The Tannoy Reveal 402, front and back
The Tannoy Reveal 802, front and back
The Tannoy Reveal family
Tannoy Reveal 402 and 802 Active Studio Monitors
Date: August 2014
In home and professional studios worldwide, Tannoy monitors large and small have been making an impact for decades. From the Dual Concentric DMT Series of years past and the groundbreaking PBM Series for small rooms, to the Ellipse with its SuperTweeter for high-sample-rate digital and top-end analog audio playback, Tannoy is known for innovative designs that deliver the goods.
These new Tannoy home studio monitors aren't the first with the Reveal name on them; we reviewed the original Reveals way back in February 1999, and the later-generation Reveal 8D in January 2007. The three speakers that carry the Reveal name in 2014 represent an all-new look at what home studio systems really need, and set out to deliver a listening experience that will benefit users of desktop audio systems in awkward rooms, users who will probably want to use their monitors for recreational as well as professional listening.
The new line has three models: the Reveal 402, 502, and 802. For this review, I got to live with the 402 and 802 for several weeks, and I'm delighted to introduce you to them now.
Design points in common
All of the new Reveals share the same general design philosophy: a dome tweeter and high-efficiency woofer in a ported cabinet with biamplified electronics, all optimized for ideal sound delivery when the room is less than ideal. Pretty much every aspect of the speakers has been thought through with this aim in mind. Just as a few examples: the speakers are all front-ported to provide solid low end response that's not compromised as badly if the speakers have to be located very near a rear wall, the tweeters have a "poke-proof" ruggedized design that reduces the risk of damage when being moved around, and the crossover electronics and front-fascia shape are both meant to provide a wider-than-normal sweet spot so that multiple listeners can crowd around the speakers yet hear accurate audio.
The rear panel has unbalanced 1/4" and balanced XLR inputs, a Volume knob, and a 3-way EQ switch, with settings for Normal, Hi Boost, and Hi Cut. (These are Â±1.5 dB high shelves with no corner frequency specified.) There are also two minijacks and a 2-way switch for a feature Tannoy calls Aux Link, which I'll explain in a moment.
The Power switch is on the rear panel as well, along with a bright blue power-on LED and a standard IEC power jack with slide-out fuse tray and spare fuse. It's actually rather nice to have the LED illuminate the wall behind the speaker rather than glare right in your face, although depending on placement it can take a moment to see whether the speaker's on or not.
We don't always listen to audio over our professional interfaces and DAWs. Sometimes we just want to hook up a portable audio source like an iPod or smartphone, whether it's to kick back and enjoy music or to listen to a mix or reference track that a client's brought into the studio. The Aux Link function was designed into the Reveals to allow users an easy way to quickly listen to portable audio devices without a computer or other audio system connected.
To use Aux Link, a cable is plugged into the In jack of one speaker and connected to your audio source, while a second cable is plugged into the Monitor Link jack and run to the corresponding jack on the other speaker. The rear-panel switch selects whether each speaker reproduces the Left or Right audio channel. Since each speaker comes with one miniplug-to-miniplug cable with a generous 15' length, any stereo pair of Reveals will have all the cabling one needs to set up an Aux Link array. The system works very well in practice, as I discovered when a temporarily-unavailable audio interface forced me to switch to Aux Link for a long listening session.
Now that we've met the Reveals in general, let's dive into the specifics of the two monitors I got to work with. We'll begin with the Reveal 402.
The Reveal 402 in use
Specs first: the Reveal 402 sports a 3/4" tweeter and 4" woofer, each powered by its own 25 Watt amp, with an active crossover with a 2.8 kHz crossover frequency. Stated frequency response for the 402 is 56 Hz to 48 kHz, Â±3 dB (at 1 meter in an anechoic chamber). The box is 9.5 x 5.8 x 8.4 inches in size, and weighs just under 12 pounds. It claims a surprisingly loud 101 dB maximum SPL, which I made no attempt to test, preferring to monitor in the 85 dB SPL range.
I burned in the Reveal 402 for a weekend with loud music and then settled into my usual listening habits, with a mixture of reference tracks that I know very well, chosen to reveal (sorry, had to say it) the weak spots in a monitor's response. My listening position was about as un-ideal as I could manage in our studio: a computer hutch up against a wall with awkward angling and some weird reflective surfaces behind the speakers. About the only help they got was via my IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R130 speaker isolation stands. I left the EQ set at Normal, after some quick comparisons demonstrated that the Hi Boost was too splatty in the speakers' chosen position and the Hi Cut was a bit too mellow.
Even with all those caveats, I was richly impressed with the sound I got from these little speakers. The crossover is, as Tannoy claims, impeccably tuned -- I didn't notice any weird bumps or dips in frequency response in the crossover region, which is a critical one for things like sibilance in vocals and the elusive "presence" in guitars. Highs were clear yet easy on the ears, offering definition without harshness and allowing for long listening sessions without fatigue.
Higher harmonics of low-end instruments helped fill in the obviously-missing fundamentals; there's no doubt that you'll want to check your low end on reference speakers for any mixing you do with the 402s, but that's to be expected for such a small driver. The low end rolled off in a very polite manner, and what was left was believable and clean. These little fellows obviously aren't meant for listening to a lot of hip-hop or dubstep unless you have a good subwoofer handy.
Speaking of subwoofers, I did a quick curiosity check by pairing the 402s with the Cerwin-Vega! XD8s sub (reviewed July 2014) and found that they made a very impressive satellite/sub combination. If you're cramped for desk space to the point where the 402 seems your best option, you might want to look into adding a sub to get more boom in your room.
Pressed for a sound bite, I would describe the Reveal 402 as a very easy speaker to listen to. I did worry that perhaps it was being too nice in what it delivered, but I could hear the mistakes in the "less than great" projects I keep handy for reference... aside from those in the low bass, which the 402 simply ignored. So it's not a matter of bad details being obscured or inaudible -- you just find yourself enjoying the listening experience enough so that you have to remain vigilant. Keep that in mind and the 402 will make you quite happy indeed.
The Reveal 802 in use
A glance at the Reveal 802's specs shows that despite their many design similarities, the 802 and 402 are as different as chalk and cheese. The 802 is one big darn serious monitor!
Weighing in at a solid 29 pounds with a hefty 15.4 x 10.0 x 11.8 inch size, the 802 is impressive even before you turn it on. It has a 1" tweeter and 8" woofer, biamplified with 75 Watts on the low end and 25 Watts up top, the crossover frequency set to 1.8 kHz. The frequency response is given as 42 Hz to 43 kHz Â±3 dB, and my ears affirm that that range is probably about right, rather than the wishful thinking we get with some other monitor specs. Maximum SPL is rated at 114 dB, which again I chose to simply believe rather than testing for myself -- the 802s went above 95 dB SPL, far louder than I like to monitor for any extended length of time, without breathing hard.
I set up the 802s for burn-in and listening in my office/studio at Music Maker, a decently well-treated but by no means perfect room, on isolated speaker stands by Ultimate Support with a listener-speaker triangle about 5.5 feet on a side, the outer edge of what Tannoy recommends. My reference listening choices were similar to what I used on the 402 with the addition of more bass-sensitive material, not only dance music but also some jazz with solo and near-solo acoustic bass performances.
The overall "pleasantness" of the listening experience with the 402 carries over to the 802 at the high end. The sweet spot was astonishingly wide in this room; I could see myself moving around a decent-sized console, or sharing a listening session with friends, with confidence as to what these speakers were giving me.
With the crossover moved down into a range with different but still critical frequencies -- 1.8 kHz is where you'll find stuff like the main intelligibility of vocals and the upper "growl" of guitars, as well as the beater snap in larger kick drums -- there was still a really good sense of tonal balance. With the rear panel EQ set to Normal, the highs once again evinced that pleasant and detailed clarity that made the 402 so nice to listen to; every nuance of my test material was there when I chose to listen for it, but the overall effect was one of eminent listenability rather than harshness.
However, what you notice most in the 802 is precisely what you note by its absence in the 402 -- the low end. And what low end! This monitor was designed to provide a powerful listening experience for dance music, electronica, hip-hop... anything with boom and wallop to it. No need for a subwoofer here -- these speakers will rattle your bones if you turn them up enough.
The woofer needs to loosen up a bit before it speaks with real accuracy; the 802 was a bit harsh in the low mids and bass until the burn-in period (about 48 hours in my case) mellowed it out and made it smoother to my ears. Once that was done, what was left was a speaker that wasn't shy about delivering deep frequencies smoothly and in abundance. Bass was not as tight as I've heard it in some (considerably more expensive!) 8" monitors, but it was certainly not flabby or one-note... there was no sense of the 802 ringing or going nuts at particular resonant frequencies. As on the 402, the port tuning on this speaker is very gracefully done.
One thing I found interesting was how well the 802s behaved at lower listening levels. While my main work SPL is around 85 dB, I prefer recreational listening at 70 dB SPL for the background of a work environment. The Equal Loudness Contours (a function of how our ears perceive loudness as a function of frequency and listening level -- a topic that's overdue for a tutorial article!) tell us we should expect to proportionally lose bass a lot quicker than everything else as we turn our listening level down. That's precisely what happens, but rather than becoming midrangy or thin and unconvincing, the 802 simply delivers everything nicely and eases back on the power in the low end.
With unflinching accuracy being our primary goal, we don't normally praise a studio monitor for being a "pleasant" listening experience... but in the case of the 802 it's almost like you have two different speakers at hand. The woofer, crossover, and Equal Loudness Contours combine to give you a speaker that delivers massive chest-thumping bass as part of an energetic yet well-balanced mix at high SPL, but turns into a mellow and balanced monitor for detailed and non-fatiguing listening at lower SPL. If the intent was to create a speaker that happily lives a double life of delivering audio for pleasure and for critical mixes, Tannoy would appear to have succeeded admirably!
Large or small, the choice is yours
The Reveal 402 packs a lot of good audio into a very small space; be well aware of its lack of low end and you'll find it a listening experience that's easy to like in even the most unforgiving rooms. We didn't test the 502, which offers a 5.25" woofer and a bit more power than the 402, but we'd imagine its performance would be similar to the 402's but with a slightly more extended low end.
The 802 is another story entirely. This is a remarkably powerful yet pleasant (there's that word again!) 8" monitor that can cover small to medium-sized rooms with ease, combining a believable and non-fatiguing high end with all the rumble and roar in the low end a recording engineer could ask for. Convenient for serious mixing and recreational listening alike, this is a speaker that's going to make a lot of friends, and I urge you to give it a test-drive and hear for yourself what a delight it can be.
Prices: Reveal 402, $139.99 each; Reveal 802, $279.99 each
More from: Tannoy, www.tannoystudio.com