Tangent Audio Elio

Although stats suggest CD is in decline as streaming and downloads continue to dominate, if like us you still have a collection of discs – and a fondness for FM radio – the retro design and features of Tangent’s compact Elio integrated music system could earn it a spot on a shelf or table in a room where space is a bit tight.

The chunky dials, sharp edges and metallic grille look straight out of the fifties, although the technology inside is significantly more up to date. The compact system includes two 76mm speaker drivers, mounted on either side of the slot-loading CD player, along with a matching pair of bass ports around the back. The CD player is complemented by FM, DAB and DAB+ radio, and the Elio includes Bluetooth streaming for mobile devices and wi-fi connectivity for a selection of internet radio stations and Spotify support. There’s a USB port for playing music stored on a memory stick or hard drive, and the Elio supports the UPnP standard that will allow it to connect to a network media player. A pair of 3.5mm connectors provide analogue input and output, while a bright 3.5in screen and remote control allow you to select different sources, or settings such as the various EQ presets.

Many people will appreciate a system that combines a compact design with modern digital features, but the presentation of features is a little awkward at times. The CD player in particular seems to resent any form of competition and pauses as soon as you press the Menu button on the remote control, even if you simply want to browse through the device’s various settings while listening. And while Tangent’s manual lists the various online features that are available, you’ll search in vain for an explanation of how to easily connect the Elio to your wi-fi network and tapping in the wi-fi password via the buttons on the remote control is a little bit too retro for my taste.

Sound quality
The housed speaker drivers may be described as full-range, but they’re most comfortable in the midrange, and work best with less densely arranged music. Streamed from Tidal, Max Richter’s The Waves has an almost brittle clarity to it, as the electronic chimes drift through the air, while the rich tones of the slowly building strings hint at the drama to come. It’s a little more powerful than I’d expect from the quoted 40W output and can certainly fill a bedroom or other small room with music.

That sound has its limitations, though, and as I switch to CD, the Elio can’t do full justice to the prog-rock onslaught of Knights Of Cydonia by Muse. The galloping horseback charge of the percussion feels a little reined in, struggling to find room for the sharp crash of cymbals that sets the pace. The higher frequencies lack distinction too, with the mariachi horns and Queen-influenced harmonies getting a little drowned out amid the Muse wall of sound. The other end of the spectrum suffers a little as well, despite the large bass ports. The bouncing bass of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy feels a little too laid back for its own good, lacking the sheer hip-swaying rhythm that the song offers, and the Elio struggles to embrace the slow, deep bass pulse at the end.

One pleasant surprise, though, is the Bluetooth option, which manages to avoid the muffled effect that so often mars Bluetooth audio, and the Elio will make a good companion for a smartphone or tablet if you just want to quickly stream music from Spotify or online radio services.

The Elio’s combination of CD, radio and streaming features does offer good value for money if you need a second music system for other rooms. The device’s controls can be a little clumsy at times, but its workmanlike sound quality and ability to quickly switch between online and offline audio sources makes it a good option for people that still like to listen to their music on CD or radio, while also being able to dabble with streaming. CJ    

Product: Tangent Audio Elio
Price: £400
Origin: Denmark/China
Type: Music system
Weight: 6.5kg
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 430 x 140 x 280mm

● Quoted power output: 2x 20W
● Inputs: CD, FM, DAB/DAB+, Spotify Connect, internet radio-compatible
● Bluetooth; wi-fi

Read the full review in February 2020 issue 459

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