Small speakers are some of the most sought after items of home entertainment equipment so it is no surprise the brands take them as seriously as their big ticket flagship items. Take the TFX 5.1 speaker set for example. Tannoy wanted to produce a set of small speakers that not only performed well, but looked good too. This is a delicate balancing act at any price, but when the ticket price needs to remain under £400, it becomes a whole lot trickier.
Certainly on the looks front, Tannoy have pulled it off. People generally buy small speakers because they don’t want large black boxes crowding the room – so the fine line that Tannoy had to tread is making sure the design was conservative enough that they didn’t grab too much attention, but also that they looked good when they were seen.
Sleek, simple design
The four satellite speakers are relatively compact at 131mm high by 96mm across but their weight is surprising at just under 1kg. The front of the speaker is finished in a quality matte finish cloth which wraps over part of the top of the speaker, with the rest of the speaker finished in a tough high gloss plastic housing. The rear of the speaker has a single pair of chrome finished binding posts. The cable entry point is a little awkward and any speaker cable where the wire guage is over 2mm is going to be difficult to insert into the hole, and there is no banana plug option to fall back on either. If you have existing cable it is worth considering terminating the ends with spade connectors, which should fit nicely, or if all else fails, the included cable will do the job.
The bottom of the speaker has four recesses for rubber pads if you are using the satellites like bookshelf speakers, and a threaded hole for use with the optional stands, or the included wall mounts (see gallery below. The mounts are one of the best we’ve seen and will be much easier to fit than many others. Using the holes in the bracket as the template, it is simply a case of drilling the holes and screwing the bracket to the wall. The speakers them attach using the thumb screw that goes through the bracket and into the underside of the speaker.
The centre speaker shares the same looks and finish but is obviously wider (at 260mm wide) and as a result much heavier at 1.5kg. The cables are slightly easier to slot into the binding posts on this speaker, and the mounting options are the same. The all important subwoofer is a downward firing model with the front showing just the port and comes supplied with 4 substantial spiked feet.
The overall finish then is impressive, and the weight and feel of the speakers certainly has an air of robustness and hints at the potential quality lurking inside. The set we reviewed were black, but white are also available. The only thing we can say against the looks is that the plastic does look like it could scratch fairly easily, and our test speakers already had some surface swirls on them.
An impressive first listen
The immediate thing we noticed on the first listen was how well integrated the speakers were. Even without adjusting any of the amplifiers settings, the speakers sounded good, and underlined their status as an ideal set for those who want things to ‘just work’.
Listening to a few Blu-ray discs, from Inception to The Matrix showed some interesting results, some expected, and some a little surprising. Firstly, and as you would expect from a small speaker set, the mid to high end was impressive with a well rounded and pronounced sound, but without any of the harshness or excess often found – it was all under control and nicely defined.
Secondly, again not surprisingly, the 100W sub-woofer did a lot of work to fill in for the smaller speakers. Mostly it coped very well with pleasantly low and controlled rumble and thuds throughout the films. Occasionally though it seemed a bit lethargic and lagged behind the action a little. This was only noticeable in fast bass lines such as the lobby scene in the Matrix and didn’t spoil our enjoyment too much. There was also a slight hole on occasions where the high bass notes finished and the low mid notes, well just didn’t begin, but again this only occurred on a few occasions and only if you’re really listening out for it, as we were. It wouldn’t detract from the overall effect during normal listening. The sub-woofer has a control panel on the rear where the crossover and level can be adjusted if necessary.
Lastly, we were very impressed with the performance of the centre speaker. The vocals it produced, whilst lacking some of the depth you would get from a larger speaker, were very refined and had a pleasant naturalness to the sound that we weren’t expecting.
In terms of audio performance, the Tannoy TFX 5.1 is a very well put together speaker set. Action movies fans might find that the set lacks some overall power in places but those who like their films less loud will appreciate the subtleness it offers.
What to consider
Whilst there’s very little to say against the performance of the Tannoy TFX 5.1, there are some smaller things about the design that are worth considering. As we’ve mentioned, the speaker cable entry holes in the binding posts could be an issue if you are already wired up with a bigger gauge speaker cable such as QED Original. And if the ends are also terminated with banana plugs, you’ll have to decide whether to replace with the supplied thinner cable, or consider a different set of speakers. We also mentioned about the high gloss finish which looks great but is one to dust carefully!
Why you should buy the Tannoy TFX 5.1
We really like the overall package Tannoy have created with their TFX speakers. Some of the other less expensive speaker sets we’ve tested perform well but are poorly made, others have impossible to mount speaker brackets, and some just sound terrible. With the Tannoys you get everything – good build quality, decent looks, genuinely useful brackets and a great performance. You’d be impressed with all this if you hadn’t seen the price tag, but it’s this that really seals the deal, and make the TFX 5.1 one we can highly recommend.
Thanks to Tannoy for lending us the review set. You can find the full specs for the TFX speakers over at Tannoys website. Images are copyright Tannoy and Home Cinema Buyer.