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Testing Ground

Electrocompaniet Tana SL-2 + L-2: Wireless Speakers with Incomparable Charm

By Alban Amouroux |

The Norwegian company Electrocompaniet has been a presence in the world of high-fidelity for over forty years. It mainly develops and markets such electronics as amplifiers, DAC, CD and network players, etc. Electrocompaniet has been active for several years in the field of wireless audio through its EC Living range. The Tana SL-2 represents the second generation of the compact speaker ideally working in tandem with the Tana L-2 slave unit.

Electrocompaniet earned its laurels in the professional world with its first valve amplifier. This amplifier wowed the sound engineer in the very studio where Michael Jackson's greatest hits were recorded. Other products soon followed, recognisable by their glossy fronts and gold-finished knobs. Electrocompaniet considers it a point of honour to make its entire catalogue in-house, in Norway, in sleek, ultra-modern, laboratory-like manufacturing plants

The EC Living series includes the essential components to construct a wireless system for one or more rooms in the home. The Tana SL-2 is the main wireless speaker. It works alone as a mono speaker or in combination with the Tana L-2 for stereo sound. The Sira L-1 subwoofer completes the line-up. If you prefer to use your own amplifier or speakers, you can opt for the Rena S-1 Streamer and the Rena SA-1 connected amplifier. The aesthetics are consistent between all these products, with different colours to choose from, except for the SL-2 and L-2, which are available at present only in black fabric with a silver base.

Details

● Price : 1,690 € (SL-2), 1,490 € (L-2)
● Speakers: 1x tweeter, 1x woofer, 2x passive radiators
● Power : 1x150 watts
● DAC : 192 kHz/24 bits, DSD128
● Connectivity : Ethernet, wi-fi, Bluetooth (4.2), 1x optical digital input, 1x coaxial digital input, 1x USB port, UPnP/DLNA, AirPlay, Roon Ready, integrated Qobuz Hi-Res
● Dimensions : 180 x 250 x 180 mm
● Weight : 7kg each unit

Overall Appearance of the Tana SL-2 and L-2

The overall aesthetic of the SL-2 displays a certain class. The loudspeaker's base is made of an imitation striated aluminium, something we are not used to seeing on this type of wireless product. It is in fact plastic imitating metal. This base displays the Electrocompaniet logo.

Above it, the speaker is surrounded by black acoustic fabric to protect the different speakers. The top surface is glossy black plastic with integrated touch controls and LED status indicators.

The SL-2 is a twin channel speaker with a tweeter mounted above the woofer. Compared to the previous version, the SL-1, the new SL-2 has replaced the bass reflex port with two passive radiators. They contribute to a stronger low frequency response. These radiators are mounted back to back on the side panels.

The amplification produces 150 watts for the two speakers. Electrocompaniet has preferred to stay in the A/B class, contrary to a good many other speakers which have gone over to D class. Devices in class A/B generate more heat and require more substantial components. This explains the openings found under the speaker through which the radiators breathe and help to dissipate the heat.

The SL-2 can be used on its own if you wish. But if you have enough room, you can combine it with the optional L-2 slave speaker to create a pair of stereo speakers. Although they are identical externally, the L-2 has no connections and is unable to operate without an SL-2 to drive it. Only the SL-2 has any inputs: two optical/coaxial digital sockets and a USB port. The latter can be used to read the contents of a USB key or a portable hard disk.

In regards to networking, EC Living products work through a proprietary audio protocol. They enjoy alternative control options through AirPlay, UPnP and Roon. AirPlay 2 will be available in a future update. There is also the option of pairing with a smartphone using Bluetooth.

Operating the Tana SL-2 and L-2

When the speakers are turned off, the ‘power’ logo on top of both speakers lights up in red. It is also a touch sensitive control for turning the system on and off. When turned on, the + and - volume buttons appear. Then they go out completely. Just bringing your hand close to the touch controls will light them up again.

Electrocompaniet has chosen not to equip the EC Living with an infrared remote control. The use of a mobile phone app thus becomes necessary. First you have to download the EC Remote app, which allows you to configure the SL-2 on your network. It immediately detects the presence of a Tana speaker. After selecting the app's language, it is then possible to rename the speaker. Then, if the L-2 slave speaker is plugged in, the app automatically associates it with the SL-2 without further user intervention. The next step is to designate which speaker is to be on the right or left. Music is played through each speaker to help you.

The set up procedure is not complete until you have selected a shared music folder on your network, or entered the login information for a streaming service. Qobuz is natively integrated in this Electrocompaniet. Once everything is configured, the speakers are ready to play music for you.

However, downloading the EC Play app is recommended. This second app is dedicated to playback. It is more practical and more aesthetic than the EC Remote app. Its most important feature is the invaluable horizontal menu bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to navigate between the main functions: favourites, navigation, search and physical entries.

Qobuz is totally integrated for navigation in the various categories: selection, best sellers, the most listened to, new additions... You will easily find your own purchases, your playlists and your favorites. These are all accessible directly from the menu bar. The ‘View’ icon gives access to the music library, i.e. a previously selected shared folder, as well as to web-based radio.

During playback, the application displays full information on the quality of the music being played. Cover, artist, title and album are all displayed. However, it is not possible to directly access other tracks from the same album or of the artist in general. Neither is there any additional information nor the option to directly modify a Qobuz playlist.

Listening

The speakers are on permanent standby, waiting for you to select your music from the EC Play mobile app. We started with the Newvelle Blue compilation which offers a wide variety of interpretations mainly in the world of jazz. First impression: we are dealing with a real pair of Hi-Fi speakers, no doubt about it. The music seems both powerful and natural. The sound stage stretches widely between the two speakers with a lot of material in the centre. The instruments are placed about this space in a spontaneous way, free from any magnifying effect that would seem artificial.

The orchestra conducted by Hans Zimmer for the soundtrack of the latest James Bond film No Time To Die once more occupies the entire wall in front of us. The music shows excellent cohesion, with a wonderful presence. Everything these small SL-2 speakers deliver is harmonious. The dynamics are respected during the different passages, with a low bass in the background but whose timbres, nuance and depth bring us closer to a certain form of truth. These speakers never try to deceive the ear.

We turned next to the Doobie Brothers’ rock with country accents on their latest album Liberté. We enjoyed the consistent harmony between the voice and the instrumentalists. Everything is made fresh, without seeking an overly analytical interpretation. On the contrary, and without any aggressiveness, the guitars sound exceptionally good, supported by the bass drum which never runs out of steam. The voices are clear in the higher register, well above a virtual line drawn between the two tweeters.

At a sustained level, that is to say at half volume, the SL-2s give the best of themselves on the electropop of Catastrophe's album Gong! Plus. This leads us to envisage these speakers in medium-sized rooms. There is a certain sharpness in the female voice, not really unpleasant because it reinforces the grittiness contributing to the realism of the whole. The in-depth micro-sound is never masked, which makes it possible to accurately assess the recording location and the reverberation effects applied.

Pros :
Natural Musicality
Presence of the Voices
Chic Aesthetics
Easy to Use
UPnP, AirPlay, Roon Compatibility

Cons :
Limited Functions of the EC Play App
High Price

Conclusion

These connected speakers are remarkable. Not just because of their chic, unostentatious design, which places them closer to Hi-Fi than many of the competition's wireless speakers. The EC Living Tana SL-2 is a superb little speaker with a presence and vibrancy that we rarely come across in this sector. The result is very close to a traditional set up with a separate amplifier and bookshelf speakers. There is the matter of their price, which does not make them accessible to all budgets. Their sound signature leans towards cohesion and warmth, with the different voices always well in evidence. They manage to project the sound without being aggressive, a significant achievement. The mobile app could be more accomplished in terms of Qobuz integration but the essentials are all there to enjoy your Hi-Res subscription. Capable of achieving high sound levels without distortion, these compact speakers won't be overwhelmed in an appropriately sized room. Should the lower register be found lacking, a subwoofer is available as an option. In summary, the SL-2 speakers are so musically adept that they quickly become addictive.