- Luxurious build quality
- Chic design, perfect for wall-mounting
- Polished, coherent, detailed sound
- Lacks the sheer muscle of some rivals
- Review Price: £2200.00
- Wall-mountable satellites
- 19mm tweeter & 4 x 75mm mid/bass driver
- Differential Material Technology
- Subwoofer with 300W BASH amplifier
- Crossover, phase, volume, LF Extension controls
The Tannoy Highline 300 system is the latest update of its Arena series, the first incarnation of which was unveiled some six years ago and has been delighting audiophile ears ever since. This modern-day revision caters for owners of flatpanel TVs with its slim, slinky wall-mountable speakers and their lavish, lifestyle-focused design.
This particular package comprises five identical Highline 300 LCR speakers, designed to be wall-mounted around your TV or attached to optional Highline stands, plus the Highline TS300 sub. There’s no dedicated centre, but their shape makes them easy to install vertically or horizontally.
The Highline 300s are a gloriously good looking set of speakers, each one a 590mm-long, 109mm-wide enclosure with sumptuous curves all the way round and a fixed grill on the front. They look stunning on their own – pieces of eye-candy to accentuate your wall-mounted TV – but attached to the stands they reach whole new levels of elegance and style.
The only thing better than their looks is their build quality. The cabinets are fashioned from thick section aluminium that injects a feeling of luxury, each one weighing 5kg. On the wall, they stick out 101mm, which might poke out a bit further than your TV but not by much.
On the back, two high-quality binding posts are sunk into a recess that runs right the way down the back. These are easy to access and hold cables firmly in place, but banana plugs are a no-no if you’re wall mounting them.
The subwoofer is a superbly engineered unit, and much slimmer and prettier than your average bass-box. Curved corners, a luxurious gloss-black finish and fetching silver bolts peppered around the surface are a winning combination, and even the controls are stylish.
Four bullet-shaped chrome dials line up down one side on a brushed aluminium panel, making it easy to make those all-important tweaks, while on the underside you’ll find stereo line input, power lead port and the power switch – though you will need to screw on the attached legs to make room for these underneath.
Inside each Highline 300 LCR is a 19mm tweeter and four 75mm mid-bass drivers. Because the satellites are all the same, it should guarantee a consistent tone across the system. They achieve a frequency range of 95Hz to 62kHz. The cabinets use Tannoy’s DMT (Differential Material Technology) at strategic points throughout its structure to minimise resonance.
Meanwhile the TS300 subwoofer boasts a 300W BASH amplifier and a 10in driver. Those controls on the side include crossover (the frequency at which it takes over bass duties from the satellites), volume, Low Frequency Extension (the settings are ‘Music’ at one end and ‘Theatre’ at the other) and Phase (0-180°). Switches governing LFE mode and Auto power are also supplied.
Installing the system isn’t quick – there’s a lot of screwing required to get those sats shackled to the stands – but it’s easy to figure out. There’s a cradle for the centre, which aids stability atop your AV rack. The sub can be mounted upright on its thin side or on the larger side if you want it lower.
The Highline 300’s performance is accomplished on many levels, bringing the sort of sonic poise and insight you’d expect when forking out over £2k on a system, although it may not appeal to everyone.
With Blu-ray soundtracks, the clarity of subtle sonic minutiae is key and the Highline 300 certainly passes muster on that score. It pulls out all the detail from The Empire Strikes Back on Blu-ray and gives those familiar effects a new lease of life.
When fed with a feisty action scene, the system retains its composure brilliantly, even when you crank up the volume. The sounds of fizzing blasters, bleeping droids and screeching Mynocks are shaped with effortless crispness and lucidity by these masterful drivers.
During Luke and Vader’s iconic Cloud City duel, the drama is palpable – the humming, crackling lightsabers are aggressive yet nicely controlled. Effects ping from speaker to speaker at a rapid pace, and the nimble subwoofer underpins the action with taut, solid low frequencies.
The use of identical drivers across the entire system pays dividends too. Surround sound information shares the same emphatic clarity as the fronts, bringing depth and immersion to scenes that need it, like the background hustle and bustle of the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base on Hoth.
Speech reproduction throughout the movie is excellent, making the dialogue that George can type but Harrison can’t say sound clear and convincing. James Earl Jones’ Vader voice has a clearly-defined gruffness and depth that could be turned into a thick, muddy mess in the wrong hands.
So what’s our reservation? Well the Highline system could do with being a little bit more boisterous. Yes high-frequency detail is beautifully shaped, it’s cohesive and energetic, but a touch too polite to really get the pulse racing, particularly when compared with some of its more muscular rivals in this price bracket.
This refinement and composure is by no means a bad thing, but some listeners may prefer a system that’s not afraid to let its hair down. It’s like paying money to watch Serena Williams and Laura Robson turning up instead. Good looking, technically impressive but lacking muscle.
Thankfully this polished sound lends itself brilliantly to music playback. There’s a captivating transparency and spaciousness about its presentation of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue that draws you in and won’t let go, plus the smooth sax and trumpet lines, delicate drums and agile double bass presentation are hallmarks of a very accomplished musical performer.
The Arena Highline 300 system is a beautifully built, achingly stylish system that delivers a sophisticated, detailed and coherent sound. It doesn’t reach the sort of adrenalin-fuelled mayhem that some systems in this price range achieve, but if you covet finesse over firepower then this might be the system for you.
N.B. The quoted price of £2,200 includes 5 x Highline 300 HCR, the TS300 subwoofer and 2 x pairs of Highline stands
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8
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