Tangent SPL1 Review

My Story

Since having the opportunity to experience the legendary LS3/5A I was quite curious if there were any other speakers of a similar size from that period that present similar sound quality but at a much more affordable price. I found a set of these Tangent SPL1 on eBay and decided to give the ma go.
Please note – usually before reviewing vintage speakers, I recap the crossovers to ensure that capacitors are within manufacturer’s specification. On this occasion, caps were within specs, so there was no need for a recap.

Speaker Info

SPL1 speakers were designed in 1970s by a small but well regard British company called Tangent Acoustics. To my knowledge these were the smallest speakers in their range. Tangent Acoustics were mostly known for their loudspeakers, but they also produced electronics. The ceased to exist in the 80s and nowadays their speakers are quite sought-after by vintage HiFi collectors.
If you have any more information about Tangent or their speakers, please email me as I would like to provide ore information in this section.
 
 

Tangent SPL1 Specs
Frequency Response: Unknown
Sensitivity: 88dB (1W input, measured at 1m)
Impedance: 6Ω (4Ω min.)
Recommended Amplifier: up to 100W
High Frequency Driver: Audax HD100D25 32mm (1.25″) Fabric Dome
Low Frequency Driver: Audax HIF11ESM 90mm (3.5″) Paper Cone
Crossover Frequencies: Unknown
Enclosure Type: Closed
Enclosure Dimensions (HxWxD): 180x280x200mm (7x11x8″)
Weight: Unknown
Production Year: 1970s
Price When Launched: £59
Equivalent Present Day Price: £450
Current UK Price: £100 to £200 for a pair

 

Look & Feel of Tangent SPL1 Speakers

There is something nice about the look of small bookshelf speakers and these Tangent SPL1 do not disappoint in this area. These are one of the smallest bookshelf speakers I had in my listening room – even smaller than Chartwell LS3/5As or Harbeth P3ESRs. The enclosures are made of chipboard and finished in varnished real wood veneer. The front baffle is slightly reassessed and finished in black, giving the speakers classic vintage look. They do not feature any internal bracing but considering their miniature size, I don’t think this would provide any tangible benefits. The woofers feature pressed steel baskets and diaphragms made of impregnated paper and suspended on foam surrounds. These surrounds tend to deteriorate with age, so if you purchase a set of these, you will most likely need to replete the surrounds. The tweeters are of a good quality and feature silk domes and ferrite magnets. Both drivers are made by French manufacturer Audax and are fixed to the front baffle without any recesses. They are covered by thin grilles attached to the front baffle using Velcros. Tangent logos are really nice – made of 3mm thick brass plate with the Tangent writing etched into them and filled with black paint. The crossover is a rather simple design, especially in comparison to speakers like LS3/5A. Overall, Tangent SPL1 offer very decent finish for a budget speaker.

Sound of Tangent SPL1 Loudspeakers

The first thing that comes to mind when I play these Tangent SPL1 speakers is laptop speakers. Kind of a tiny sound with heavily missing bottom end. This feeling fades a little once your ears adjust to the new sound balance, however, it never completely disappears. Due to the physical limitations these are just not full range speakers. This is especially noticeable with bass guitars. Tracks like Those Sweet Words by Norah Jones sound OK but leave you constantly feeling that something is missing at the bottom end. This improves a little when you turn the volume up but never completely goes away. The speakers produce surprisingly good kick considering their tiny size. Nonetheless, I cannot see anyone enjoying reggae on these little Tangent SPL1 speakers, unless it is Redemption Song by Bob Marley…
The midrange and treble are OK but nothing to write home about. Voices sound attractive to start with but not the most natural – the ‘ts’ sibilants are quite noticeable and after a while become tiresome. The imaging and illusion of soundstage depth is better than expected. The speakers sound airy – but that is due to lack of balance rather than refinement. The clapping sound surprisingly realistic and believable, but with most of instruments and voices you are very aware that you are listening to the speakers. As a result – Tangent SPL1 are not very engaging to listen.

 
 

Conclusion

Tangent SPL1 speakers are rather underwhelming – they lack overall balance and sound refinement. Definitely not full range speakers. They have a bit of kick considering the microscopic cabinet size and they image pretty well. Great collectors’ items but if you are after decent sound, I would recommend getting the Audiomaster MLS1 which sound noticeably better and cost a little less.

Balance of Sound: 1.5 grey stars
Neutrality of Tone: 2 grey stars
Transparency: 3 grey stars
Soundstage: 3.5 grey stars
Attack: 2.5 grey stars
Engagement: 1 grey star
Total Score: 2.5 red stars