Irony, said to be something which Americans fail completely to comprehend, was written all over this assignment because of one teensy detail. Before I was allowed to review ALR's Entry 2M budget two-way loudspeaker, I was commanded from on high to audition the magnificent little Tannoy R1. This two-way mini-monitor has become, with exceptional rapidity, something of a 'poor man's reference' in the UK budget sector, a KEF Coda or an AR4ax for the next millennium. How good is the R1? Well, let's just say that they're now my sub-£200
What my on-high commander did not know at the time of assigning this review was that the Tannoy R1 and the ALR Entry 2M share OEM drive unit source, topology details (e.g. foam-filled rear-ports) and more than a bit of their aesthetics. Where they differ are in such matters as the Tannoys being bi-wirable while the ALRs are not, and the ALRs are slightly larger. But the main source of my glee is discovering that the consultant for both Tannoy and ALR is Karl-Heinz Fink. K-H is that most rare of personalities: a German with both a good ear and a sense of humour. Colleague of Ken Ishiwata, world-class Leica apologist and all-round connoisseur, he's become a loudspeaker trouble-shooter of no mean repute. His earprints are all over the Entry 2M.
And, tee-hee, the R1.
At £229 per pair, the '2M is ALR's least expensive system. Costing only £30 more than the Tannoys, they will - unavoidably - battle head-to-head in shops selling both brands. It's not a reviewer's role to focus specifically on either the similarities or the differences when judging a speaker against a primary rival if it means obscuring the basic by-product of a review: conveying a sense of the speaker as a whole. However much I tried to audition the ALR both on its own terms and in a larger context, the spirit of Karl-Heinz hovered overhead as I listened to it alongside the Tannoy. I felt like some poor schmuck forced to choose between cashews and pecans. Or a couple of Corrs...
A two-way bass-reflex design, the '2M uses a 206x330x302mm (WHD) enclosure with a rigid-framed, detachable grille. The baffle sports a flared edge, making it a couple of millimetres wider than the enclosure - the opposite of the R1, which has baffle edges that taper toward the grille. Additionally, the '2M's grille almost touches the baffle, while the R1's floats off it by two or three millimetres. Both sport cabinets which would fail the tyre-kicking contest in some observers' minds, the R1 responding to knuckle rapping with a higher-frequency thunk than does the '2M.
ALR's mini uses a 170mm mid/bass driver and a 1in soft dome tweeter which looks suspiciously like the Tannoy's save for the surround plate. But the real determinant vis a vis the pair's sonic differences are the woofer and box sizes: the Tannoy's measures 130mm. Add to that a cabinet downsized to 170x300x200mm (WHD) and a weight of 3.5kg versus the Teutonic challenger's 5.9g and you can see that your £30 gets you a lot more size and mass. But this battle (in my editor's mind, I hasten to add) will not be decided on dimensions, nor the fact that the R1 is adorable while the '2M is plain.