What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision goes off on a Danish Tangent

What have I learned about Denmark in the last day or two? It takes a year’s apprenticeship before you can even pretend you serve a decent Smørrebrød (elaborate open sandwich); the wind will find the slightest gap in your overcoat and exploit it, so ensure you’re fully sealed up before you venture outdoors; a Danish Danish pastry even smells better than an English Danish pastry.

Other valuable information: Danish loudspeaker’n’electronics firm Tangent has renewed cause for optimism as the year progresses. Like many companies around the world, the last weeks of 2008 found Tangent under not-inconsiderable pressure from forces which, for the large part, it couldn’t control.

Now an autonomous division of PHC, the firm’s a leaner and more focused proposition than perhaps it was six months ago. I found all these things out on a flying visit to Tangent’s HQ in Aulum, western Denmark.

A flight from Stansted to Billund delivered me to the calmest international airport I’ve ever visited, and an hour’s drive west (on roads used by what are surely the world’s most considerate drivers) brought me to Aulum.

It’s a modest little town with, as Churchill said of Atlee, much to be modest about. The Tangent facility is a series of remarkably long single-storey buildings, which seem to cling to earth in an effort to escape the wind – it’s a long way from one end of the factory to the other but at least there are no stairs.It’s as clean, tidy and hospitable as the country at large, and as likely a place as any to find the manufacturer of some of our favourite desktop radios.

There was time to admire the handsome new Prestige loudspeaker (pictured above), which is, visually at least, a very Danish example of harmonious proportions and clean-edged design, and a chance to nudge What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision to the top of the list for a review sample of the NET-200 (pictured below).

This is a full-size Internet radio intended to slot into a hi-fi separates system, so as an evangelical advocate of the format I’m looking to schedule a First Test as soon as it arrives.

What else? Peter Schmeichel presents Champions League highlights on TV like some gigantic, blond Gary Lineker. Danes like to get the business of going out for dinner, eating and then asking for the bill out of the way by 8.30pm, in order to enjoy more time in the pub. And Horatio, friend of the most famous Prince of Denmark of all, wasn’t kidding when he said the middle of the night was dead and vast.

Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as GQ, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others.