Tannoy XT8F Review 19


The subject of today’s review has been the subject of literally thousands of reader eMails that have landed in my inbox over the last year or so, not to mention much debate in the comments of various posts both here and on other fora. Tannoy’s Revolution XT range superseded the previous highly regarded DC range, and it’s safe to say there is a huge amount of interest in these speakers. I reviewed the Xt6 standmounts back in 2015 describing them as an “enthralling, exciting, and musically rewarding listen”. With requests continuing to pour in, it’s time we took a look at the flagship model in the range.

The Range

Much like many of Tannoy’s ranges, the XT series includes a variety of models catering for various room sizes, budgets and uses. The range comprises two bookshelf models – the XT6 and XT Mini, along with the XT6F and XT8F floorstanders and the XTC centre channel for use in a home theatre setup. The trapezoidal cabinets, a hallmark of the revolution range since its inception, are finished in hand crafted dark walnut or medium oak real wood veneers with magnetic grills and integrated stabilising plinths.

The XT Mini is the smallest model in the range packing a 4” dual-concentric driver into a 152 x 272.2 x 199.3 mm (W x H x D) cabinet weighing 3.7KG. Perfect for use in small rooms or as the rear or height channel in a home theatre system, its frequency response extends from 68Hz to 52kHz, with efficiency rated at 88dB(2.83 v / 1m. This roughly equates to 1W of power into an 8 ohm load, and is the standard for measuring sensitivity. The centre channel is similarly specified, though with a 20W increase in recommended power, an extra 6Hz extension in low frequency response and efficiency up to 89dB. Its 7.9KG, 450 x 176.9 x 205.6 mm cabinet sits on a plinth which can be adjusted to alter the angle of the driver towards the listener.

The remaining models in the range are more traditionally sized. The 7.9KG XT6 steps up to the 6” driver with frequency response rated at 46Hz, 32kHz and sensitivity at 89dB. It’s a large standmount at 224 x 400 x 302 mm. The XT6F floorstander offers an increase in recommended power to 150W, lowers the low end frequency response to 38Hz, and increases efficiency to 90dB. Its 16.3KG cabinet measures a tall but slim 272.4 x 1003.8 x 317 mm. Finally, the largest model in the range, the XT8F, further increases recommended power to 200W and efficiency to 91dB, while extending the low frequency response down to 34Hz. It packs a pair of 8” drivers into its 320.4 x 1078.8 x 345 mm, 19.9KG cabinets.

The dual-concentric Driver

The XT series is Tannoy’s most affordable line utilising their famous dual-concentric driver, though with a radical new design developed for the range. Tannoy’s new OmniMagnet driver is a completely new interpretation of Tannoy’s proprietary single-point source driver, in which a high frequency driver is set back in the acoustic centre of the mid/bass cone. This results in an almost perfect point source, improving symmetrical dispersion and phase coherence and reducing time delay, resulting in superior imaging and maintaining the harmonic relationship of musical instruments and vocals. The new drivers feature a new HF diaphragm and Torus (doughnut shaped) waveguide along with an Ogiv (‘rocket cone’ shaped) phase plug situated in the centre of the waveguide assembly. High frequency directivity is improved, as is the low frequency performance, giving more headroom and enabling a higher crossover point. The two driver units utilise a single shared magnet improving time alignment, coherence and power handling while reducing the depth of the driver. This reduction allows the high frequency waveguide to be brought further forward with a more aggressive flare improving high frequency directivity.

Cabinets

The cabinets too are new, incorporating a dual-cavity coupled reflex system. In a taller cabinet such as that of the XT6F or XT8F, standing waves can occur causing colouration of the upper bass and mid range. While the trapezoidal shape of the revolution cabinets, and the curved cabinets of higher-end designs help to reduce these standing waves, they are traditionally suppressed using acoustic dampening material. Designed to reduce standing waves and to combat the disadvantages of traditional front or rear ported systems, the dual-cavity system essentially splits the cabinet into two chambers.

The drivers operate in an upper chamber, connected to the rest of the cabinet by an internally tuned port. Above the port tuning frequency the drivers only ‘see’ their chamber’s volume, the reduced height of the volume making it easier to dampen any standing waves. At the port tuning frequency the entire cabinet volume becomes operational, necessary to achieve the extended low frequency performance. The energy then exits through the port beneath the cabinet and is distributed into the room, aided by the plinth which forms an extension of the port flare and also helps to prevent energy being absorbed by the flooring.

This has several advantages over ported cabinets. Rear ported cabinets don’t work well close to a rear wall, while those with front ports can cause turbulence in the airflow which can be audible, and front ports can compromise the aesthetics of the speaker.

Unboxing and Setup

First off, those solid cabinets come with a weight penalty. Enlisting the help of a friend is advised, though unboxing them alone in a relatively small room wasn’t terribly difficult. Inside each box you receive a pack of documentation, four spikes, four locking nuts and four floor protectors. The speakers themselves are wrapped in plastic with a cloth layer beneath to protect the finish and aid the luxurious first impression. Cloth grills are also supplied.

Out of the box, setup is as simple as screwing the four spikes into the inserts beneath the plinth. Using the spikes helps to disperse energy evenly from the cabinets into the floor and is highly recommended. The spikes are adjustable from the top-side of the plinth using the provided Allen key. This neat touch was introduced with the Precision line and makes levelling the speakers a doddle. Spikes installed, the speakers can be located and, if necessary, placed into the floor cups supplied to prevent scratching of hard flooring.

Cables connect to the substantial gold-plated terminals on the back, which are pre-fitted with bridging plates should you not want to bi-wire (why would you?). The terminals will take banana plugs, bare wire or large spades, And are mounted on a non resonant acrylic plate which Tannoy claim offers isolation from vibrations and thus an audible improvement over the traditional moulded plastic blocks often used.

On the front, the drivers are mounted with the Dual-Concentric driver sitting above the auxiliary bass unit. Decorative aluminium trims surround the drivers, with ‘Tannoy’ etched into the bolt heads. Lower down the angled underside of the cabinet reveals the bass port, the cabinet standing on chrome pillars to form the port flare. Further branding features on an angled nameplate on the front of the plinth.

Thanks to the new port system setting up the XT8Fs is unusually fuss-free. Their design is less susceptible to poor placement than previous designs, though care should still be taken to get the best from them. They’ll work relatively close to a rear wall, my tests showed that about 25CM is the point where bass issues begin to arise. I’m confident that if this is still an issue, the XT6F with its smaller drivers could be placed even closer. That said if you have the space, bringing them out into the room can improve the sound significantly.

The new drivers offer a wider sweet spot than previous designs. I placed the speakers roughly 2M apart, the same distance from the listening position and pointed them straight on. The XT8Fs would undoubtedly benefit from a little more breathing room, though I didn’t notice any obvious deficiencies with this setup.

The XT8Fs were fed by a heavily modified Cambridge Audio 851A, a Cambridge Audio 851N and a Technics 1210. My reference Marantz PM-11S3 later took over amplification duties. Cables were Van Damme UPLC-OFC 6MM. I had previously been informed that the XT8Fs would require some run in time in order to sound their best, and comments from readers certainly suggested that to be the case. I therefore used them continuously for a month before any serious listening took place, beginning to push them to high levels after the first couple of weeks. Out of the box the speakers were somewhat bright and lacking in low end control. Allowing them to play resolved both issues, the top end relaxing and the bass response and control developing as the drivers settled. after a month or so of constant use when I could be sure that the performance of the system was consistent, I sat down to listen.

Sound

My tests began with the Pink Floyd classic ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’. From the sounds of heartbeats that open the album I knew I was in for a treat, but it wasn’t until the synthesiser-driven instrumental ‘on the run’ began to play that I got my first taste of what the XT8Fs could deliver. The track represents the scene at an airport, evoking the stress and anxiety of modern travel. Synths throbbed and the sound of chaotic running flew around a massive stereo stage which was beautifully portrayed with room-filling dimensions and a grand sense of scale. Then it was on to the bells leading into ‘time’ examining the manor in which its passage can control ones life, warning those who remain focused on its mundane aspects. The XT8Fs reproduced the whole album with the scale and authority that you might expect for a speaker of this size, but with levels of detail and articulation that are quite simply uncommon at such a modest price. Clare Torry’s soaring wordless vocal in ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ (the soulful metaphor for death) were astounding in their realism and the sheer power and emotivity with which they were delivered.

The XT8s can deliver an astonishing amount of bass when required, but it isn’t without control. They’ll lap up the bass line in a track such as Bon Jovi’s ‘Keep The Faith’, but play a track such as paramour’s ‘Ain’t It Fun’ or ‘Hard Times’ from the new album After Laughter and the XT8s demonstrate an impressive agility with a light, rhythmic presentation that only lends to their huge sense of fun. If ever there was a speaker that could make even the most composed of tracks infectious, the XT8s are it.

Some have expressed concerns that the XTs are particularly bright speakers with an unusually fatiguing top end. While I do find them perhaps a little less tonally warm than other Tannoys, I didn’t encounter any instances where they became excessively bright. The top end is certainly very extended, currently making the tambourine in The Beatles ‘We Can Work It OUt’ sound very realistic. However I never found them fatiguing even after extended high volume listening. The XT8Fs can be a little brash if not allowed sufficient break in time, and pairing them with particularly bright source components isn’t advised. But give them a few hours and some sensible component choices and I don’t see fatigue being an issue.

Summary

Perhaps ‘confident’ is the wrong word to describe a speaker, veering dangerously toward the typical nonsense buzzwords often used by the audiophile community to describe the sound of audio kit. But confident is the best way to describe the sound of the XT8. It’s unerringly confident no matter what you throw at it. These are speakers with an enormous sense of fun, practically begging you to raise the volume to see what they can do. Their ability to deliver massive dynamics and musical crescendos on a huge scale is impressive, all wrapped up in a massive sound stage with exquisite levels of detail and musical articulation. The fact that this kind of performance can be experienced in your own home for a mere £1399 is the icing on the cake. Tannoy have created a giant killer here, the XT8 is a truly wonderful speaker, easily standing head and shoulders above the competition at many times its modest price. Highly recommended.

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About Ashley

I founded Audio Appraisal a few years ago and continue to regularly update it with fresh content. An avid vinyl collector and coffee addict, I can often be found at a workbench tinkering with a faulty electronic device, tweaking a turntable to extract the last bit of detail from those tiny grooves in the plastic stuff, or relaxing in front of the Tannoys with a good album. A musician, occasional producer and sound engineer, other hobbies include software programming, web development, long walks and occasional DIY. Follow @ashleycox2


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19 thoughts on “Tannoy XT8F Review

  • Eugenio Amorin

    Great review as always, Ashley and spot on with these highly musical and superbly built Tannoys. I had the privilege recently to listen to them first hand at a friend’s place and they are so much fun, making it really difficult to tear oneself away from. Detail, effortless dynamics, you name it and they pack a punch too, great stuff, definitely on my shopping list as their quality could easily attract a much higher price than currently is the case. In the general scheme of things, Ashley, what amplifier would you recommend to complement and really do justice to the XT8Fs in its price range? An informed suggestion from you will be very much appreciated. Kudos once again.

  • Rob

    What is a good streamer for the Tannoy who are on the bright side? I think not Cambridge? Cambridge also mostly on the bright side. Amp is NAD C356. Music metal and rock. Or maybe Kef Q better?

    • Ashley Post author

      A Cambridge would be fine, I’d describe them as ‘exciting’ rather than bright but the NAD would take the edge off. Or perhaps the Marantz NA-8005, or Pioneer N-P50.

      • Robert

        Thanks for your answer. Then i think the Cambridge CXN is the best. Pioneer can have a thin sound and the marantz becomes mixed reviews and with rock and metal not good. Also horrible APP.

        Do You know the Q Acoustics 3050? Very cheap end becomes very good reviews. I saw a interesting user review on WhatHifi. A old Tannoy Audiolog found it better than the XT8F! I have post this reveiw here.


        Even the Tannoy engineer was surprised

        I own the 3050’s for a year now. I play them with the Cambridge Audio CXA 80 and the Bluesound Node 2. I’am extremely satisfied with them. I can write some things about tonality, sound stage etc, but I rather tell you what happened one day when someone came to my house to buy my Monitor Audio Radius 380 subwoofer (that i didn’t need anymore because of the 3050’s) I was an elderly man and although he was there for my sub, he was clearly interested in the 3050’s. He asked me what brand they were. He had never heard Q acoustics. He told me that he was a retired Audiologist. He had worked for Tannoy the last years of his career. As a hobby he now installed complete soundsystems in retirement homes, hospitals etc/ He asked me if he could listen to the 3050’s. Of course i was glad to do him this small favor. I played a few tracks for him and he was really astonished. He said he owned a pair of Tannoy Revolutio XT8F’s himself. He liked my 3050’s better then his own Tannoy’s. Maybe he wasn’t hearing to well because of his age i thought. But it was as if he could read my mind. He said that he had his ears tested lately and he could still hear up to 15.000 hz. He asked me what the price was of the 3050’s. He really couldn’t believe his ears (hahaha). So this is what really happened to me. It says more than a bunch o cloudy talk i think.”

        • Ashley Post author

          Can’t go wrong with a CXN in my opinion. The Marantz streamers are quite smooth sounding which might be a bit too smooth with a NAD. I disagree with those who claim Marantz kit isn’t great for rock and metal however, I listen to a lot of classic and modern rock and some metal and own a Marantz PM-11S3 amp. Admittedly it has a more neutral sound signature than the lower ranges, but it can certainly rock out when required. I’ve not heard the Q3050s. I know they’re a What Hi-Fi favourite (that means very little to me), that user review is interesting. I guess each to their own, I know people who prefer the likes of Dali, B&W and dynaudio to Tannoy and that’s fine. I probably wouldn’t pair a CXA80 and a pair of XT8Fs for fear of an over-bright combination, so the Q3050s may well be better with that amp. It is hard to argue with the price of the XT8Fs given what they offer, and I think their only downfall is that because of their reasonable price they are likely to be paired with equipment at the cheaper end of the market when they’re worthy of better to truly do them justice.

          • Robert

            Thanks again for your answer. Last question; what is in your opinion a good interconnect and speakercable? Currently i have a Van den hul d102 3t and cheap 2,5 mm copper speakercable.

            • Ashley Post author

              No need to spend a fortune on ‘audiophile’ cables, as you’re paying for clever marketing and hot air. Any well specified cable will do. I use Van Damme UPLC_OFC 6MM hi-fi-grade speaker cable and my interconnects use the Van Damme hi-fi twin interconnect cable and Van Damme OFC instrument cable for balanced XLR leads. Connectors are Neutrik. If you’re happy to make custom cables the above is in my opinion the best. If not, plenty of stores, and sellers on eBay, sell the Van Damme cables ready made and made to your specification. Power cables are the ones supplied in the box which are good enough, and I don’t use a power conditioner either as well-designed components do not need it.

        • Eugenio Amorin

          Hi Robert, I was reading your comments on the Q3050s, and the opinion of the elderly man as it relates to the Q3050s sounding better than the Tannoy Revolution XT8Fs. I believe he may have been having problems with his hearing (as you had suspected), since the two are not in the same league. The XT8Fs are in a class of their own and CANNOT be compared with the Q3050s in any way, no matter what music one listens to. You may want to experience this for yourself and take what ‘really happened’ to you with a pinch of salt.

          • Robert

            You can Read that he has no problems with his ears. See the many good reviews of the q acoustics on the internet. More than for Tannoy who many people find too bright and unforgiven. And the big price difference. I read from someone the q acoustics make music, Tannoy hifi………of course the Tannoy is much nicer built.

            • Eugenio Amorin

              As I said, you may want to EXPERIENCE it for yourself and take what ‘really happened’ to you with a pinch of salt. Of course, the Q3050s have good reviews but the XT8s are in a different league and consequently in a higher price range so you CANNOT compare the two.

              • Robert

                More expensive doesn’t always mean better, nicer sound. In my country there are not many Tannoy dealers. A dealer said once again me he had them for a couple of years, but no one want them.

  • Rob Mead

    What an amazing coincidence! I received a lot of advice from Ashley and other posters here before buying the XT8Fs and a Roksan K3 amplifier, which turned up two weekends ago.

    I have just today (Sunday) concluded my attempts to position the speakers for maximum effect. It hasn’t been easy though, and needed reading around to get the principles and also some careful selection of source material, an important variable it seems.

    It was only after what has been a gruelling process, of moving speakers closer together/further apart, forwards and backwards, toeing in/toeing out, all the while putting the spike shoes back on each time and trying to figure out what the sound should sound like (a good question – implicit, but often not articulated), that I finally felt I got something resembling what I heard in the test room in the shop.

    Firstly, I must admit, I don’t think I have the same sound as I heard in the shop, but maybe 90% of the way there. Wooden suspended floors, speakers sitting in the middle third of a 15X5 metre room and other real life constraints are a reminder of how a purchase in ideal test conditions can produce slightly optimistic impressions.

    Nevertheless, as Ashley says, speaker placement with these Tannoys works reasonably well at around 2 metres – in fact I just measured mine at 2.1 metres, although my seating is around 2.4m from them, but it seems to work. There is 50cm space from speakers to the rear wall, which was the result of pulling out until I got an optimum result, without the speakers being too far in the room (need to be realistic). Toeing in seemed to add some directionality to the treble, delivering to the ear, rather than a few metres away, but I may play with that a bit more. Here’s the thing though, when I had them placed more widely, it felt like each speaker was producing its own sound independently of the other. With some tracks I noted that the recording allows the vocal or some element of the music though one speaker, while another sound was coming from the other. And I was hearing them separately, rather than together. Moving the speakers together, reduced that and I brought them closer but without creating the opposite problem of losing the laterality effect of having 2 speakers over a distance i.e.stereo. I think this sound stage and stereo-imaging stuff, and it also seems highly music track dependent in that many tracks are almost monolithic and cant be easily decomposed, whereas some recordings by certain artists really showcase the separation (apparently this is to do with how the recording was ‘miked up’ by the sound engineers?). So, what I have now is wall of separated sound between the speakers, and certain specific sounds that appear from the left of right speakers. I cant say that I’ve a horn sounding at 2 o clock and trumpet at 7 o’clock, and really I don’t know is 2 speaker audio can achieve that positional placement in the central wall.

    Having started with wider speaker placement, I am reluctant to pull them part more than the 2.1 m they are now, as it will feel like each speaker is doing its own thing. Of course they fact the room is much wider than the speaker placement probably causes havoc with the harmonics, but its a home for living in too.

    As Ashley says, the speakers are really impressive. I don’t know I there is a slight crackle on the treble from one speaker on one track, or whether its the recording itself, but I don’t have any qualms. I am guessing £1150 speakers (RS are doing a discount on these which takes within £150 of the 6TF’s and makes it difficulty not to go for the upsell) should not have any crackle so will keep an eye on that.

    Also, funnily enough, before coming to post this review, I had tested Pink Floyds DSOTM, the first time I have ever heard it. And it sounded superb.

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks for sharing Rob. Stereo sound staging is a very odd thing and your’e right in that many tracks are very monolithic. It’s one of the reasons many audio reviews feature ‘audiophile’ recordings especially when referring to sound staging and dynamics, because in reality many mainstream tracks and albums these days are limited in both areas. Beatles stereo mixes are some of the best for sound staging, but really a good system should get the best from any track no matter how limited in terms of dynamics or stereo spread.

      With regards speaker positioning, it sounds like you’re doing everything right. One thing you could try if you have the space is to widen the speakers and severely toe them inwards such that the straight lines taken from the centre of each treble unit cross at a point a foot or so in front of your listening position. I remember seeing that positioning used to great effect with some vintage Tannoy monitors with 12″ dual-concentric drivers, and it resulted in an extremely focused and coherent sound. I haven’t tried it with the XT8s or any modern Tannoy for that matter (I don’t have the space here to achieve the required width) but it’s worth a try. Might look a little odd though.

      With regards the crackle on 1 channel, it’s more than likely the track. To see if the problem goes away, reverse the speaker cables at the amplifier end and see if the problem exists on the other channel. If it does, it’s most likely the track and the speakers are fine. If not, check that the terminals are tight, particularly at the back of the speakers where the 2 bridging plates are connected assuming you’re not bi-wiring.

  • Peter

    I’ve had these with a CXA80 for a month now and also own the XT6F’s with the same amp. I don’t find them overly bright at all, even straight out the box. The 6F’s were noticeably brighter were as the increased mid and low end on the larger speakers balances it out nicely. I would recommend the pairing.

    • Peter

      using QED speaker cables, wireworld interconnects and an Oppo BDP-203 as my main source. It is an exciting, lively and engaging pairing but definitely not harsh or overly bright and fatiguing like some seem to think.

  • Warren McBroom

    Hi Ashley, excellent review, especially with The Dark Side of the Moon, just the kind of thing I listen to. Though I have a nagging question, have you tried them with the Cambridge CXA80. I have this amp with a Marantz CD6005, QED XT40 speaker cable and Atlas Element Integra interconnect. I did have a pair of Kef IQ5SE speakers which failed on me after 6 years, so I’m after a new pair of speakers and the XT8F’s are looking pretty good but I have concerns regarding the potential over brightness of the combination.

    • Ashley Post author

      Glad you enjoyed the review Warren. I’m afraid I haven’t tried them with the CXA80. The 851A is a brighter amp (though not quite as bright as the CXA) and that combination was certainly exciting, though I wouldn’t describe it as ‘over bright’. The CXA is a pretty bright amp and may well be a bit too sharp at the top end, though I do believe that most of the comments concerning the brightness of the XT8s are from those who haven’t allowed them sufficient time to break in. While break in of electronics is a debatable subject, speakers are mechanical devices and therefore do benefit from break in time, some more so than others. I would recommend giving them a demo. You’ll probably find that your CD player (which is an excellent choice by the way) will smooth things out a bit.