The Tangent Quattro ($350) is an attractive tabletop receiver for Internet radio broadcasts. If you have a high-speed wireless Internet connection and an insatiable appetite for radio, the Tangent Quattro offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of global broadcasts.
The Tangent Quattro is available in four colors, including black, white, glossy red, and our favorite, faux-walnut. Compared to other Internet radio receivers, such as the Roku SoundBridge or Slim Devices Squeezebox, we're delighted that the Quattro matches our notions of what a "radio" should look like. Measuring 4.5 inches by 8.25 inches by 6 inches, the Tangent Quattro is an ideal size for a bookshelf or countertop, although its unsightly power adapter can be tough to disguise.
All of the Tangent Quattro's features are controlled from the front panel. In the center of this panel is a 2.5-inch, two-line, backlit LCD screen that displays station, menu, and clock information. We found the screen to be easy to read, but it does feel cramped when viewing long station names. A series of 10 pill-size buttons are located beneath the screen, which are used to navigate through the Tangent Quattro's menu system and also serve as station preset controls. Oversize dials marked Volume and Tune are located beside the Tangent Quattro's screen, while the buttons for Power and Select are sequestered off in the bottom corners of the panel, where they're less likely to be accidentally nudged.
One of the more unusual aspects of the Tangent Quattro's design is its top-mounted speaker placement. The single, 3-inch speaker is covered by a sturdy metal grille that has a Tic-Tac-size alarm clock snooze button off to one side. The back of the Tangent Quattro features a 1-inch speaker port, an AC adapter jack, and three 3.5mm stereo jacks for auxiliary input (for an MP3 or CD player), headphone output, and line output.
The Tangent Quattro has two main selling points: the ability to browse and enjoy more than 7,000 Internet radio stations without a computer; and the ability to stream music files from other computers in your home. Be warned, however, that there is little value in the Tangent Quattro if you do not have a high-speed Wi-Fi Internet connection to use it with. Without a Wi-Fi signal, there is no AM or FM radio to fall back on and the only useful remaining feature is the auxiliary input jack.
The good news is that the Tangent Quattro works with both open and encrypted Wi-Fi networks, and has no difficulty remembering WEP and WPA security passwords. If you don't expect to be moving the radio between multiple networks, chances are you'll only ever need to tinker with the Quattro's network settings the first time you set it up. Configuring the Tangent Quattro to stream music from another computer is a little more involved and adds the uncertainty of your personal computer into the equation. More often than not, we preferred to just plug in an MP3 player, rather than navigate our PC's music collection using the Tangent's two-line display. Still, if you feel compelled to stream your PC-based music collection, the Tangent Quattro accepts MP3, WMA, Real Audio, OGG Vorbis, AAC, WAV, AIFF, Windows media streams, and even AU file formats. The Tangent Quattro will not stream DRM-protected AAC and WMA files, however, so don't expect your iTunes or Rhapsody music purchases to be compatible.