This review first appeared in the June 2016 issue of high-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this EC Living review in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Electrocompaniet - Ed

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Financial interests: click here
Sources: VPI Scout II, VPI JMW 9T, Denon DL-103R, Transrotor Figaro, Shelter 201, Audiodata MusicServer, Auralic Aries, Readynas Duo, HP Notebook, iFi PiPurifier II, Luxman DA-06
Preamplifier: Octave HP300 with MC phono
Power & integrated amplifiers: Musical Fidelity M8 700m, Denon PMA-2010AE
Loudspeakers: Blumenhofer Acoustic Genuin FS1 Mk2
Cables: fis Audio Studioline, Ascendo triwire loom, Dynamikks Speakerlink, Ecosse ES .3, Zu Audio Libtec, Vovox, Wireworld Series 7 Starlight Gold coax, Aqvox USB
Power delivery: fis Audio Black Magic
Equipment rack: Creaktiv Trend 3
Room: 30sqm with 3.4m ceilings
Review component retail: €860/720 respectively

It's the pale past now when even folks more superficially associated with hifi tech still owned systems that were assembled of traditional separates. Hence today's trend to miniaturized and integrated networked solutions isn't just unstoppable. Given the ubiquity of senselessly cheap streaming subscriptions and the almighty smartphone as everyone's tool to organize their life with, it actually steps on the gas with a lead foot. No wonder that, if they weren't involved in starting this trend in the first place, traditional hifi firms don't want to find themselves sleeping behind the wheel now. The success of Sonos proves it. Streaming speaker systems are in. They're even more in when they're wifi and multi-room capable. As hard-boiled audiophile, I tend to poke fun. Who really needs multi-room sound? But wait. Once counted, I had to admit it. Our household, aside from the big rig, hosts four radios, an ancient micro system, a contemporary all-in-one plus a vintage ghetto blaster. In fact, the only room without dedicated music is the closet. Truth be told, I'd complain not if all of it were controllable by clever app.

During HighEnd Munich 2016, the very traditional audio firm Electrocompaniet introduced first production models to showcase what the Norwegians believe playback beyond legacy hifi norms can or should be. This range goes by the EC Living name followed "by Electrocompaniet" in small print to bridge lifestyle to classic hifi cred. And this really seems more than empty marketing brag. The speakers called Tana SL-1 and L-1 (the first streams and works as mono do-it-all whilst the second is added for stereo) appear to be like Sonos for traditionalists. And that's not really on price when for the cost of an EC Living Tana SL-1, cheaper stuff already radiates sound throughout half our digs. That's because Electrocompaniet's wireless/streaming range isn't from the Far East. It's from high-wage Norway for design and production, not just design as is the case for Apple which manufacture in China. And with EC Living, manufacture goes well beyond chop-shop assembly of outsourced bits. Electrocompaniet's vertical integration extends much deeper. Even the PCB for their internal amplifier and the streaming module are populated in house.

This makes sense once we remember that Electrocompaniet operate under the Westcontrol umbrella, one of Norway's largest electronics manufacturers (they also supply industries like boating and aeronautics, aqua culture and more). Such resources could erect a dedicated production hall just for the EC Living range rather than order in for lack of capacity and know-how. Even software code gets written on site. Here Westcontrol acquired Kopera Development, a company with very deep know-how in the audio/video streaming sector. This reminds me a bit of Dynaudio. They enjoy similar wherewithal. Perhaps Scandinavians at large enjoy a flair for insourcing? Either way, it's laudable.

Tech. Our Norsemen claim high standards which weren't relaxed for their EC Living models. This seems validated when one first grabs this compact box (24cm tall on an 18cm square footprint) to be taken aback by its 6kg mass. That's partly due to a full aluminium housing. Save for the glossy black acrylic top backlit by the 'e' logo in the middle, plastics are nowhere to be found. The full metal jacket isn't just classy. Its rigidity minimizes resonances which are further addressed by internal ribs and braces. Countering conventions for such a concept, Electrocompaniet shun class D modules in favour of a class A/B gain stage whose circuitry is based on the €2'700 Classic-Line ECI-3 integrated. That's top pedigree for a small streaming speaker. Of course a 150-watt amp of such stripes creates more heat than a switching amp. That means heat sinks and more weight.

Does that make the Tana SL-1/L1 active? Loosely put, amp + speaker packed into one box equals active. But in fact, these are powered. Unlike with active speakers, there's a passive filter between amp and drivers, not an active network before the amps. Most users won't give a toss. Their priority is a cool compact design without extra boxes and unsightly cables. By the way, universal feedback from all who spotted these in our digs was something to the effect of "très chic!" Really. It was nearly amusing given how little there is to begin with: a minimalist presence with blue 'e' logo and three circumferential trim bands.