Tannoys Tonally Off

To Doug Schneider,

I recently purchased a brand-new pair of Tannoy DC10A speakers. Originally, I was quite impressed with the sound, but at times I find the sound quite edgy and the vocals off by quite a bit. Leonard Cohen lost the raspiness in his voice and Koko Taylor sounds like a man.

The speakers are driven by an Audiolab 8000C preamplifier and 8000P amplifier. The Tannoys are replacing an old pair of B&W 803 S2 speakers; the Tannoys are clearer, more detailed, and less coloured, but it seems that the sound is off. Quite often the sound varies as well, from normal, detailed, and clear, to edgy and hollow.

I am wondering if I bought the wrong speakers. Do I need to replace my amps as well? Will the sound improve once the speakers are run in? I read your review of the 10As several times and am at a loss of what to do. If you have time for a quick comment I would very much appreciate it.

Thanks and regards,

When voices sound off in the way that you described Cohen’s and Taylor’s, that leads me to believe you’re hearing severe frequency-response aberrations, which will affect the overall tonal balance. This is something no change in amplification is likely to correct, since almost every solid-state preamplifier and amplifier is tonally neutral. I also have no reason to believe that your 8000P has any trouble driving the DC10As, since the pair doesn’t present a load that’s too tough. As a result, don’t change your amplifier!

Instead, I suggest you work with speaker placement. As our measurements of the DC10A show, its on- and off-axis frequency-response curves aren’t that flat -- there are significant peaks and valleys that, ideally, shouldn’t really be there. What’s more, some of them are right in the range of male and female vocals. As a result, the DC10A doesn’t have an inherently neutral sound. I could hear some of that non-neutrality in my room, but nothing like what you described -- voices and musical instruments still sounded natural enough. However, if something about the placement of the speakers in your room is causing the peaks and valleys to worsen, or some other anomaly to occur, then that can be the culprit with what you are hearing.

I first suggest trying to move the speakers further away and closer to you, as well as putting them wider apart and closer together, all to see if those movements improve anything. Moving the speakers around like that should have the biggest impact on the sound. If you can find a better-sounding position for the speakers, then play with toe-in and toe-out (i.e., pointing the speakers’ drivers less or more towards you), since that can also have an effect. Finally, make sure you are sitting high enough so that your ears are at about the same level as the tweeters, since the DC10A has a coaxial driver and the tweeter height is the optimum listening axis. Finally, please do write back and tell me if any of what I suggested helps. . . . Doug Schneider