Tangent Spectrum W1 Speaker Review
A full spectrum of streaming options
What is the Tangent Spectrum W1?The Tangent Spectrum W1 is a wireless multiroom speaker with integrated Bluetooth and Google Chromecast, which allows you to stream music from any mobile device. It boasts a compact design that uses a minimalist but stylish Danish aesthetic, and twin, full-range drive units on either side of the cabinet. The Spectrum W1 has just been released and retails for £179 as at the time of writing (September 2018), which puts it into a very competitive segment of the market. So let's hook it up and see how it performs...
Design, Connections & ControlThe Tangent Spectrum W1 wears its Danish heritage on its chassis, with minimalist styling and a cheeky bit of wood. It's not the most attractive design I've ever seen, essentially it's a simple matte white or black cube (depending on which finish you choose) that sits on a walnut veneer, wooden base plinth.
The build quality is reasonable, but the cabinet does feel rather plastic to the touch. The Spectrum W1 measures 140 x 183 x 140mm (WxHxD) and weighs 2.35kg.
I guess there's only so much you can do when designing a wireless speaker, and the W1 does have a slightly retro feel with its big volume dial and buttons along the bottom. On either side, there are full-range three-inch drivers, which are designed to deliver a larger soundstage, along with a bass port at the rear.At the back, there's a 3.5mm auxiliary mini jack for a wired connection and socket for the AC power adapter. That's it as far as physical connections go, the rest are wireless with support for Bluetooth and Google Chromecast. There is a power LED that shows when the W1 is on, and a mode LED that indicates which method of connection is selected: green (Chromecast), blue (Bluetooth) and amber (AUX).
Aside from the big volume dial, you'll find the other controls at the bottom front of the speaker, just above the wooden plinth. Here you'll find on/off, play/pause, skip forward and skip back; there's also a button for selecting and pairing with a Bluetooth device. Although there are basic controls on the W1 itself, Tangent obviously expect you to mainly control the speaker using your connected mobile device.
The design is minimalist and slightly retro, but retains that Scandinavian love of wood
Features & SetupThe main feature of the Tangent Spectrum W1 is its choice of wireless streaming options, with both Bluetooth and Google Chromecast integrated into the speaker. The speaker includes Wi-Fi (2.400-2.4835 GHz) and uses Bluetooth 4.2 + EDR (A2DP, AVRCP).
Chromecast provides access to a huge number of music streaming services, including, but certainly not limited to, Spotify, Deezer and Tidal. It enables you to stream music wirelessly using your Wi-Fi network and offers higher quality audio than traditional Bluetooth streaming.
However, when you can’t access a Wi-Fi network and want to stream music or radio to your Spectrum W1, you can simply pair your mobile device with the speaker wirelessly using Bluetooth. In terms of file support, the speaker can handle MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC and AAC+.
If you would rather go old school and physically connect your mobile device to the W1, then as previously mentioned, you can simply plug the supplied 3.5mm audio cable into the AUX mini-jack input on the rear panel.
The Spectrum W1 uses twin, full-range drive units which each have 7W of amplification and are housed on either side of the cabinet for a bigger stereo sound. These three-inch drivers have a claimed frequency range of 40Hz to 20kHz, although I'll be very surprised if they can get anywhere near 40Hz.
Setup is relatively easy, but I'd definitely recommend reading the instructions first. Start by plugging the Spectrum W1 in using the provided AC adapter, the power LED will light up red after three seconds. After 35 seconds the power LED will go white, and the mode LED will flash white: the speaker is now ready for configuration.
To set up the network configuration, simply download the Google Home app from the Google Play or Apple App stores, then open the app and follow the instructions. The W1 includes an auto on/off feature, and to switch between the modes you need to press the power button. It's this aspect of the W1's operation that I initially found confusing and is the reason why I would check the instructions first.
When you select the Chromecast mode, open any Chromecast-enabled app (Spotify, Tidal etc.) and then tap the cast icon on the app and select the speaker or group of speakers to play. When you press the Bluetooth pairing button, the speaker will enter pairing mode and you then select the W1 on your Bluetooth device. If you connect a device to the Tangent using a 3.5mm audio cable, it will automatically enter AUX mode.
I primarily tested the Spectrum W1 using Chromecast, but I also tried Bluetooth and the AUX connection. In order to test the speaker with both iOS and Android devices, I used an Apple iPhone X and a Samsung Galaxy S9+. In terms of content I used Spotify, Tidal and my own music files stored on the iPhone X and Galaxy S9+.
The headline features are the twin full-range drivers, and integrated Google Chromecast
PerformanceThe Tangent Spectrum W1 largely lived up to its promise, delivering decent sound quality for a compact wireless speaker. The use of Google Chromecast results in a better quality source, and would certainly be my preferred choice in terms of connection. Having said that, the Bluetooth and AUX connections also sound good if, for some reason, you needed to use them.
The Spectrum W1 that I was sent to review was brand new, in fact I think it may have been one of the first units in the country. So I started by running it in for a while, just to loosen everything out and knock off any rough edges. Once I had done that I began alternating between the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9+, in order to check how the speaker performed with both iOS and Android.
What I really like about the Spectrum W1 is that it sounds much bigger than it should considering it's a compact wireless speaker. The Acoustic Energy Aego BT2 that I reviewed recently achieved a similar effect, thanks to the same basic approach. Both speakers use side-firing drivers to create a larger presence, although the BT2 combines them with a more traditional forward-firing driver.
Since the W1 only has side-firing drivers, the result is a larger presence, but at the expense of precise stereo imaging with instruments being difficult to localise. The sense of scale means it can handle a sensibly-sized room, but it does lack power, with only 14W of amplification in total. By comparison the BT2 has a total of 40W of amplification.
As a result, the Tangent did struggle somewhat when pushed to higher volumes, with the audio becoming strained. The speaker performs better at moderate volumes, and while it can deliver a sound that is much bigger than its size suggests, it will struggle in larger rooms. The W1 also struggled at lower frequencies, lacking the the bass depths of larger and better built speakers.
The bass performance could be improved by positioning the W1 on a solid surface or near a wall, but the open and big stereo sound works best with a bit of space. The Tangent also delivers excellent clarity and plenty of detail, with a decent mid-range and some nice higher frequencies.
I tested the W1 using a number of tracks by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and a song like Red Right Hand had a pleasing openness. The mid-range was particularly impressive, delivering Cave's gravelly vocals with skill, although the deeper bass notes lacked some of their impact.
The album Resistance is Futile by the Manic Street Preachers boasts plenty of well-crafted rock songs, and the W1 reproduced the vocals and guitars with an effective sense of energy. The speaker also handled Stay by Shakespeare's Sister very well, combining Marcella Detroit's higher pitched vocal with Siobhan Fahey's deeper delivery in the chorus.
The W1's ability to reproduce music with clarity and detail was evidenced by the opening of Welcome to the Jungle by Guns 'n' Roses – the police siren and opening words are clear within the rising cacophony of guitars and drums. The same sense of energy and urgency that I enjoyed when listening to the Manic's album was also evident when listening to Appetite for Destruction.
Although the Spectrum W1 displayed some minor issues relating to the power of its amplification and the depth of its bass, it's a very capable performer. It's able to render vocals with clarity, while picking out the details of various instruments thanks to an open stereo soundstage. The reproduction of music was very effective, especially in smaller rooms, retaining a pleasing sense of fun and a likeable musical presence.
The W1 delivers an open soundstage, that is ideal for smaller rooms
- Surprisingly large sound
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Google Chromecast
- Streaming flexibility
- Multiroom options
- Bass is a bit limited
- More power would be useful
- Build quality could be better
- Operation not entirely intuitive
Tangent Spectrum W1 Speaker Review
Tangent Spectrum W1 VerdictThe Tangent Spectrum W1 makes for a great little wireless speaker, that manages to offer plenty of streaming options thanks to the integration of both Bluetooth and Google Chromecast. Its compact cabinet is minimalist, with a slightly retro feel and a touch of Danish flair, although the build quality could be better.
The setup is relatively easy and although there are some basic controls on the speaker itself, the majority of control will be done via your connected device. You have the option of wireless connections using either Bluetooth or Chromecast, as well as a wired connection using an included 3.5mm audio cable.
Tangent expects you to use Chromecast as the primary connection, with the other two methods simply as back-up. It certainly makes for an effective method of connection, with a host of available music streaming services and better audio quality. Having said that, the other two connection options sound equally as good.
In fact, the Spectrum W1 sounds reasonably good in general, delivering a sound that is much bigger than its dimensions would lead you to expect. The twin drivers firing out from either side, certainly create a wide stereo presence, although it does result in a loss of precise imaging.
The sound has clarity and detail, while the mid-range and higher frequencies are nicely defined. The W1 could benefit from more amplification but the only area where it really struggles is in terms of bass. This speaker lacks the deeper registers that you would expect from larger and better made speakers.
However, the Tangent Spectrum W1 is a great all-round performer and is certainly worth considering if you're looking for a compact wireless speaker for streaming music.
What are my alternatives?The compact wireless speaker market is highly competitive, so there are plenty of alternatives.
For example, £129 will get you the KitSound Voice One, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Alexa integration. Alternatively £140 will get you the excellent Yamaha WX-030, which not only sounds great but includes support for Yamaha's proprietary MusicCast multiroom system.
For £149 you can pick up the superb Acoustic Energy Aego BT2, which really impressed me when I reviewed it recently. At the same price as the W1, you also have the option of the Sonos One or PLAY:1, both of which obviously support the company's excellent multiroom system and app.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £179.99
Ease of Use7
Value for Money8
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