The key to Tannoy sound?

Tannioy key

Trichecking if it really is 1Kv

Tri and Wavac

Westminster clone


RCA 833, specs:

Values per 833 working class B as an R.F. amplifier with a maximum modulation factor of 1.0.
Va max, 3 kV
Ia max, 400 mA
Pin max, 450 W (This is the total input power to each 833 at maximum drive.)
Pa max, 300 W (This is the maximum anode dissipation and at this power level the anode reaches a temperature of about 800 °C, and glows red hot.)
Vg1 max, -70 V
Peak R.F. grid voltage, 90 V.
D.C. anode current, 150 mA
D.C. grid current, 2 mA
Driving power, 10 W appx.
Output power, 150 W appx.

rca833The king of SET amplifiers?

David, the importer of Shindo and other high end gear has been demonstrating a pair of Wavac HE833 monoblocs.  Each amplifier uses RCA 833 valves. Direct-coupled input featuring a WE437A input tube and the driver is a triode wired KT 88.

So how does a 150Watt Single ended triode amplifier sound? I only listened to the Wavacs through Tannoy Westminster clones, pre and phono stages also by Wavac. Big sound, effortless dynamics, natural voice and strings. Good and clean from the deepest bass all the way to the highest frequencies I could hear. Most of the music we played was familiar, Beethoven and Vivaldi all the way to female and male vocal. The Tannoys of course looked and sounded great, having ample Single Ended Watts really made them sing.

In the pictures  you can see the size and finish of the amps and the Tannoys. Also notice the Autographs made by Shindo.

Pictures of Ongaku and Autographs


The magic combination. Goldbug Briar cartridge on Victor deck, Shindo Massetto preamp and the Mondo Ongaku copy. Tannoy 15″ Reds in Shindo made Autograph cabinets. For CD and SACD the high end Marantz.
For your delectation a pair of Lowthers in Alfredo cabinets.


I was contacted today about an estate selling Tannoy Autograph GRFs, ordered in 1964 and delivered in 1965, one owner since new. The drivers are 15″ Tannoy Silvers. The executor of the estate has to get the best price possible, I am hoping for pictures by email shortly.
These are ultra rare, very possibly being sold to Japan so if the is any serious interest please leave a comment.

Tannoy in Westminster and Autograph boxes

A pleasant couple of hours listening to the Shindo made Tannoy GRF Autographs! It’s been a couple of years since I last got to listen to these BIG boxes, nothing works as well as big horn loaded boxes. These have Tannoy Reds with original crossovers, driven by a DIY 300b single ended amplifier, now using Emission Labs 300Bs. As before, the sound was open and effortless, and with the Emission Labs bottles even more power and punch. For a comparison we changed over to a Jadis 6550 push-pull amp. Still sounded fabulous, maybe a little more bass but probably not quite as realistic an image of the performance.


This cutaway is at

Recently a visit to listen to a pair of DIY Westminsters was another special occasion. The builder of the beautiful boxes has been refining them for about the last 12 months. For the latest fine tuning the crossovers have been replaced with custom built crossovers, now as well as the Tannoy warmth it also had ultra fast transient response  and as well as sharp leading edges to the music, there was no overhang. An interesting effect was that CDs now sounded better than vinyl.  Most interesting with both these horn-loaded Tannoys is that the bass is quick, no “thump” but the natural sound of a bass drum or double bass, no blur or smearing. Sometimes it seemed as if there was less bass than with sealed boxes or reflex tuning, but in fact the bass was there in full but less hi fi and more true to the original instrument.

An interesting article about buying a pair of Westminsters is at the following link:  He begins his journey by writing: I did what a lot of us have to do with exotic Hi-Fi equipment that’s not easy to audition, due to their scarcity, I ordered a pair without having heard them and hoped for the best. That’s a little scary when you’re talking about a loudspeaker that sells for about as much as I paid for my Toyota 4Runner when it was new, which was my single largest purchase ever next to my house. So for an average guy like me, it was a huge step to place that order for the Westminster Royal Special Editions.
By Jeff Day

Tannoy Monitor Gold 15″

At last, a pair of  15 inch Tannoy Monitor Golds, this time in reproduction GRF cabinets. Not as big as Autographs but still quite large.

We ran these beautiful speakers with the Thorens  amp, with the Mark Levinson 331, and using Naim and Sony CD players. Preamp was the upgraded Ming Da for the ML331. Because they are GRF boxes they have to be in the corner for the full horn effect, imaging is excellent but the best listening position is closer to the boxes than intuitive reasoning suggests. Nice full range, very efficient, fast transients, and handles even less than ideal recordings with aplomb. (What is a plomb?)

For a contrast we used the same equipment to drive a pair of JBL 4331 monitors. Both sounded good using the Mark Levinson: It really is a matter of taste, and this is a rare opportunity to hear both side by side. be quick, the Tannoys have created a lot of interest.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE

David (who built his own Westminster cabinets) sent me this link:

Having had the good fortune of hearing a couple of pairs of Westminsters, and an excellent Autograph reproduction (using Tannoy Red)s, I found Jeff Day’s description of his big Westminsters  as particularly pleasing.

The last pair of Westminsters was sold to a Tannoy lover who lives fairly close to John’s shop. He and 4 of his friends actually loaded the Tannoys on the roofs of two cars using blankets and straps to protect them and then drove off; sadly no one took a photo!

Great Tannoy article

I came across this when I was looking foe more information about big Tannoys.

THE BIG SPEAKER! Tannoy Logo!1968 Tannoy catalog page, somewhat embellished

 A Boyhood Riddle Is Solved!

Mr. Valve meets Mr. Tannoy!I love when the Internet answers the great questions. One of my all-timers, which nagged me since my early teens, was always, “What was that BIG speaker in Henry Radio’s Hi-Fi department?” Well, the net came through again, folks. It’s a Tannoy Autograph Professional, that’s what. With this knowledge, I am now more complete, even though my audio setup probably won’t be until it has a pair of these monsters, fed by some nice clean valve watts.

At that time, Henry Radio was the great old-fashioned type of boat anchor store for hams that you don’t see any more. It was about 20 feet from the 405 Freeway, on Olympic Boulevard in West L.A.. In front were several VERY well-worn showrooms where splintery wooden shelves groaned under awe-inspiring stacks of used tube radios, any one of which would fetch way more bucks today on eBay than it ever did then. There were hundreds of these. Transmitters just sat there and looked cool, like real communications equipment. Receivers were usually hooked up and ready to try out. Beginning hams got a real education in what had gone before the Drakes, KWM’s, and early Yaesu riceboxes of our own time.

Nerd candy store, 1960s version!

Right by the front door stood a Coke machine and a Collins KW-1. Both devices were approximately the same size and vintage. In the case of the Coke machine, you’d insert your money, turn a hand crank, and put your glass bottle back in the rack when it was empty. In the case of the KW-1, you would do nothing, because there wasn’t enough money in the world to buy the thing.

Tomorrow's speaker todayThe audio room was a cramped little sanctuary behind a partially glazed door which did absolutely nothing to keep the sound out of the rest of the store, or the street for that matter. You could look in and see that day’s TV producer or recording star auditioning the highest of the high end, including, of course, The Big Speaker.

The salesman in the audio department, like all Henry employees, knew everything and took no prisoners. The same guy had been doing it forever. He was short, curly-haired, kind of portly, and very intelligent looking. He ran what was essentially the last of L.A.’s old-school, divorce-the-wife-if-she-says-it’s-too-big, in-your-face, hi-fi departments. Not a stereo store. A hi-fi department.

When he demonstrated speakers, you’d know pretty fast if The Big Speaker was under consideration. There’d be a full orchestra going, pretty much at concert volume, with a huge bass drum somewhere in the score. The Big Speaker, with its 100-watt power capacity and 10% efficiency, ate bass drums for lunch. These things cranked. Ka-WHOOOOOOOOOM, and you wondered if L.A. was having an earthquake. Once you heard The Big Speaker, you wanted two, but of course you’d have had better luck scoring the KW-1. You’d have also needed a smaller truck to get it home. Ahhh, materialism.

Eventually Henry moved to a slick new building about half a mile west, and pretty much gave up on used boat anchors. It wasn’t like hams couldn’t score these at L.A.’s several great swap meets, and actually the new place remained a darn good radio store until giving up retail in the late 90s to concentrate on building its highly regarded line of RF amps. By then, nobody really remembered the funky original place, which Henry used as a factory for a time, before selling it to a furniture company. However, one did NOT forget The Big Speaker.

History of The Big Speaker

The Big Speaker was made by Tannoy, a high-end British company which is still in business. The name came from material used in an early rectifier product in 1926 – “Tantalum-Lead Alloy.” They supplied so much PA equipment that for a long time “Tannoy” was a generic word for the public address speakers in train stations, Army camps, and places like that.

15 inch monitorAfter Altec invented the Duplex 2-way, where a tweeter nests inside a woofer cone, Tannoy developed its own Dual Concentric line in 1947. Engineer Ronnie H. Rackham designed a unique setup in which the tweeter’s horn development was continued by a specially shaped, and expensive, woofer cone.

These came in colors. First was the Monitor Black with a 1 kHz chassis-mounted crossover. In 1953 came the Monitor Silver, with 25 watts power handling and an external crossover. Next came the Monitor Red in 1957, now 50 watts, and the Monitor Gold in 1967. Finally came 1974’s HPD (“High Performance Dual”), with more modern materials. Unfortunately, one of these was the dreaded foam surround.

This raw driver, with its almost fanatical craftsmanship, was and is a very cool looking speaker. Ultimately, it came in 10, 12, and 15-inch versions. All you see in the middle is an acoustically transparent dome where other manufacturers would have put a separate little exponential horn.

Expensive plant standThese speakers needed a lot of bass loading, and they really called for horns. That’s what they got, thanks to Guy R. Fountain, whose “GRF” and “Autograph” corner horns remain legendary today. Unlike Tannoy’s less highly regarded bass reflex home enclosures, these horns had that all-out, in-your-face, British engineering and styling, demanding acceptance on their own terms. They’re pretty enough, in their nice walnut boxes with that really cool light-colored grill cloth they just don’t make any more, but they’re BIG boxes. The Autograph, at 4 feet 10 inches and filling two corners of the room, was not exactly for cramped apartments, even though ads invariably showed a nice flower pot on top.

Like Altec’s bigger enclosures, these used front-loading for the high end of the bass, and back-loading for the low. Unlike Altec, which stuck to variations on the bass-reflex corner enclosure, the rear used a complicated horn more resembling a Klipsch on steroids. Another British company, Wharfedale, used to advertise that it put sand in its enclosures. Well, so did Tannoy, to deaden out vibration in a few strategic places. Check the floor before you move these things upstairs!

GRF Box HornAs Tannoy’s 1967 ads proclaimed, the Monitor Gold was, “Designed with the transistor in mind.” They meant it. The new Gold crossover was 8 ohms, and much more friendly to DC-coupled circuits. The beefed-up cone had a different resonance, requiring slightly changed enclosures for the ultimate performance.

Perhaps as a consequence, the GRF and Autograph got new rectangular boxes, growing the Autograph to an even FIVE feet in height! This beast, with its single 15″ Dual Concentric, was a wall-shaker, though some people think the highs got a bit tizzy when increased to match the knee-bending bass. The Autograph Professional added a second 15″ Gold, in a slightly modified front horn, for the aforementioned 100 watts power capability. This is despite the fact that, at this efficiency, 10 nice clean British watts can blow you out of the room!

And so The Big Speaker came to pass. The rest is history.

Tannoy must actually have sold some of these monsters. I’m sure at least a few left Henry Radio, and apparently a lot more went east, as in WAY east. The Japanese, who know decent sound equipment when they hear it, loved them, and they still do. Google searches turn them up mostly at Asian used equipment dealers, where they fetch many many yen.

And so we come to the end of our story. We finally have the scoop on The Big Speaker. Life is good.

Monitor Gold logo

Thanks to Hugh at the Ominous Valve Works for permission to use this article.

“These tubes have GAS in them!”

Tannoy Autographs by Shindo

A few of us had the opportunity to really listen to a pair of Shindo Autographs with Tannoy Reds yesterday. It really is as good as they say! The boxes are huge but perfectly made and finished (A full 12 months elapsed between ordering and paying and the delivery of the cabinets). Driven by  custom 300B push-pull monoblocs, and a Jadis preamp, and the source was a Victor turntable with two arms, we listened to a ZYX and a Shelter cartridge. More bass than I’ve ever heard from horn loaded Tannoys, and the inimitable midrange for which both Tannoy and 300B amps are renowned. (The amps used original Western Electric 300Bs)

The most memorable sound was from well recorded cello and string bass concertos, and some great jazz. We even listened to Hugh Masekela and Bert Kaemphert’s Swinging Safari! It sounded more lifelike than I’ve heard before, and more revealing and detailed. The highest frequencies where supplemented with a JBL biradial driver, possible a little too much. Three of us were already Tannoy owners, now thinking about the possibility of replicating the Autograph corner horns!

Thank you T and D for the most impressive afternoon, so much good sound.

Pictures will be added as soon as I can get copies from Peter.