There’s a lot of interest in upgrading the crossovers on Tannoy Westminster Royals, both the HE and SE versions. The word is that upgraded crossovers can deliver amazing improvements in the performance of Westminster Royals of any version.
Back in March of 2012 David King shared his Westminster Royal crossover upgrades with us, and told us about the major improvement it made in the performance of his system (Thanks David!).
Those who have been watching Jeff’s Place closely know that the previous importer for Tannoy in Cyprus, Charalambos Ioannou (he goes by Pambos), recently posted comments about his experiences with the Westminster Royal crossover upgrades he has done on his own Westminster Royals (below), as well as for a number of his customers that also have Westminster Royals.
Pambos and I have been corresponding by e-mail and he has sent me more details about his crossover upgrades that I know all of you will want to know about. Many thanks to Pambos for taking time to let us all know about his Westminster Royal crossover upgrades!
Here’s what Pambos told me about his experiences upgrading the Westminster Royal crossovers:
“All of them were the HE version, not the SE (current version). When they released the SE version I asked Tannoy for the upgrade kit, which they sent me, as you can see in the attachment (WESTMINSTER ROYAL SE UPGRADE KIT). What Tannoy actually did was upgrade the components of the crossover and the internal cables. But Tannoy only did a fraction of the upgrades that we have done! In some areas Tannoy actually degraded components instead of upgrading them!
I shall explain. I say “we” because all the pairs I bought and were sold to customers were upgraded in the same way, with outboard crossovers. What Tannoy did was upgrade to Hovland capacitors which are much better than the previous capacitors. The stock capacitors in the HE version cost 1 dollar each to buy, and the Hovlands cost $30 each! Tannoy also upgraded the stock 50-cent resistors to 2-dollar resistors! I am OK with this, these are decent upgrades. Not the best, but OK.
The mistake Tannoy made was that they degraded the inductors. They replaced the air core inductors with iron core inductors. As any High-End manufacturer of speakers will tell you, there is a HUGE difference in sound quality between air core and iron core inductors, in favor of the air core inductors. Iron core inductors are used either for very cheap toy-type speakers or for very big concert type professional speakers where they need huge inductors with high inductance (of course), and where sound quality comes second. These are the inductors you have in your speakers. How can you listen to them?
Here’s how we upgraded the crossovers in our Westminster Royals: We used Duelund capacitors & resistors, and high quality air core inductors. My pair is wired with Audio Note UK silver cables, which others avoided because of the high cost. But also for the Duelund components you need to spend a lot of money. The sound from the Tannoy crossovers with the Duelund and Audio Note UK upgrades is far, far, and away from what the stock Tannoy crossover gives. These upgrades transform the Westminster Royal into something in its own class. PURE sound. Crystal clear.”
“Here are photos of different crossovers, all of them for the Westminster Royals I personally sold to customers. All outboard!”
“I also sent you the schematic of the crossover which if you give to any audio technician he can build you the outboard crossover from scratch.”
“Here are the photos of the original tannoy crossover as it was in the HE version!”
Pambos also said, “And you definitely need to do also what David recommends. Especially the replacement of those cheap connectors inside, instead soldering the cables directly in every place Tannoy put male-female connectors.”
Pambos, I have to say that your crossover upgrades are very impressive indeed! Thank you so much for sharing with us what you have done. In looking at the two photos of the stock crossovers I have to admit they are wimpy looking compared to what you have done with your crossovers. Now I realize I’m going to have to do something with the crossovers in my Westminster Royal SEs. Stay tuned!
Updated December 30th 2012
Here’s a couple of other links related to modifying Tannoy crossovers that are interesting reads (sent to me by Mark Coles of Sablon Audio – thanks Mark!):
Makiek’s Tannoy Page: click here.
Troels Gravesen Tannoy Crossover Upgrade Page: click here. Mark suggested that Troels might potentially be persuaded to make Tannoy crossover upgrade kits should you be interested.
Here’s some photos from a follow-up message from Pambos: “I thought you might be interested to look at these photos also, as some of the readers of your web page have spoken about in-board upgrades of the crossover. This was from the in-board upgrade of 2 pairs of Royals we have done! You see, the difference in sound pleasure was so huge when we upgraded inboard with moderate components , that we then decided to spend more money to upgrade in even more expensive and more quality components which were so big we needed to go outboard.”
Thanks for the great photos Pambos!
Additional food for thought: I have received some very polite and respectful correspondance from Tannoy enthusiasts that have somewhat of a differing opinion from that expressed by Pambos and David (earlier) on the results of upgrading Tannoy crossovers. The correspondance was intended for me alone, but I thought I should share it because it provides an additional perspective on crossover upgrades. While these opinions are based on experiences upgrading crossovers from the Tannoy 15 DMT Mk II & Tannoy GRF Memory (and not Westminster Royal crossovers), the comments still may be relevant to your own particular tastes in audio. I know sometimes that a discussion of differing opinions can turn passionate, but I expect everyone to behave in gentlemanly fashion, so no flames please. Thank you.
Essentially the differing opinion is this (somewhat paraphrased): “I have read everything on your website about upgrading the Westminster Royal crossovers to a higher level. It is very nicely written and with beautiful photos! Based on our experiences over the last 10 years with similar upgrades to the crossovers of Tannoy 15 DMT Mk 2 and the GRF Memory we always felt 100% sure that the speakers became much better sonically with the upgrades and outboard crossovers. Then came a shock when we compared our upgraded 15 DMT Mk 2 to an unmodified Tannoy 15 DMT Mk 2. The modified 15 DMT Mk 2 speakers sounded better but the unmodified 15 DMT Mk 2 speakers played music better, having a more organic, more human, more musical sound. The modified speaker had lost ‘The Tannoy Sound’.
Also, here’s another thing to keep in mind that we learned when upgrading Tannoy GRF Memory crossovers. Our first step was to take the crossovers out of the speakers and make outboard crossovers. Our second step was to change all the Tannoy parts for very high grade new parts. We found out to NEVER use parts with another load or specification other than what Tannoy originally used. We also learned that the way Tannoy soldered the capacitors (for the high frequencies) is very important. We also learned that the strange block (with Dutch ‘cement’ resistors) are very special. They are inductive!
After doing all the Tannoy GRF Memory crossover upgrades we compared it to the original GRF and had similar results to the 15 DMT Mk 2 comparison – the sonics were improved but not the music playing ability. With the original Tannoy parts it was like heaven on earth with that delicious Tannoy sound. My point is that, of course, you can change the crossover of the Westminster Royal and get better audiophile-style sonics. But be careful, as you may compromise the musicality of the Original Tannoy Sound.”
The topic of improving audiophile-style sonics at the expense of musicality is one that is near & dear to my heart (in fact I will be contributing an essay to a new audio book to be published on this very subject in the next year). I am not saying that there is a sonics versus musicality issue here with what Pambos and David have described in their upgrades to Westminster Royal crossovers. What I am saying is that you should proceed with your eyes wide open as you plan your upgrades as to the possibility that your outcome could end up the same way as what was discussed about the Tannoy DMT Mk 2 and GRM Memory upgrades above, where the results did not match the tastes of the listeners as they had hoped. Balancing the attributes of audiophile-style sonics and musicality is definitely possible, but just remember that not everyone hears a change in sonics as the improvement they had hoped for, and further fine tuning of the components to get the your desired balance of sonics & musicality may be required.
After looking into the cost of upgrading my Westminster Royal SE crossover components with Duelund and Audio Note, it looks as if I will not be able to afford to implement what Pambos has suggested in the near future as I have too much competition for my limited funds at the moment. Those of you who decide to do the full upgrade Pambos has suggested, be sure to report back with your results.
Updated December 31st 2012
Richard Wugang of Sophia Electric once told me that remarkable results can be obtained by judicious changes to components, but overdoing it can have the opposite effect. I changed 1 capacitor and 1 resistor in my Sophia Electric 91-01 300B mono amplifiers and the transformation was rather dramatic and positive. However, Richard told me not to think that adding more Black Gate capacitors would make it even better (which was the substitution I had made), rather it would have the opposite effect and would decrease the musicality by making the overall sound more clinical.
In the same spirit of Richard Wugang’s advice, a number of people have suggested a cost-effective step-wise approach to implementing Westminster Royal crossover upgrades, which has the added benefit of changing a component, then giving it a listen to see if it matches your sonics & musicality tastes.
In particular I thought Mark Coles said it very succinctly in his message to me: “Reading through these articles, I suspect a great starting point for many would be to direct solder the internal wiring (upgrading the wire on earlier models) and swap out the tweeter caps for something like Clarity MR (as in the KRs) or Mundorf silver/oil. That should yield a great improvement for a modest cost and can later be augmented with nice foil inductors (Alpha-Core / Jantzen) and better resistors like mills or even Duelund. Lovely though the CAST caps are (I use them in my Lampizator dac), the cost in such large values will I suspect prove prohibitive for many, not least of all when their source equipment might not yet have been optimized.”
While Mark did not suggest this, I do suggest that if you are considering upgrading your internal wiring that you talk to Mark about creating a version of his Panatela speaker cables to use as the internal wiring harness. Mark did develop the Panatela high-frequency cable run of his component speaker cables based on advice from Dr. Paul Mills at Tannoy, and it is an awesome match to “The Tannoy Sound” of musicality, enhancing it in every positive way you can imagine. Also, as Mark points out, the Tannoy Kingdom Royal uses the Clarity MR as tweeter capacitors, so that could be a nice choice for the Westminster Royal as well.
I also decided to contact Dr. Paul Mills at Tannoy for his recommendations as to what he might recommend for “judicious changes to components” for the Westminster Royal SE crossover. Stay tuned.
Updated January 1st 2013
Here’s another cool link forwarded to me by Mark Coles that compares many capacitors for sound quality in crossovers. As Pambos has advised, the Duelund CAST is very good, and Mark reports similarly good results from the Duelund CAST. Click here for the capacitor comparison.
Also, as Mark and I were discussing a mod to bypass the high-frequency level controls on the Westminster Royals, Mark came up with the idea of fitting binding posts onto the crossover boards directly to eliminate the extra wiring from binding posts to the crossover boards. Then all I would need to do would be to pull the Panatela speaker cables through into the speaker and connect them to the binding posts. Cool idea!