Electrocompaniet Tana SL2 & L2 Wireless Speakers Review
For this review I am working with Elite Audio UK who are the UK distributor and exclusive retailer for Electrocompaniet products please contact them for more details.
Is this the future of mainstream HiFi?
The Electrocompaniet Tana SL2 is a wireless all in one music streaming, dac, amplifier and mono speaker and the L2 is designed to work with the SL2 essentially to create a wireless stereo pair of active speakers however they are sold separately so I feel its right to look at the SL2 as a stand alone product and then look at what extra you get when you add the L2.
The SL2 is Electrompaniet second generation of the Tana speaker system hence the name and looking at the spec sheet alone its difficult to tell the mk2 from the mk1, however digging a little deeper the important differences are what you cant see such as it’s a brand new speaker design, with an improved stiffness metal enclosure, with a new high end amplifier, more streaming services options including Roon ready certification, and its all controlled via Electrocompaniet EC Play app that is available on both IOS and Android.
While we are talking about streaming services the SL2 received a firmware update during the review period to extend this further and there is now support for Tidal Connect which joins a fairly comprehensive list of streaming service options that will cover most bases. These include Airplay, Spotify, Spotify Connect, Tidal Qobuz.
Some users may wish other services were supported such Amazon music HD for example however I think users may still be able to use others services by means of a third party control app that supports UPNP playback, I didn’t test this though to know 100% for sure. But I was very happy the SL2 supported UPNP Playback because I have a playlist saved in the Bubble UPNP app that I could still access and play.
I think Electrocompaniet have done a good job with the design of the SL2 they have created a product that has nice domestic friendly styling and that is definitely not obviously a speaker. I like and the rounded edges as it helps soften the main rectangular shape. Size wise the SL2 is 250mm tall x 180mm wide and 180 mm deep so smaller than a KEF LS50, easy to place in pretty random places such as shelves.
On top there are some touch controls that glow and some indicator LEDs hidden into the gloss black surface that are difficult to see. At the rear there is a power connection, yes it’s a wireless speaker for signal but you still need to power it from the mains. There are some wire based connections too SPDIF coaxial and Toslink optical so you could connect a CD player or maybe even your television. There is a USB connection if you have music stored on a USB thumb drive you can insert it and play the music straight off of it. There is also the option to connect to your network via a cabled connection, but I have a feeling the lions share of owners will use the SL2 wirelessly either from their home network or via a Bluetooth connection straight from a phone or tablet.
Price wise the Tana SL2 costs £1439 so that is a fair chunk of money for a product of this type, the SL2 is definitely one of the more expensive options, but its less expensive than a Naim Muso wood edition so its not the most expensive.
There is a very interesting difference in the design approach between the Naim Muso and the Tana SL2 – the Muso is trying to create stereo sound from a single speaker a bit like how a lot of sound bars try and do it by having a Left and Right array of speakers, this does make sense, however generally speakers create a better stereo image when they are separated by a reasonable distance.
The Tana SL2 is more of a traditional speaker design, it has a front facing tweeter and mid bass driver and two passive radiator drivers one on each side to help the small speaker produce better bass. Do remember there are speaker drivers behind the soft fabric when you pick up and move the SL2 around, hold it from the bottom.
These drivers are being powered from a 150w Class A/B amplifier and we have to think Electrompaniet are famous in the high end HiFi world for their amplifiers so you can be confident the amplifier in the SL2 and L2 for that matter is a good one. But the SL2 is a mono speaker and that is something I think to be mindful of because that is different to the Muso and most sound bars and some other products like this and that is where and why the L2 is an important product to consider.
EC Play is Easy Play
The main control of the SL2 is all done within the Electropaniet EC Play app which is free and the SL2 is a very straight forward product to setup with the process made easier if initially you connect the SL2 to your router via a network cable, you can then use the EC Play app to set up the wireless connection as per normal to the SL2 and your good forever.
The rest of the EC Play app is pretty straight forward to use and navigate and there are not too many options or preferences to worry about. Updating the firmware is easy enough as is connecting Bluetooth and choosing which streaming services you want to use is all simple. You may want to enable gapless playback and make a few sound adjustments increasing or decreasing the bass and brightness controls all done in the speaker & outputs menu.
Similar to the firmware Electrocompaniet released a an update for EC Play too during my review period which added better access to Tidal Connect and made a few other changes such as adding more languages and adding landscape mode for tablet use. I like the EC Play app as its just simple and easy to use and it was reliable, I found it easy to get into the streaming services I wanted and most importantly get music playing. You can adjust the volume of the SL2 either with the volume slider in the app or using volume the buttons on the side of your phone.
Tidal Connect similar to Spotify Connect means its possible to select the SL2 as the music output in the Tidal and Spotify apps and control everything from there which is not really that much different to accessing the apps from within EC Play but it might make it easier for you if you are more used to using Spotify or Tidal’s own interfaces. From my testing it all just worked as you would expect it to.
Lots of Clean Power
But what does the Tana SL2 sound like and here is the thing there is only so good a mono speaker will ever sound playing stereo music so if you follow the instructions and put the SL2 right in front of you and sit and listen to it similar to how you listen to normal stereo HiFi speakers you will notice it has some positive stand out qualities such as a lot of clean power but its still a mono speaker and still sounds sounds like a mono speaker.
I think more than likely most users of the SL2 will have one in the kitchen or the conservatory or the study and they will play music out into the room rather than sitting and listening to it face on and in that instance you do appreciate firstly the SL2 will play loud and stay clean but as it has a lot power the sound easily travels out into the room without a loss of clarity which is great if you have a large room. Its also a clean sounding speaker so as you turn it up its composure remains good it doesn’t start to yell at you like the cheap equivalents do, I am thinking Amazon Echo and others. This is important because products like your Amazon Echo are fun but after a while of listening to music on one your about ready to throw it out of the window. Music listening enjoyment comes from being able to listen to lots of music for a long period of time without any fatigue and that is big part of why you would pay more for a product like the SL2, its for a better listening experience.
But its also a speaker, the same as all speakers so its sound will be dictated by where you place it – put it near a corner of the room and you will get more bass than if you put it right in the middle of the room. You can adjust the sound some in the app to help you find a nice balanced sound you enjoy, such as raising bass and treble if you listen at lower volumes can be a good way to improve dynamics as our ears are less sensitive at lower volumes.
Adding the Tana L2
Being honest its when you add the L2 to the SL2 that things really start to get interesting for sound quality. The L2 looks like a mirror image of the SL2 in fact spot the difference – can you tell which is which? You connect the L2 to the SL2 wirelessly in the EC Control app and you assign which speaker is left and which is right for your stereo pair. Both speakers need their own power but from there they sync to each other wirelessly and I didn’t have one issue with this wireless connection for the whole review period not for connection or sound quality. You do have two options for this speaker to speaker wireless link that can be a little confusing. You have short range which is a 96khz link or long range which is a 48khz link. I used the short range without any issues but if you have any connections issues between the speakers the long range should fix that as it finds the best connection frequency and your best to leave the speakers for a minute or so after making the change between long and short range so it can do the searching and get setup again.
As I mentioned before the SL2 and L2 are sold separately so the L2 will cost you an additional £1199 and that makes a total system cost of £2638 so again this is again a fair chunk of money and again costs more than some competitors products like the KEF LS50 Wireless II. But again these don’t look like speakers, the KEF very much do.
I started listening to the SL2 and the L2 pairing on my desk and I was quite shocked by the sound quality from them in terms of the quality of the stereo image they were creating. They presented music with a solid centre focal point and then very nice clarity and composure across the sound stage that was extending its detail in some music right out to the sides of me like how very good hifi speakers do creating a fantastic sense of dimension to music. Bass was decent too even being sat on a desk and their compact form factor meant they were very unobtrusive, neat and tidy. I can say they work very well used for desktop speakers and it was a good start but playing music good in my office is a very different proposition to doing it in main review listening room which has been torturous on many smaller speakers over the years. So much so I was reluctant to try it but I did anyway and I am glad I did because again to my surprise the SL2 / L2 did a great job of creating a reasonably large overall sound stage with great clarity, but this time pretty good bass to my genuine surprise. Its important to remember here that these are active speakers so they have the same benefits of all active speakers such as better crossovers, the amplifier being close to and perfectly matched to the speakers drivers and some others. Overall it’s a nicely balanced sound these speakers create that you can manipulate in the app to taste. I preferred a bass and a treble lift but I am a bit of a music heathen 😊
That is where I want to finish this review, I feel like the concept of the Electrocompaniet Tana SL2 and L2 the wireless all in one speaker system represents the future of hifi in the main stream. Obviously there will always be die hard Audiophiles like me that want to go further but for normal people I think the idea of having a very discrete, high quality and nice sounding music system that can play loud for when the mood takes them has real appeal, especially one you can enjoy listening to rather it wanting to rip your ears off. The SL2 / L2 pairing I think would work great as a substitute to a sound bar too but I do think not having an ARC based HDMI connection is a shame as that would give them have more appeal to more people for this use, you can still use an optical digital connection from your TV of course and the SL2 can be set to auto change to the input that is feeding the signal so it does cover this use case.
I can see the SL2 having real appeal to existing Electrocomponiet HiFi component users that want an extension of their music experience into other rooms, especially if they are used to the EC Play App. Another thing I think has maybe been missed is you cant use the SL2 and L2 to play the same music in mono, well not that I could seem to get to work so if you wanted individual speakers in more rooms you would need to pay the extra for an SL2 for each room.
I do think some people may struggle with the price of the Tana speakers either individually or as a pair and it also feels strange they are not sold as a pair. I appreciate quality costs money but costing more than the KEF LS50 Wireless II and over double what the KEF LSX cost I can see these being preferred options for bang for buck.
I think that premise of systems like the Tana SL2 / L2 being able to remove the shackles of the typical looking speaker and the hifi rack and the cabling and all the other boxes means the user is more free to do what they want with the room and place the wireless speakers where it best suits the room for decor and that will be the the real appeal of the Tana system, they are transparent speakers, you dont know they are speakers. But do remember they are speakers at the end of the day and if you want the best sound from them placement is important.
For the full Specification of the Elecrocompaniet Tana SL2 and L2
See the website here