A Brief History of the Tannoy Prestige Line
It doesn’t go all the way back to the time that Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, but Tannoy is an audio company with a long and illustrious history. In 1948 Ronald Rackham of Tannoy (which had already been in existence for 22 years) invented the dual-concentric speaker, a seminal idea that became one of the transducer designs that has been a staple in audio. In 1967 Tannoy began including its then-current iteration of the dual concentric transducer – the Monitor Gold Dual Concentric – in its Prestige series of speakers. The company has been perfecting the dual concentric design continually, and the most recent iteration was introduced in 2014 with the introduction of the Prestige Gold Reference (GR) Series. This review is of the new Canterbury Prestige GR, which is second only to the flagship Westminster Royal GR.
Given its long history, the Prestige range is an iconic part of Tannoy’s product lines. You don’t screw around with an icon. Rather, you want to build on its strengths and make it even more desirable. Think of the Corvette. Powerful engine in an extremely light and rigid body, but just as importantly, a look that sets it apart and that screams “Corvette!”. It’s pretty clear that in this revision of the Prestige line Tannoy used the same principle – dual concentric transducers, bass and treble adjustability and luxurious traditional wood finishes. Before you even connect and fire these babies up you immediately notice the wood and metal, the grille covers and other aesthetic details that maintain the overall feel of the Prestige line. According to Tannoy, they didn’t just improve the visual aesthetics, but made significant improvements by developing “new cone materials, new high frequency compression diaphragms, upgraded crossovers and extensive use of Deep Cryogenic Treatment” on Prestige GR models. I can tell you that this isn’t just hyperbole, because I have heard the end product.
Tech Talk From A Non-Technical Guy
In an ideal world a speaker designer would want to design a single transducer that addresses the entire frequency range – the ideal of the single-driver speaker. That transducer would cover the lowest bass notes as well as the finest details of the upper treble. Alas, that ideal has been very elusive, and drivers that work well for low frequencies don’t work well for the upper frequencies. Speaker designers have instead resorted to the use of multiple drivers and complex crossover schemes. Of course, this breaks up the audio signal into different segments and transmits each segment from and to different points in space, creating all sorts of acoustic problems that have to be addressed.
Enter the dual concentric driver. The major advantage of the dual concentric design is that the low and high frequency sound radiation is generated on the same axes – both the vertical and horizontal axis and all the others in between – sending out a single integrated wavefront of multiple waves instead of waves from multiple locations. We have all heard multi-driver speakers which sound a bit disjointed, putting the violins or brass or some other part of the orchestra in a different place than their locations at the time of recording, or creating smearing because the multiple wavefronts are not reaching the listener at exactly the same time.
With the dual concentric driver you have a single chassis that incorporates two separate drive units, integrated into one. This concept is pretty easy to grasp. However, the implementation of that simple concept is not that easy. I venture into the next few paragraphs with some trepidation since I know very little about speaker design, but I think we need a bit on this topic to properly appreciate the Tannoy Canterbury Gold Reference.
The high frequency driver mounted in the middle of the center pole of the bass driver is an exponential horn. In general, an exponential horn has an acoustic loading property that allows the speaker driver to remain evenly balanced in output level over its frequency range. However, one drawback is that an exponential horn can narrow the radiation pattern as frequency increases. This is because use of a large bored throat in the horn has the effect that the output of the edge of the diaphragm travels a longer distance than the output at the center, potentially causing upper frequency cancellation and/or peaks in response. This tends to create a very strong high frequency focus on-axis, but homogenizes the high frequency off-axis.
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