Nearfield comes closer
Ditching those muddy hi-fi speakers in favour of professional monitors can be an expensive exercise. But as Chris Kempster finds, manufacturers like Tannoy are starting to court the budget buyer with models like the Tannoy PBM 6.5II.
Just when you thought that the price-to-performance ratio of nearfield monitors had been stretched to the limit, a new wave of budget nearfields that redefine what you can expect to get for your money are set to engulf us. After reviewing a brace of sub-£400 nearfields over the last few months, and thinking what good value these represented, it's good to see that manufacturers are not ignoring those who can't pay even that much.
The Tannoy PBM 6.5 IIs up for review, are going for just over £300, and with a new pair of Spirits (on display at the APRS show) due for launch in a few months, it looks like this section of the market could get much hotter. And that's good news, because it should encourage a few more people to forsake their favourite hi-fi speakers in favour of some units specifically designed for the job.
The 6.5s come in the same sort of grey plastic finish as its bigger brothers (the colour is pewter grey, apparently), which is reasonably attractive to look at, and seems quite durable. The cabinets are very compact indeed; almost as deep as they are tall. Connections are made via the gold-plated binding posts at the rear - the omission of biwiring and bi-amping is a sensible economy measure - and a bass port resides above. Removing the cloth grill reveals one of the most interesting features of this speaker - separate woofer and tweeter units. Hardly an earth-shattering discovery, but an interesting move from a company whose reputation is founded on their dual-concentric speaker designs.
The driver units consist of a 1 inch soft-dome tweeter and a 6.5 inch bass driver (now I know where the name came from).
Having established that these speakers aren't dual-concentrics, it comes as no surprise that they have rather a different sound to many other Tannoys. I knew something was up the moment I plugged them in (before removing the grilles). Gone was the harsh sound that I disliked about the System 6s. Instead there was a well-rounded, warm sound that was very comfortable to listen to. For such a small speaker the bass is surprisingly good, and a glance at the spec sheet shows that they go down to an eminently respectable 57Hz.
Though some might dislike dual-concentrics for their characteristic sound, it's hard to fault them for the stability of the stereo sound stage. In this respect the 6.5s are not quite so capable as their stablemates, but then you wouldn't expect them to be. Stereo imaging is not bad either, though not as good as the Alesis Monitor Ones. The latter also has a clarity of detail, which could also be described as airiness, that makes it easy to focus on individual sounds in a mix - this is not quite there on these Tannoys. But that's not to say you can't hear what's going on with the PBMs - you can.
A good pair of monitors are both comfortable to listen to, while also giving an accurate representation of what's going on, and it seems to me that Tannoy have got the balance about right on these units.
There's no doubt that these baby Tannoys represent excellent value for money, and credit is due to the company for extending their product base down to more humble musicians. Like I said earlier though, I reckon that this part of the market is going to liven up over the next few months, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few other manufacturers don't throw their hats into the ring at some point - certainly I'm very interested to see what the new Spirits are like. However, for the moment these Tannoys don't have too much in the way of competition, and I expect they'll do well if for that reason alone. For many people, though, these monitors should fit the bill nicely - compact, robust, and an accurate sound at a very reasonable price.
Price: £305 inc VAT
More from: Tannoy Ltd, (Contact Details)
Review by Chris Kempster
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