In the incredibly competitive market of small, active monitors, Tannoy has come up with a real gem in the Reveal 5A. These monitors pack a big punch for their small size and they look good, too. Housed in a gray enclosure with a blue painted baffle, the contoured front presents an acoustically sound structure that is pleasing to the eye. Tongue-in-groove construction is used for the front and back.
The Reveal 5A is the smallest active monitor that Tannoy makes yet it has a wide, flat frequency response that is surprisingly dynamic.
Each active monitor features its own detachable power cord with a power switch on the back. There is no digital input, just a combination analog XLR jack for balanced or unbalanced. There are no adjustments for EQ or frequency response, just a volume control on the front of each speaker and a mute. The mute button is actually the Tannoy logo. Push it and the speaker mutes and the green LED turns red. Naturally, using this as the speaker mute requires the speaker to be placed within easy reach.
Performance at a glance
109dB max SPL
Distortion <0.7 percent
70Hz to 30kHz frequency response
5" paper cone woofer, 1" soft neodymium tweeter
Balanced combined XLR/jack input
Bi-amped 40W/20W system
The speakers are small, but the cabinets are deeper than you might expect. This is to house the power amps. The cabinets measure just less than a foot tall, just more than 7" W × 12" D. They weigh almost 17.25 lbs. Each monitor offers a 40W amp for the bass driver and a 20W amp for the treble. The bass comes from a small, long-throw 5" paper pulp cone. The highs come from a soft dome tweeter. Both are shielded.
The manual does not assume you know where to place the monitors, and it includes some good advice about setup. While it's full of good information, Tannoy has added enough humor to keep what could be a dry, dull manual and made it entertaining, including jokes about the existence of a manual for monitors and a note to discourage placing a potted plant on a speaker.
I placed them just above head level and only 4' apart. My studio has a shelf piece that sits about 18" above the meter bridge. It really is a perfect design for these small monitors because it places the speakers almost equal distance apart and to where I sit.
The Reveal 5A's bass ports are on the back panel so you need to place them at least 6" from a wall to eliminate an overabundance of bass from the reflected corner. If the studio is designed so that monitors cannot be placed away from the wall, Tannoy suggests plugging the ports with a foam rubber plug. This is also suggested if the 5As will be used with a separate subwoofer. The manual provides some example scenarios for positioning the monitors for the best stereo imaging.
Tannoy urges against positioning the monitor horizontally. The manual explains reflections from the console and other surfaces and even describes an experiment you can do with a pink noise generator to figure out some reflection problems you may not realize you have.
Finally, Tannoy suggests checking the final placement by playing some music with a solid low end and then placing the speakers on a rubber pad or monitor-mounting surface as opposed to a countertop to hear the difference. The pad will absorb some vibration.
The final sound
I said these small speakers pack a punch because the small 5" driver is obviously in a well-made cabinet. The size of the low end is almost unimaginable, and the high end makes the hi-hat on some recordings sound almost annoyingly live. The stereo field is wide and the speakers sounded as if they were larger than my normal monitors, which have an 8" driver. The bass is simply deeper than you would expect.
Tannoy urges the user not to EQ these monitors. They are not to resemble a large monitor with a 15" cone. They are near-field monitors after all.
Music at low levels, like the heavy piano tracks from Nora Jones, are rich and thick. Horn arrangements from Tower of Power were bright and punchy. Low volume or pretty loud, the 5As are accurate and flat. What I really like to do is listen to just dry voice. Any time you do that, you are always listening intently for quality because there is nowhere to hide tonal problems of any small hiss or noise. Plus, it's what I know best. I know how my voice sounds in my own studio monitors so it was interesting to hear how flat these monitors are. Simply, the Tannoys are true, although it was not easy to turn my own voice up to nearly 90dB to listen for distortion for a solid minute. There was none, but my brain ached from too much me.
If size is a factor, then these active monitors are the real deal. They deliver big sound in a near-field location with plenty of power. Plus, they look great and they're competitively priced. If you have a pro studio or even semi-pro, the Reveal 5A is a good investment in honest, true, flat monitoring.
Taylor is creative services director of KCFX-FM, Kansas City.
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