Reviews

Review: Tannoy Legacy Cheviot

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If you love vintage hi-fi equipment, this week’s review is for you. A few months ago, Tannoy announced the upcoming release of a new Legacy range comprised of three speakers. Well aware of Tannoy’s heritage, this announcement caught our interest, and we were looking forward to the release of traditionally made speakers featuring an unusual format resembling that of neither compact nor floorstanding models. We were not disappointed as the Tannoy Legacy Eaton, Tannoy Legacy Cheviot (reviewed here) and Tannoy Legacy Arden are a hit.

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The history behind the Legacy range

When Tannoy designed the original Eaton, Cheviot, Arden, Devon and Berkeley speakers in the 1970s, extra-slim floorstanding speakers were not yet in fashion. Quite the opposite. There is a simple logic behind this design: large speaker drivers are essential to deliver convincing and clear-cut lows. Tannoy did not come up with this idea; it’s just a question of basic physics. The larger the emissive surface of a driver, the better its transient response and efficiency. Larger drivers also require less power from the amplifier, which results in a much lower distortion rate. If modern speakers use such small drivers, this is because the current trend is to make speakers as discreet and easy to integrate into a living room as possible.

Test Tannoy Legacy Cheviot

The original 70s versions of the Tannoy Eaton, Cheviot, Arden, Devon and Berkley. The original Tannoy Cheviot is in the background on the right.

The Tannoy Legacy range was designed to go completely against this trend. The Tannoy Cheviot is an impressive object, not because of its size (it is only 2.8 ft tall), but because of its proportions and construction quality. The oak veneer is absolutely stunning, very soft and pleasant to the touch. Such a high level of craftsmanship is so rare that simply coming into contact with the speaker was a thrilling experience.. The Cheviot even comes with a jar of beeswax with which to polish the wood cabinet.

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Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: presentation

The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot is a 2-way speaker equipped with a 12” coaxial driver loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure fitted with two bass reflex ports. Its sensitivity rating of 91 dB implies a linear frequency response, rated at 38 Hz to 30 kHz by the manufacturer. The tweeter’s sensitivity and response curve can be adjusted via a system located on the speaker’s front panel, a telltale sign that the speaker was actually designed the old-fashioned way.

The generous range of adjustment is a wonderful trait, as it allows the user to fine-tune the speaker’s specs in order to ensure optimal performance with any type of amplifier and listening room.

The Tannoy Cheviot is designed for large rooms, and yet it feels right at home in a 15m² (161 sqft) room, especially considering its depth (10.2”). While this speaker seems to have been mainly designed for music restitution, it also ensures a convincing home theater experience without an absolute need for a subwoofer.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot in front of the McIntosh MA252 (tube preamp with solid-state power amp).

Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: Dual Concentric driver

Nothing new here. A tweeter is located in the middle of the driver’s cone in a coaxial structure. This technology ensures optimal dispersion of the entire frequency range covered by the two drivers. This is not just a marketing gimmick; coaxial technology ensures great results, and many brands have adopted it for this very reason (Elipson, KEF, Cabasse, etc.). Nevertheless, the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s Dual Concentric driver is a unique model.

The sheer size of this transducer (12”) is impressive, as is its particularly deep cone. The tweeter uses the cone as a horn to amplify the mids mechanically (incidentally, the tweeter’s movement is reduced, thereby minimizing the distortion rate).

The tweeter covers particularly low frequencies (down to 1.2 kHz), which means that this critical frequency range is not handled by the 12” driver. A 12” cone cannot oscillate as quickly as a 1.3” dome tweeter. The cone is made of cellulose fiber and has an irregular surface to ensure optimal damping properties.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s coaxial driver features a cone with a double, half-roll surround. The design and manufacturing quality are quite spectacular.

The tweeter is almost invisible, hidden behind a gold-plated Tulip waveguide. The double-horn shape of the waveguide ensures optimal directivity of high frequencies.

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The 1.3” aluminum/magnesium dome tweeter is placed far in the back of the cone and is partially horn loaded. This is Tannoy’s famed Tulip waveguide. The circular part of the waveguide is integrated into the cone to form a wide acoustic horn.

Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: enclosure

The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s Dual Concentric driver is loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure fitted with two relatively short front-firing ports. The amount of air provided by the ports and the cabinet contributes to the tuning of the high-bass register. This construction results in a more linear response and ensures proper balance between lows, mids, and highs. The inside of the speaker is reinforced by an internal bracing system. The cabinet is made of different types of wood, such as MDF and wood veneer for example, while the wood used for the front panel -to which the driver is attached- is of a different density to minimize vibrations.

Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: crossover filter

The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s passive filter is entirely adjustable and may be bi-amplified. Two sets of speaker terminals are located at the back of the speaker (LF and HF), which Tannoy had the good sense to bridge with pure copper jumpers instead of using metal connectors. Each binding post is compatible with banana plugs, and a fifth binding post provides grounding for an entirely noise-free listening experience. The front-mounted control panel houses a two-band control system which may be used to adjust the tweeter. The top band controls the tweeter’s output, which can be increased or decreased (-3 dB, -1,5 dB, 0 dB, +1,5 dB et +3 dB). To adjust the output, simply unscrew the pin and move it to the selected value. The bottom band may be used to adjust treble roll-off  above 5 kHz.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s passive filter control panel.

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Close-up view of the pin used to adjust the sensitivity of the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s tweeter.

Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: test conditions and listening impressions

We paired up the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot with a a selection of electronics. We used Viard Audio Premium HD RCA-RCA and Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP cables to connect a Hegel H190 amplifier, a Marantz ND-8006 network player, and a McIntosh MA252 amplifier. We tried different EQs and played with the frequency response curve, but we instinctively came back to the original setting as the speakers sounded perfectly balanced with both amplifiers. Note that the energy adjustment and treble roll off provided by the front-mounted control panel are clearly audible.

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The Marantz ND-8006 network player is a first-rate source to pair up with the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot.

Right out of the box, the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot and McIntosh MA252 leave a lasting impression. From the very first notes, the restitution is balanced and serene, while the sense of scale offered by the soundstage is simply striking. The Cheviot is a great speaker and a real treat for the eyes and ears. We listened to high-resolution and CD-quality tracks with the Cheviot, and the former were not the most impressive.

This speaker is further proof that a quality recording and mix are a lot more important than the type of digital resolution. We have no problem imagining the Tannoy-McIntosh combo offering an outstanding restitution of FM radio broadcasts.

The Cheviot makes the listener feel at home right off the bat and brings back fond memories of the most distant hi-fi experiences. When listening to the Cheviot, the listener’s attention is not caught by the lows, mids, or highs, and the sound message naturally prevails. The McIntosh amplifier has a considerable advantage over the Hegel H190 -which has been our go-to amplifier for a few months now- as it offers a perfectly layered soundstage, leaves space between the voices and the instruments, and adds texture to each sound. These are all qualities which make this amplifier unique (keep an eye out for our upcoming review of the McIntosh MA252). After listening to the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot for the first time, our initial impression was that of a “large audio playground.” Each detail is pleasantly restituted, and we were delighted to hear the intensity with which a string is plucked, the breath of a vocalist, the sound of the crowd roaring far ahead and clapping on the side, etc. We couldn’t help but smile at such a masterful execution.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot comes with a set of jumper cables to connect the LF and HF terminals when the speakers are connected to a single amplifier. The fifth binding post may be used to ground the speaker.

The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot brings out any coloration a recording may have. We listened to recordings which have always sounded bland to our ears and were surprised by how rich and dynamic they were. On the other hand, some seemingly energetic recordings turned out to sound quite dull.

Telling a good recording apart from a mediocre one is particularly easy with the Cheviot.

Lows:  the high-lows unravel generously for an energetic and tight delivery (we noticed a minor emphasis on this range during the break-in period). The lows and infrabass are slightly set back but are responsive and well integrated. The Cheviot is not overly showy in the lows, but this is never a issue. A lot of energy in this range.

Mids: the low-mids are warm and swarming with information, so much so that it almost flatters the ear. The mids are well integrated and benefit from an energy comparable to that of the low-mids. Not a hint of harshness or coloration in the high-mids.

Highs: smooth, almost silky with the basic setting. The highs stand out for their transparency.

Soundstage: particularly wide and deep, but most of all precisely arranged, a real pleasure for the ears.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s bottom grill.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot’s top grill.

The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot compared to:

The Klipsch Forte III: the large Klipsch speaker is a lot more generous in the infra-bass range and more authoritative overall. On the other hand, the Klipsch speaker is less refined than the Tannoy Legacy Cheviot in the highs. The Forte III is brighter, more fun, and “sweeter” so to speak, but it also sounds a lot less intimate.

The Klipsch Heresy III: the Heresy III’s sound signature is more generous but less articulated in the high-lows and low-mids. The soundstage offered by the Heresy III is not quite as wide, precise, and detailed.

The Focal Kanta n°2: The Kanta has a more physiological sound signature and is no competition at all for the Cheviot when it comes to its detailed soundstage.

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The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot comes with a container of beeswax. The smell is rather potent, even when the container is closed.

Tannoy Legacy Cheviot: conclusion

The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot is an exceptional speaker which ensures a warm and generous sound restitution. The listening experience is delightful, relaxing, and filled with emotion. Its sound signature is tailored to allow you to truly appreciate listening to music on a hi-fi system. When listening to the Cheviot, no two recordings sound similar, as the smallest details are extracted to recreate the artist’s original intent. It is equally at home in a 20 m² (215 sqft) and 50 m² (538 sqft) room. The Tannoy Legacy Cheviot doesn’t seem difficult to drive but clearly benefits from a high-quality amplifier such as the McIntosh MA252. A true work of art.

What we liked:

  • The incredibly nuanced sound restitution
  • The warm sound signature
  • The well-balanced energy throughout the entire sound spectrum
  • The possibility to fine-tune the speaker
  • The nonstop listening pleasure
  • The stunning construction quality

What we would have liked:

  • To keep them
This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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