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Product Review
 

Tannoy Fusion 2  Bookshelf Speakers

September, 2004

Graham Vine

 

Specifications:


● One 1" Nitro-urethane Layer-dampened
    Woven Polyester Dome Tweeter, One
    6.5" Paper Cone Woofer

● Reflex Design

● Crossover: 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-
    Riley, at 2.8 kHz
● Recommended Power: 10-85 Watts RMS
● Peak Power: 120 W
● Sensitivity (2.83 Volts @ 1m): 88 dB
● Impedance: 8 Ohms
● MFR: 48 Hz - 20 kHz Ī 3 dB
● Dimensions: 15" H x8" W x 11" D
● Weight: 14.1 Pounds Each, 6.4 kg
● Finishes: Apple, Dark Oak

● MSRP: £149.99/Pair ($259 USA)

 

Tannoy

 

www.tannoy.com
 

Introduction

My last encounter with Tannoy speakers left me reluctant to return them, so positive was my response to them. Those speakers, the Sensys DC2s, were full-range floor-standing models using the Dual-Concentric ô driver and a super-tweeter extending up to 51 kHz. When I heard that Tannoy had designed a new entry-level line (complementary, not replacing others in the catalogue), I wondered what the bookshelf speakers in the line might sound like. As a family member is considering upgrading the speakers that came with her 'midi' system, I selected the higher-spec bookshelf pair, the Tannoy Fusion 2. When they arrived, I was happy to see they were the Apple finish - a good match to the speakers they might be replacing.

General

On unpacking the speakers, I was struck by their size. They were larger than I'd mentally pictured them but still a comfortable fit for any of the locations I wanted to use for tests and possible eventual permanent placement. Another positive aspect for the large bookshelf format is, of course, that this allows plenty of physical volume for the speaker designers to work with, increasing their degrees of freedom to optimize for best sound. And they did. These speakers sound very good, and at an unbelievably low price-point too.

The Design

Fusion 2s are front-ported reflex designs. The cabinets are completely rigid - a rap on any of the panels with knuckles produces a completely resonance-free knock. Clearly the internal bracing design and implementation works well.

I experimented with fitting and removing the foam plugs supplied for possible use in the reflex ports. With the plugs out, I felt the bass was a tad more rounded and extended, but slightly more colored than when the plugs were in. I would estimate the differences to amount to less than a dB of change. Tannoy recommends experimenting and selecting the preferred option - I concur. For what it's worth, I prefer the plugs in, and that goes for all program material that I used in my tests.

The starting-point for the design is simple, based on a straightforward (though excellent!) LF driver and dome-tweeter. So, the acoustic and electrical design have fewer parameters to play with than with more complex designs. The fact that the speakers sound so good - and they do - is a real tribute to the designers.

The crossover unit is clearly well-matched to the woofer and tweeter, and the whole thing presented no problems whatsoever in being driven by my Quad.

Provision is made for bi-wiring and bi-amping. It's good to see substantial links being provided for use when single-wiring is adopted. The binding posts have been bored out 4mm to receive suitable plugs directly. I make the point because I missed the fact initially! I hadnít noticed that the sockets are plugged with neat little colour-coded stoppers, as per the European Electrical Code.

Appearance

Family members have dubbed Tannoy as "Style Gurus"! So, I can take the speakers as fitting very comfortably in the "domestically acceptable" bracket. The (removable) front grilles are a tasteful deep ruddy brown, which is a departure from the traditional charcoal gray. I personally still prefer the gray, but maybe I'm old-fashioned and just need to get my brain up to date. I prefer the look with the grilles on, but minimizing the disruption from drive-unit to ear has to be a good thing when the highest fidelity is being sought.

Tests

As always, a variety of known material was used. I'm always anxious to try out the Sarah McLaughlan CD with new speakers, but only after what I consider more mainstream music. On went Mike & The Mechanics - Beggar On A Beach Of Gold. The whole of this album comprises ideal test material, and every track is recorded to an extremely high standard. No tone controls were in use, and the levels varied from quiet background sound to rather loud. The speakers loosened up during the run-in period and from then on I made a point of listening for any distortion. Vocals were crisp and clear, almost as if there had been no electronic chain between us. With plenty going on in the mix, such as in the title track, it was still possible to pick out individual voices and instruments, such was the low interaction between elements in the music. Stereo imaging was accurate and stable - also borne out by Abbey Road. So, a clean bill of health at this point.

And so, onto some more specific tests, and out came Sarah McLaughlan's Surfacing and the track "I Love You" in particular. This track has a low frequency element which can trip up speakers that are trying too hard and still failing. Without having heard the track over full-range speakers, I'd have been content to listen to the track on the Fusions and thought 'that track sounds terrific, I really like it'. So I played the track with a flat response from the Quad and indeed thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now the investigative part. I gave the bass a boost of +2 and tried again. The bass simply kept on marching down and down, so controlled and smooth - it must have been way below the nominal cut-off of 48 Hz before there was nothing left. I presume this 'new' bass must have possessed more distortion than before the boost, but none was audible to me, even at medium to loud sound levels. Again, the coloration must have been greater (there's no chance the bass-boost on the Quad exactly matched the bass tail-off of the speakers), but I heard no peaks and troughs in the response. The lower sensitivity of the ear in this region would help in this regard, of course, but then why wouldn't audio manufacturers capitalize on the human hearing response? It all makes perfect sense! For the ultimate quality it's right to go for a no-compromise design which holds onto its neutral response throughout the audible range, but a bookshelf speaker isn't addressing this market and the Fusions make the best of whatever compromises were needed in the design process.

The only other test I performed with tone controls in use was a check on whether treble boost introduced sibilance or other HF distortion. None was noticeable but then all the source material was well recorded and the speakers are flat over the audible range. Again, back with tone-controls set to 'flat', the only departure from audibly-flat was with some of the George Harrison "All Things Must Pass" (remastered) vocals. I felt there was a slight tailing-off in his higher register. I'd never noticed it before but cannot tell whether the Fusions were being more revealing than other speakers or just a case of difference attention on the part of the listener - me.

Again on the topic of paying attention to one's older material, I needed cheering up one afternoon, so I popped on Out of the Blue, and that worked a treat, coming out of the Fusions. The 'explosions' in the otherwise-acapella fast section of "Turn to Stone" had the greatest impact I'd ever heard them.

Conclusions

The Fusion range, as represented by Fusion 2, must come in for consideration as a cost-effective set of speakers. The units tested punch above their weight, competing favorably with some others that are more expensive, and certainly within their own price range. On the assumption that this is a 'balanced' range, I'd trust Tannoy such that you could extrapolate the Fusion 2 findings over the entire range.

The frequency response is perceptibly flat, and distortion was low at all levels. Some speakers can sound constrained at low levels, needing plenty of oomph before they get to you with any sort of impact. Not the Fusions - they're involving at all levels. As mentioned earlier, an increase in bass extension would be the main difference one should notice in comparison with full-range floor-standers. If thatís your market, thereís a Fusion option available and Iíd guess well worth auditioning. For bookshelf units, I think I've praised the Fusion's response enough to let you know that they handle that aspect of listening very well in their own right.

My overall reaction to Fusion is 'smooth'. Nothing to annoy, low distortion, involving, interesting with impact and absolutely fabulous value for the money. I still prefer the 'open', probably colored, sound of the classic Goodmans speakers but can't stop wondering "now where could I put a pair of Fusions? Extensions in the dining room perhaps? Around the TV for surround? In the spare bedroom as Hi-Fi for guests?" The possibilities seem to be endless!
 

 - Graham Vine -

    Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Primer - Speakers

 

 

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