Tangent Classic Wireless Speaker Review
It’s not so much Norwegian as Scandinavian Wood!
Hi-Fi reviewSRP: £499.99
IntroductionWhatever happened to the audio dock? One minute they’re all the rage, the next rarer than hen’s teeth. Well we can probably lay the blame with Apple for introducing their ‘lightning’ connector which, almost overnight, effectively rendered an entire generation of products obsolete. The increase in the popularity of streaming, improvements in the performance of Bluetooth and the desire on the part of the manufacturers not to get burnt again have hammered some fairly large nails into the audio dock’s coffin.
However, like some technological hydra, you cut one head off and another appears in its place. In this case it’s the wireless speaker which has seen its popularity grow as the audio dock’s has waned. The appeal of the wireless speaker is obvious - no wires! Yes the absence of a dock means you can’t recharge your device but who really wanted to keep having to get up and walk over to the speaker anyway. Now you just connect wirelessly either by Bluetooth or AirPlay and listen to your music without hinderance, free to move around whilst controlling everything from your smartphone or tablet.
We’ve seen a couple of products from Tangent so far and the Danish company has impressed us with an interesting combination of avant garde design and quality performance. The Tangent Classic is their latest product, a wireless audio system with a heavy emphasis on the retro and plenty of wood. Tangent aim to deliver an audiophile performance with two 5-inch full range drivers and 50 watts of amplification per a channel, along with aptX Bluetooth connectivity. The design is certainly striking but at £499 so is the price, so let’s see if the audio performance can live up to the first and justify the second.
Design and ConnectionsThere’s been a definite trend towards more retro designs recently, with quite a few products harking back to both the sixties and the seventies. The Tangent Classic is a good example with an oval shaped enclosure that wouldn’t look out of place in Austin Powers’ shag pad. The retro feel is enhanced by Tangent’s Scandinavian designer’s extensive use of wood in the overall construction. The cabinet is encased in a real wood veneer and has a solid well made feel; the fit and finish is excellent and the Classic comes in a choice of Walnut or Ash. There is a fabric grille across the entire front of the speaker, twin bass ports at the rear and a little cloth tag on the front that says Tangent. The Classic uses a stereo speaker system with separate bass reflex enclosures to house the twin tweeter and mid bass drivers and includes 2 x 50W of amplification. The dimensions of the enclosures are quite big, measuring 580 x 200 x 300mm, which should help with the low end.
The wood theme extends to the separate smartphone/tablet stand, which is made of the same wood veneer and the remote control which sits inside a wooden shell. The stand is just that, it isn’t a dock - nor does it recharge your device - and, given the appeal of a wireless speaker, we honestly doubt it would get used much. In fact we never even took it out of the box. As for the wooden remote, that was a step too far with the outer shell making the controller quite difficult to use. Thankfully you can remove the plastic remote from the wooden shell and just use as normal, so disaster averted. In terms of connections the Tangent Classic keeps it simple with an aptX Bluetooth interface for the wireless duties, whilst at the rear you'll find a 3.5mm input for physically connecting another device. There's also a USB port for recharging your iPhone or iPad, which is handy but unfortunately there's no support for AirPlay.
The retro design and oval shaped enclosure that wouldn’t look out of place in Austin Powers’ shag pad.
SetupSetting up the Tangent Classic is very easy and should only take a few minutes. There is a LED indicator in the speaker grille at the top centre and this tells you the status of the Classic. If there is no light then the unit is in standby but when the LED blinks that means it has received a remote signal. If the LED is a solid 'dusky' white then the unit is on and if this 'dusky' white is blinking then it is on but muted. If the LED is 'super' white then either the Aux In or Bluetooth connection has been selected and if the 'super' white LED is blinking, then the unit is Bluetooth pairing. To pair with another Bluetooth device, all you need to do is turn on the unit, select BT on the remote and then press and hold the Pair button for three seconds. The 'super' white LED will begin flashing as Bluetooth pairing starts and when "TANGENT CLASSIC" appears on your device just select and the pairing is complete. If the unit is idle for 20 minutes, it will automatically switch to standby mode. In case you're wondering how 'dusky' white differs from 'super' white, well the latter is slightly brighter but different colours would probably have been a better idea.
Audio QualityWhilst the primary purpose of a wireless speaker is to provide convenience, there's no reason why that should preclude audiophile aspirations. We saw this with the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 and the Classic delivers a similarly fantastic performance, with a wide and open soundstage that takes full advantage of the larger cabinet. There is real power and authority to the sound produced by this speaker system and as result it can easily fill even a relatively large room, making it suitable for a number of purposes. As a result the Classic can go extremely loud without sounding strained or distorted or ever losing control. In fact it ranks among the loudest wireless speakers we have reviewed recently, with a dynamic performance and plenty of headroom. One of the usual problems with wireless speakers is that the single cabinet minimises the amount of stereo separation but thanks to its unusual design, the Classic was able to deliver an excellent sense of stereo effect.
The reasonably large dimensions of the cabinet and the solid construction certainly paid dividends when it came to the bass performance. There was real presence to the low-end, which gave an underlying power to the overall sound of the Classic. The lower frequencies were well rendered without becoming boomy or swamping the mid-range, which retained plenty of detail. As is often the case with a speaker system, correct placement is important and we found the Classic benefited from being away from a wall and in an open space. This allowed it to create an expansive soundstage with well integrated bass. We found it was best to avoid placing the Classic in a corner or too close to a wall because this could result in the bass over-powering the rest of the sound. However with just some sensible positioning, the Classic can deliver a wonderfully expansive and powerful soundstage. In testing we found that the Classic was a great all-round performer, delivering a sound that was subtle and refined. The speaker was able to retain both clarity and detail, resulting in an enjoyable experience.
The fragile vocals and aching slide guitar of Mazzy Star's Fade into You were beautifully rendered by the Classic, whilst the pop sensibilities of Lissie's Sleepwalking were equally as well served, perfectly capturing the uptempo mood. The Classic had no troubles with the complex arrangements on the Manic Street Preachers new album Rewind the Film, whilst the rockier songs on Suede's Bloodsports were also nicely delivered. The deeper vocals on forgotten 70s classic Vehicle by the Ides of March were delivered with a lovely sense of detail in the low- and mid-range. However, the Classic also handled the higher frequencies well, never sounding bright or harsh. On tracks heavy with female vocals, pianos and strings like Adele's One and Only the Classic proved itself to be an adept and enthusiastic performer. There are a number of EQ settings available (classic, pop, rock, jazz) but we found that we always preferred to listen to music as it was recorded without any tampering. The Classic sounded good enough in its 'flat' and didn't need any processing. The absence of Airplay is a shame and puts the Classic at a slight disadvantage to the Minx Air 200 but in testing we never found the Bluetooth connection wanting and it was always robust.
The sound produced by the Classic was excellent, with good stereo separation and plenty of detail.
- Great sound
- Solid construction
- Attractive retro design
- Robust connection
- Wooden remote a bit much
- No AirPlay
Tangent Classic Wireless Speaker ReviewTangent set out to create a wireless audio system that combined design flair with quality audio engineering and they have succeeded admirably. Whilst the retro looks and wood veneer of the Classic might not to be to everyone's tastes, there's no denying that it's a striking design. It will certainly appeal to anyone looking for something that stands out from many of the standard looking wireless speakers on the market. The build quality is excellent and whilst the enclosure is quite large and the overall unit heavy, this pays dividends in terms of audio performance. The wood covered remote and smartphone/tablet stand might be a bit much but at least you can remove the plastic remote and use it without its wooden sheath.
The combination of the oval shape, the full range drivers and the soft dome tweeters result in a genuinely impressive sound and the amplification delivers enough power to fill even a large room without distorting. The sound produced by the Classic was excellent, with good stereo separation and plenty of detail, clarity and bass. The Classic proved adept at whatever music we threw at it, combining a deep low end with a detailed mid-range and some higher frequency clarity. The Bluetooth connection proved to be easy to setup and robust in operation, so whilst some may lament the lack of AirPlay, it's unlikely most would actually miss it. Ultimately the Tangent Classic achieves what it set out to do, delivering a combination of design, performance and ease of use that helps justify the price tag.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £499.99
Ease of Use8
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.