Tannoy Arena Highline 500 review

If you’re in the market for a serious home cinema speaker system, ‘designer’ or not, the Arena HighLine 500 package deserves your urgent attention Tested at £2695.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

This great-looking, room-friendly system proves that style doesn’t have to be at the expense of performance


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    Clean, punchy and informative sound

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    plenty of scale and substance

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    sleek, stylish looks

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    You could pay a lot less for a more conventional ‘boxes and black ash vinyl’ system, but that’s missing the point

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

We really like the original Tannoy Arena speakers, with their curvaceous looks, solid engineering and great sound – we'll even forgive the fact that the stands for the main speakers look like 1950s freestanding ashtrays! This is the flagship Arena model.

The HighLine 500 system, like the smaller HighLine 300, can be bought in a variety of configurations, but the set-up supplied for review comprised a pair of 500 Tower floorstanders for the front left/right channels, a dedicated centre speaker and a pair of 500 Satellites for the rears, plus the TS500 subwoofer.

That lot comes to £2695, with all but the main Towers and subwoofer being supplied with wall-mounting hardware – optional stands for the rears, with hefty bases to match those on the floorstanders, brought the bill up to £2894.

Like all Arenas, the 500s use Tannoy's proprietary Dual Concentric drive units, with a 19mm tweeter stuffed down the throat of a 10cm mid/bass unit – this playing no small part in the extraordinarily accurate imaging these speakers can deliver. In each of the aluminium enclosures here this is supplemented with a 10cm dedicated bass driver, while the inert structure and sealed design ensures tight, clean bass.

Completing the package is a unique subwoofer with a 30cm driver and a 500W BASH digital amp – this can be used with the driver facing down, up or to the side to increase your placement and room-interaction choices. The sub is finished in gloss silver or black to match the speaker colour options.

Not just a pretty face
Any idea that ‘designer' speakers such as these must give away something to more conventional-looking boxes are soon dispelled once the Arena system is in motion: it's capable of delivering a real ‘check your seat belts and keep your hands inside the car' thrill-ride with big action movies, and is far from fazed by the pinpoint effects and literally monster low-end of the main ‘reveal' sequence in The War of the Worlds.

Some care is needed with subwoofer placement and adjustment, which will vary from room to room, and this is a system best driven with some serious amp power rather than a budget AV receiver, but treat it right and it will deliver everything from subtle ambience to full-on action, not to mention sounding really rather good with multichannel music and stereo CDs alike.

That Dual Concentric focus is always much in evidence, and the use of the same drive units all round – even in the centre, which does without the additional bass unit so often found in packages of this kind – ensures an even tonality as sounds move around the room.

Add in the high-quality finish and fine style, and the verdict is pretty self-evident: if you're in the market for a serious home cinema speaker system, ‘designer' or not, the Arena HighLine 500 package deserves your urgent attention.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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