Tannoy Precision 6D – review

I was busy last Sunday afternoon with an “Italian clamp” and a magic arm fixing a measurement microphone to a bit of handy furniture to squeak Tannoy’s latest monitors.  About eighteen months ago I gave their Reveal 6s a whirl and I was very impressed with what could be achieved at what seemed to be a bargain price.  The Precision 6D is a considerable step up market, featuring Tannoy’s traditional dual concentric drivers (plus a super tweeter taking the HF up to 50kHz) married to some heavy duty DSP technology. Which is why I came to be fiddling with Manfrotto’s finest fixing hardware.

tannoy precision 6d

The idea behind the the Precision 6D system is that the on board package of DSP and amplification allows the user to apply digital equalisation to the speakers.  Out of the box you can use the curves supplied in the user manual (selectable using dip switches on the rear of the speakers)  or you can do so aided by the measurement and calibration kit (Activ Assist) which you can buy for round about £50. However if you have a decent microphone and can interface it with the speaker yourself the software is freely downloadable from the Tannoy site.  While many active speakers include basic equalisation  the Tannoys are taking the whole process at step forward in terms of room matching.

The process is very simple, fix the provided microphone in front of your speaker. Plug it into a laptop, plug the audio output of the lap top into the speaker and run the calibration software.  Then repeat the process for your second loudspeaker.  I was pleased to note that the adjustments on offer were subtle in nature – Tannoy are not proclaiming they can turn your workshop space into  an anechoic chamber.  Running the software in my working room (as opposed to living room) produced a slight offset from the anechoic flat position and one that reflected the tricky nature of being squashed up against a wall with the speakers on a broad hard surface.  Hopefully you’ll be monitoring in better circumstances but the truth is that a good room is hard to find these days.

Of course there’s nothing stopping you using your head (complete with ears) to find your own optimum settings. Once I’d squeaked the system I felt that the preponderance of hard surfaces near the monitors might be brightening the mid range a bit so I shelved out a dB between one and two kHz which smoothed things out nicely.

In terms of features the Precision 6Ds have loads, balanced and unbalanced analogue on XLR or TRS jack. Digital in via SPDIF with a pass through to the other monitor and L/R/Mono select switch. There’s also an 80Hz high pass for filter designated for AV use. This is on top of the DSP EQ on the aforementioned dip switches. There’s a level trim that offers neg 12 to plus 4 and here I could have done with a bit more attenuation, a 20dB pad would have been nice,  but that comes with driving the speakers straight off the sound card and Tannoy do advertise a trim rather than a volume control.

The first thing that strikes you about the Tannoy’s is their low end authority from what is actually a relatively small box. Kick drums kick and bass is delivered with a tightness that’s a tad unnerving.  A session in Terry Lewis’s Tinderbox studios pitted the Tannoys against some tough competition and they came out smiling. Both the Tannoys and his KRK’s were judged to be well ahead of brand E when it came to keeping the bottom end under control (E coming in at nearly twice the price!) and we agreed to differ about the ranking of our favoured speakers. I placed the Tannoys in front by a nose on detail but conceded Terry’s  judgement that KRK edged the tonal balance.  Unfortunately time didn’t permit a session with the Activ Assist calibration kit.

Our next stop was a Radio 3 edit suite – bit of culture shock really after the dynamic pounding we gave them in Tinderbox. Interestingly in what is a difficult room the DSP went for more bass roll off than you would have set “by hand”, which goes to show it is assist and not dictate.

I think my advice would be to set them up manually – then live with the settings for a day or two. Then fire up the Assist and see what it tells you – compare it to your manual settings but don’t tweak it till you’ve spent a day or more of critical listening.

Sometimes it seems there’s a great divide between BBC requirements for monitoring and those of much of the music industry. I don’t whether it’s the amount of speech balancing that goes in inside the corporation but many monitors aimed at the music industry fail to find favour and are deemed too bright.  Tonal balance is certainly a mine field in the world of monitoring and you can probably find at least (n+1) different opinions from any group of size n balance engineers.

And here you enter the world of choice.  I’ve found the Tannoy’s ruthless edge is allied to a level of detail recovery that makes working on the finer points of a mix a piece of cake. All the dirty little secrets are here – the reverb tails on the vocals, the  percussion on the edge of clipping, the amount of breathing the compressor is doing and everything built on a low end foundation as tight and as tuneful as a drum.

I have no quibble with the Tannoy’s top end a la super tweeter – these are the only monitors my dog pays attention to and the extended top end exhibits a brilliant sheen which I’m very comfortable with.  I do however  think the Tannoy’s are forward and exhibit a measure of  thickness in the upper mid range,  on the other hand they have that uncanny ability to lay bare the inner details of the mix.   Are these things related? Very probably. Is it the right compromise for you? Well you need to bundle a load of your finest mixes under your arm and get down to a Tannoy dealer to find out. And if you are interested in matching your monitors to your room, at this price these are the only game in town.





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