It’s been 10 years since my first Tannoy encounter. I auditioned the company’s exquisite studio monitors as an associate editor at Electronic Musician, and the acoustic bliss I experienced then lingers still. With that remembrance renewed, I couldn’t wait to hear Tannoy’s i30. Boy, was I disappointed.
It’s tough to compete with a 10-year-old memory, but the i30’s price tag is just $100 less than that of the fantabulous Zeppelin speaker dock I lavishly praised in the December 2007 issue of Maximum PC. Between the premium brand and what the competition offers, I expected the i30 to deliver a grand slam. It didn’t. Tannoy has built a very good speaker system, but it hasn’t wrought anything that comes close to being worth 500 spondulicks.
Tannoy doesn’t publish the i30’s power output, but I can tell you that its BASH amp delivers plenty o’ distortion-free volume. I cranked the unit up while listening to Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails anthem “Hurt” (from The Man Comes Around), and the thundering piano cadence at the song’s climax was enough to drive me out of my media room.
But power is only one measure of a self-amplified speaker’s quality. The i30 is equipped with just two 4-inch drivers, which deliver an audio experience that’s no better than that of the far cheaper Klipsch iGroove HG ($200, reviewed November 2006). Compared to the Zeppelin (which is outfitted with two tweeters, two midranges, and a subwoofer), the i30 sounds like glorified boom-box. Where B&W’s box delivers bass that hits you like a punch in the gut, Tannoy’s low end packs all the energy of a Wiffleball pitched by a 2-year-old.
Props to Tannoy for including a USB port that allows you to sync your iPod to iTunes (a feature the Zeppelin lacks), but why limit the speaker’s video output to composite? Granted, the iPod is a low-res device, but an S-video connector would definitely deliver better color fidelity. If you expect consumers to spend this much money on an iPod speaker, you’d better deliver more than a prestigious nameplate.
Powerful amp; USB port for syncing to iTunes.
Bass lacks oomph; could use S-Video. Not worth $500.