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The Tannoys arrived just whilst I was reading Jonathan Miller's Depeche Mode biography. I'd reached the period of time by which they’d released their third album Construction Time Again or more specifically the first single from it. Hence I really had no other choice but to listen to this very single. I chose its German CD version originally released as a 12-inch maxi-single which here features the 12-inch mix in addition to the basic 7-inch mix and live tracks.

The band’s instrumentation had grown significantly over time and included first digital samplers. Martin Gore finally began to write songs that made the band into what we know today albeit with considerable help from new member Alan Wilder. The sound on the single and entire album was darker, denser and more selective but also sharper.

But let’s get back en pointe. The Tannoys pretty quickly showed their overall tonal balance and let in some light on their understanding of soundstaging. It must be clear that there's no such thing as a reference domestic soundstage. It all depends on a given recording and playback system. The British speakers under review are no exception but did some things more accurately or simply better than my personal Brit references, the Harbeth M40.1. Not everything was superior as there are things where the Harbeth can hardly be beat but elsewhere the Tannoys showed their mettle.

I did not have to listen to Depeche Mode for long before concluding that I preferred a slightly different tonal balance. At their default flat factory settings for treble level and roll off the Tannoy sounded too forward. Treble clarity was exceptional, better than my Harbeth and as good as the Amphion Krypton3 had been. The level of the treble and upper midrange however seemed too high. As I said the third DM album also is brighter and sharper which partly justifies what I did next. I lowered the treble level by 1.5dB and changed its roll-off to -2dB.

Now everything clicked into place. After a while of getting used to Tannoy's more selective if not more resolving read over the Harbeths, I was listening to Jazz when I tried energy at -3dB and roll-off at +2dB. The sound was now slightly different but still good. Important was that I could use the controls to compensate for the acoustic characteristics of my room and system to fit personal preferences. Whilst the changes may have seemed small—after all, what’s a two decibel change amongst friends—the sonic improvement was dramatic and moved from a rather hard to a precise yet deep sound.

On the one hand the Kensington GR was similar to the Harbeth, on the other completely different. I ran through many comparisons in my mind trying to assign each to a particular sonic class yet couldn't come up with a simple parallel. In the end I could really only say one thing with certainty which was incredibly insightful. They were different. To express that otherness but demonstrate that even so the Tannoy had more in common with the Harbeth than other speakers, I will say that if they were headphones, the Westminster GR would tonally be a HiFiMan HE-6 magnetostat, the Harbeths a Sennheiser HD800 yet on soundstaging they'd trade seats. Both are built on momentum, dynamics, intensity and soundstaging.

The Tannoys were selective, offered dense tonality especially in the bass, were exceedingly dynamic and showed a soundstage in keeping with a given recording and its venue decay. They differentiated these facets better. Although more resolving still, the M40.1 tried to prettify matters a bit which at some level resulted in them obscuring minute differences. You could still make those out when listened for carefully but other elements were now in the foreground. The Tannoys in turn built a larger soundstage and showed it immediately as is.

Which was better? It depends on what you look for. Objectively the Tannoys built the kind of presentation typical for studio monitors which means no compromise. The next piece of information should thus come as no surprise. Their tonality was very even. The M40.1 meanwhile are rather warm with a slightly emphasized midbass which builds larger images but also bestows a bit of a soft character on the whole. The Kensington GR were the more linear. Sitting down with the Depeche Mode album in hand I had no other recordings scheduled. I was ready to go where the speakers would take me. And they did straight away. It always works that way. I play an album, skip tracks and this creates the need to try another quite specific disc to verify this or that item.

Once I clearly heard the tonal differences between the title track on the 7-inch and 12-inch versions of Depeche Mode (the extended versions were created in a hurry and in a slightly different way to sound different), I just had to play Bach’s Die Kunst Der Fuge performed by Marcin Masecki. This great yet simple looking CD was released by Lado ABC.