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Tannoy DC8T (March 12 issue)
p2 Sound quality
p3 Conclusion
p4 Measured performance
All Pages

SOUND QUALITY

It was immediately obvious that the revised DC8T has more midrange bite than the one we reviewed in July 09 issue. This made vocals more concise and raised intelligibility. From Sade through to Duffy, via Renee Fleming (!) I could more easily catch every word.


After initial orientation had shown me the DC8T is bolder than before and I was happy with the new balance, it was time to dig a little deeper. Would the new balance detract from the Tannoy’s ability to play Duffy’s 'Rockferry', a very difficult track that contains deliberately added digital distortion, or “graunch” as the recording engineer explained in an interview. Loudspeakers with raised treble from metal dome tweeters make this track unlistenable, but Tannoy’s DC10T handled it adeptly – and so did the updated DC8T I found. Duffy was still firmly placed centre stage, but a little more forward than before, whilst the accompanying ‘orchestra’ was bearable.

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The loudspeaker’s midrange/treble horn measured more smoothly than the earlier one and it sounds it too. ‘Syrup and honey’ has Duffy at the microphone with little accompaniment, demonstrating her fascinating natural tremolo and this track is another make or break for me: it is a live vocal with surrounding studio atmosphere, such as that is, and can sound extraordinary through a revealing loudspeaker, but quite flat and artificial though an average one. The DC8T handled the track beautifully, placing Duffy firmly in front of me, her initial intake of breath, voice control and projective power all delivered evenly and with great insight. This was no gloss over, but a real good look right into what was happening during the take – and I quite simply loved it. The only small query that popped up was why high treble sounded a little absent, making for a sense of warmth.


Spinning Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ again showed how focussed and forceful the Tannoy pressure horn is. This is a loudspeaker that pushes out the midrange as if from a high pressure fire hose. Where other loudspeakers paint up the sound in front of you the Tannoys throw it toward you: projective is the word here – like no other! Not everyone likes the effect, but I love it. It pumps up the dynamic life of a track, by going from soft to loud with an alacrity that is rare in loudspeakers.


In true Tannoy fashion the DC8Ts have a silky smooth balance but with Rock they come at you. In other words, Rock rocks! You get the full force of a performance thrown straight at you; there’s nothing laid back about a Tannoy. Yet whilst I say that, they do not have ringing upper treble or artificial detail. Cryogenic crossover treatment gives these Definition loudspeakers great insight, but it is the sort of unforced insight you get from high quality electrostatic panels such as Martin Logan’s X-Stat panel, or Eminent Technology’s magnetic planar drive units. Tannoys don’t have quite their level of ability – no ordinary loudspeaker does in spite of their manufacturer's hyperbole – but the DC8Ts got convincingly close. Rim shots fired out from centre stage with such force yet solidity, it was a fright.


Solidity? Yes, another strength of Tannoy’s central horn is that it runs from 1kHz all the way up to 20kHz, meaning the DC8T lacks the phase and amplitude problems of most other loudspeakers – and I can hear it is a smooth, yet solid portrayal of rim shots, cymbals and, most importantly, violins. As Amy Winehouses’ 'Back to Black', slowed to a funereal pace, instruments across the sound stage were solidly wrought in a way other loudspeakers rarely manage.


There were times when I became aware of a slight cuppiness and all these effects were apparent with the gravelly vocals of Willy De Ville singing 'Spanish Harlem'. Accompanying piano had a sense of scale and body that was lovely, helped by this loudspeaker's forceful dynamics. A live recording, there were yelps from the audience, applause and all those noises off that live suffers / enjoys – and the DC8Ts made them all convincing.


Elvis singing ‘Fever’ again had the Tannoys sounding warm and full bodied, but very close and insightful. Hand drums and finger snaps were clear as a bell and punched out. The laconic acoustic bass line sounded rich and full, but was easily expressed: the DC8Ts deliver big bass, if not as excessive as the DC10Ts. I ran them with bungs out to get subsonics – and with Lady Gaga’s Monster boy did I get them. These loudspeakers get down to 20Hz with ease, mainly from the port, and deep synth effects had the settee trembling beneath me as waves of sub-bass rippled across our listening room. Better, these lows are very well controlled, stopping and starting clearly. Drum strikes at the start of Angelique Kidjo’s 'Agolo' underscored this point, sounding full and powerful, yet with clear temporal form.


Bass in general could be described as fulsome and soft; the ports pump out a lot of subsonic info and this makes for a weighty low end that can sound over inflated. The foam bungs supplied suppress this, lowering subsonic power whilst little affecting ordinary bass levels.


After Rafael pointed out that these Tannoys don’t do orchestral depth I take his point. I find them clear, informative and wonderful in left and right imaging, giving the Royal Philharmonic both force and scale playing Tchaikovsky’s 'March Slave'; timpani nearly had me over the back of the settee and pipes trilled from left and right in convincing fashion. But Rafael pointed out that the orchestra is not layered backward in a stage possessing discernible depth. Since he has plenty of experience sitting in an orchestra – and I have not! –  I take his point, although miking techniques may come in this.

With the piano of Arcadi Volodos though there was no such limitation; quite the reverse, the Tannoys reproduced its scale and its power, as well as the surrounding acoustic picked up by the microphone. But lower notes (left hand) from the bass cone were more recessed than upper ones (right hand) from the tweeter Rafael felt.


With Rock music depth perspectives are not such an issue. Perhaps the Tannoys are just too pushy and whilst this may well suit most musical genres it does not perfectly capture the live depth perspectives of an orchestra.


Another issue for Rafael that I must admit does not trouble me is the issue that affects all co-axial drive units: the mid and treble fires out through a cone and a megaphone effect can be heard. Rafael said Renee Fleming appeared to be singing from a booth and after transferring to open panel LFT-16s we both understood the issue and agreed about it. For me, the Tannoy's strengths of cohesiveness, point source coherence and smoothness outweigh what I perceive as a minor effect. But such things are a matter of taste and expectation.


I should quickly point out that Tannoy’s concentric horn tweeter has undergone a lot of development recently, smoothed by a tulip waveguide. Criticisms based on older iterations of the horn are not valid for the DC8T. As with any concentric driver though, you must listen slightly off-axis, to avoid symmetric cancellations. Measurement shows the DC8Ts are wonderfully smooth off-axis, one reason they have a silky quality, but they are less smooth on-axis, and older units were a lot worse in the respect.



 

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