As a hi-fi reviewer, you can sometimes get a little speed blind. Because while we test lots of speakers, most of them have four- or even five-digit prices. But cheaper solutions exsist.
The Tangent Spectrum X4 belongs to a rare – and possibly extinct – breed: cheap passive speakers. Speakers in the very cheap price range today are most often active and wireless. And many people acquire their first sound system without ever knowing that there are speakers that need to be connected to an amplifier to work. Or without knowing the very concept of an amplifier. The Spectrux X4 speakers can also be purchased as a package with a wireless stereo amplifier that costs the same as the speakers.
Tangent Spectrum X4 is interior design friendly in several ways. They measure a good 14 cm in width and double that in height. The cabinet has rounded edges and a silk matt lacquer in black or white. A base plate in walnut veneer gives an appropriate bit of personality. It’s actually really nice.
The two speaker units, which are a 4-inch midwoofer and a 1-inch dome tweeter, are hidden behind protective metal grilles in the same color as the case. At the back you will find a bass reflex port and a pair of sensible screw/banana terminals.
Deserves a good location
Due to the size and the beginner-friendly price, the Tangent Spectrum X4 will probably often be placed on a cupboard or squeezed onto a bookshelf. It’s all right (everything’s fine when you buy the speakers – they’re yours!), But if you give them the place of honor on a pair of stands with some distance to the back wall and corners and angled towards the listening position, they demonstrate surprising qualities.
The Tangent Spectrum X4 has a max load of 80 watts, and it is recommended to use amplifiers between 20 and 100 watts.
Here it is worth coming up with a piece of consumer information: Power statements must always be taken with every conceivable caveat. One can easily destroy a 100 watt speaker with a 20 watt amplifier as it is the distorted signals that cause the drivers to burn. And you can safely use an amplifier that is “too powerful” – as long as it sounds good.
The weakest link
In addition to Tangent’s own amplifier, we tried to connect the amplifier set NAD C658/C298 to the small Tangent speakers. This is crazy, of course, since no one will ever pair the small, cheap speakers with an amplifier costing almost twenty times the price. But placing the speakers in a chain where they are certainly the weakest link is nonetheless a good way to find out what they are maximally capable of.
The NAD C298 provides 180 extremely steady watts and has a torgue like a Landrover. Used in the wrong way, it could turn the Spectrum X4 into ashes, but used with care, it reveals the small, cheap speakers as being quite neutral and fairly accurate. Within their limits.
The sound quality
The Tangent Spectrum X4 has a pleasant and fairly neutral sound, where no tonal ranges are particularly highlighted or overlooked. The cabinet size and the small 4-inch woofer set limits for the deep bass, but the bass reproduction is fine for an ultra-compact passive speaker that does not have a DSP to help it out.
According to the manufacturer, the speakers go down to 65 Hz. This sounds likely, and there is full level all the way down. That kind of performance has its costs in terms of efficiency. The spech sheet does not indicate the sensitivity of the speaker, but it is low.
The midrange range is reproduced really nicely. Voices retain their individual character. It testifies to low distortion. The same goes for an amazingly good depth perspective. The stereo image is not as high and wide as on more expensive speakers, but the experience that there is a space behind the speakers is present. And it’s classes better than the price tag should justify. You can place the choir singers in Philip Glass’ “Koyaanisqatsi” quite comfortably.
The treble is also present, and there is nothing that one can reasonably criticize. There may be a slight bit of hardness around 2-4 kHz on some recordings, but not enough to make listeing uncomfortable. And considering the price, this is entirely irrelevant.
All in all, the Tangent Spectrum X4 performs exemplary at muted volume. Where the limitations appear is when turning up the volume. Then the clarity in the midrange disappears and the overview is lost. My favorite stress test right now is Disturbed’s cover version of “The Sound of Silence”. The track should preferably be played loud, and when we get past the introduction and the orchestra backing kicks in, it starts to go wrong. This is not something you can blame Tangent for. The speakers just obey the laws of physics!
As passive speakers in this price range are a rarity, we look in vain for direct competitors to compare with. One of the closest bids is the Argon Audio Forte A4, which costs twice as much, but in return is active and wireless. If you already have a suitable amplifier, the Spectrum X4 is hard to beat.
With a set price equivalent to a single handheld Bluetooth speaker, expectations are set low. And they are far surpassed! Tangent Spectrum X4 is a really well-made little speaker following a classic recipe. If you treat them kindly, they will respond with a sound image that is real hi-fi.
Loud music in large rooms is not their favorite, so do not try that. But for desktop hi-fi, they will be perfect with a compact amplifier with wireless connection – like Tangent’s own. They will also be fine when the old amplifier is to be used in the extra stereo in the hobby room or youth room.