoon its resonant flatulence at the bottom of its range (as heard, for example, with Grandfather’s theme in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf), its perky jocularity in the middle tessitura (as with the “Dragoon’s March” that begins Act 2 of Bizet’s Carmen), and the alto-sax-like cry of the very top (as in the introduction to Part I of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.) The Lyrical Bassoon, a 2L SACD or high-resolution download from HDtracks, offers an exceptionally well-played and well-recorded recital of works for bassoon and piano featuring Per Hannisdal, principal with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. The program includes pieces that exploit the full range of the instrument, and with the Tannoys you always felt as if you were hearing a single device with a continuously changing tonal character, as melodic lines rose and fell.
Another musical “instrument” with which a true point-source transducer can be expected to excel is the human voice, and the Definition DC10 Tis were truly extraordinary in this regard. All the nuances of the young jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant’s astounding technique were revealed, as were the plaintive inflections of Lyle Lovett’s every vocalization on his 1989 gem, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band. A classical voice type with which I’ve had a vexed relationship is the countertenor. Recordings from the 1950s and 60s are often smirk-inducing, but I’ve found that many—though not all—more recently trained practitioners bring a nobility and lyrical grace to the Baroque Era repertoire they specialize in. Why do some countertenors annoy while others amaze? I assembled a playlist of selections by ten singers, the goal being to understand why their sound did or did not appeal to me. The artists included David Daniels, Andreas Scholl, Drew Minter, Alfred Deller, James Bowman, Max Emanuel Cencic, Robin Blaze, Michael Chance, Lawrence Zazzo, and Bejun Mehta; the music ranged from Dowland to Vaughan Williams. There were clear winners and losers. The late Alfred Deller still had me thinking “female impersonator,” while my favorites—Zazzo, Scholl, and Blaze—moved me with the power and control of their singing. What the Tannoys taught me was that the artists I preferred had a seamlessness to their vocal production, a consistency of color and texture whether they were singing high or low, loudly or softly. The DC10 Ti could show me this because they themselves manifest a seamlessness throughout the relevant frequency range that is both revealing and enjoyable.
With careful positioning and leveling, imaging and soundstage representation was quite good, if not in the class of the best line-array and panel designs, or even some especially well executed two- and three-way speakers with dynamic drivers. The Tannoy’s sonic perspective is relaxed, with natural orchestral detail. The presentation was never etched, but also lacked the last word in transparency. Instrumental images were stable and the scaling of individual instruments was realistic—when the recording captured that sort of information. The DC10 Ti’s maintained intelligibility with the most complexly eventful music—an observation that sunk in listening to Steve Coleman’s recent jazz ensemble masterpiece, Synovial Joints.
I can’t say if it’s Tannoy’s “Wideband Technology” that’s responsible, but the speaker’s treble is extended, sweet, and beautifully textured. Violins on the Tokyo String Quartet’s 2005 recording of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 7 in F major were non-fatiguing, convincingly reproducing the kind of overtone structure you’d hear close-up in life and the natural-sounding decay when a loud chord is followed by silence. And how about piccolo? It’s surprising how rounded, full, and harmonically rich this diminutive instrument can sound when expertly played. (Check out Lois Bliss Herbine’s performance of Philadelphia Portraits, a succinct five-movement work composed for the soloist by Cynthia Folio and included on a chamber music CD entitled Inverno Azul from BCM+D Records.)
The DC10 Ti’s bass performance, alas, was problematic. RH, DO, and JV all commented on excessive midbass energy in their write-ups of the XT 8F, and I hear the same phenomenon with this Tannoy. There was a tubbiness to the orchestral foundation of Classical Era symphonic music, and electric bass lines sounded slow, poorly articulated, and dissociated from the rest of the band. I played a number of my usual reference tracks for judging bass guitar sound—“Big Noise, New York” from Jennifer Warnes’ The Hunter, “Wrapped Around Your Finger” from Kevyn Lettau’s Songs of the Police, “Blues Beach” from Steely Dan’s Everything Must Go, and the title track off of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s Act Your Age (which features the versatile bass virtuoso Nathan East as soloist). With all these superbly engineered selections, I heard significant overhang and a lack of tunefulness in bass lines. Robert improved things by inserting a rolled-up pair of socks into the 8F’s port and Dick tried some acoustic foam. Both reported that Tannoy would start shipping foam “bungs” with the speakers and, indeed, four were included with the review pair of DC10 Ti’s. These round, grey discs are 2.75" in diameter and 2" thick, and fit snugly in the ports. I tried using the bungs to block the upper ports, the lower ports, or both. The foam did help, but even with all four ports obstructed, the midbass bloat persisted. Overall bass output wasn’t really excessive—but electric bass lacked heft, lift, and a sense of the initial transient joining that of the kick-drum to give punch to well-recorded rock, pop, and electric jazz. With pipe organ music (Jean Guillou playing César Franck’s Pièce Héroïque, for example), there was plenty of low-frequency rumble when pedal notes energized the large space of St. Eustache in Paris but little in the way of pitch definition.
What might be considered a drastic intervention achieved a very consequential improvement. I added in my Wilson WATCH Dog subwoofer, employing the bass-management menu on the Anthem to roll off the Tannoys at 75Hz and run the sub up to that same value, 75Hz. Much more articulate, tuneful, and propulsive bass guitar was apparent and pedal stops on the Franck organ piece produced tones with identifiable pitches. With Mozart, instead of an overripe and diffuse bottom end, it was possible to resolve cellos and doublebasses playing an octave apart. Adding one set of foam bungs (to the upper ports) tightened the low end up a bit further, and that’s where I left things.
So, with the sub dialed in, I had a world-class loudspeaker system on my hands—though for reasons both philosophical and financial, I’m not sure how I feel about it. The subwoofer was not added as much for additional low-bass extension as it was to save the Definition TC10 Ti from itself—to correct the distracting midbass hump that I couldn’t eliminate with speaker placement, DSP room correction, or Tannoy’s port bungs. On the other hand, the DC10 Ti’s treble and midrange are so good that it may be well worth chopping off the speaker’s lowest octave-and-a-half and fixing the resultant deficiency with a sub. Maybe you already have a good subwoofer in use with a pair of quality stand-mounted monitors that fall short in handling the complex sonorities and dynamic power of large-scale music. Swapping out those monitors for the DC10 Ti’s could actually be a substantial (and cost-effective) upgrade.
The price range of $7000 to $10,000 for floorstanders is a real high-end marketplace sweet spot. Over the past ten months, I’ve lived with three speakers in this class—the Reference 3A Taksim, the PSB Imagine T3, and this one. The Taksim got my Golden Ear Award for 2015 and the T3 was touted in the 2016 Buyer’s Guide. With the PSBs, especially, the bass quality was so good that I rarely felt the need for a subwoofer. And the PSB is $2500 less than the Definition speaker without a sub. Of course, high-end audio isn’t all about the quality/dollar ratio. If it were, we’d all have Tivoli table radios as our reference system. Audiophiles often have a specific sonic goal in mind and sometimes the path to get there is circuitous and a little crazy. Tannoy has been steadily refining a notable design for decades and has achieved some remarkable results, especially in terms of the faithful reproduction of instrumental and vocal sonorities. If you’re making a short list of loudspeakers of moderate cost to try, that list should include this Tannoy. With a capital “T,” that is.
SPECS & PRICING
Driver complement: One 1"/10" coaxial tweeter/woofer, one 10" woofer
Frequency range: 30Hz–35kHz (-6dB)
Sensitivity: 92dB (2.83V/1m)
Power handling: 30–250 watts
Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 17.125" x 45.5" x 12.625" (without spikes)
Weight: 94.6 lbs.
Rosehall Industrial Estate
ML 4TF Coatbridge, UK
TC GROUP AMERICAS INC.
335 Gage Avenue
Kitchener, ON N2M 5E1