I’ve had a certain fondness for Tannoy’s Mercury range since purchasing a pair of Mercury V4s shortly after their release. They formed the basis of my first true hi-fi system, at the time fronted by Yamaha amplification and a vast array of source components. Components came and went, though the V4s remained the one common denominator for many years before a move into high-end audio saw them replaced. They were an effortlessly musical speaker with an exciting presentation that, though at times a little bright, delighted album after album.
And it’s not just me for whom the Mercury range symbolises an introduction to true hi-fi. The range has existed for many years, the earliest reference I can find at the time of writing being the 1987 Mercury S. Now in its 7th generation, the 4 models in the current Mercury range boast a fresh new look and new internals, though retaining the accurate, engaging sound that has made the multi award winning Mercury range a firm budget favourite for more than 30 years.
The Mercury Range
Four models including 2 standmounts, a flagship floorstander and a centre channel make up the Mercury 7 range. The new mercury cabinets feature extensive internal bracing and quality wood-grain effect finishes in black oak, light oak and walnut, with dark cloth grilles hiding attractive driver trims. High tolerance components including quality capacitors and low-loss, laminated iron core inductors feature in the crossovers, and high purity silver plated oxygen free copper cabling is used throughout. Colouration is further reduced through the use of Tannoy’s DMT (differential materials technology) which dampens unwanted vibrations and is used extensively in the cabinet to driver interface and crossover component mounting.
New drivers were designed for this range too. 5” (127 mm), 6” (152 mm) and 7” (178 mm) mid/bass drivers were developed utilising Tannoy’s latest multi-fibre paper pulp cones, offering deeper, punchier bass than previous designs. A new computer optimised half-roll rubber surround provides exceptionally high excursion while not over damping the cone. The smoothly profiled cones feature no dust caps improving dispersion and offering a more accurate midrange reproduction than their predecessors.
The new 1.1” tweeter uses a soft woven polyester dome, coated with a micro layer of nitro-urethane. This lamination process dampens the dome, pushing its breakup frequencies far beyond the audio range resulting in an extended frequency response of over 32kHz.
The Mercury 7.1 is the smallest model in the range, packing a 5” (127 mm) mid/bass driver and a 1.1” (28 mm) high frequency driver into a 4.7 litre, 160 x 270 x 194.7 mm (W x H x D) cabinet weighing 2.7 kg. Its larger 7.2 standmount sibling features a 6” (150 mm) driver and the same tweeter in a 9.4 litre, 193 x 292 x 266 mm cabinet weighing 5.0 KG. Both are rear ported, and feature 2nd order low pass and 3rd order high pass crossovers crossing over at 3.4kHz.
Sensitivity is rated at 87 and 89dB (2.83 volts at 1m) for the 7.1 and 7.2 respectively. Continuous power handling is 40W for the 7.1 and 50W for the 7.2, with peak power handling rated for the 7.1 at 160W and 200W for the 7.2. Recommended amplifier power is 20-80W for the 7.1 and 20-100W for the 7.2.
The flagship 7.4, supplied for this review, packs a pair of 178 mm (7”) mid/bass drivers and the 1.1” Mercury 7 tweeter into a 44.0 litre, 308 x 955 x 314.3 mm (W x H x D) 15 kg twin rear ported cabinet. Capable of 75W continuous and 300W peak power handling, frequency response extends from 32Hz to 32kHz via a 2nd order low pass, 3rd order high pass bi-wired crossover crossing over at 2.4kHz. Recommended amplifier power is 20 – 150W, and the sensitivity is high at 93dB, 2.83V / 1m.
The centre channel incorporates a pair of 127 mm (5”) mid/bass drivers and a 1.1” tweeter and is acoustically voiced to match the rest of the range, ideal for dialogue in a home theatre setup. Its twin rear ported cabinet measures 400 x 160 x 167.3 mm (W x H x D) and weighs 4.4 kg. Recommended amplifier power is 20 – 120W, continuous power handling is 60W, peak power handling is 240W and sensitivity is rated at 91dB. The crossover point is 3.5kHz. All models in the range have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms and are an easy load for any quality amplifier whether it be a budget 2 channel model, a basic home theatre receiver or something more upmarket.
The Mercury 7.4
Unboxing the 7.4s supplied for review, I was immediately impressed by the apparent quality of the cabinet. The finish is exceptional too. Despite their size the 7.4s aren’t particularly imposing, even in a small room. They measure slightly taller than the quoted measurements suggest – 970 mm from the top of the plinth, and 1005 mm from the floor when levelled.
The 7.4s are supplied with a pair of stabilising feet which form a plinth when screwed to the underside of the speaker via 4 included Philips screws. Carpet spikes are provided, as are protective cups for hard floors. The spikes are designed to couple the speaker to the floor, improving the bass response and physical stability. If the speakers are directly placed on a springy carpet or an uneven hard floor, the back and forth movement of the cones will cause the cabinets to move, if only slightly. Spikes not only give the speaker more grip, preventing any unwanted movement, but they also equally distribute the vibrational energy that builds up in the cabinet to the 4 corners of the plinth rather than its gravitational centre and allow it to evenly disperse. Not only that, but the spikes help to prevent the transfer of vibrational energy from the cabinet into the floor, and vice versa. External vibrations cannot be eliminated unless the speaker cabinet is suspended in zero gravity, but they can at least be reduced and any reduction in vibration is a good thing.
On the front, the cloth grilles come pre-attached. They stand slightly proud of the front of the speaker with a surrounding gap. Removing the grilles exposes the 2 7” drivers positioned above and below the tweeter which smooths dispersion over the crossover region, improving the 7.4s performance on and off axis. Trims surround the drivers with a slightly rubberised texture and a Tannoy logo on the tweeter surround, and the driver fixings are visible.
A terminal plate and a pair of bass ports feature on the back. The terminals are high quality, gold plated and angled upwards so they don’t protrude too far from the rear of the cabinet even with large plugs. They feel solid when connecting tight banana plugs, and they’ll happily accept large spades or bare wire too. Bridging plates required for single wire operation are pre-fitted. The speakers were wired with single runs of Rega Duet cable for the review as I don’t believe bi-wiring to be a worthwhile effort. Bi-amping however (the process of using a separate amplifier for each speaker or for the high and low frequencies) can produce excellent results when quality components are used.
Positioning the 7.4s isn’t particularly difficult, though a bit of breathing room makes all the difference. Though better suited to larger listening rooms, they can work in a smaller room providing you don’t site them too close to a rear wall or a corner. As always, setting them up such that an equilateral triangle is formed between them and your listening position is a great place to start. I set them as such, pointing straight toward a small sofa. When seated, the tweeters should be roughly at ear height. If your triangle is particularly large, a small degree of toe-in (10-15 degrees or so) will give a more focused stereo image.
The 7.4s were tested using my resident Marantz amplification. Arcam’s £849 A29, also on loan for review was also used. A Cambridge 851N streamer and a Technics 1210 turntable fitted with an Audio-Technica AT150SA moving magnet cartridge were the source components.
The 7.4s were given a week in the system to run in before any serious listening took place, during which the mid range relaxed significantly, the bass tightened and the highs softened as the drivers settled. Once settled I sat back for some serious listening, dropping the needle on ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ from the 2012 stereo reissue of the Beatles ‘Please Please Me’. The stereo spread was as wide as it was deep, with excellent instrument placement and a beautifully rendered reverb effect. The bass was taught and refined, and by the time the track had ended, and the amplifiers volume had risen far beyond the sensible point of its scale, I knew I was in for a treat.
Eric Clapton’s ‘Lay Down Sally’ is a simple track with some brushed drums, a bass, a couple of guitars and some female backing vocals to accompany Eric’s own. It’s an ideal test track that when played via the 30th anniversary release of ‘Slowhand’ demonstrated the 7.4s ability to retrieve and present detail in an easy to follow and extraordinarily musical fashion. Each note of the bass line is delivered on point, as are the guitars and vocals, each individual backing vocal standing out though at the same time forming a cohesive harmony. Eric’s own vocal hangs in the air between the speakers, each breath he takes between lines audible as if he were standing before you.
Detail retrieval is a particular trait of any Tannoy, and the 7.4s are certainly no exception. Whether it’s the size of a kick drum, or the material of its beater. The rattle of the cords on the plywood of the Cajon. The body of an acoustic guitar, or the buzz of an electric amplifier. The depth of a vocal, or the breaths taken by the singer. All are portrayed in glorious detail.
The overall tonal character is one of warmth and body. They go deep too, as demonstrated by George Ezra’s ‘Budapest’ which has a throbbing bass line throughout which is lapped up by the 7.4s large drivers. These are speakers capable of reproducing the scale of a grand piano or the dynamics and special effects in your favourite blockbuster with apparent ease. They’re not at all fatiguing, and can be listened to for hours on end.
The Mercury 7.4 is a truly capable loudspeaker, and a versatile one too. They’re able to deliver massive transients with ease and authority, while preserving the most delicate detail. The extraordinary dynamics, effortless musicality and cohesion these speakers demonstrate is beyond anything I could have expected at this price. The mercury 7.4 takes everything that made the Mercury range great and improves upon it in every area. The result is an outstanding speaker that truly deserves to bear the Mercury name. Highly recommended.