Tannoy has a long and fascinating history; in 1926 Guy R Fountain perfected a new type of electrical rectifier consisting of two metals, Tantalum and a Lead alloy suspended in an electrolyte solution. The invention proved such a success that he founded Tannoy (combination of the words ‘Tantalum’ and ‘Alloy’) and the company began to diversify into all sound reproduction equipment.
By 1940 Tannoy was at the forefront of the communications revolution, the music industry was just starting up and Tannoy catered for the entire process; from recording to home audio to PA systems. At this time Tannoy’s Chief Engineer recognised that a single transducer (the part that turns electricity in sound) was not capable of producing the full range of musical sounds and two transducers (ie separate tweeter and driver) would not be as accurate. In 1947 the dual-concentric speaker was born, a single point-source speaker that changed audio forever. The dual-concentric was initially designed for the Monitor Black speakers, which has gone through several incarnations and now resides as the high-tech Kingdom Royal’s.
So successful and dominant have Tannoy been in the audio sector that the name Tannoy has become common diction as an PA system, yet like Biro and Hoover it is a company name and not a kind of product.
Designing the Prestige Gold Reference (GR)
Through my work at 4c Design, I have been privileged to work as Tannoy’s Industrial Design department. The consequence of this is that most of Tannoy’s products released since 2010 have at least one stage been designed or influenced by myself and the 4c team. Working with Tannoy has undoubtedly been a highlight of my career thus far; allowed the opportunity to have such influence on such high end products that are guaranteed to reach the market is a pleasure and something I am very proud of. I love engineering and couldn’t be without it, but it is nice once in a while to take off the engineering hat and stretch my creative side as an industrial designer.
When we were delivered the brief to redesign the entire Prestige range it was a challenge I couldn’t wait to get stuck into. As with all jobs of this type the first stage is research; it is important to understand the product; its history and its future, as well as the competition and parallel products that can serve as inspirations. The Prestige range is an iconic part of Tannoy’s offering, first released over 5 decades ago there was plenty of pressure to get the design right, with many die-hard fans that would be all too quick to let us know if we didn’t. Also with 5 new speakers in the new GR range we had to find a style that worked from the modest Stirlings at 850mm high and 23Kg to the truly colossal Westminsters at 1395mm high and 138Kg.
In truth I found the older Prestige range tired and couldn’t imagine many homes where they would fit in, but I also saw their potential when updated. It was important to retain the essence of the range, it would not be accepted (and nor should it) if we changed the overall shape and presence of the speakers.
The next stage of design is to start sketching up concepts, which evolve into increasingly refined CAD models and renders.
The changes were subtle and hinged on using the right high quality and well finished materials. We believed strongly in bringing back Tannoy’s original logo with the classic lightning strikes as it was in keeping with the essence of the product. This can be seen on the front adjustment panel. Once the design was confirmed we continued to work closely with Tannoy to decide upon the best wood finished, metal finishes, grille clothes and overall feel of the product.
The results speak from themselves and are best summed up by a new Prestige customer; the new range has gone
“From old fashioned to fashionable vintage”
or from HiFi Choice Magazine
“Where Classic & Cool collide: Tannoy’s updated Kensinton GR Sounding sublime”
I hear Tannoy is currently struggling to produce the Canterbury’s quickly enough to meet demand. Personally while I would not have before in its previous incarnation, I would now love a pair of the new Kensington’s myself.
Due to my work with Tannoy, I have sought opportunities to view and listen and audio products of all kinds. A few months ago I got the chance to listen to a set of speakers retailing for upwards of £100,000. Needless to say it was impressive! Yet I was completely blown away when listening to the Westminster’s the other day, I have never heard anything like them. The warmth, depth and power of the sound was incredible. I strongly encourage everybody to listen to these speakers should you get an opportunity. You will be blown away, Tannoy really do know their stuff!
Please do let me know what you think of the new design, its hard to take in the details and magnitude of the product from the pictures, but I would love to know what you think…