Tannoy Reveal 501a and Disco Patrick

Tannoy Reveal 501a and Disco Patrick

My Tannoy Reveal 501a‘s got delivered while I was out of town for a few days and I’ve been itching to get back and try them out!

I’ve only had a few hours of listening time so far, but I can tell you my initial reaction is they are sounding criss:) Definitely a lot clearer than the tired old Eltax hi-fi speakers that have been my only monitors for over 10 years now. Two albums in particular raised my eyebrows while listening; Muse – The Resistance is sounding pretty fat, and Erykah Badu – Baduizm sounds lush with some very nice bass.

At some point I’ll do a proper ‘A to B’ comparison between the Tannoys and the Eltax’s (I think it’s only fair) and see exactly how much difference I can make out between the two.

The ‘a’ in ’501a’ stands for ‘active’, which means each speaker has an amplifier built in, thus removing the requirement for an external amplifier. This has quite a few benefits that I can see.

Firstly it’s brought the total cost down by saving me from buying my own amp. The ‘passive’ (i.e. no built in amp) version of this speaker, the 601p, is slightly cheaper than the 501a, but the money saved wouldn’t have been enough to purchase a good quality amp.

Secondly, the lack of a separate amp reduces some of the clutter in the studio – though the fact that you need to plug a kettle lead into each speaker adds a little more clutter, so it’s a bit of give and take.

Finally, the speaker and amp are already perfectly matched when you buy them, whereas you’d have to do a bit of research to choose the right amp if you were buying it yourself. The counter argument here is that you can’t really upgrade the amp in the future, though I can’t imagine I’d want to do this within their life span.

On the back there’s a balanced XLR input, and an unbalanced 1/4 inch jack input. There’s also a power switch, a volume control, and a trim switch to adjust the level of the high frequencies. Apparently this is to help you adapt the speakers to different rooms. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with this trim switch, so I’ve left it on the middle setting for now.

TC Electronic Level Pilot

TC Electronic Level Pilot

Oooh, Matron…

The 501a’s come in at around £250 for a pair, and it seems a few online retailers are currently bundling them with a free TC Electronic Level Pilot (worth £47), which is, essentially, a big knob.

The purpose of the Level Pilot is to give you instant control of the volume of your speakers within easy reach at all times. The problem with the Tannoys, and most other active speakers, is that the volume control is usually out of reach on the back of the speaker, and sometimes there’s no volume control at all. Another place you could control the volume from is the sound source. In my setup, the sound source is a digital audio interface connected to a laptop. The interface has no volume control, so that leaves me with the volume control on the laptop, which can involve some fiddly mouse work.

The Level Pilot solves all this by sitting in the audio chain between the sound source and the speakers. Four cables protrude from the back of the unit – two for audio coming in from your sound source; two for audio going out to your speakers. The big chunky volume knob can then be placed anywhere on the desk. A little bit of analog luxury in this digital age!

Time for some name dropping…

I first read about the Tannoy Reveal series in Future Music way back in 2007, when in a monitor ‘showdown’ feature they came out best in their price range.

I should have bought a pair there and then, but I procrastinated after reading a bad review from DJ Sly One, who said he really didn’t like the sound of them, and warned of the so-called “forward sound” that causes listening fatigue rather quickly.

On the other hand, my good friend Martin ‘Smut’ Wood has long been a proponent of them. We’ve even used them as monitors while DJing live – absolute luxury compared to some of the awful monitoring I’ve experienced in some DJ booths.

Thing is, you’re always going to hear good and bad reviews of any piece of music gear. You’ve got to start somewhere, and these monitors seemed as good a place as any, so I bit the bullet and ordered them in. I’ve since discovered that they come recommended by both DJ Custard and Tequila Slammer, so I guess I’m on the right track. I hope that by having them in the studio they’ll bring an improvement to my DJing, production, and critical listening skills. Let’s find out!