To get the party started we fired up old favourite Avatar and flipped to the ‘Assault on Home Tree’ chapter. It laps up the DTS HD Master Audio track, conveying the scene’s delicious sound design with a richness and power that belies the speakers’ compact size.
Missiles scream across the screen with a crisp, bracing hiss and hit their targets with a deep, muscular boom. The score pushes the action along with pace and urgency, with the top-end rasp of the brass section cutting through the chaos clearly. The flurry of panicked Na’vi voices pierces the air from every speaker as gas canisters send them scattering, while the thuk-thuk-thuk of helicopter blades smoothly pans around the spacious, expansive soundstage.
It’s enthralling stuff, but we still can’t get over the incredible sense of scale you get from such small speakers. The satellites handle ear-splitting effects without batting an eyelid, and convey dynamic shifts with exceptional speed. High-frequency detail is also beautifully crisp during noisy and quiet scenes – as characters explore the forest, the distant, delicate sound of wildlife and the crunch of leaves underfoot is exquisite.
Also impressive is the subwoofer, which interlocks tightly with the satellites with bass that really packs a punch but never threatens to swamp the soundstage. It’s right up there with the best in this price class, sounding every bit as taut and powerful as Teufel’s recent Consono and Columa sub, and even gives subs from pricier systems a run for their money. Top that off with rich, authoritative dialogue from the centre channel and you have a home cinema performance that’s a lot more impressive than its price tag would suggest.
Many speaker systems at this price are well equipped for movies but fall down at the first hurdle with music. Not so the Tannoy HTS-101. We played a live performance of ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ by Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli and the results are impressive. It conveys Monheit’s voice with surprising texture and detail, while the piano, brush drums and hats are sparky. It’s perhaps not as neutral or smooth as some rivals, but judged in the context of its price it’s a more musical system than you’d expect.
The Tannoy HTS-101 is one of the best-value speaker systems we’ve had the pleasure to test. If your budget is tight but you don’t want to compromise on quality then this system finds the perfect middle ground, delivering a performance that belies its price tag. What’s most impressive is the sheer size of the sound produced from such small speakers – with major action scenes it sounds thrilling, powerful and detailed, helped along by an excellent subwoofer that by rights should have no place in a system as affordable as this. Tannoy, we salute you.