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Sound - albums used during this review: Depeche Mode, Soothe My Soul, Columbia Records, 730682, SP CD (2013); Depeche Mode, Soothe My Soul, Columbia Records, 730692, SP CD (2013); Józef Skrzek, "Pamiętnik Karoliny", Polskie Nagrania/Metal Mind Productions, MMP CD 0535 DG, CD (1978/2009); King Crimson, In The Court of the Crimson King, Atlantic/Universal Music [Japan], UICE-9051, HDCD (1969/2004); King Crimson, Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Atlantic/WHD Entertainment, IECP-20220/221, "40th Anniversary Series", 2 x HQCD (1973/2012); Kings of Leon, Only by the Night, RCA/BMG Japan, BVCP-40058, CD (2009/2010); Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day, Swan Song/Atlantic/Warner Music, 79688-1, 2 x CD + Blu-Ray + DVD (2012); Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (I), Atlantic/Warner Music, 826325, mini LP, CD (1961/1994); Miles Davis, In A Silent Way, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD-2088, “Special Limited Edition, No. 1311”, SACD/CD (1969/2012); Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 036, K2HD Mastering, “24 Gold Direct-from-Master Edition UDM”, CD-R (1964/2009); The Oscar Peterson Trio, We Get Request, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 032, K2HD Mastering, “24 Gold Direct-from-Master Edition UDM”, CD-R (1964/2009).

People often email me about speakers that would be detailed without being sharp, crisp but with a midrange emphasis. They are often interested also in big speakers yet hate excessive bass. Although I try to answer any such questions as best I can, the right combination of these often contradictory qualities proves extremely difficult. Most often if a speaker is detailed its tonal balance is shifted up and it tends to brighten the sound. If it’s large it usually pumps out plenty of bass. If it’s crisp it can become tiring after long listening. Now I had a simple answer: Tannoy's Definition DC10A. Well, simple if you can afford it.

The Tannoys sound different than 99% of all speakers I’ve heard at home. Actually the remaining 1% is reserved for those I can’t exactly remember. In short this was the first time I heard big powerful floorstanders sound like larger British monitors. My first impression was of a good selectivity and a strong midrange solidly supported on either end. Speaking of monitor I refer to a certain stereotype in which such speakers lack bass and treble. In the case of the DC10A it’s not true as both frequency extremes extend far beyond what’s available from stand-mounted monitors yet their emphasis on especially the female vocal range is so intense that at first we don’t notice anything else.

That's key to understanding this speaker. Before I address it and include a few examples, I want to look at the raison d'être of concentric and coaxial systems (which are similar but not identical). Systems like these aim to coincide the radiation axes of separate drivers. It's assumed that phase shift introduced by moving apart the radiation axes of drivers covering different parts of the audible range deteriorates many sonic aspects like spatial location, coherence, attack and rhythm.

In my experience a well-designed multi-driver speaker with classic driver placement built with attention to detail will handle all these elements very well. Many of the best speakers indeed sound as though they used a single big driver. However coming face to face with a well-executed coaxial system like this Tannoy still will show things which we won’t get anywhere else except perhaps with systems based on widebanders.

Sealed mass-loading chamber access for lead shot or sand

This primarily is about the homogeneity of the soundfield. I do not mean the soundstage per se which is normal. I mean the coherence of what during a live performance is referred to as the sphere of emitted sound. Let me explain. The soundstage is defined as the space occupied by the instruments and the accompanying acoustics whether natural or added in the studio. The soundstage is never too large—it’s usually too small—provided that the size of particular instruments isn't excessive What I mean in the context of the Tannoys is something within the soundstage. The British speakers show the spatial relationships between instruments in a manner rarely heard. When the drums hit on The Oscar Peterson Trio’s We Get Request album you hear them in their location and their delayed sound recorded by the piano microphone - but you also hear everything between these events. The album was recorded in one take without overdubs, with all musicians present at the same time in the same studio. Hence the instruments were captured not only by their spot microphones but with some delay also by all other microphones present. Good speakers show this relationship quite accurately but very rarely do it so naturally. The Tannoys focus not only on the dominant sound sources but also on their acoustic environment and the mutual relations within it.