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What are the Tannoy Mercurys?Sometimes a little tradition goes a long way. Many companies have products that have been in production for an impressively long time - sometimes in a completely unmodified state and others that have undergone continuous improvement in that time. In some cases - and I don’t think there is any finer example than the Linn LP12, the effect becomes like the Porsche 911 where the product looks much the same as it did when it was launched but has virtually no parts in common with the original - although cleverly, you can take one of any vintage and provided your pockets are deep enough, you can bring it up to spec.
For the most part though, these products are in categories that have slower ‘churn’ than the areas that AVForums concerns itself with. What we tend to see instead are companies coming up with a model line that occupies a particular segment and then see updates of that model line on a regular basis but based around a core theme. Bowers & Wilkins do this with the 600 series, we’ve seen a great many versions of the KEF ‘Egg’ and many AV receivers grow a sensible digit a year as they evolve to bigger and better things.
Very few of these evolving models can touch the Tannoy Mercury though. The first member of the family appeared in the early eighties and there has been a continuous stream of Mercury models ever since. At times they have been the budget speaker to have - my first ever pair of speakers was a pair of Mercury M3s from the late 90s and very fine they were too. Centre and surrounds have become part of the range too and the latest i prefix models are evolved versions of the v series that were themselves a more wholesale change. The premise remains the same as ever though. This is the entry level Tannoy intended to represent the brand philosophy - does it deliver the goods?
What's inside the Tannoy Mercurys?The Mercury range is a conventional box speaker design and they don’t come much more conventional than an MDF cabinet with ninety degree corners and a bass port. All models feature a brand new aluminium and magnesium tweeter which is the headline revision from the proceeding model. In more expensive models this would be arranged in the classic dual concentric arrangement that Tannoy is famous for with the tweeter mounted in the throat of a larger driver. This is expensive to do however and Mercurys have traditionally had separate tweeter and mid bass drivers.
The mid bass driver is a multi fibre pulped cone - a material that has been cropping up in other Tannoy designs over recent years. This has been finished in such a way that it looks like a metal driver. Interestingly, in the Mercury range as a whole, there are three different sizes of this driver - a four, five and six inch version and depending on the selection of speakers that you choose, you might have a system that uses all three of them.
The range comprises a floorstander, standmount, centre and a wall mountable two way monopole. This latter speaker is a halfway house between a dedicated effects speaker (a rare thing in this day and age) and a convenience item for reduced spaces. It wasn’t supplied for review - a more conventional pair of the v1i standmounts being sent instead. The v4i floorstander is perhaps the most impressive member of the family. This two and half way floorstander packs a pair of the six inch drivers in a substantial cabinet and boasts a frequency response down to a claimed 32Hz - which would give the Mercurys extension past the point some sub sat systems have in their entirety.
Hang on, where's the sub?Like a number of brands at the moment, Tannoy has removed many of their subs from the ranges of speakers and put them in their own model group. Tannoy PR chap and all round seismic bass enthusiast Richard Stevenson would be inclined to recommend the Tannoy TS2.10 (and conveniently, the TS2.12 is the resident sub here) but at the price there are plenty of options available to you. These won’t be a perfect match visually but you should be able to stick it out of sight. As before, if you are building the system around the v4i floorstander, you could probably do without a sub initially.
What are the Tannoy Mercurys like in the flesh?Rather good in fact. I’ve been a little spoiled with Tannoy products in the last year or so - the Precision system that turned up is still one of the most lavishly finished sets of speakers I’ve seen for under ten grand. The Mercury is about 25% the price of the Precision and as such, you are going to have to do without mirror finish lacquer, curved cabinet and plinths designed to keep things steady in an earthquake but the news isn’t all bad. The clean lines with subtle chrome trims and pleasing proportions are likely to work well in most spaces and the ‘Sugar Maple’ finish of the review samples is a well-judged colour.
The actual assembly is of a high standard too. For a fairly affordable speaker, the Tannoy feels solid and free of visibly cut corners. Areas like speaker terminals and the join where the wrap is finished are well attended to. Little things like the grilles being mounted on lugs rather than magnetic tabs are perhaps the only visibly ‘cheap’ feature but this is hardly the end of the world. The v4 floorstander is fitted with a pair of outriggers to improve stability and these are simple enough to fit.
The only slightly discordant note is the VCi centre, This uses the small 4 inch version of the main driver and can’t help but look a bit weedy next the rest of the range. In a perfect world, there would be a centre built around the larger drivers as well as this one for a better visual match but I appreciate that Tannoy would want to keep the number of models in the range to a minimum.
How were the Tannoy Mercurys setup for review?The Mercurys were connected to a Yamaha RX-A3040 AV Receiver, Cambridge Audio 752BD Blu Ray player, Sky HD and a Panasonic GT60 Plasma. As previously mentioned, the speakers were partnered with a Tannoy TS2.12 subwoofer but also run without it. Material used included Blu-ray, broadcast and on-demand TV via Sky, iPlayer and Netflix as well as audio testing using lossless and high res FLAC and on demand services such as Spotify and Grooveshark.
This for me at least is the area where the Tannoy kicks on and shows the benefits of full size speakers.
How do the Tannoy Mercurys sound with film material?Ten minutes of Pacific Rim is enough to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that although some similarly priced sub systems can deliver a substantial performance, there is something to be said for having speakers that can deliver a little more extension before having to hand over to the sub. This means you get more punch from the actual point the sound is supposed to emanate from. Gunfire in particular is just so much more convincing from a five inch driver than it does from a three inch one.
The other immediately noticeable aspect of the Mercurys is that your receiver wattage goes that little bit further with them than you might expect. Tannoy makes some monumentally sensitive speakers further up the range and compared to those, the Mercurys are neither here nor there but they still have a useful ability to go comparatively loud on a limited amount of power. With the monster Yamaha, this is a fairly irrelevant attribute but used with the sort of AV receivers that are more likely to partner a £650 set of speakers, this is a much more worthwhile ability as these amps are far more likely to harden up at higher volume levels.
This means that the Tannoys sound big, confident and encompassing. You don’t need pounding action films to realise the sense of scale and depth that the Mercurys can generate. Across the front in particular, the Tannoys can give you a properly cinematic wall of sound that would give a projector screen a worthwhile partner. The centre might be a slightly ungainly looking device but it can fill the space between the fronts nicely and although there isn’t the wonderful dispersion that the Dual Concentric models are renowned for there is still a significant sweetspot that should keep a lounge of people happy.
There are a few weaknesses but nothing that really upsets the generally positive impression. Although the V4i is notionally capable of going down to 32kHz, it rolls off and gets a little loose at the lowest point. Adding a sub and inviting it to crossover over at 50Hz makes for a much better film experience. I also feel that very low listening levels aren’t the Tannoys happiest area either. Dialogue can be a little lacking in clarity at low volume and things can get a little soft. Push things to more sensible levels though and things improve considerably.
TV and on demand material is not significantly different to how it is with Blu-ray but the clarity and scale of the Mercurys and their consistent soundstage is a real boon to flesh out the thinner stereo soundtracks that lurk further down the dial. Watching some of the more memorable episodes of The A-Team on Netflix (feel free to judge me, I’m beyond that) saw the Tannoys do a fantastic job of unpicking the messy, compressed mess of the soundtracks. These are speakers that will be useful partners to everyday viewing.
What are the Tannoy Mercurys like for music?This is where the Mercurys - specifically the V4i - really comes into their own. I’ve heard some excellent sub/sat 2.1 combinations over the last year but when it boils down to it, the V4i is a hi-fi product. Combined with the NAD D3020, I imagine, they would be genuinely lovely. Listening to music is something that is attention grabbing and extremely compelling. The dispersion and even-handedness is a happy partner for a wide variety of music. The power and scale means that the mighty Royal Blood album is given the grunt it needs to Rawk (a variant of Rock that needs more beer and head nodding).
This for me at least is the area where the Tannoy kicks on and shows the benefits of full size speakers. You don’t need a dedicated stereo amp to feel the benefits of properly full range speakers. For sure, the softness in the low bass is still present and if you throw more money at the problem - even without leaving the Tannoy product range - you can tighten this up but from 50Hz and up, the v4i is one of the most convincing ways to give yourself a little taste of hifi under £500. There is less competition in this category than there used to be and the Tannoy really shows the strengths of evolution in this regard. If you are going to use the Mercurys for music (and they are wasted if you don’t), I’d recommend setting them up with a little toe-in and 30 plus centimetres from the wall for best results, even if this puts the auto setup program in a bit of a grump.
For a fairly affordable speaker, the Tannoy feels solid and free of visibly cut corners.
- Big powerful and rewarding sound
- Excellent build
- Strong value for money
- Not completely happy at low volumes
- Centre looks a little weedy
Tannoy Mercury 5.0 Speaker Package Review
Should I get them?
As we’re crammed into our tiny, expensive houses, I am under absolutely no illusion that the space available for sub/sat packages, let alone something like the Tannoys is ever more contested. Despite this, if you are looking for something that really makes films and music an event, I honestly don’t think there is much out there anywhere near the price of the Mercury system that can deliver the same performance. You will need more room and there is no argument that halfway house packs like the Dali Zensor can deliver some of this performance in a more room-friendly way but this is a set of speakers that will make your viewing and listening so much more entertaining at a very sensible price and for that reason, above the solid build, handsome appearance and flexible setup, it comes highly recommended.
Value For Money9
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