Tannoy Arena Home Theater Speaker System

Audiophiles and musicians alike will recognize the name Tannoy from the pro-sound world - the company's speakers are used in recording studios around the globe. So I was surprised to see speakers from such a serious outfit show up in a funky, fun package like the Arena system. The Arena's podlike satellites owe a debt to 1970s sci-fi style: think rounded, organic, and amoeboid. If, like me, you're into that kind of thing, you'll dig the look. Another thing that sets this system apart is its use of a point-source Dual Concentric driver configuration. This means that the speaker's midrange driver and tweeter are both positioned on the same axis - an arrangement that enhances imaging by locking sounds to a precise point in space.

What We Think
A well-built, mod-looking six-pack that sounds crisp and precise, but comes up short on bass and dynamics.

Along with far-out style, the Arena system has excellent build quality and versatile installation options. The one I auditioned consisted of four matched cast-aluminum satellites for the front left/right and surround speakers, a cast-aluminum center speaker, and a cool, compact subwoofer with a 10-inch driver and a 300-watt amp. The sub, which comes with a substantial set of metal carpet spikes and rubber feet for bare floors, can be mounted either upright or on its side. Tannoy offers optional metal stands for the satellites (shown, $149 each for left/right, $$159 for center), which can also be swiveled around to mount the speakers on the wall or ceiling. Optional, sculpted floor stands (shown, $250 each) are also available for the L/R satellites.

SETUP System setup didn't take much work. I mounted the front L/R sats on the Tannoy floor stands at either side of my TV stand and placed the center speaker on its middle shelf. The surrounds ended up on table stands at either side and slightly behind my couch, and the sub found its way into the front right corner of the room. The only challenge I encountered was with the cable-management system used in both the table and floor stands. While it effectively conceals wires, my heavy-duty speaker cables were barely able to clear the narrow holes. The swiveling bases on the table stands turned out to be very useful. By pivoting the surround sats slightly upward, I was able to give their sound a more diffuse, movie theaterlike quality that enhanced the spaciousness of surround effects.

MUSIC PERFORMANCE Listening to Bill Frisell's reverb-soaked guitar licks in "Outlaws" from the CD Bill Frisell, Dave Holland, and Elvin Jones, I was impressed by the sense of spaciousness that the Arena sub/sat combination delivered with plain-vanilla stereo recordings. Ride-cymbal hits were crisp, yet airy and well defined, and the bass put out by the sub sounded well integrated and tight. Skipping forward to "Moon River" from the same disc, I got an even better demonstration of the Arena sub's capabilities. Although it had fairly limited bass extension, individual notes in Dave Holland's bass solo sounded tuneful and clean. My biggest gripe with the system's sound came when listening to more folky vocal tracks. In the Shins' "Pink Bullets," for example, there was a slight edge to the singer's voice, and the Tannoys' sound had a somewhat brassy bite during a harmonica solo.

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