The Home Theater Experience, of Carlsbad, CA, had two rooms full of Tannoy speakers — neither of which I’d heard before. My lucky day!
The big $55k Kingdom Royal speakers are monsters. If you’ve ever heard of the big, high-sensitivity designs Tannoy makes, well, this speaker is the top of that particular line. This is an extremely rare sight — apparently, Tannoy only makes 10-12/year.
Each cabinet weighs more than I do. And since I’ve lost all that weight, that’s a lot more than I do. A 96dB sensitivity is practically inviting your bigger triodes, and with a bandwidth of 24Hz to 60kHz, the only one likely to be complaining is the dog. But hell, let’s be honest, Fido is taking up too much room on the couch anyway, am I right?
The tweeter and super-tweeter are both adjustable and the 12″ dual concentric driver is all-new. There’s a 15″ bass driver, to “dig” into your recordings — which you can, apparently, play quite loudly. The Kingdom Royal can crank out 120dB, a fact I … ahh … did not test.
The big Tannoys were here paired with electronics from Cary Audio. A $12,000/pair of CAD-805 Anniversary Edition power amps provided the 50wpc of grunt force trauma (har har) required. A CAD 120 sat on static display, as did an SLP-03 preamp. The preamp actually in use was the $4,700 SLP-98p. Tunes came by way of the $6,500 CD/SACD player, the Cary CD-303t.
So, being honest here, this was not an affordable room. A total price just shy of $80k is and will ever be out of reach for the vast majority of humans on Earth. Okay, so with those obligatory comments out of the way, if you happen to be in that small percentage that can take advantage of such equipment, I can happily say that this is a “finisher system”. I mean, you might want a turntable, and some cables, perhaps some power conditioning, but this gear is outstanding. The dynamics were frightening, with insane detail and presence. I played my demo disc of Chris Jones’ Roadhouses and Automobiles, and nearly peed myself on the “No Sanctuary Here” track. This ominous tune seems to have a built-in amp/speaker torture test that most systems fail to capture, much less render convincingly. The worst part about this was that I was suddenly made aware of how many other speakers I’d already heard this weekend that I thought had done such a wonderful job with this track were suddenly exposed as pale, anemic frauds.
Stunning sound here. And I mean that. If you turn it up too much, the force of impact may squish your brain.
In their second room, I found more Tannoy but this time, paired with gear from NAD electronics. I’m not sure this sort of gear — solid state and digital at that — is even allowed in the same room with Tannoy, but I did my best to bite my tongue at the potential sacrilege underway and just tried to get into it.
It wasn’t hard. The $7,800 Glenair has a lot of the same voicing that the Kingdom Royal does, but of course, it’s a far more compact, life-friendly, package. Rated to a 91dB sensitivity, the Glenair 10 can stretch across 38Hz-25kHz. The fit and finish on this speaker is a bit old-fashioned in that it’s actually furniture-grade — this is really well put together stuff. While the sound quality simply couldn’t match what was happening in the other room, it was coherent, fast and thoroughly engaging. Next time, I start here and then go to the Big Room, okay? Got it.
The brains of the outfit is a $6k NAD M2 Integrated that Stereophile gushed over recently. This unit is digital all the way through, with no conversions whatever. An interesting approach. Also on display were some new products from NAD, a $2,000 M51 DAC that builds on the same all-digital approach pioneered by the M2 (and included HDMI inputs!), and two yet-to-be-released products, the $2,500 WiFi-capable M50 Music Server, and the $2,000 dual 3TB M52 Digital Vault.
Also on display was the Nighthawk headphone amplifier from Audio Electronics by Cary Audio. Price is $1,195.
The Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier is an all solid-state design, based on a new monolithic JFET device with exceptional sonic qualities. The combination of a well-designed front end and this Class A discrete complementary output stage yields tremendous speed and bandwidth for very accurate musical reproduction.
The power supply is again designed with very low noise and over-spec’d parts to be optimized for superb audio performance. All internal components of the Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier are thus optimized to maximize sonic potential and exhibit Audio Electronics sonic signature, which does not sound like typical solid-state equipment.