Tannoy Revolution XT 6 loudspeaker

I’ve been wrestling with my elders about new ways to measure loudspeakers, lobbying for methods that might correlate more directly with a listener’s experience. And wouldn’t you know? Right in the middle of this Socratic dialogue, I put the fresh-from-UPS, $1000/pair, Tannoy Revolution XT 6s into my reference system, plunking them down on my 24″ Sound Anchor Reference stands in the same spot my Harbeth P3ESRs had been sitting. And I freaked! I was using the Rogue RP-7 preamp and the Rogue Stereo 100 (100Wpc) amplifier, and I could never adequately describe how bad the shiny white Tannoys sounded. Imagine sound that’s thin, metallic, herky-jerky, dull, and rolled off completely below about 90Hz.

I repeat: rolled off completely below 90Hz.

I tolerated their horridness for about two hours and then considered the possibility that somehow the oldest, most revered British loudspeaker company had mistakenly put some wrong parts in the crossovers. I was getting ready to call Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio (Tannoy’s new importer) and tell him something was wrong. But I decided to wait.

I figured some break-in would help, so I let them mumble and squeal for a few days. They sounded bad the second day too. The third day, while I was out for the afternoon, I forced the XT 6s to play through all the Ry Cooder albums on Tidal.

When I returned, my favorite Ry Cooder album—Jazz (16/44 FLAC, Rhino/Warner Brothers/Tidal)—was playing. Cooder’s voice, on my favorite song on that album, “Nobody,” sounded the way it sounds when it sounds good on an expensive hi-fi. When my second favorite song, “We Shall Be Happy,” came on, I noticed a full octave of bass had magically appeared as I was riding the subway and shuffling the streets. Finally, after about 20 hours, the sound was as rich and clear and full as I could expect from a 6″ driver in a 0.38 cu.ft. box.

The bass drum on “We Shall Be Happy”—mostly in the 50–100Hz octave—came through weak but clear, doubling a tuba belching the same beat in the same frequency range. (That tuba would have been really sad if it knew how desperately the Tannoy’s multifiber cone was struggling to give its song-stealing efforts a clear, “happy” voice.) After three full music-playing days, the XT 6s were still a little iffy below 120Hz.

Above 120Hz, they played a little soft but detail-rich, true of timbre and a touch on the warm side of neutral. I hoped they were still breaking in.

Founded in London by Guy Fountain in 1926 as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company, Tannoy is among the oldest loudspeaker manufacturers in the world. The company name was changed to Tannoy Ltd. in 1928. Like Altec and Western Electric in America, Tannoy originally manufactured public address systems serving the military and public sectors during WWII.

In 1947, the year Klipsch was founded in America, Tannoy premiered their first “Dual Concentric” (co-axial) driver, which would become the technology most closely associated with Tannoy loudspeakers. In 1974, Tannoy was acquired by Harman International Industries; Fountain, Tannoy’s founder, retired. In 1976, the company moved from London to Coatbridge, Scotland. Next, Tannoy merged with British loudspeaker company Goodmans, forming Tannoy Goodmans International (TGI). In 2002, TGI was acquired by Danish company TC Electronic to form TC Group. Then, in 2015, TC Electronic was acquired by the Music Group, a Philippines-based holding company, which in 2017 changed its name to Music Tribe (footnote 1). On the back of the Revolution XT 6 cabinets it says “Music Group Manufacturing PH Ltd” and “Designed and engineered in the U.K.” On the cardboard shipping box, it says “Made in China.”


The front of the Tannoy Revolution XT 6 is 8.7″ wide and 16″ tall, but the back of the cabinet is only 6.5″ wide; the cabinet has a trapezoidal footprint. The actual enclosure is only 14.5″ tall and is separated from a 1″ thick plastic plinth by four 0.5″ high chrome-finished plastic spacer columns that allow the XT 6’s bottom-firing port to breathe. I presume this bottom-port architecture—and the handsome look of the whole speaker—was intended to make the XT 6s more shelf-and-bureau friendly.

Top-front, behind a flimsy, magnetically attached plastic-and-fabric grille, lies a single 6″ multifiber-cone woofer with a coaxially mounted 1″ “Linear PEI” (polyetherimide) dome tweeter located at the throat of a waveguide with what Tannoy calls “Torus-Ogive” geometry; Tannoy calls this assembly “Dual Concentric.” Second-order low-pass and first-order high-pass filters separate the tweet from the woof at 1.8kHz. Nominal impedance is specified as 8 ohms, sensitivity as 89dB/2.83V/m. Except for the grille, the fit, finish, and quality of materials make the Revolution XT 6 look considerably more expensive than its modest $1000/pair price would suggest.

When I placed the Tannoy XT 6s on the shelf above my desk, they sounded extremely good. Bass response was smoother here than on stands. But out in the room, on my 24″ Sound Anchor stands, I experimented: I moved the XT 6s nearer and farther from the front wall, trying to make the 50–200Hz octaves come into focus. But wherever I positioned them, they sounded the same. This speaker is relatively unaffected by the proximity of room boundaries.

Upscale Audio’s Kevin Deal says the XT 6’s concentrically mounted tweeter and its “Torus Ogive” waveguide allows the tweeter’s output to combine with the bass-midrange output to generate a forward-expanding “mushroom cloud” of phase-coherent energy.

Listening with the Rogue Stereo 100
I have never owned Tannoy loudspeakers, but several of my golden-eared friends do. Every time I hear one of their systems, all of which are powered by low-wattage tube amps, I feel the speakers need more amplifier power than their owners are giving them. My gut feeling is that these coaxial drivers require at least 30W to sing and 100W to dance. Therefore, I started my auditions with the 100Wpc Rogue Audio Stereo 100, wired in Ultralinear mode.

My first post-Cooder notion about the XT 6’s sound character came while playing the record I use to set phono cartridge VTA/SRA: Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours (LP, Capital W 581). When “Deep in a Dream” puts a full Frank in front of me; when the distorted hi-fi part of the sound disappears leaving only Frank’s voice and the Nelson Riddle–conducted orchestra; when the smoke from Frank’s cigarette climbs through the air and I fall deep in a dream of her: That’s when I know my system is right. The Rogue/XT 6 combination let that happen. Ol’ Blue Eyes sounded incredibly natural and Nelson Riddle’s orchestra had a most agreeable tone—no hint of stridency.

Switching to the present era and a more demanding program, the Stereo 100 drove the XT 6s to 90+dB peaks (at 2m, C-weighted) playing David Byrne’s “I Dance Like This” from American Utopia (24/96 FLAC, Nonesuch/Qobuz). The bass power on this recording can humiliate small speakers, so, naturally, below 60Hz there was some noticeable distortion on the synth bass and drum machine, but it was subtle and minor. The little Tannoys showed a bit of force and a ton of coherence. For the next issue, I am doing a follow-up review on Rogue Audio’s latest version of their Sphinx integrated amplifier, the Sphinx V3 hybrid tube–class-D amplifier ($1595). (The original Sphinx was my first review for Stereophile.) So of course I tried the V3 with the XT 6s. Stereophile reviewers avoid using unreviewed ancillary equipment in our reviews, but I would be remiss in my honest reviewer duties if I did not now at least mention how the 100Wpc Sphinx V3 drove the Tannoy XT 6s with more excitement and raw musicality than the three-times-more-expensive RP-7 + ST-100 combination. It was a “Wow!” moment.

Listening with the Schiit Aegir
One March morning, I made coffee and installed the $799, 20Wpc Schiit Aegir stereo amplifier behind the Tannoy XT 6s. I was curious how the low-power Schiit would play “I Dance Like This” from the abovementioned David Byrne album. I listened critically as I sipped my coffee. The 20-watt Schiit sounded liquid smooth, with exceptional texture reproducing Byrne’s voice, but the Tannoys grumbled and distorted trying to reproduce the heavy-driving bass energy. When I turned the volume down (to 80dB average at two meters), things cleared up a lot, and the sound of Byrne’s voice and the synth background became sweeter and mellower and very nicely sorted.

Footnote 1: Probably the parent company’s best-known brand is pro-audio manufacturer Behringer.—John Atkinson

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Tannoy Group Ltd.

US Distributor Upscale Audio

2058 Wright Ave.

La Verne, CA 91750

(909) 931-9686


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