From the August 1997 issue of Gramophone.
Tannoy's most prestigious hi-fi loudspeakers emulate a small motor car in price, and come pretty close to a small car in dimensions too. However, it has always been possible to acquire loudspeakers with the famous Tannoy logo at much more modest prices.
This new Mercury M2 two-way vented enclosure loudspeaker (f 139.99 per pair), along with the floor-standing M3 (22990), must surely have been aimed at the budget end of the market, as was the Mercury It of about 10 years ago. This shows in the simplicity of the straight-edged black ash veneered cabinet. The budget approach is also implied by the label "Made in Europe" from which we may assume that this model is not assembled in Tannoy's hi-tech factory in Scotland, though the two drive units are authentic Tannoys.
Dimensions are quite large in bookshelf terms (380 x 203 x 270mm) and the front baffle adds a touch of class to the appearance, having chamfered edges and a contrasting veneer in either cherry or birds eye maple. The baffle is completely covered by a conventional black grille wrapped round a reasonably firm plastics frame which must be removed if the attractive veneer finish is to be visible. Sure enough, the Tannoy leaflet states, "For truly serious listening you should remove the grilles". I would add a word of caution against the consequent risks of accidental damage to the drive units, especially as the soft dome tweeter has no protective cover.
Together the two drivers almost fill the whole baffle area. The 155mm diameter woofer is sealed into a 190 x 165mm rounded plate and has a rubber-roll surround and plastics chassis. The 25mm tweeter is similarly centred in a flush mounted 110 x 90mm plate. Cabinet construction is of 16mm chipboard, without cross-bracing, with the internal volume effectively filled with a thick blanket of absorbent material. The reflex port consists of the usual plastics cylinder and emerges near the centre of the back panel. Output terminals are recessed at an angle into a plastics block. They do not accept 4mm loudspeaker plugs directly but the holes in the screw stem are large enough to take them or bare wire of any normal thickness.
Tannoy's literature describes the new Mercury range as "universally compatible" and so the technical specification shows no surprises. The 88dB sensitivity is a good average figure, the nominal impedance is the favoured 8 ohms value and the recommended amplifier power rating range is 10 to 80 watts per channel, enough to include very modest installations. Indeed Tannoy is promoting the Mercury M2 as an affordable upgrade for the loudspeakers normally supplied with "mini or midi systems".
In practice, the loudspeakers produced adequate sound pressure levels in a medium-sized room when fed with only a few watts of audio signal. Changing to amplifiers rated at 100 watts or more, my more usual preference, gave a more comfortable feeling of dynamic capability with power in hand.
Initial listening at moderate levels was rather disappointing, as deep bass was seriously lacking and this had the effect of highlighting a certain edge in the lower treble region. However, after some hours of running-in the tone mellowed and acquired a higher degree of musical fidelity, with any suggestion of treble emphasis and box resonances reduced to more acceptable amounts. I came to prefer listening at fairly loud volume settings which produced a more ideal treble/bass balance with good stereo spread and depth.
Even higher volumes were handled with less discomfort than I would have expected from loudspeakers at this price, confirming the designer's decision to make economies in materials and cabinet construction, perhaps, but nevertheless to employ good quality drive units. Note, however, that over-driving with low power amplifiers is not an option, as distortion would almost certainly rise steeply and could put the loud-speakers, particularly the tweeters, at risk and render Tannoy's five-year warranty invalid.
Checks on in-room frequency response showed the tweeter performance to be exemplary, though lower midrange response was a little uneven and output fell rapidly below about 50Hz.
High frequency dispersion was not particularly wide, but any loss of treble bite on transients could be overcome by turning the loudspeakers inwards to beam more directly towards the central listening position. This still provided an adequately wide listening area in which stereo imaging was accurate.
Clearly these loudspeakers are unsuitable for floor-standing and should be raised at least 60cm. A large shelf or table might work well enough but proper floor stands would be better. I used them on good quality proprietary stands brought well out into the room. Some boost at low frequencies could be obtained by moving the loudspeakers closer to the back wall, but the rear-mounted reflex ports did inhibit too close a placement and some trial and error would be advisable.
With this Mercury M2, Tannoy has brought to the market an easily driven loudspeaker with good power handling and a standard of overall performance that puts many other loudspeakers in this budget price category to shame.
Specification Type rear porid reflex Drive units 165mm woofer; 25mm tweeter Frequency response 48Hz-2OkHz ±3dB Sensitivity 88dB for 283V into 8 ohms Nominal Impedance 8 ohms Recommended amplifier power 10-80 watts Dimensions 380 x 263—x 270mm Weight 62kg Manufacturer Tannoy Limited, Rosehall Industrial Estate, Coatbridge, Strathclyde ML5 4TF Telephone 01236 420199 Fax 01236428230. UK distributor for Tannoy: Marantz Hi-Fi UK Limited, Kingsbridge House, Padbury Oaks, 575583 Bath Road, Longford, Middlesex U37 OEH Telephone 0 175 680868 Fax 01753 680428 UK retail price £139.99 per pair