Affordable subwoofer mixes musicality and sheer depth to awesome effect
There are few audio companies with a history as mighty as Tannoy. Like Xerox and Hoover, this is a brand whose very name became the description of an entire product category. Thus the ding-dong gongs at my holiday hotel were made, as my dad would say, through the ‘Tannoy System’.
Tannoy has made some ridiculous products in its time, too. A previous boss of mine, many moons ago, had a pair of absolutely huge – and I mean like a sawn-off wardrobe huge – Tannoy Westminsters in his living room, liberated from a studio. These sported 15in drivers flanked by massive horns and gave a thunderous, delicious performance.
But in all its amazing history, I’m not sure that Tannoy has ever really got into subwoofers in the domestic environment, of getting real deep bass from any of its smaller products. Don’t get me wrong, Tannoy has made some very musical subs in the past. But for me that was always the problem – I want to enjoy the stuff way below mere ‘music’. Now, in Tannoy’s own words, it has created subwoofers that offer the ‘speed and timing of the previous TS series yet add massive deep down bass.’ Which is an admission that it wasn’t there before, surely?
What does the TS2.12 give you for £550? Well, it’s, a round-edged cube that will hide away well in most rooms. Our sample was finished in satin grey, but a gloss black version (pictured right) can be had for an extra £100 if you’re particularly fashion-conscious. The box is made from 25mm-thick MDF, and the rear panel offers continuously sweepable phase adjustment, which really helped in my room. You just twiddle it until the bass feels strongest.
Within the TS2.12 lurks a 500W RMS amplifier, capable of pouring nearer 1000W watts of bass into your home when it peaks.
The 12in multi-fibre cone driver that takes all this power has a laid-back friend. Known to most as a passive bass radiator, but dubbed an Auxiliary Bass Radiator (ABR) by Tannoy, it sits opposite the driven cone and acts a bit like a port, yet the ABR allows the main driven bass note to be dropped as deep as the cone’s suspension allows. In this case, down to a claimed 21Hz at -6dB.
I set the subwoofer up with the feed from my Pioneer LX-81 in conjunction with my B&W speakers. A bit naughty perhaps, as they’re worth £8,000, and you’d never ask a £550 subwoofer to keep up with such things. Yet it did.
Setting it up really was pretty well prat-proof. I love that the sub’s crossover and phase are a digitally controlled item – you can feel that the knobs are ‘rotary controllers’ with tiny notches, rather than old-fashioned analogue potentiometers. Mind you, a model a bit further up the curve with a sexy auto-EQ system would be the next logical step as this subwoofer is deliciously able.
Taking the grilles off let me cop a feel of the cones’ suspensions. The right hand one had that characteristic slow-treacle feel of a high-power, well-suspended cone, while the lefty was on a much squishier rubber surround and was ready to wobble a long way. That’ll be the magnet-less ABR, then...
With music material the TS2.12 was tight and controlled. I ran through a variety of stuff, even enjoying Britain’s Got Talent on TV through the system. It needed a lowish crossover setting and some care with the volume knob to be kept from over-booming but I was extremely impressed.
The best show-off moment came with Sucker Punch on BD, and the demo-worthy sequence where the three heroines jump from a helicopter onto a moving train in slo-mo. The noise of the chopper blades – whooooomp – goes deep and the subwoofer tracked it easily and with scale. The ensuing fight sequence also offers its fair share of LFE work which the TS2.12 breezed through.
There’s no mistaking it – this is definitely a Best buy subwoofer. Tannoy has crafted a package that offers monstrous power, huge depth, great musicality and control – and all for a very tempting £550. I’ll take two, thanks.
Price: £550 Approx
Highs: Oodles of power; deep, taut performance; simplified setup
Lows: Somewhat unexciting design; no remote control
Drive Units: 2 x 12in – one actively driven high-excursion, multi-fibre cone on butyl surround; one auxiliary bass radiator (ABR)
Frequency Response: 21Hz at -6dB
On-Board Power: 500W RMS Class D
Dimensions: 430(w) x 440(h) x 378(d)mm
Connections: Stereo/LFE line in and line out on phono sockets
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