A price-hike and some new rivals finally oust the Tannoys from the budget top table
Dynamic, detailed, expressive sound
Toothy high frequencies
It's been too long. We've had the Tannoy Mercury F1 Customs (Award winners in 2007) out of their box pretty regularly in the last couple of years, but we haven't printed a formal review in some time.
Not even when Tannoy blithely upped the price a whole £50 at the onset of 2009's credit crunch fever.
As relatively old stagers, then, do the F1 Customs still provide a useful benchmark for the current crop of budget standmounters?
Not the best lookers The rise in price from £110 hasn't helped their perceived value in the slightest. They're adequately built and finished, but even at the height of their powers the Tannoys were fairly humdrum lookers.
At this price point, and compared to the glossier and curvier new rivals there's a hint of the ugly stick about the Customs.
More after the break
Just as well, then, that they remain a fluent, forceful listen. They're more productive in a little free space, and given that room to manoeuvre they focus and image well.
Mission of Burma's Academy Fight Song is detailed and strongly staged, with real purpose and momentum at the bottom end.
Bass is articulate, tautly urgent or luxuriously slurred as the music requires, and midrange authority impresses too. Add in deep-breathing dynamic poke, and the song sounds controlled and abandoned all at once.
Starting to show their ageWith its heavy use of castanets, Miles Davis' famous interpretation of Concierto de Aranjuez is a useful investigation of treble response, and here the Tannoys begin to show their (relative) age.
Tonally there's not too much to complain about, but the Customs seem overconfident at the top end – there's the sonic equivalent of an overbite on display, a thrusting forward of sibilant sounds to the front of the stage that rather spoils the otherwise smoothly integrated whole.
It's not the most ill-balanced sound we've ever heard, not by a margin, but the best of the Tannoys' young new rivals are better poised.
The Customs, then, remain predominantly impressive speakers. The looks sit uneasily with the price, though, and a couple of good-looking new interlopers have them covered where sound quality is concerned too. So, four stars it is.