This week we tested the Electrocompaniet Tana SL-1 speaker along with the optional model, the Electrocompaniet Tana L-1, which allows for wireless stereo listening. Is Electrocompaniet wise to jump on the streaming bandwagon? Traditionally, the Norwegian brand manufactures very high-end electronics with enough power to make the competition shiver. With the Electrocompaniet Tana SL-1 and L-1, the brand is stepping into new territory already occupied by serious competitors such as Naim, B&W and Klipsch, to name only a few of the leading specialists in acoustic loudspeaker design.
At first glance, the Electrocompaniet SL-1 doesn’t seem all that impressive, even if its top panel is made of glass and the metal-plated band at its base adds a nice touch. While this charming compact speaker doesn’t seem much different from any other, once we picked it up we were surprised by its weight. A real heavyweight. A good sign?
Electrocompaniet SL-1 and L-1: only two drivers?
While competing brands are busy fitting five drivers into their speakers, Electrocompaniet has decided to go with a simpler configuration composed of only two drivers. There’s nothing wrong with that, as the most important step toward perfecting a speaker is largely–and fundamentally– ensuring that the drivers work well together and are equipped with optimized enclosures and filters. Often, adding drivers is an effective marketing strategy, and bringing together five drivers admittedly takes a certain amount of expertise. On the other hand, there are plenty of perfectly outstanding two-way speakers for hi-fi sound. Electrocompaniet has equipped its SL-1 (and L-1) speakers with a Class A/B two-way amplifier providing up to 150 Watts (lows and highs together). To name just a few of the qualities associated with Class A/B amplifiers as compared to the more energy-efficient Class D amplifiers, let us mention exceptionally well-rounded restitution and excellent timbres (in most cases).
The low-medium driver is fitted with a carbon fiber cone (1.25”) and the tweeter is a soft dome model (2 cm). The speaker’s bass-reflex enclosure features a resonator placed alongside the tweeter. Electrocompaniet hasn’t made this speaker’s frequency response public. However, based on the drivers’ characteristics and the speaker’s size, we can roughly presume that its frequency response extends from 70Hz to 20kHz.
Electrocompaniet SL-1 and L-1: potential sources
The Electrocompaniet SL-1 features S/PDIF inputs (optical, coaxial) which may be connected to an HDTV display, an optical or multimedia player, or any other source equipped with a digital output. Audio stream up to 24 bits/192kHz is handled. A USB type A connector enables the playback of files stored on USB sticks and hard drives. FLAC, ALAC, AAC, APE, WAV and DSD files are also handled. Thanks to its Ethernet and WiFi network controllers, the speaker can access files shared on the local network (DLNA or Samba servers), as well as online radios and several different music streaming services: Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal. Access to these services, along with direct listening via AirPlay or DLNA (in peripheral rendering device mode), requires the use of a smartphone or tablet (Apple for AirPlay) and the EC Remote app for iOS and Android. In the absence of such a device, the speaker’s server, along with its various parameters, may be accessed via a basic web browser.
Electrocompaniet SL-1 and L-1: test conditions and practical applications
We first used the SL-1 speaker by itself before pairing it up with the L-1. To connect the Electrocompaniet SL-1 to the local WiFi network, the EC Remote mobile app, and thus a smartphone or tablet, is necessary. When powered on for the first time, the speaker’s WiFi access point mode is activated and a smartphone must be used to establish the connection. The EC Remote app will guide the user in transmitting the WiFi connection settings to the speaker. Once the speaker is named, the listening experience may begin. Pairing with the L-1 is also carried out with the mobile app which simply prompts the user to select the speaker’s position: left or right.
The app’s interface is user-friendly and the only drawback we found is that it didn’t grant access to the audio files stored on our smartphone’s internal memory. The app could only play files stored on a USB stick (connected to the speaker) or local server (DLNA, Samba). Its search function for online radio stations is standard. On the other hand, direct playback for audio files stored on a smartphone was enabled in DLNA DMR mode. Any music player app compatible with DLNA devices can thus choose the Electrocompaniet SL-1 speaker as its preferred device for audio streaming. Adding an L-1 speaker to the system creates a stereo listening environment.
Electrocompaniet SL-1 and L-1: listening impressions
SL-1 alone: This small speaker produces a very smooth sound, and while lows are limited to the upper bass register, this never becomes frustrating, largely thanks to good timing and a robust, well-rounded approach to sound restitution. The wideness of the low end of the sound spectrum may be quite limited, but its roundness serves to showcase human voices by making them stand out from a stream of accompanying sound. The mids are superbly well combined with the lows, without any disruptive drops in the low-mids. The highs are very discreet without being dry. Rather logically, the sound stage offers several layers for added depth. This type of sound signature, neutral and deceivingly simple, is easy to appreciate when listening to tracks which have been skillfully recorded. From one song to another, the colors of the recording are enhanced. The dynamic range didn’t sweep us away, but the listening experience was undeniably rich in micro-details.
SL-1 and L-1 : In stereo mode, the interaction between the two speakers (and our listening room) slightly lowered the amount of bass. This wasn’t a problem, however, as the overall balance is preserved and, above all, the sound stage is widened. The benefits thus outweigh the drawbacks. Voices are more authentic–very warm and communicative. Together, the speakers allow for hours of fatigue-free listening. Meanwhile, wireless communication between the speakers is latency-free. Everything is perfect.
Electrocompaniet SL-1 and L-1: conclusions
In direct competition with the Naim mu-so, the Electrocompaniet SL-1 speaker hedges its bets on simplicity when it comes to its design and sonic performance. Softer and more serene than its competitor, it seems to have all it takes to interest fans of acoustic music (classic, jazz, etc.) as well as radio aficiandos (voices are remarkable). The Electrocompaniet’s high-quality restitution almost makes the listener forget that the speaker is also ultra-functional. This wireless speaker has been built to please. Lastly, let us add that Electrocompaniet should be presenting audio players and amplifiers with streaming functions at the beginning of 2017 as part of its EC Living range, and compatibility with the Electrocompaniet L-1 is ensured. A multichannel configuration has thus been anticipated, with a wireless woofer as part of the setup. Promising.This post is also available in: French