Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Loudspeaker Review

Posted on 14th April, 2024
Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Loudspeaker Review

Chris Frankland gets into the groove with this cleverly engineered, exciting-sounding floorstander…

Tannoy

Stirling III LZ Special Edition

USD $12,500

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

Tannoy's new Stirling III LZ Special Edition may be a triumph of retro chic but don't be fooled. Under the skin, it is a thoroughly modern reworking of the original IIILZ Monitor Red from the nineteen sixties, benefiting from all the advances in materials and technology that the intervening sixty years have made possible.

There is no doubt that few brands have the retro street cred of Tannoy. The company has a proud heritage in loudspeaker manufacturing, founded in 1947 by Guy R. Fountain as the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company. Two years later, it changed its name to Tannoy to reflect the materials used in its rectifiers —TANtalum and lead allOY.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

Its success in high-profile public address systems made its name a household word. In addition to domestic speakers, it has an impressive track record in studio monitors. These have been used to master albums from famous names such as Michael Jackson, The Eagles, Billy Idol, Depeche Mode, and Christina Aguilera, among others.

Tannoy's milestone moment was the invention of its dual-concentric driver in 1947. In one form or another, this has been at the heart of its loudspeaker designs ever since. The company has refined its design over the decades, and the 10-inch (250mm) unit in the Stirling III LZ Special Edition is its very latest incarnation, specifically designed, says Tannoy, to provide the warmth and clarity of its bigger 12-inch (300mm) and 15-inch (380mm) counterparts in a smaller enclosure. Of course, the Stirling III LZ Special Edition is a still sizeable, 855mm tall by 397mm wide by 368mm deep, and weighs in at a not inconsiderable 33kg.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

The dual-concentric driver places the tweeter at the centre of the bass/midrange driver cone. The idea is that the sound waves from the tweeter and bass driver emanate from the same single-point source in order to eliminate the phase and time alignment issues that can occur in multi-driver speakers. With the latter, sound waves from the tweeter and woofer may not arrive at the listener's ears simultaneously. Tannoy says that the dual-concentric design results in a more coherent and focused sound, with better imaging, wider dispersion and a more uniform soundstage. This means listeners are not tied to one sweet spot right in the middle of the soundstage.

UP CLOSE

The Stirling III LZ Special Edition dual-concentric driver has a 250mm paper pulp cone with twin roll impregnated fabric surround, and at its centre sits a 52mm aluminium/magnesium alloy dome compression-driver tweeter with mylar surround. The speakers offer an impressively high claimed efficiency of 93dB for 1 watt at 1 metre and a 500watt peak power handling capability. The driver features an Alnico magnet, which I have heard many designers say they prefer the sound of to some of today's more powerful rare-earth magnet systems.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

Whereas the Super Gold Monitor speakers use a tulip waveguide, the Stirlings use a pepperpot type, which Tannoy believes produces a sweeter, more natural and more inherently coherent sound. The bass/midrange cone hands over to the tweeter at 1.1kHz, and the hard-wired crossover uses Tannoy customised capacitors, low-loss laminated core inductors and thick-film resistors.

The cabinet is a bass-reflex design but uses a 'distributed port' system that exits to the outside world through slits on either side of the front baffle, as opposed to the usual round tubes. It uses a combination of high-density birch ply and particle board. Furthermore, it features extensive bracing, incorporating what Tannoy calls Differential Materials Technology (DMT) to couple the drivers to the cabinets. This all resulted from a research project Tannoy undertook in the late nineteen eighties into combining different materials to achieve the desired acoustic properties. It led it to look at component behaviour under vibration and to use custom crossover components, custom cabling and a split crossover design. DMT combines different materials to dissipate and absorb vibrations more effectively and minimise unwanted cabinet resonances. Tannoy further claims that it lets listeners discern finer details and nuances in the music, resulting in more controlled bass.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

Like on its Super Gold Monitors, the Stirling III LZ also provides adjustment of 'treble energy' and 'treble roll-off' by means of a knurled screw that can be swapped between threaded holes on a panel on the front baffle. Treble energy can be adjusted to shelve between 1kHz and 27kHz by ±1.5dB or ±3dB, while the roll-off control introduces a +2/-6dB/octave slope from 5Hz to 27kHz.

GETTING GOING

I hooked my review pair of Stirling III LZs to my usual home system, comprising an Audio Note TT3 turntable with Arm2/Io1/S9 transformer and Audio Note's CDT-Five CD transport and DAC Five Special for CD playback, through the Audio Note Meishu Tonmeister integrated amplifier. A single-ended valve amp like this pushes out a fairly modest 10 watts from its 300B valve line-up, so efficient speakers like these are ideal. I have also used this Audio Note amp with Tannoy Super Gold Monitor SGM10 and SGM12 models with very good results, by the way.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

The Stirling III LZ's frequency response is said to extend down to 29Hz – almost 10Hz lower than the SGM12 – so I made sure I didn't place either speaker too close to the corners of my 5.8x4m room. In the end, around 50cm from the rear wall and 40cm from the side walls worked well. Tannoy's UK distributor, Symphony Distribution, had already tipped me off that extending the front two spikes under the speakers is beneficial, so I gave that a try. They turned out to be correct, as I found that with the front spikes extended and the speaker angled slightly backwards, definition clearly improved. I still felt that the bass was a little heavy in my room, so I set the treble energy control to +1.5dB in an attempt to achieve a better balance. This worked really well, tightening up the bottom end.

THE LISTENING

Whether you play old-style or modern jazz, hard rock such as John Mellencamp or ZZ Top, soulful vocals, delicate acoustic guitar, or mandolin, the Stirling III LZ Special Edition is a great musical companion. My review pair never failed to put a smile on my face and set my foot tapping, whether I was listening to Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Mose Allison, or Van Morrison. This highly engaging and expressive-sounding loudspeaker simply loves to make music.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

The big Tannoy loves dynamic and pacy recordings such as Ben Sidran's It Didn't All Come True from his Bop City album. The Stirling immediately impressed by conveying the clarity and emotion in Sidran's vocals without adding any distracting colouration. The subtle detail on the cymbals and the tightness of the drum kit were a joy to behold, too. The fast-moving piano play was articulated beautifully with individual notes remaining separate and distinct even when Sidran's fingers must have been a blur on the keys. The power of snare drums and rimshots was a delight, while the Stirling really put on its running shoes when the track's tempo picked up. It captured the impetus and speed of the music very well indeed.

Dave Koz's All I See Is You from his Saxophonic album showcased the Stirling III LZ Special Edition's tonal prowess. It captured his tenor sax style's innate power and timbre well, giving it an almost physical presence without making it sound harsh. At the same time, the bass line really motored along and was communicated with excellent weight and control, and I could hear how well the drummer and bass player were working together to drive the staccato rhythm of the track. It's not always the case that fast and snappy speakers can also be so tonally balanced, by the way.

Tannoy Stirling III LZ Special Edition Review

This combination of speed and subtlety proved to be quite infectious, prompting me to try the Stirling III LZ Special Edition across a wider variety of musical genres. Its prowess with raucous rock music, such as ZZ Top's classic Gimme All Your Lovin' from Eliminator, seriously impressed me. The Tannoy rose to the challenge and conveyed the pace and relentless energy of this track superbly. Things really rocked! And just as this speaker was great with hard rock, it was equally at home with the gentle, acoustic ballad Build Me Up from Bones from Sarah Jarosz's album of the same name. I very much enjoyed hearing her subtle, delicate mandolin playing and how this speaker deftly separated out the backing pizzicato and bowed violins and cello. Her voice was also open and packed with emotion. Soulful favourites from Luther Vandross were also very ably handled, and captured his unique vocal style, emotion and range.

THE VERDICT

Tannoy's Stirling III LZ Special Edition may be an expensive proposition, but it's still a lot of loudspeaker for the money. It has a distinctive sound which is never less than extremely enjoyable, even more so, in my opinion, when matched to a capable valve power amplifier. Factor in the gorgeous oiled walnut veneer finish, and it's hard to fault it on many levels. If you're a fan of Tannoy and/or the brand's signature sound, then this speaker is an essential audition if you're fortunate enough to have this sort of sum to spend.

Visit Tannoy for more information

Chris Frankland's avatar

Chris Frankland

One of StereoNET’s most experienced reviewers, Chris has written for a multitude of hi-fi magazines, from Hi-Fi Answers and Hi-Fi Sound, to The Flat Response and Hi-Fi Review. A regular concert-goer, his quest continues to find hi-fi that gets as close as possible to conveying the raw emotion of live music.

Posted in:Applause Awards 2024 Loudspeakers Floorstanding Hi-Fi
Tags: tannoy  rhythm distribution 

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