Kanto’s YU2s seem to come from a time when speakers were solid, simple structures; proud temples to sound that said of their owners, Hey, I’m serious about music, and I know what I’m doing. Aesthetics were important, of course, but unquestioningly took a backseat to sound. Sound was king.
If you haven’t heard of Kanto before, that’s OK — the Canadian outfit just sprouted up in the Vancouver suburbs around five years ago. The YU2s are Kanto’s latest speakers, the smallest of their lineup of a half-dozen or so, and they’re designed to fit unobtrusively on a bookshelf or desk and play music from your computer or mobile device.
The YU2’s performance during our review, however, was nothing short of astonishing — and they could very capably substitute for larger speakers in a variety of roles.
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They’re heavy, was my first impression as I lifted the solid white cuboids out of the box. Whether the serious heft translates to improved quality or not, the YU2s at least feel like they’re well-built. Further details help establish that impression: The cabinet on our review sample looked absolutely stunning, with its sensually contoured edges and almost blinding arctic-white matte finish. Everything looked seamless and well-put-together. The YU2s are without a doubt the most gorgeous-looking wire-filled boxes I’ve ever seen.
Desktop speakers always tend to be a little low on the input side. In the YU2’s case, you get two options: USB input for use with a computer, or an AUX input for use with a 3.5mm jack cable. The speaker cables that connect the pair are held in place via gold-plated screw-in stops — a nice touch. The set is also equipped with a subwoofer out, a huge plus that radically broadens the usability of the speakers, as we’ll see later.
I think I’ve become a little jaded with all the stuff I’ve reviewed over the years, and it’s become difficult for me to get really excited over a gadget. But the YU2s did it. Phenomenal. Dazzling. Hair-raising — all superlatives I could use to describe how the YU2s sound.
The volume level I could crank the set to was almost unbelievable. With the needle pegged, the set made the whole house reverberate with thunderously loud sound. And what really made my jaw drop was that the YU2s were able to do this with very, very little distortion; even at window-shattering levels, the highs were still bell-clear, the bass still buzz-free. The bass was also better at higher rather than lower volume. The speakers’ rear-facing slit-like bassports are designed to sit close (but not to close) to a solid surface. But even with optimal placement I wasn’t able to eke out anything boomy form the YU2s. The bass is there, and it’s clean; but it didn’t deviate from the expectations I had of what a bookshelf set should produce. Nothing out of the ordinary — until the volume got loud, at which point the bass became exponentially more impressive.
The YU2s, on the other hand, produced highs and mids unlike anything I’d ever heard from desktop speakers: beautifully rendered, absolutely crystal clear highs that literally sounded like they were being played live right in front of me. Stereo separation was excellent, and made the speakers sound further apart and bigger than they actually were. And not an ounce of vibration. It also didn’t matter what genre of music I played through the speakers: Oingo Boingo, Sara Jarosz, the Berliner Philharmoniker, Katy Perry and Korn all reproduced with shiver-inducing results.
And then there’s the subwoofer option. I didn’t try it, but I imagine that attaching a sub would turn the set into a great-sounding living-room system. Or turn the set into the a lusciously decadent computer desk or dorm-room setup.
The YU2’s are expensive for desktop speakers with no subwoofer. They’re also not quite the bassiest of desktop speakers at lower volume. That’s not to say they lack bass — just that there are a few sets of desktop speakers out there with more bass, if that’s a primary concern. Those who are looking for more bass, on a budget and who aren’t overly discerning might try the $100 Bose Companion 2 instead. Although again, the YU2’s are significantly better speakers, and as mentioned previously, their bass output rises directly, and exponentially, with volume.
Even at their suggested price, the hair-raising performance of the Kanto YU2s are a good buy for anyone with a discerning ear; and the set’s sultry good looks, solid construction and flexibility seal the deal. But the set can be found for upwards of $150 on Amazon right now, making them a ridiculous steal.
|Product name: Kanto YU2
The Good: Beautifully clear highs; amazingly loud, with no discernible distortion.
The Bad: Pricy.
Verdict: Almost-unbelievably good, audiophile-quality media speakers.
Buy from: Amazon