In this issue, it seems like the mandate was satellite/subwoofer systems. I had the pleasure of auditioning what might be the upper end of the spectrum. Tannoy is my product of choice, purely based on what appears to be the sexiest, most unique, and highest priced of the selected systems. This bronze (also available in lacquers, white, silver, or black) bombshell is the most striking I have seen. Rolex, Ferrari, Razor, and Lexus have nothing on this design! From the moment I opened the boxes, they screamed of quality. I handled each piece like a Faberg� Egg (kind of that shape), careful not to disturb what appeared to be umpteen coats of piano-quality lacquer. This would require a little more attention to detail with the stands, mounts, grills, and assembly required...so let's get busy!
Dual Concentric and Wideband are terms you will quickly become familiar with when researching the Tannoy company and its commitment to perfection. You might have heard them before, but for simple clarification, let's review. Concentric isn't difficult; it is as Webster's tells us, "Having a center in common." So, Dual Concentric is having the tweeter (high frequency driver) in the throat of the mid-bass driver. This allows all music information to generate from one pinpoint location. Benefit? With all musical bandwidth delivered from one pinpoint location, this time-coherent point source allows for excellent dispersion and imaging. While others spread multiple drivers along a tall baffle, causing time errors in delivery, acoustic synergy is achieved with the Tannoy Arena 5.1 system, delivering sound "on time" to any location in the room. This is nothing new in the studio monitors of most recording studios.
Wideband allows the listener to enjoy the complete music signal by extending the frequency response to 54 kHz (two octaves beyond most speakers), allowing the listener to experience the entire bandwidth. Sounds contain rich harmonics and transients beyond the range of human hearing for pure tones. This "air" creates a realism lost when high frequency drivers are limited (most others to only 20 kHz).
Competition and Comparison
For comparison's against the Tannoy Arena 5.1 system's competition, check out our reviews of the JM Labs SIB & CUB 5.1 system and the Orb Audio Mod4 home theater speaker system. You can also find more information by visiting our Floorstanding Speaker, Bookshelf Speaker, and Subwoofer sections.
The Arena system consists of four satellites (egg-shaped units). The extremely rigid acoustic shell of the satellites (total weight 2.5 kg / 5.5 lbs.) and center channel speakers (total weight 4 kg / 8.8 lbs.), robustly constructed in cast aluminum, provides full acoustic optimization of the drive units. The center channel and satellite speakers are magnetically shielded to eliminate color-fringing effects when placed close to a television, each containing a 100 mm mid-bass driver, using a fiber pulp cone. The dedicated center channel loudspeaker is equipped with a supplementary bass driver to augment power handling. Mounted in its throat (concentrically) is a 19 mm titanium dome tweeter using a neodymium magnet system--ported and crossed over at 1.75 kHz, mid to high and 80 Hz from mid to bass. Crossovers are second-order low pass and first-order high pass networks. A recommended 15 to 100 watts RMS amplifier is required. The subwoofer is awesome and delivers 300 watts RMS...Real Bass!! At -6 dB down at 29 Hz, using a 250 mm (10-inch) driver in a sealed box enclosure, this baby rocks. The BASH amplifier technology utilized is a patented high-efficiency power amplifier circuit topology that has taken the best of Class D and Class AB and created a new class of its own. The power amplifier with its patented switch-mode power supply delivers exceptional performance and excellent bandwidth with long-term reliability. All the cool features--auto mute, volume control, variable phase, and crossover, LF extension, and LFE mode--in an eye-popping enclosure. Available as optional accessories, table stands for the satellite and center channel speakers are fitted with a swivel mechanism, allowing precise adjustment. The same stands are also equipped with a wall mounting plate and a carefully considered cable management system. Speaker cable can be hidden from view by routing it through the rear of the table stand or wall bracket right through the center of the ball joint, or through the column of the elegant floor stand option.
Everything was set, placed, and attached, and plenty of break-in time was allotted. It was time!!
Click to Page 2 for Critical Listening and the Final Take
In my "sweet spot," I sat back and began the audition. My first choice was Diana Krall's Love Scenes. Diana burst into the room with "Peel me a Grape." Yikes! This rock-solid image was a little more than I expected. Efficiency wasn't bad at about 88 dB. At 80 Hz to 54 kHz, it was obvious that the "air" dynamics and imaging were incredible. Crossover between the subwoofer and satellites was undetectable. I turned down the lights to get that small club feel. I listened intently for a while, then found myself forgetting about the pad of paper and pen I was holding and just enjoying the performance. Holly Cole and Jeni Fleming wrapped up the sultry women in my life, and it was off to East Winds' The Three...Ray Brown, Shelly Mann, and Joe Sample. The bass musings of Ray Brown were detailed and had musical presence, not that one-note bass that so many speakers spew out. I have said this many times, that music is the soundtrack of your life, and tonight I took a trip down memory lane. Each disc revealed places, people, and times gone by. Even Sinatra stepped up to the mic and swooned out a hit or two. My movie selection allowed me to enter into a fantasy world of digital images and sound effects that the system handled with ease. The Tannoy Arena 5.1 handled each performer and epic blockbuster with grace and muscle. The concentric driver technology delivers everything you would expect from a single-point source element, and more.
Take it from an old audiophile, when considering any audio/video system--large or small, sat/sub or massive behemoth towers--accuracy is all that matters. Sound stage, depth, dynamics, and dispersion are as important in video as they are in music. The information must escape from its enclosure, uncolored and uninhibited. In other words...the speaker needs to get out of the way! Congratulations to Tannoy for delivering one of the most impressive satellite/subwoofer systems I have ever heard. From someone who has probably sold more of this kind of configuration since 1978 than anyone in publishing I know, I speak from experience. Audition the Tannoy Arena 5.1 before making your next speaker purchase...it just might be your last.
ARENA 5.1 SYSTEM
Arena is lavishly finished in a choice of magnificent high-gloss colors--bronze, silver, white, or black.
MSRP: ARENA 5.1 SYSTEM $2,199
(substantial savings result from buying the system)