Having crashed the front-running pack of compact, affordable speaker packages following a five-star First Test back in February 2011, Tannoy might have been forgiven for thinking its work was done.
That’s only half-true, though: the hard work that’s gone into the HTS101 has paid off handsomely, but delivering a product so good only motivates the competition. When you’re perceived as a class-leader, you’re there to be shot at.
Stylistically, the HTS101 plays it safe. Those little speaker cabinets are wooden beneath their glossy finish, which is unique in this company, but they’re straight-edged and boxy – and we’d like the edges dulled off a bit more, please.
Still, the appearance of proper binding posts able to accept a banana plug is welcome.
The four satellites each house a 19mm titanium-dome tweeter and a 75mmm paper mid/bass driver. The bigger centre channel doubles up on the bigger driver, and the sub (just as glossy as the speakers, and just as willing to collect fingerprints as an overzealous copper) features 100W of power and a 20cm driver.
Dynamic, spacious and effortless
Granted sufficient running in, the Tannoy is a dynamic, spacious and, above all, effortless listen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack to Shutter Island is meat and drink to the HTS101: simply in terms of scale, it’s deeply impressive.
The soundstage is wide and tall, and sounds on it are focused and separated every bit as adeptly as they’re integrated into a whole. Dynamic shifts are dispatched with ease, and integration between speakers and sub is exemplary.
Tonality is nicely pitched just on the exciting side of neutral, with briskly attacking high frequencies complemented at the other end by the fast, substantial and textured bass.
By these high standards, the Tannoy’s midrange isn’t quite as expansive – but it’s detailed, communicative and crisp, which is ample compensation.
Accomplished with stereo music
In broad terms, the HTS101 is just as accomplished when it comes to reproducing stereo music.
Tom Waits’s Down, Down, Down is a considerable test of staging, timing and fine detail retrieval, but the Tannoy makes about as convincing a fist of it as any product of its type and price we’ve heard.
The same midrange reticence is apparent as with movies, but there’s no shortage of detail or character in the voices the HTS101 describes.
As an overall package, then, it’s hard to find significant fault with the value the Tannoy HTS101 represents.
You can buy even smaller systems, certainly, and you can buy a touch more mid-range assurance, but if you’re after open, exciting and full-scale sound from a discreet and shiny set-up without spending an arm and a leg, the HTS101 is as good as is currently available.