Kitchen, ontario, Canada -- Founded in 1926 by the London-based engineer and businessman Guy R. Fountain, Tannoy's first product offering was related to, of all things, batteries.
Back in the late 1920s, radios required batteries in order to operate. Fountain, as the proprietor of a garage, began developing a battery charger that could be used in the home instead of commercial garages. The result was an electrolytic rectifier made of tantalum and a lead alloy. Drawing inspiration from the names of both of these materials, Fountain named his new venture Tannoy and set up shop in a factory.
By the early 1930s, Tannoy had already moved into the sound reinforcement arena: the company's first discrete two-way loudspeaker system was introduced in 1933, and the following year the manufacturer boasted a complete line of microphones, loudspeakers, amplifiers and measuring equipment. During the Second World War, Tannoy was charged with the manufacture of communications systems for airfields, submarines and tasks, and command systems for gun batteries.
In 1948, Tannoy introduced its Dual Concentric loudspeaker technology: the system was comprised of a horn-loaded compression driver that was built concentrically with a direct radiator bass unit. This unit was equipped with a single magnet assembly that was mounted on a heavy cast frame. Tannoy's product development team continues to apply the philosophy behind this system to the products that they create today.
"Even though we have done hundreds of different products over the years, most of those products are still founded on that exit point source principle," said Costa Lakoumentas, market development manager at Tannoy North America. "What we have set out to define is high definition sound reinforcement. From our perspective, high definition sound reinforcement is not just bandwidth; it's very much face accuracy and the ability to preserve harmonic structure of the source material, all the way to reproduction."
During the 1970s, Tannoy underwent a number of structural changes. First, the company was purchased by Harman International Industries, prompting Tannoy to move its headquarters to Coatbridge, Scotland, where it still operates today.
By 1987 the manufacturer established a dedicated Systems Division. That same year, Tannoy merged with Goodmans Loudspeakers Ltd, forming TGI plc. Two years later, Tannoy acquired Audix, which was rolled into the Systems Division that became Tannoy-Audix Ltd. In 2002, TLC plc merged all of its companies within the TC Group, which now acts as a holding company for Tannoy, Martin Audio, Lab Gruppen, TC Electronic, TC Helicon, TC Works, GLL and TC Applied Technologies.
Today, Tannoy makes products for the installation, studio and residential markets. Dual Concentric technology, in conjunction with Tannoy's Tulip WaveGuide, are applied to these products. The company has since developed SuperTweeter, a high frequency driver that covers frequency ranges up to and beyond 50kHz.
"Sometimes, the principles behind high definition sound reinforcement work very well in the labs, but they don't translate that well into all of the real world applications," Lakoumentas noted. "What we have done is taken the principle and designed it into a variety of different products."
Recently, Tannoy introduced its IQ10 Series of loudspeakers-one of the latest additions to the company's line of High Definition Sound Reinforcement (HDSR) products.
"The IQ10 allows you to maintain the benefit of the dual concentric driver, which is space coherent, and a point source device, but it's now longer throw, narrower dispersion and higher directivity."
These features are useful in environments where it is impossible to position the speakers close to the listener, Lakoumentas notes. "One of the challenges is going into a longer-throw or higher reverberation environment where proximity between the listener and the speakers is just not possible," he said.
In an effort to resolve specific problems, Lakoumentas pointed to a trend toward more carefully directed products. "We are not trying to do all things with very limited products anymore," he said. "We are designing products that are very mission specific."