Equipment Review No. 1  •   October 2003

Tannoy Eyris 3 Loudspeakers, $2200 pr.


Floorstanding loudspeakers with 1" titanium dome tweeter and two 7" paper cone midranges
Shielded design
Sensitivity 90 dB; 8 ohms
Weight 40.8 pounds
40.3"H x 7.7"W x 10.2"D
Sycamore or walnut veneer
Five year warranty

Tannoy/TGI North America Inc.
Suite 1, 335 Gage Avenue
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2M 5E1
(519) 745-1158
http://www.tannoy.com/


Associated Equipment

NAD S500 and Rotel RCD-1070 CD players, Aragon Stage One Preamplifier, Aragon 2007 Amplifier, B&W CDM-7NT speakers (for comparison), Audioquest cabling.


Setup

The Eyris speakers were lighter than I expected, considering their size and price. The weighting of the speaker tends toward the front, so when they were on the spiked feet that I attached, they could easily fall forward if accidentally hit from the back. The spikes attach to metal feet that jut out sideways and help stability sideways, but some in front and back would help it more.

One of the first things you might notice that is different about this speaker system are the binding posts. Instead of two or four connections (as typical), there is a fifth connection for grounding. There are some technical papers on the website but I called Tannoy for further clarification. As I understand it, the earth grounding improves high frequency performance in the highest ranges (in the ultrasonic range above 20 kHz). . Testing apparently has shown that listeners were able to tell a difference even though the improvement is not (technically) in the accepted audio range. Supposedly, grounding reduces RF interference, ensures greater transparency, and controls sibilance at higher frequencies. (See later in the review for some of my subjective opinions on this.)

The cable that I normally use does not have a shield, although I'm told that some models offer an integrated ground that can be attached to the amplifier directly. Tannoy offered to send me some cables that they sell that are designed specifically for this application. Unfortunately, they did not arrive in time, so I made a makeshift set of cables that I put directly into the ground terminal via a banana plug. This allowed me to easily plug and unplug it to determine how great a difference the grounding made in my test system.

Some of the Tannoy advertising that I've seen in magazines shows the circular layout of the binding posts. It does look cool, but I had a few problems with the design. The first was that with the bi-wire cabling that I was using, it was necessary to stretch the cable way out so that the banana plugs could be inserted at the proper angle. With other wire, this may be an issue due to the distance needed to allow connection. The other problem is the fact that the posts are slightly inset and it was difficult to get my fingers around the posts to loosen and tighten them. The tightening was not an issue (obviously) when using bananas, but would be an issue for any other type of connection.

Right out of the box the speakers sounded far from perfect. I was warned about a lengthy break-in period, so I was sure to run the speakers for extended periods of time (~100 hours). It was lucky that I read through the manual before doing any critical listening, because it is necessary to remove the foam that came inserted into the ports. I had been largely disappointed with the bass capability up to that point, but the removal of the foam made a significant difference.

One of the unique design elements featured in the Eyris speakers is the use of a special type of tweeter. The manual describes the benefits of this driver: correction of time and phase response in the normal audible range, improvements in imaging, increased immediacy, airiness, and impact. This driver is rated within 6 dB up to 44kHz. Unlike many of the Tannoy designs with which I'm familiar, the Eyris series does NOT use a concentric tweeter and midrange design. I questioned Tannoy about this and they replied that a new (more expensive) series was in development that would incorporate the WIDEBAND high frequency module and utilize a concentric design as well. There is a white paper on the website that gives explanation of both of these design philosophies.

In addition to a smaller floor-standing speaker and a bookshelf model, there is also a center channel and rear speaker system available in the Eyris series. I'm told a subwoofer is on the way. I was only sent the single pair of speakers for review, so all review material was confined to 2-channel stereo listening. The manual offers information on cable and amplifier choice, connection options, bi-amplification, positioning and fine-tuning, and information about the other speakers in the line. The manual suggests removal of the grill for the best sound, so I left them off during listening. In the fine-tuning section of the manual there were specific suggestions about distances from the wall and angling that I was able to accommodate during my listening tests. Their suggestions are 5 15' apart, 20” from the rear wall, and 39” from the sidewalls. There are diagrams for both connection and placement in the manual.


Listening Test With and Without Earth Ground

I tried a little informal listening with and without the ground terminal attached to try to determine how much difference it made. It was not huge in my system. My feeling is that the differences exhibited by the speaker in other areas will be much more important in making a purchase.
However, I did some more rigorous testing with track 7, "Merry Xmas Baby" by Spirit Traveler from the JVC XRCD Sampler 0001-2. I had a friend of mine help with the testing so I didn't have to go back and forth and disconnect the ground. First I ran the test for him and let him tell me when to change the orientation. I started by stating when I was plugging and unplugging so he could get a feel for the difference. Then after a couple of minutes I let him direct me to change at whatever point he desired after listening for whatever length of time he felt comfortable. After several minutes, he had a distinct preference for the sound when the speaker was NOT grounded.

When I did the comparison myself, I had a slight preference for the speaker when it was grounded. It appeared we were hearing the same things (depth and air), but our preferences were different. Either way, the difference was very small. For this I would definitely recommend trying with and without in each individual system. Although I heard a slight difference that would make me recommend using the grounding, it just may not be convenient for some people to accommodate this wiring scheme. For those people: Don't be concerned, I don't think you are missing much.


Listening Comparison with B&W CDM-7NT

My initial impressions of the Tannoy speakers was that they had a lot of output in the high frequencies, but this soon changed when I compared them to the B&Ws. I began the comparison listening tests with track 1 from Art Pepper's Living Legend CD. With the B&W the horn sound was far brasher, metallic, and more full-bodied. The Eyris sounded toned down and mellower. The horn didn't have as much depth to it and wasn't as fleshed out; it was more 2-D. It wasn't veiled, but slightly muted nonetheless. The speakers differed in the bass somewhat, but I didn't have a preference. I thought the differences in balance between the two speakers were making more of a difference.

Next, I put on track 3, "King Of Sorrow," off Sade's Lovers Rock. On this track, the B&Ws had a greater sense of air and space around individual instruments. In part, this was due to the greater output of the high frequency driver, but in this case it helped resolve more information. Guitar plucks were easier to distinguish and voice had greater presence. The sound was definitely edgier - which will, no doubt, turn some people off. The Tannoy was a mixed bag as well. The midrange was slightly recessed and the song took on a thick quality. It wasn't enough to obscure the sound, but there was a rich quality across the entire frequency range that was obvious when compared to the other speaker system. Also, spatially the sound was more intertwined and not as defined in its own space. I wouldn't say the sound was homogenous, yet it was not as pinpoint as I've heard on other speakers. The bass on the Tannoy clearly sounded heavier than the B&W and that was complimentary in the case of this track.

Track 1, "No Such Thing," from John Mayer's Room For Squares helped me put the finger on the sound even more clearly. The Eyris 3 made the voice sound recessed. The bass was punchy and sounded good, but overall there was this feeling of being closed-in. The guitar sound was natural and pleasant although lightweight. There was a decent amount of depth, but not quite as much width as I would have liked. The B&W had a greater sense of space, but the extra output in the high frequencies stood out. There was more apparent resolution and definition, but for some it will be too much on top. These people will prefer the "cushy," comfortable sound of the Tannoy speakers.

I turned to a typical audiophile favorite, "Peel Me A Grape," track 2 from Diana Krall's Love Scenes. The B&W had a nice bass line and presented a good sense of the acoustic. The reverberation wasn't too much, and the midrange was absolutely luscious. The Tannoy speakers were heavier in the low bass. They definitely sounded flatter in the midrange which made the voice sound less realistic. When I turned the speaker up to louder levels, I noticed a slight hardness to the sound that was unexpected. Also, I finally put a finger on something that had been bothering me but was hard to describe. Certain frequencies seemed to stand out of the mix. It wasn't a wide range of sounds that was affected, but smaller areas that were excited by certain elements of the voice and other instruments. This would seem to point to errors in frequency response, but I didn't have any measurement equipment that could verify it. It explained why certain recordings sounded more recessed in certain areas than others. In some ways it was subtle, but when another friend happened to be over listening, he expressed the same sort of complaint, but phrased it differently. It prevented complete immersion in the sound - while one range was seductive, another part of the sound pushed you away.

I was concerned about the hardness I heard with the Diana Krall recording and immediately thought I should run some music at high levels to convince myself that the speakers would be capable performers with home theater material. With track 2 from Smashing Pumpkins Pisces Iscariot I felt that my doubts were unfounded. The speaker was clearly capable of prodigious amounts of sound without distortion. The differences between the two models were similar to the previous observations, but the volume retarded my ability to hear as much difference.


Conclusion

The Tannoy Eyris 3s didn't completely win me over. For some listeners the Tannoys will offer freedom from fatigue and a mellow, relaxed sound. At the same time, the speakers tended to bring out certain ranges of sound in a somewhat unpredictable manner. The earth grounding capability didn't provide a large improvement in my system and certainly wouldn't be a deal-breaker. The tweeter seemed to perform well, although it didn't offer the final say on air and sense of space. I'm not sure if my complaint relates to the size of the midrange drivers (smaller midranges might offer better midrange performance making a look at the Eyris 2 worthwhile), or some other design feature. The speakers have a distinctive look that may make them a winner in certain situations. As always, listening for yourself would be my recommendation.

-- Brian Bloom
big_brian_b@hotmail.com

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