Monday, 8 February 2016

The TrueFi Tannoy Speaker – What others say

Andreas V. wrote at 27th of March 2017: 

Visiting Volker and listening to his 15” Tannoy Reds based speakers was quite exciting for me. I was really curious. Not too long ago I was way into Tannoy sound. Once you get accustomed to this warm, mellow and space-filling sound you can get from a 15”- or 12”-Tannoy alnico driver, it is hard not to get addicted to the Tannoy sound. The coax offers you all of the musical fidelity and liquidity you need to have to understand the musical massage. In this sense Tannoy alnico driver are very unique surpass many other conventional speakers. On my way through the Tannoy world I owned many Tannoy speakers mainly older alnico models and some other modern made Tannoys, like Turnberry, Kensington and the mighty Westminster SE. Frankly speaking, I almost owned them all, some of them even more than once. My personal interest belonged to Arden, Berkeley and Cheviot from the HPD series that I untypically combined with tube amps. Obviously I finally run out of space to store the cabinets. I found that the special sound delivered from Alnico driver with older crossovers was one reason for the typical sound, but I also had to learn that the soft Tannoyplas built in all HPDs (all but Eatons) suffered from control and texture in bass, at least when fed by meager powered tube amps. Solid state amps make a different picture and mostly gain control on HPDs, but on the other side lack of refinement and brilliance compared to fine tube amps. On my way to the high fidelity Mount Olympus I found after all more attended to full-range speakers like Salaberts or Line Magnetic replicas of the Western Electric 755a. The coherence and homogeneity of these fine full-range speakers is incomparable to all others. But they don’t quite offer the brilliance and deep bass as of an excellent coax system can offer. So I found that you have to decide which side you want to belong to. 
After visiting Volker I realized that he managed to create a speaker that incorporates the best of both worlds. His speaker offers the liquidity and musicality a good coax combined with the coherence and homogeneity of the world finest full-range speaker. We listed to a lot of his vinyl collection. The speaker’s bass is totally incomparable to conventional bass reflex speaker. It is so precise and naturel that it is almost shocking. Trebles are present, but never disturbing. Thereby never distracting from the music, but rather focusing on the essence. Actually, you totally lose interest in pinpointing criteria, like soundstage and treble or bass-qualities. Not saying they don’t perform well, the opposite is true, you rather stop counting beans and start enjoying records. And that’s what it should be all about, shouldn’t it? I personally realized after spending some hours of fulfilling listening time with Volker’s set what capabilities his speakers offer. 
So if you are looking for a very special speaker aside from mainstream high fidelity, skillfully hand-crafted, that has the capabilities to unleash the musicality, I honestly recommend that you listen to Volker’s speaker.

Patrick Leuba, owner since February 2016: 

I know Volker since quite some time, mainly via e-mail contact, but I’m so happy I finally met him. For about 3 years we were regularly exchanging e-mails on many different topics, but always keeping a focus on audio subjects, beside cooking, Italian kitchen, mushrooms, and other subjects. Volker helped me a lot in many areas of the improvement of the reproduction of an audio signal, finally he even guided me through the DIY built-up of a tube pre-amplifier, an excellent piece of sound. But this is a different topic.

Quite some months ago, I do not remember the details, but somehow I asked him, if he would agree to build a pair of his Tannoy dipole speakers for me, the ones described in his blog. I never had heard them, but I had the feeling, these speakers have a great sound quality. After some hesitation, he finally agreed to this project. The set-up, the source of the wood, the right colour, the bending facility of the front horn, everything had to be found, defined, produced. It took quite some time to Volker, but he managed to find a suitable solution for every production step.

 Finally, one day, I got the news about the termination of the building process, but, a bit frightening, also news about a big difference in sound compared to his own speakers. Volker was concerned, but quickly realized, that by adding hour on hour of playing, the performance improved. It needed a few days of intensive playing to bring the new speakers to a comparable performance. I never would have expected such a long play-in time for such "old" speakers. Came the day, Volker confirmed that their performance was now as expected and asked me to pick them up. Volker, staying more than 600km away from my living place, how to bring them to me? Fortunately enough, my wife still owns from her father a 20 year old Volvo 850, in this the Tannoys fitted perfectly.

So, I and my wife decided to drive to Volker. On a Thursday we started, arrived in the late afternoon in Düsseldorf and went for dinner together with Volker. It was a very pleasant evening, excellent Japanese food, in one of the biggest Japanese communities in Europe, a new experience.

Next morning we met at his place and he started to play music on these speakers. Firstly, I was surprised on all the musical details, the depth, the stage I could identify out of the music flow. I really never encountered such a musical reproduction, especially out of a single speaker. I have some experience with broad band speakers, but this experience was really surprising. Not a single minute I felt any doubt on my decision to ask for such speakers.

The final comparison was only possible at my home, in my listening room, where I was able, to easily distinguish the sound differences compared to my old speakers. And now, after a few weeks of intensive listening, I can only repeat above statement. I usually listen with CDs or vinyl as source, mainly rock, jazz, world music, and a bit modern classical music, especially piano. With my old speakers, I sometimes lost interest listening to music, or I had to turn the volume up. With Volker’s speakers I’m again listening nearly every day, at lower volumes and still all kind of different styles, they reproduce any music  in an excellent way. I re-discovered many of my older recordings. Their sound is different from anything I heard before, pleasant, detailed, rich, dynamic, including a wide and deep stage, where you can identify the placement of almost every instrument. The frequency range is well balanced, a tight bass, going very deep, a very clear midrange and sharp heights. There is no special frequency range dominating or popping up. Everything very well balanced. The placement of the speakers as well is quite uncritical. My listening room is quite high, with a lack of damping materials. The effect is none compared to my previous speakers. Good recordings sound terrific. No need to judge bad recordings, they just remain bad.  With Volker’s Tannoys, it’s becoming difficult to listen to other speakers. I got with these speakers a true gem!  Volker has such a great experience in testing items, combined with a clear vision for a good sound. I have a great respect on his judgement capabilities for sound. He really knows what a good sound is. And his speakers sound accordingly. Great! And they look beautiful. A masterpiece of craftsmanship.

Hans Andreas Schiffer did say at the 7th of February 2016:

"Ich empfinde es als wohltuend, das zunehmend mehr Menschen sich an die Werten historischen Konzepte erinnern und dabei deren Vorteile beibehalten und auch ganz in diesem Sinne weiterentwickeln. Nachdem ich mehrmals den Lautsprecher bei Dir hören konnte, bin ich nicht nur von den überragenden Qualitäten der alten Tannoy Chassis überzeugt worden. Überraschend gute Transparenz und Schnelligkeit für eine 15-Zoll-Pappe und als Ergebnis eines H-Dipol ähnlich dem berühmten WE7331. Dies kombiniert mit den Qualitäten des Ausnahmehochtöners des Tannoy und durch einen vorgesetzten Trichter anzubinden, machen das System so verblüffend. Es erinnert mich in seinen positiven Eigenschaften erstaunlicherweise mehr an meine LM-Installation als so vieles andere, das sich meist in ungeordneter Bemühtheit verliert. Chapeau!"

Mike Thomas did say at the 19th of January 2016

Ich höre mit einer Horninstallation (siehe Artikel in diesem Blog) und empfinde Volkers Lautsprecher als wirkliche Alternative.

Die herausragende Homogenität und Geschlossenheit paart sich mit einem farbigen, federnden Grundton und Bassbereich. Die Wiedergabe über diesen Lautsprecher gestattet einen einzigartigen Zugang zur Musik. Historische Tannoy Lautsprecher zu hören war immer schon ein besonderes Erlebnis, vor allem der Hochtonbereich hatte immer eine Qualität, die man bei praktisch allen anderen Lautsprechern vermisst. Volker hat es geschafft mit dem Rest des Lautsprechers an diese überragende Hochtonqualtität anzuknüpfen.

Zum klanglichen Erlebnis kommt eine optische Ästhetik die den Lautsprecher zu einem wunderbar verarbeiteten Möbelstück macht.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The TrueFi Tannoy Enclosure – The Manufacture

Hello to everybody,

continuing reading here in the new year 2016. So I will start with a new article about my Tannoy speaker design. Still I cannot believe how exceptional these speakers in such a cabinet design do work out, even after two years of every day use I do not miss anything. People who know standard alnico versions from Tannoys classic or prestige range (mostly with reflex designs and a more or less too small scale volume) do not have a close perception of what this speaker is able to do. Almost refined and rich textured invisibility with fast transient response, due to its dipole design, combined with finest detailed natural musical resolution show a stage of musical completeness, tannoy normally are not known for. The typical bold, hardly textured and more than rich sound of historical Tannoy speakers, has been improved to a before unknown level for such 15-inch speaker. They remind me a lot more to the typical cinema horn installations with their impressive refinements in micro acoustic terms. Of course such a speaker is not able to show the same degree of micro acustic resolution, its physically handicapped to do so, but you never will ask for anything missing. A exceptional homogeneity, hard to obtain with such complex horn installations, has indeed more affinity to small scale full range speakers, but with a much improved dynamic ability. So these speakers do mark a full unique alternative option in size, living room ability and performed quality, last not least seen from the money point of view. The only natural predator in this league might be Voice of the Cinema-types of speakers, which would be from certain points no alternative for me...

The by now first manufactured samples are finished and are in deliver to their new owners. I have spend a good amount of time of the last year to find refinements for the production and manufacture process. The front loaded dipole enclosure is some sort of ultimate cabinet for the 15-inch Tannoy Dual Concentric speaker with the 15 ohm hard edged version of cone, i.e. Monitor Black, Silver, Red and Gold with 8 ohms. Almost any detail of my prototype cabinets got improved for the series production.
The most problematic detail is still the curved front horn extension. It is made from solid layers of 3 mm mahogany veneers, each glued to the next within a specially made press form, to a final thickness of 18 mm solid wood. Mahogany wood is a ideal material, since it is grown in long strong fibers, which will be bendable in a perfect way and will give the necessary elastic stiffness for preferred sound values. I still hope that FSC certified tropical wood is not only a placebo for the conscience of the consumer and will give some extended sort of sustainability.

Different stained fronts are available to customer requests

 The front of this speaker design is exceptional important design feature, since it is acting as a relevant extension of both different speaker units. The HF-compression part will be extended to lower frequencies, since the LF-cone will be supported in the important lower mid frequencies of 400 to 1000 hz. In the same time the fronts are acting as frontal part of the well known h-dipol design (original WE 7331), they need to mount mechanically the more than 10 kg heavy Dual Concentric speaker to the enclosure with all known advantages and problems. This is a highly delicate question to solve and one main issue bringing vintage alnico equipped Tannoy speaker enclosures into a refined singing mode. Within a misunderstanding of this little detail lots of generations of Tannoy speakers from last 40 years didn't reach their inherent built world class smooth expression.
The open back needs to be completely lined with 10 mm woolen felt in order to minimize direct reflections inside the cabinet, the extension cases are lined with low density boards. These extension cabinets are just movable only for transportation reasons to keep the enclosure sizes small.

Here shown with slightly stained and oiled oak veneer for the main corpus and dark brown
stained color for the extension enclosure in the back.

All veneers are thick types of minimum 2mm thickness to give the enclosures a robust surface
and a solid wood appearance since they are made from lumber core plywood, the best sounding
wooden boards for speaker enclosures.

Listening to these Tannoys shows a well expected improvement in the naturalness and liquidity of the  typical tonal impression, comparing these with my plywood cabinets. The coniferous solid wood inside sounds better articulated with less resonant edges in the tonal accuracy. They will improve within the next month even more, when they get played in, a process known well from a typical wooden musical instruments.

10 mm woolen felt is my preferred damping material inside enclosures, in order to minimize
reflections inside cabinets. pine strives of 10mm thickness add some controlled strength to
cabinets. These are arranged in proportions of the the "Golden Cut" to find the best dispersed
reconance distribution.

I was almost shocked when I did refurbish the first pairs of chassis with original "recone kits" supplied by Lockwood Audio. These typical preassembled units (paper cone with surrounds, centering unit and voice coil) don't make a lot of problems to the experienced and get perfectly installed into the well known chassis of the dual concentric loudspeakers. It struck me down when I did a first listening test after the reconing process, I was save about the fact that both high frequency units are defunctional. Even if I did measure them before, I stopped the listening test and reopened the tweeter for a second inspection. I was quite save that the didn't work by listening. But I was wrong, the paper cone was absolutely not able to perform its dedicated frequency ends, i.e. the lower frequencies below 150 hz, as it could not resolute the frequencies above 500 hz. So these units over roared with 200 to 500 hz frequency parts so loud, that it was impossible to hear the hf unit or some lower bass.

Variants of the enclosure in different stained color and again with retractable back.
This option needs a precise felt gasket between outer and inner case-

After almost 4 hours of first playing the music started to open up and was already sounding in a way which did remind me a bit to the typical Tannoy sound. After 50 hours play from radio they started to sound quite well, still with a reserve of resolution of 5 % to match. It will show in future, I think it  will need another good 100 to 200 hours till they will show their best attitudes.
As well the cabinets itself need a extensiv cuing in process very similar to wooden musical instruments. At the very early beginning they don't sound refined. Quite edgy and inharmonious in their musical behavior within the first hours, they start to brake in after eight hours play of music. After another 20 hours play in time, they show some first musical insight and convince with some first harmony distribution. I expect them after 100 hours playing time to reach their final exceptional transparency and harmony in a stage, where thy are already acoustically invisible. This process seem to be very similar to the run in process of wooden instruments. Interesting, normally when you build a speaker one time, you can not realize such effects. But if you listen to a new sample of your well known speaker, you are able to observe even the smallest changes.

The crossovers are made from copper foil inductors and oil-paper capacitors and solid 2mm copper wire. They have got a metal housing, close in design to the original crossovers known from the legendary Tannoy Monitor Silver and Reds. So I have spared no effort to take care about any technical but as well optical detail to match the original or better standard these speakers were known for. I think it might be a pleasure for the future customer to see how much attention has given into any detail of these speakers. Details which haven't been seen for more than 50 years from commercial sold speakers, even if they were manufactured in low amounts. I did try to make one of the best loudspeakers in history even better and keep its almost legendary standards to the highest possible level. Like several other recently issued remakes from history, like the LineMagnetic series of speakers or the Western Electric 15A horn replicas from Aldo in Italy, I try to manage a similar idea of reissuing with a main interest to a before unavailable quality with vintage Tannoy speakers. I am happy to present with such speaker a stage of improvements, which was never available before, nor it can be found in in their current own pricy legacy releases known as "Prestige Series".

Fresh reconed chassis are looking like new

Of course they have got the TrueFi logo
I prefer felt gaskets like known from the early Monitor Silver, better than the later
introduced high density foam in black or white (shown in one image above),
known from Monitor Red, Gold or HPD.

These speakers are available to order as complete loudspeakers equipped with refurbished Red units or can be alternatively equipped with own speakers from the Tannoy Monitor Silver, Red or Gold line. They can be made with different veneer types as they can be customized in several details on request.

It's always good to have some spare Reds in house, you never know what will
happen...As well some spare recone kits might give safety.

Read as well what other say who have listened to this speaker!

Sizes and technical informations:
95cm high to 60cm wide, with a minimum of 65cm depth variable extendable between 45 to 80cm.
Made from 18mm lumber core plywood, veneered with 2mm furniture veneers.
Funnel made from solid mahogany 3mm veneers.
All used solid wood from coniferus sorts between 1.5 to 6 cm strength.
Soft rubber rollers integrated in the base.
Total weight 52 kg each equipped with speaker and crossover.

Read on soon,