MOVIE PERFORMANCE To check out the Tannoys' movie chops, I turned to Pitch Black, Vin Diesel's first big film and arguably his best. This low-budget sci-fi thriller stars Diesel as a psychopath marooned on a very bad planet with a group of unknown cast members who, not unexpectedly, die horrible deaths one by one. The soundtrack starts with a bang as a phalanx of meteorites rips through spaceship bulkheads, with plunking sounds in all channels. Different alarms and computer-voiced warnings sound in front and back, along with groaning hatches, firing thrusters, and air turbulence all around. Spaceship pieces tear off and hurtle across the sound field, and explosions rock the sub as the ship comes apart in a fiery reentry into the atmosphere. Throughout the mayhem, excited dialogue pans across the front channels. In a nice touch of sound engineering, faintly audible exclamations from the crew reverberate in the surrounds, adding a bit of spaceship claustrophobia. The Tannoys conveyed this sonic extravaganza quite nicely. Frankly, not much subtlety is required, but the scene needs reasonable sound pressure levels, a cohesive, enveloping sound field, and a sub with sufficient guts. The Tannoys delivered with enough sound pressure to fill a small- or medium-sized space, though as I kept cranking up the volume in my large room, first the sub and then the sats started tup-tupping and finally crying out in obvious distortion. And though dialogue intelligibility was very good, the center speakers's sound grew increasingly colored if I moved much beyond 30º off-axis.
When a crew member peers into a curious hole in the ground during the movie (never, I repeat, never do this when you are marooned on a strange planet) and is butchered by an unseen creature, the full sound field expertly hypes the horror. In a few seconds you hear a collage of rustling, slashing, grinding, crunching, whipping, and squishing from all around. Convincing spatial reproduction of a scene like this hinges on having timbrally matched surrounds, and with the same tweeter and woofer in all the speakers, effects were smoothly distributed all around. On the downside, the direct-radiating surrounds exhibited some beaming that sometimes localized the sound to the cabinets as point sources - a not uncommon effect that was evident even in my large room. (To overcome this, you can turn the surrounds to bounce their sound off a wall, although this will also alter their tone color somewhat.)
Aside from some traditional orchestral flourishes, the film's score, like the planet the crew is being eaten on, is pretty sparse. There are a lot of things thumping around in the low end, contrasted with high-frequency percussion and various spine-chilling creature sounds. The sub was masterful with the relatively quiet thumping, and the crisp-sounding sats easily reproduced the spinal screeching. I may have picked some nits here, but given the limitations you can expect with any small speaker ensemble, I was quite satisfied with this system's performance on movie soundtracks.
BOTTOM LINE I was mightily impressed by the sight of these speakers when I pulled them from their cartons. Although the Tannoy HTS 200 home theater speaker system lacks the low-end power to magically summon the police cruisers at 3 a.m. and came across as a bit bright for my taste (especially on music), its lively, dynamic sound may be just right for yours (especially for movies). If their style, size, price, and pedigree put them on your radar screen, it's worth hearing what these Tannoys are serving up.
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