Tannoy HTS 200 Home Theater Speaker System

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If size were not a factor and budget were limitless, building truly awesome loudspeakers would be easy. One can imagine (and purchase) close approximations to the perfect speaker. For most of us, however, reality intrudes. Realistically, we need speakers sized to fit into our media rooms (leaving space for a nice bigscreen TV and one, or preferably more, people). And some of us would prefer not to tap into our home equity to meet our entertainment needs. As a result, we need speakers that are comfortably small and reasonably priced. Tannoy, no stranger to the realities of loudspeaker building, honed that equation and brought forth the HTS 200 home theater speaker system.

Priced at $999, the HTS 200 comprises short and slender towers, small but not tiny center and sats, and a comparably abbreviated subwoofer. (Substitute the same sats for the front towers, and you get the company's $699 HTS 100 system.) Frankly, having been traumatized by the George Washington/cherry tree story as a child, I've never been a fan of cherry finishes. But these, I must say, are quite nice, especially considering the relatively few Washingtons they will cost you.

SETUP One good thing about small speakers is the reduced probability that you'll have to log onto WebMD to research "hernia" or "slipped disk." This time it was easy to drop the speakers into my media room. I placed the subwoofer along the front wall midway between the center and the left tower. To help the direct-radiating surrounds conceal their precise locations during listening, I placed them somewhat to the rear of the more side position I typically use for dipole surrounds.

Each tower sports a 0.75-inch titanium-dome tweeter and two 3-inch woofers, though my ruler measured the woofers a bit less than that. Either way, that isn't a lot of transducer acreage, but they are assisted by a cabinet with enough interior volume to support some decent bass. The center speaker uses the same driver complement in a smaller cabinet. The surrounds carry on the two-way theme but downsize to one woofer instead of two. The subwoofer, meanwhile, provides 100 watts of muscle driving a downward-firing paper cone spec'd at 8 inches diameter (though, again, it measured a bit less). The nice folks at Tannoy supply wall-mounting brackets for the center and surrounds and a small pedestal for tilting the center-channel speaker (an increasingly common inclusion, and welcome because correct aiming of the center speaker is often vital for good dialogue quality). Also in the package are coupling spikes and wood floor protectors for the towers, a foam plug for the sub's port tube, and even 65 feet of speaker cable. The towers are shipped with wooden bases detached; some trivial assembly is required.

I powered up and spent a few minutes tweaking the sub. As is typical, it has level and crossover (50 to 200 Hz) controls, as well as a 0/180-degree phase switch. After some preliminary listening, I settled on a crossover frequency of about 110 Hz and no phase shift. I experimented with the foam plug and eventually decided to use it for music but remove it for movies. The plug mainly affected the upper-bass response, with the system delivering tighter bass with the plug in and louder (but boomier) bass with it out. Also, after some listening, I pulled the towers away from the wall a short distance till the front grilles were about 12 inches from the wall behind them. This marginally tightened the upper-bass response in my room. Of course, your room and speaker placement will uniquely dictate your decisions.