Tannoy Dimension surround speaker system Page 3

The expression "glorious midrange" popped up again and again in my listening notes, and it was hard not to love the mellifluous and seductively lush sound of the Tannoys' middle frequencies. Human voices, musical instruments, background traffic noises—even gunshots had a euphonic attractiveness that was nearly impossible to dislike. This is a far cry from the impartial matter-of-factness of the Wegg3 Lunare system. The Tannoys' bel canto midrange may strike some as a bit too much of a good thing; others may luxuriate in its rich, chocolatey goodness. Is it possible for a speaker system to sound too sweet? That depends on your sonic insulin level.

Even videophiles who prefer a leaner, meaner midrange should find the Dimension system's top end to their liking. Clean, clear, and beautifully defined, the combination of SuperTweeter and standard tweeter formed a system that not only had superb upper-frequency air but exemplary power handling. Even on dynamically challenging soundtracks like The Fifth Element, the Tannoy system's upper frequencies didn't sound stressed. On well-recorded SACD and DVD-Audio discs, upper-frequency information came across with an eerie verisimilitude scarily close to that of a live acoustic event.

The Tannoy Dimension system scored high marks in overall dynamic ability—its extreme sensitivity let amplifiers operate well within their comfort zones during even the most bombastic soundtracks. Only when driven to levels above 98dB at the listening position (104dB at 1m) did the Dimensions exhibit any hint of dynamic compression. If the Dimensions hadn't been immediately preceded by the Wegg3 Lunares, I probably wouldn't have noticed this slight reduction in extreme dynamic contrast. Most listeners in most rooms will be hard-pressed to butt up against these dynamic limits.

Precise lateral imagining, combined with excellent re-creation of depth, allowed the Dimensions to accurately map the location of each instrument of an entire orchestra. Unlike with many speakers, where the front of the soundstage begins at the speaker grilles, the Dimensions' soundstage seemed to start several feet behind the speakers themselves. But even with this more distant perspective, the Tannoys' gargantuan soundstage produced jaw-dropping dimensional effects, deciphering even the most densely mixed soundtracks.

A fine retention of low-level detail further increased the Dimension system's intelligibility. Usually, harmonically warm systems with laid-back dimensional perspectives don't offer the last iota of low-level information, but the TD10s managed to supply ample detail along with their euphonic balance. Listening to my own recordings or to commercial releases, I never felt I was missing out on any subtle musical details or dialogue.

The lack of a center-channel speaker whose performance matches the two front speakers has been the downfall of many otherwise fine home-theater systems. The TDC's design is different enough from the TD10's that I would have thought it nearly impossible for it to sound identical to its floorstanding brother, but when placed atop a direct-view CRT monitor, the TDC did a superb job of merging seamlessly with the TD10s. Using the many DSP modes available on the Meridian 596 processor, I tried everything, even Ambisonic, to try to detect any harmonic anomalies between the center and front speakers.

No luck. Regardless of DSP mode, the TDC blended beautifully. Even on loud, extremely dynamic material, the TDC kept up with the TD10s' pyrotechnics. Of course, where you place a center speaker will have a large effect on its harmonic balance. An under-monitor positioning, where floor-bounce will come into play, should have a noticeable effect on a center-channel's harmonic balance. Since the TDC has no provisions for re-equalization based on its location, it may not disappear as entirely in a different position.

It might seem a bit odd to mate a $1000 SuperTweeter with a $600 2-way speaker, but the S8LR and ST100 formed a synergistic bond. While this rear-channel solution lacked some of the dynamic abilities of the TD10 front speakers, it shared a similar harmonic signature. No, it didn't have quite as much lower-midrange energy or authority, but from the upper midrange up it matched the TD10s very convincingly. The ST100 SuperTweeter's mounting flexibility means it can be angled to make the best use of your room's particular reflection patterns.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
You'd think that, as high-end home-theater speaker systems improve, the differences between them would decrease. That this is not the case is especially unfortunate for those who prefer to base their purchasing decisions on test measurements rather than on what they hear. Now—just as in the dark ages of 2-channel stereo, 30 years ago—you must actually listen to a system to see if it will, as the sailors say, float your boat.

If you want a system that's smooth and musical no matter what you throw at it, Tannoy's Dimensions could be the speakers of your dreams. These beautiful, well-built transducers should be right at home in even the most elevated high-end installation. While my taste leans toward something a bit more harmonically matter-of-fact and dynamically unbridled, that doesn't lessen my admiration for the Dimension series' elegance, musical grace, and consummate bel canto style.