07 September, 2008

Home Visit: My Long-Lost cousin

Tannoy Canterbury

(Note: this system is changing fast, and a re-visit sometime soon shall be reported)

About a week ago, r33 member Danz, whom I have neither met in person nor on the net, sent me a PM to discuss amp-matching, and I almost jumped up when I read he is using the Tannoy Canterbury, MY reference loudpeaker! :-)

Very soon we were having long discussions on the phone. Danz recently got this pair from his father-in-law when the latter went for the Tannoy Kingdom!!! Some people are just so lucky! Well, this is an earlier generation Canterbury, with identical cabinet, but with foam surrounds rather than the current hard edge (HE). Aside from this, it also differs from mine (HE) in that it has a dust cover and I think the metal horn part is wider and perhaps a little shorter. The back is similar in being bi-wired and VdH internal wiring is used. Danz says this is alnico but I am not 100% sure (the HE is alcomax). There is very little info on the net regarding this generation of Tannoy (mostly Japan/Far-Eastern sale).

Before this Danz was using JM Lab Mezzo Utopia, driven by Ayre combo. Danz said he thought he knew what's bass until he got the Tannoy! :-) Hence he's still using the gears for JM Lab. One problem he faced was that the Tannoy at 9x db was just too sensitive (unlile the 9x rating of JBL, TAD etc) for the Ayre combo and he had trouble at night with the volume setting.

Danz wanted to explore tube driving Tannoy for tonal gain too. As he stated that one of the main goals he wanted to achieve was late night low-level listening, I suggested Single-ended Triode, to me the most perfect tube reproduction possible.

Saturday morning Danz's gang of three, including his Yuen Long sister (a VERY knowledgeable audiophile) and brother-in-law Sang88 (using Verity Rienzi driven by ASR) showed up to listen to my Tannoy Canterbury. With the Revox C221 fed into Counterpoint SA-3000 I demonstrated two 300B amps to them:

1. Fixed-bias Antique Electronic Supply (AES, subsidiary of Cary) SE-1 (kit, no longer in production). This is ss rectified and 1x 6SL7 driving 1x 300B per channel. EH 300B is used on this one.

2. "Auto-biased", tube (5U4) rectified, 1x 6SN7 driven Sun Audio "300B". This is "mis-matched" as I built it upon the VT-25 kit, using the 5k output instead of the 3.5k output if one were to use the proper 300B kit. This effectively significantly reduces the output. I'd estimate around 4 watts. It also has a even more controlled bottom end. DC filament supply. Note that Mr Chan, the dealer, sold a lot of this type to the USA before. I have previously compared this to the Sun 300BTE I built from the 2A3 kit (3.5k), and to me there is less difference than you think, Cetron 300B is used on this one.

After the "demo", I see that Danz preferred the Sun Audio, so I lent it to him. I went to yumcha and returned after lunch with rcwy, tubediyer and sokps to his nice and big flat (300 ft LR) on top of Kwun Tong.

The gears:

--Musical Fidelity X-Ray as transport.
--Computer Hard Disc drive, installed by sang88, in use even more than MF (I think its performance here is impressive and better than the MF).
--Benchmark DAC
re K1xe/V5xe pre/power

--AQ interconnects; Gotham 50040 speaker cable and jumper.

Except at Da Cheong (and also that time with JC in Sai Kung; boy, I miss those days!) , it is not often we get to hear Tannoy driven by high powered ss amps! I know the Ayre combo very very well from previous experience.
Sound was decent but missing a little the easeful character of Tannoy. Danz was really very kind to let us tweak the system, by experimenting, within permissable limits, with placement, toeing in, roll-off and energy settings etc, sometimes with a little benefit, sometimes to no obvious avail.

Then we just hooked up the DAC with the Sun amp. With volume knob barely reaching 9 o'clock the speakers were thundering. Ehhh, are we listening to my speakers??? No, but mightily similar. In this even larger space the bass is a little loose, but a lot of the graceful and easeful sound is back. Mind you, the built in volume knob means altering the loading impedance and hence frequency response.

Then we hooked up the Ayre preamp. Much better control and, in many ways, better linearity, but personally I feel that the "live" character suffers a loss. Of course, for me a TUBE preamp is the soul of the system. Nonetheless, sound was really promising!

After this, we went to rcwy's place to listen to his Tannoy 15" Lancaster. That needs no introduction. All in all, a really fun and revealing day!

P.S. Remember to click on pic to enlarge!!!