This "hi-fi starter system" from Danish manufacturer Tangent includes the Ampster BT mini Bluetooth amplifier and the Spectrum X4 passive speakers. Due to its compact size and built-in Bluetooth streaming, Ampster is targeted at students who want a space-saving audio solution for their room – but to be honest, it’s ideal for any music lover who wants high-quality sound without the clutter of a full-sized system.
The Ampster BT and Spectrum X4 are sold separately, allowing you to choose your own speakers if you wish, but this system provides everything you need in one fell swoop.
The Ampster X4’s £300 asking price seems remarkably low for such an attractive and luxuriously built system, but I’m not complaining. The main Ampster BT unit – which sells for £150 on its own – has the air of a high-end product, with its heavy aluminium bodywork and thick faceplate peppered with industrial-looking screws. It might not be the most elegant amp ever made, but its build quality is outstanding.
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It’s a compact black box measuring 190mm wide by 52mm high, making it perfect for placing on a cramped desktop or shelf. On the minimal front panel you’ll find a large volume dial that turns notch-by-notch, rather than in one smooth motion. Press the dial and the unit toggles through the various inputs, indicated by a row of clearly labelled LEDs on the fascia. They light up blue when activated or red in standby.
On the back you’ll find an optical digital input, which is useful for hooking up a TV; analogue RCA input for CD decks or record players; a 3.5mm mini-jack input and a subwoofer output. Two pairs of gold-plated, banana plug-compatible binding posts are provided for hooking up speaker cables.
The £170 Spectrum X4 is a dashing bookshelf speaker with a distinctively Danish design. Build quality is ludicrously good for the money – the smooth, seamless cabinets are coated in a gorgeous Polar White matte finish and sit on sturdy walnut base plinths. The rounded edges and concaved tweeters give them a cool, contemporary look. They’re also available in a Midnight Black finish. Optional wall and ceiling mounting brackets are available.
On the front, the tweeter and bass reflex woofer are covered by circular, white aluminium grilles, with a classy Tangent logo sandwiched between them. On the rear are more gold-plated banana plug binding posts for your speaker cables, and a bass reflex port at the top.
The Ampster BT’s star attraction is Bluetooth 4.0 streaming, which provides an easy, convenient way of playing music from smartphones and other mobile devices. The days of students carting their CD collections around with them are long gone.
Power output is rated as 2 x 50W, ideal for the Spectrum X4’s 100W power-handling capabilities. The speakers employ 1-inch soft-fabric dome tweeters and 4-inch long-throw paper bass drivers.
It might not be overburdened with features, but the real beauty of the Ampster BT is its quick setup and hassle-free operation. It comes with a slim, ergonomic remote that sports responsive rubber keys. Build quality is a little plasticky, but the simple layout provides an intuitive interface for the system.
Each input gets its own button and the volume, track skip and mute keys are helpfully clustered in the middle.
Bluetooth pairing is painless. Once you’ve selected the Bluetooth input, Ampster immediately appears in your player’s list of speakers. Leave the Ampster idle for a while and it goes into standby, but wakes up when you start playing a track.
After spending some time in the Ampster’s company, I soon fell in love with its powerful, punchy and tonally balanced sound. It’s a remarkable performer for the money, with plenty of grunt under the bonnet and a smooth, refined manner that makes it easy to enjoy for long periods.
Once you’ve toed-in the speakers a little, the system constructs an immersive and well-organised soundstage. I played "Red Eye" by King and it wrapped me in a cocoon of warm, dreamy synths and reverb-heavy percussion.
The speakers make sense of the dense soundscape, unpicking individual sounds and giving them room to circulate. The soul trio’s wispy, luscious vocals drift clearly between the left and right channels, laced with a breathy top-end texture.
Give it something more upbeat to play with such as "So Real Surreal" by Carl Hudson and Ampster’s lively, upfront presentation is an absolute joy. Punchy drums, sparkling hi-hats, agile basslines and warm synths make it impossible to sit still.
What’s most impressive is the amount of power from such a small unit. Turn up the volume and it fills the room with big, muscular basslines and soaring vocals. I turned Ampster’s volume dial up to maximum and the speakers impressively maintain their clarity and composure. Loud crash cymbals and high-pitched effects begin to strain slightly, but far less than expected.
The speakers offer excellent bass extension for their size, but it doesn’t sound disjointed or overpowering. Bass melds seamlessly with the mids and treble to create a cohesive, unified sound.
Admittedly, there are more insightful and refined systems out there, but the Ampster’s ability to deliver a clear, enjoyable sound from any source will be of much greater value to its target audience. The well-rounded treble is forgiving of lower-quality compressed formats such as MP3 and AAC, smoothing off bright edges and playing loud without fatigue.
The Ampster even sounds great when connected to a TV. Its tight, fulsome bass pays dividends when watching movies, lending the sort of scale and weight to action scenes that you simply don’t get through TV speakers.
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With its luxurious build quality and impressive sound quality, the great-value Ampster X4 comes highly recommended. Its compact design takes up minimal space, and thanks to built-in Bluetooth streaming and generous connectivity, it caters for a wide range of sources – including your TV.
So whether you’re a student looking for a space-saving system or just a music lover keen to avoid clutter, the Ampster is an excellent choice.
Tangent’s micro system is compact, beautifully built and affordable. But, more importantly, it sounds great – all the ingredients for a must-buy