Tangent AMP-30 review

A fine concept and not without charm, the AMP-30 is a desktop amplifier and might be just the thing to power an iPod, but its sound is a let-down Tested at £160.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A fine concept and not without charm – we like the bean bag for your MP3 player – but its sound is a let-down


  • +

    Comes with a tiny bean bag to rest your MP3 player on

  • +

    quite refined with simple recordings


  • -

    Even straight-forward material can leave it flummoxed

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Not for the first time, we're opening a three-star review by urging you to keep an open mind.

The broad facts are these: on a strict pound-for-pound basis, the Tangent AMP-30 (or ‘Ampster' to use the cuddly Tangent nomenclature its utilitarian looks scarcely merit) doesn't really cut it.

For those with specific needs to be met, though, the AMP-30 is a fairly credible proposition.

The AMP-30 is a small, sturdy box housing 20W of power. The specification is as brief as the unit itself: RCA inputs for a single source, a 3.5mm input for another, and a pre-out for a subwoofer.

That, along with speaker outputs and a USB charging output, is the lot for the back of the device. Up front, there's a big volume dial that also controls power on/off.

Discreet, but sonically mediocre
All of this means it's essentially a desktop amplifier. In the bedroom or the office, a discreet box like this, linked to some equally unobtrusive speakers, might seem just the thing to power an iPod (other MP3 players are available) and provide performance beyond your average dock 'n' speakers all-in-one.

Performance, though, is the problem. Tested with the simple guitar-and-vocals of Scott Walker's 30 Century Man, the Tangent sings in a clean, unaffected voice – its tonal neutrality and mildly perky presentation more than make up for its slight uncertainty with timing.

But you don't have to up the stakes far to ruin the Ampster's composure. Lionrock's Morning Will Come When I'm Not Ready is hardly the knottiest or most dynamic recording, but its complexity and drive is enough to reduce the Tangent to metaphorical tears.

Definition and focus is lost, staging and separation abandoned.

If you're a militant hi-fi purist, you'll find room for a bigger, better, similarly priced amp. If you're a little more pragmatic you'll investigate the Ampster – but don't expect it to leave a decent iPod dock for dead

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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