It takes a lot of effort to make a mark on the oversaturated iPod speaker market, and XtremeMac just isn't hitting it with the Tango X2. Don't get us wrong--this $150 shelf unit isn't bad, but it doesn't really have anything to distinguish it from competitors, and it's not really an improvement over its predecessor, the Tango. On the plus side, the design is clean and understated, the unit includes useful extras such as a built-in radio, and audio quality is passable in general.
Despite the Tango X2's rounded top edges, the speaker strikes us as boxy, perhaps because it is roughly the size and shape of a sneaker shoe box. The unit measures 4.2 by 11.7 by 7.5 inches, which is about average for an iPod shelf speaker. This particular speaker is best suited to the living room or kitchen, as it has no alarm clock and is too large for the average nightstand. The overall look of the speaker is fairly understated; everything--including the grille covering the entire face of the unit--is flat black. A little bit of pop is added by the chrome trim surrounding the grille and the centrally placed volume knob. Above the knob is a single-line LCD that glows blue from behind the grille, displaying the Tango X2's current mode.
The Tango X2 offers four modes, which represent the main features you can expect from the unit. Naturally, there is an iPod mode, wherein the speaker plays from a docked iPod. The dock is built into the top of the unit and is bordered on its front edge by six buttons, three of which can be used for playing and pausing music and shuttling through tracks. The other three keys, which are concave for distinction, are numbered one to three for use as presets in the FM and AM radio modes. Two separate antennae are included to ensure good reception, but neither tuner offers autoscan. That, combined with the limitation to three presets, rather diminishes the overall usefulness of the radios, although it's nice that they were included at all. One thing to keep in mind is that while the Tango X2 normally charges a docked iPod, this is not the case when the radio is in use (in order to "ensure quality radio reception").
The final mode becomes apparent when you check out the backside of the Tango X2. Several jacks line the center of the back, including those for the FM and AM antennae, a DC in (power), and a line-input for the auxiliary mode, which lets you connect a non-iPod audio source (though you'll have to provide your own cable). The rear of the speaker also has two pass-through ports for the internal subwoofer. Also inside are two full-range speakers and two tweeters.
The five speaker drivers do a decent job of providing solid sound, though if you're a picky listener or need really tight, thumping bass response, you won't be satisfied by the Tango X2. Although the ability to adjust the bass and treble are a help, we found you had to be sitting dead center of the speakers to get the best sound. Otherwise, music tended to have a muffled quality, a bit like it was coming from underwater. We also found that audio lacked the warmth we were after. On the plus side, if your positioning is right, you'll be rewarded with nice detail, clean sound, and pleasing vocals. One more detail: the Tango X2 can be turned up to ear-splitting levels, if that's your thing.