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 Tannoy’s Revolution XT range superseded the previous highly regarded DC range, and it’s safe to say there is a huge amount of interest in these speakers.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.