Tannoy has been making speakers for probably longer than any company out there; starting as far back as the 1930s using electromagnetic DC-energized magnets to build PA speakers. In 1934 company founder/engineer Guy Fountain produced the first discrete two-way loudspeaker system along with a complete range of microphones and amplifiers all the way up to 200 watts, which was a lot of power in those days. Tannoy also developed their own unique measuring equipment to evaluate the performance of these audio products. In 1947 Tannoy was awarded a patent on the point source “Dual Concentric” design and has been refining it ever since, gaining acceptance in both in the professional and high-end consumer markets.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production
Key Features: Eight-inch Dual Concentric polypropylene driver, SuperTweeter
Price: $2,750 per pair
Contact: Tannoy at 519-745-1158, Web Site.
In January of 2002 Tannoy teamed up with the well-respected pro audio company TC Electronic and raised the bar with a range of wideband powered studio monitors called the Ellipse Studio Monitor Series.
Since the introduction of high-resolution release formats such as SACD and DVD-A, it is now possible for the consumer to realize program material with musical information out to 100 kHz. Musical instruments such as cymbals and muted trumpets have harmonics that easily extend out that far and even more important is the phase accuracy in instruments below 20 kHz.
I happen to subscribe to the premise that there is indeed life beyond 20 kHz and the Ellipse 8 ($2,750 per pair) does a real nice job of getting out there.
At the heart of the Ellipse 8 (price here) is an 8-inch Dual Concentric polypropylene long throw woofer with a cast alloy frame. And in the same chassis is a separate aluminum alloy dome driver with its own magnet structure and loaded to the woofer cone itself as a horn. The crossover between these devices is at 1700 Hz. This combination creates a time and phase aligned point source image and has a frequency response from 40 Hz to 14 kHz. Beyond that another driver, the 1-inch Wideband SuperTweeter kicks in. This is typically only about 6 dB down at 54 kHz and 18 dB down at 100 kHz, which is a nice gentle roll-off. With most speakers it’s all over after 20 kHz or so, if they even make it that far. My criticism with older professional speakers like Altec, JBL and even Tannoy was that these two-way systems started to roll off pretty fast around 15 kHz leaving you with little or no AIR. That problem has not only been eliminated here but the SuperTweeter takes the Ellipse to new territory. What I’m most impressed with is the seamless transition from the horn, which seems to roll off naturally as the SuperTweeter rolls in.
These nice transitions between drivers are at least in part due to a crossover design based on Rauch filters, which are claimed to have symmetrical acoustic transfer functions and optimum phase relationships. Because the drivers are physically time adjusted very little electronic time or phase correction need to be made. A Tannoy engineer told me that inductors are used in the EQ sections because they sound better than filters made with only op-amps, I couldn’t agree more.
The Ellipse 8 is powered by three internal amplifiers, with 150 watts each to the woofer and horn and a separate 30 watt IC amplifier driving the SuperTweeter.
The back panel has an ample amount of trim pots that are designed to compensate for room variations. A variable alignment low-frequency high-pass filter has a range of ±3 dB at 45 Hz while a very low .45 Q mid trim centered at 1.4 kHz has a ±2 dB range. The HF (Air) shelving filter is ±3 dB at 25 kHz. A sensitivity control provides continuous input gain adjustment to handle levels from an unbalanced -10 dB to a balanced +4 dB.
Additional low-frequency tuning can be achieved by using the supplied closed cell foam port tube plugs or not. I usually find plugging ports a tradeoff between tighter more defined bass with the ports closed and more bass extension but a looser quality with the ports open. The former usually works well with a subwoofer.
In addition to looking cool, the elliptical cabinet design is a great idea. Minimizing both unwanted internal reflections and external diffraction the Ellipse 8 is built like a rock using laminated birch construction with massive MDF front and rear baffle panels. The enclosure is coated with handsome gray suede like finish. A removable neoprene base on the bottom of the cabinet dampens any vibration between the speaker and a stand or platform and also prevents slipping or sliding.
A multifunction LED on the front panel glows green under normal condition. It illuminates bright red for two seconds during start-up or continuously to indicate a fault condition such as overheating or amplifier failure. Flashing red indicates clipping in the LF amplifier and flashing yellow indicates the presents of very low-frequency content in the 1 Hz to 15 Hz region.
I set up the pair of Ellipse 8s on 30-inch high RPG speaker stands about eight feet apart and eight feet from the listening position. Source equipment consisted of a Philips SACD 1000 optically interfaced to an EMM Labs DAC8 Mk IV the balanced output feeding the balanced input of my EMM Labs Switchman Mk 2 preamp controller with its balanced output driving the balanced XLR inputs of the Ellipse 8s.
Talk about AIR! This is about the most open sounding powered monitor I’ve heard to date. Imaging is so precise it made me forget I was listening to stereo. Subtle transients due to the precise alignment of the drivers make you think you are listening to a one-way system with extension. My room is heavily damped so a little HF shelving boost was welcome without a trace of harshness; remember this is EQ at 25 kHz. All of the other EQ trim pots were set at zero or mid position while the input sensitivity was set at minimum for the +4 dB inputs. With this set up you just want to keep listening because distortion is so low and easy on the ears. Nice tool for those 14-hour sessions. The bottom end is nicely controlled and flat down to 40 Hz in my room. Unless you really need lots of output in the bottom octave a subwoofer is not really necessary with the Ellipse.
Most powered speakers today are designed and built to a price point, consequently the electronics are compromised diminishing the real advantages of self-powering. I don’t know this for a fact but my guess is that Tannoy tapped some of the design resources of TC Electronic because the crossover, EQ and power amplifiers in the Ellipse are first rate.
Even though we may not be able to identify or hear a tone above 20 kHz, that does not mean our bodies do not react to these upper frequencies. Many studies confirm through brain wave activity that humans do indeed respond to frequencies above 20 kHz. I am a firm believer that with extended high frequency capabilities the phase accuracy of harmonics in music as they relate to fundamentals portrays a more real and lifelike listening experience. Good job, Tannoy.