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You can pick up a DAB radio for very little these days. The same goes for CD players. Tangent has brought its Cinque tabletop DAB/CD system to the higher end of the market at around £200, promising to "gather a whole bunch of [music] formats and just play your favourite music". Does it really mean 'a bunch' or is it actually just a couple?
Available in three glossy colours or a walnut effect, the Cinque is instantly eye-catching and aesthetically identical to Tangent's media streamer, the Quattro MKII. A single 76mm (3-inch) 5W driver sits in the roof of the enclosure, backed with a reflex port to the rear. For some inane reason, the rear also plays host to the headphone socket.
A two-line LCD display between the volume and tuning knobs is functional but uninspiring. PURE Digital's Evoke-1S has one of our favourite two-line display incarnations -- it's a bright OLED with terrific contrast. We'd love to see the Cinque with such a display.
Everything's fairly standard, though the 17 buttons on the system's face might scare the technopobes, as many represent both a CD player function and two preset slots.
Despite the promise, the Cinque plays surprisingly few formats: WMA -- and only unprotected WMA at that -- and MP3. Certainly not a 'bunch': it misses out on OGG, FLAC, AAC and WAV. But if you ignore the sales pitch, it's still a likeable system, with a self-loading CD player that'll read CD audio and MP3/WMA files, though only 120mm discs.
DAB is the other function on offer here, with up to 12 stations saveable as presets. You've also got 12 separate presets for FM radio, should DAB not excite you. What we'd love to see -- and what would separate this system for the vast majority of DAB all-in-one systems -- is an ability to record radio programming, either onto internal memory or preferably SD card. A 'live pause' feature similar to the ReVu feature on PURE Digital's Legato II would also be something to give the system oomph.
Plus, if you're going to offer the playback of digital media files in a £200 system, why wouldn't you include a USB slot for use with flash-based thumb drives? This oversight borders on annoying.
The Cinque didn't get off to a good start, and we never felt this was a hugely enjoyable system to use. It's just clunky. Menus can be cluttered as a result of the limited display size, and the momentary lag when changing functions gets tedious.
Browsing through DAB stations, however, is as easy as turning a knob and the system will autotune all the DAB stations it can find. It found the usual roster we receive in our office. FM is much the same, and enjoys a separate preset pool to DAB, as mentioned.
Reception and sound quality depends entirely on your location, but we had pretty typical results in our usual test areas. The performance of the single speaker driver was certainly good. For such a small, monaural system, it produces a full sound, but it's firstly an amalgam of both left and right channels, then outputted through a bass-heavy driver. The result is fine for pop and talk radio but it's not going to replace your hi-fi. It can, however, be outputted through a line-out socket.
In the mornings, what we didn't like was the inability to turn the volume of the alarm down as Chris Moyles deafened us at 7am. And if you set an alarm to use DAB, but fall asleep listening to a CD, it'll wake you with a typical alarm clock-style beep -- it won't switch modes.
Overall, it's an attractive system that, in the grand scheme of DAB tabletops, looks the business and sounds excellent -- but at a price. We were annoyed by its stubbornness.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday