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Tannoy Revolution XT 8F floorstanding loudspeakers

Tannoy Revolution XT 8F floorstanding loudspeakers

I first heard the Tannoy Revolution XT 8F at the Bristol Sound and Vision show in February 2015 and it was one of those moments where, even given the unfamiliar context of a show environment and somebody else’s system, there was something about these modestly priced floorstanders that caught my attention. A few months on, a review pair arrived and, in the context of my own room and system, that ‘something’ was still there.

The XT 8F is the largest in Tannoy’s Revolution XT series, the larger of two floorstanding designs. It uses a version of Tannoy’s familiar dual-concentric driver where the tweeter is set in the throat of the mid/bass unit, utilising the diaphragm of the larger unit to partly horn load its output. The advantages are in efficiency, imaging and coherence (all frequencies emanating from, effectively, a point source).

Of course, a loudspeaker retailing at £1,299 per pair is not going to be able to utilise the expensive drivers in Tannoy’s high-end Prestige or Definition ranges. Instead, the drivers for the XT series are all new and, inexpensive or not, they utilise some innovative technology. Both XT drive units cleverly share the same magnet, and utilise a sophisticated waveguide, incorporating a torus-shaped diaphragm for the high frequencies and an ‘Ogive’ phase plug, for better time alignment and coherence with the bass/mid element.

The ‘8’ in the model name denotes that this loudspeaker uses the 8” (200mm) version of this ‘Omnimagnet’ dual-concentric driver, coupled with a similar-sized bass-only driver. Tannoy says the new driver design, while saving useful space, also offers improvements to high-frequency directivity, phase-coherence, dynamic headroom, and overall accuracy of reproduction and imaging. The cabinets derive, broadly, from the previous Revolution range’s trapezoidal cross-section and the floorstanders employ a reflex-coupled dual cavity design. The port exits in a forward-facing slot at the foot of the cabinet, flanked by two nicely-trimmed chromed pillars and atop a neatly-machined plinth with four chunky, knurled adjustments for the spiked feet. The overall effect, in walnut stained real wood veneer, is classy and smart, and could easily pass for a considerably more expensive model on looks alone.

What impressed me when I first heard them was the degree of expressiveness they brought out in the music. Dynamics were unconstrained, and that familiar Tannoy openness and freedom was there. Not everybody will enjoy Tannoy’s uninhibited, somewhat loose-limbed approach, but if you’re one of those who enjoys a speaker that is not afraid to let its hair down, then the XT 8Fs deliver a lot of what makes the Prestige and Definition ranges so prized in terms of sheer communication of the intent behind the music.

 

Stanley Clarke’s ‘Soldier’ and ‘Fulani’ from The Stanley Clarke Band [Heads Up] was fast, dynamic and exciting on the XT 8F, with much of the speed and impact his bass playing has live. Lots of loudspeakers impress with a deep and powerful bass, but to properly appreciate Stanley Clarke you need a loudspeaker which can also do fast and tuneful bass, with oodles of attack. The XT 8Fs don’t disappoint in this area, and I suspect it is the integration with the high frequency output that contributes much to its success in this particular regard. Bass is certainly full, rich, and satisfying, with none of that wooliness or flabbiness you can get when a loudspeaker has perhaps been voiced to keep a lid on things. The overall effect, in terms of impact and scale, is considerably more engaging and entertaining than some of its peers.

Piano is rich in tone and powerful in effect, too: ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ by the Billy Taylor Trio, Music Keeps Us Young [Arkadia Jazz], had a sonorous and expansive piano, with agile and tuneful bass registers, and a strong sense of mass without being ponderous or heavy. That said, the piece just ‘is what it is’, enjoyable but without much sense of a musical journey to a destination. If it has a fault, the Tannoy probably lacks a little of the ability to convey the subtlest messages in the music. But then, it gives you much more than many others do of the big picture, in terms of space, freedom, and dynamics.

In some respects, the Tannoy comes across as the antithesis to something like the, broadly similarly-priced, Monitor Audio Silver 8s that I reviewed a few issues back. The MAs are very good loudspeakers that rarely put a foot far out of line. In comparison, the Tannoys are somewhat more bullish and, perhaps, a little uncouth, but they sure know how to have a good time. If the MAs are a well-trained Labrador, honest, reliable, and solid, then the Tannoys might be a Springer Spaniel, loads of energy, fun, and boundless enthusiasm, but prone to knocking over the occasional vase. Neither speaker has the monopoly on rightness, nor any fatal flaws, but you’d be unlikely to find that both will float your boat equally, and much will depend on personal taste and preference.

The downside to the Tannoys’ ebullience is a certain lack of finesse. I have a number of ‘system-killer’ tracks, one of which – Jack de Johnette’s ‘Ahmad the Terrible’ from Album Album [ECM] – I tried with the Tannoys in place. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t inflict this track on a modestly-priced component, it just feels unfair, but there was something about the Tannoys which hinted that they might not, in fact, fall apart at the seams. True, the presentation was a little shrill and slightly disjointed, compared to my regular Focal 1028Bes (which, let us not forget, are over four times the price), it didn’t really settle into its groove, and the band didn’t gel together quite the way I know they can. All that said, it did exhibit very good dynamics and got a lot closer to the essence of the music than many a loudspeaker I’ve tried it on, much to its credit. It probably serves to highlight what I’d categorise as the compromise in the Tannoy design; a mild lack of polish and subtlety (if Downton Abbey had a pair, they would probably remain below stairs). In a similar way, Melody Gardot’s ‘Amalia’ from The Absence [Decca] flowed in a very natural way, but lacked the ultimate sense of intimacy I was looking for. All that said, I’d rather have something come over as a little larger than life, than as halfway to the grave.

It’s not a high-end giant-killer, but it more than hints at what is possible, which is more than I can say for a fair few of its peers. It may seem as though I’ve focussed on the flaws rather than the good points, and it is important to keep in mind that any flaws are mostly shown in relief because most of the other stuff is entirely natural and doesn’t draw attention to itself. So, you perceive the really good stuff, the dynamics, the scale, and the ability to paint a big and interesting picture, and you get to know the niggles too, but the stuff which just quietly gets on with things doesn’t merit discussion. Me? I’ll take fun and a bit wayward over safe and secure every time, unless we’re talking brain surgery.

 

The XT 8Fs deliver huge dollops of the important stuff when it comes to conveying the essence of one’s music collection. Music flows in a very natural way, and retains a good sense of rhythm, when so coupled with the unconstrained dynamics and speed. That they may overplay their hand at times, while being a little impressionistic when you get down to the finer points, is not really to be deprecated, at this price, and I have to give Tannoy a lot of credit for refusing to play it safe with this design.

I guess, when it comes down to it, I want my system to entertain, not to impress. I’d like it to do both, of course, but that tends to cost considerably bigger bucks than are being asked for here. Any loudspeaker selling at the price point of the Tannoy, or even considerably more, is going to have some defining compromises, and the temptation for many makers will be to take care not to offend. That might have made sense if you were making hi-fi in Jane Austen’s day, but these days, good manners are less of a social asset than, perhaps, the knack of knowing how to have a good time. Actually, I suspect Jane Austen knew that too, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, like me, she found the Tannoy XT 8Fs much to her liking.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Three-way, floorstanding speaker with bass reflex enclosure

Driver complement: one dual concentric driver comprising 25 mm Linear PEI dome with Torus Ogive WaveGuide and Omnimagnet technology, and 200 mm multi-fibre paper 44 mm voice coil; one 200 mm multi-fibre paper pulp cone with rubber surround and 44 mm edge wound voice coil

Crossover frequencies: 250Hz and 1.8kHz, passive low loss 2nd order low pass, 1st order high pass

Frequency response: 34Hz-32kHz (-6dB)

Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal

Sensitivity: 91dB for 1 Watt at 1 Metre

Dimensions (H×W×D): 1080 × 317 × 345 mm

Weight: 19.9Kg/each

Finishes: Dark Walnut; Medium Oak

Price: £1,299/pair

Manufacturer: Tannoy Limited

Tel: 44 (0)1236 702503

URL: www.tannoy.co.uk  

Tags: FEATURED

By Steve Dickinson

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