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Kanto YU6 Review – Modern, Multifaceted

Pros – 

Excellent connectivity, Clean yet customizable design, Well-balanced sound free of peaks

Cons – 

Average bass extension (not to be mistaken as a lack of bass), Slightly thinner midrange

Verdict – 

The YU6 is a stylish vehicle for a clean sonic canvas that enables the user to adjust to personal taste or simply enjoy their tunes with great fidelity.


Introduction –

Kanto Audio is a speaker manufacturer from Canada with a focus on balanced sound and minimalist styling featuring a plethora of colours and textures to suit individual preference. Their speakers focus on versatility with some of the widest IO support on the market. The YU6 represents their largest and highest model with 5.25“ Kevlar woofer and 1“ silk dome tweeter producing a combined output of 200W RMS. It fills an important niche, seeking to augment a market consumed by convenience with traditional quality and style. You can read all about the YU6 here and treat yourself to a set here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Kanto very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the YU6 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the speakers free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

The speakers are well-packaged within a plain box that protects a colour printed box inside. Each speaker comes within a drawstring fabric pouch that keeps them pristine during shipping. Included is a remote with two aaa’s and a medley of cables, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm aux cable, a power cable and interconnect, no optical cable or RCA cables are provided, however. Additionally, Kanto provides all the paperwork to get the user started and for warranty purposes. Adhesive foam feet are provided should the buyer want to use them on a flat surface. Otherwise, the speakers have a threaded connector that permits use with stands that place the speakers more at ear level.

 

Design –

In person, these speakers are undoubtedly pleasing to the eye. They are contemporary and streamlined yet with a timeless quality due to their simplicity and symmetry. I opted for an unobtrusive matte black that exemplifies the modern aspects of its design while buyers looking for a more classic look have the option of pastels and even wood grain. In fact, the sheer level of customizability on offer is a major selling point of Kanto’s speakers.

YU6 Opposed Alt.jpg

The speakers have no protective grills leaving the drivers exposed. Those potentially hazardous, this provides great visual intrigue with the aggressive Kevlar woofer promising a hearty low-end. The speakers are surprisingly light, however, build quality and finish are both excellent with even surfaces, perfectly smooth edges and no construction defects. The right speaker contains the electronics, it is the medium of all IO and also receives commands from the included remote via a front-facing IR receiver. An interesting addition that many users will be sure to find handy is a front-facing volume dial. This is immensely practical when placing the speakers on a desk or shelf where rear and occasionally side facing controls are hard to access.

DSC03151

The receiver has a status LED that denotes power and changes colour to convey the selected input, mute or pairing modes. The speakers are powered by a 3-pin power cable that means users are able to swap out the stock unit for a longer one should they have a difficult placement. The passive speaker connects to the active unit via 2 cables that attach via spring-loaded connectors. This ensures easy connection and permits wider placement; though the included cable is already very long. The YU6 has a subwoofer output to enable use with Kanto’s own subwoofers in addition to third party ones. This is a great addition for use in larger spaces or for those wanting a more extended low-end for films and games in particular.

 

Usability –

The feature set packed into this speaker set is undoubtedly a highlight of the YU6. This is an active speaker system requiring no external amplifier. The speakers have an integrated phono preamp and Bluetooth connectivity that permits use with both wireless smart devices and older turntables that don’t have this feature built in. Moreover, the speakers support a plethora of inputs with RCA (with phono switch), 2x optical connectors and a 3.5mm port. Also included is a USB port with 1A output that can provide power to an attached Chromecast or similar device.

YU6 Rear.jpg

The included remote is just as feature-laden with a wealth of controls. At the top are dedicated source buttons with an additional Bluetooth pairing button. Below is the volume adjustment alongside bass and treble controls that have 5 levels of adjustment. Below the bass and treble controls are reset buttons should the user want to revert to the default/balanced sound profile. Also included are playback controls that function over Bluetooth in addition to channel balance.

DSC03157

It is easy to appreciate how almost every function can be controlled from the remote which makes placement on a high shelf or TV setup a lot more convenient. In addition, with Qualcomm Apt-X support, the speakers promise high quality over a wireless connection and this was reaffirmed in my subjective listening where the speakers provided almost wired quality over wireless. Moreover, they do so without introducing any hiss, even when the tweeter is turned up, a godsend for low volume listeners. Range is also admirable, and should easily permit wireless use with a TV should the buyer’s setup not permit a wired connection.

 

Sound –

Tonality –

In its default configuration, the YU6 provides a well-balanced sound with slightly more prominent vocals and well-separated bass and midrange. They are impressively tonally neutral nonetheless but with a touch of additional richness within their low-end that injects a pleasant musicality into its sound. Highs are nicely refined, they are smoothly textured and can be adjusted for additional crispness. The speakers deliver very high maximum volume that will easily suffice for home use and parties.

 

Bass –

The YU6 provides a lightly warm low-end. Sub-bass rolls off smoothly and extension is not the YU6’s forte; you don’t get the physical impact provided by most 2.1 systems and even some similarly priced 2.0 systems. Still, depth is easily adequate for music and does impress with its richness on certain tracks, but those wanting to fill a large space or achieve an extended, visceral bass response will want to look towards one of Kanto’s or a third party subwoofer. Meanwhile, a small rise into the mid-bass region grants a hint of warmth and additional body before smoothly sloping into a lightly attenuated lower-midrange.

This speaker isn’t especially organic, warm or full as a result, but it also isn’t bloated or muddy, delivering a very clean sound overall. Bass control is also impressive, impact is very tight and notes concise. The YU6 has an agile, well-separated and well-defined bass presentation that makes mincemeat of faster tracks and maintains dynamics on slower ones. The YU6 may not be a speaker for the bass lover in its stock configuration, but the quality is there and bass quantity can be easily increased either using the inbuilt adjustment or eQ from the source. This also does not hold it back from providing a dynamic, engaging and nuanced listen.

 

Mids –

The midrange of the YU6 tends to steal attention on behalf of its prominent yet smooth vocals, clean tone and high transparency. As upper-bass and lower-mids are lightly attenuated, mids aren’t warm despite some mid-bass emphasis. Meanwhile, a centre midrange push ensures vocals are well present within the mix. Male vocals are slightly less present than female vocals while vocal body sits quite squarely around neutral and, on some tracks, errs on thinness. Regardless, both maintain a clear and refined character though this also makes the speakers slightly more track dependent as it is more sensitive to tracks mastered without a lot of midrange warmth or body; vocal thinness is especially noticeable on modern pop.

This is hardly to be taken as a negative, as it is necessary for the YU6 to maintain vocal intelligibility and a clean tone. Emphasis increases through the midrange until an upper-midrange dip that imbues that smoother character to vocals. Though slightly thin, there is a complete lack of over-articulation or raspiness to the YU6 despite having high clarity. This is also aided by a well-tuned treble that avoids colouration of neighbouring frequencies. Meanwhile, instruments are granted plenty of body on behalf of the YU6’s fuller bass and they remain well separated from vocals, ensuring high intelligibility of both. The YU6 doesn’t have the most musical midrange, but it is refined, clear and balances instruments and vocals with aplomb.

 

Highs –

I was pleasantly surprised to find the YU6’s high end to be quite linear. Lower-treble does sound nicely crisp and detailed, however, it isn’t peaky returning accurate instrument body and timbre. Instead, it is appropriately present and well-balanced between 5-6KHz so strings and cymbals have plenty of attack without coming across as sharp. Similarly, middle-treble is well-present, enabling an open, airy sound, though it also isn’t emphasized to a degree that introduces tiziness or a metallic sheen to treble instrumentation. Rather, the YU6 is pleasantly linear and well-balanced.

Extension is also quite good, the speaker does not redeem much micro or background detail and it doesn’t have a lot of sparkle in the highest octave though headroom is ample and imaging is excellent with a very strong centre image and sharp directional cues. Of course, higher-end speakers and resolving headphones or in-ear monitors provide more extension and detail in both the foreground and background, though the YU6 has a very well-realised treble considering its asking price and form factor. It also has the benefit of being less directional than most meaning that it is less placement sensitive and can provide a detailed image across a large area.

 

Subwoofer –

Perhaps the most immediate weakness of the YU6 compared to larger or 2.1 speaker systems is its bass extension. Listeners with small to medium-sized rooms likely won’t have an issue here though those with more mixed media uses such as film and gaming in addition to those wanting to supplement a TV or home theatre setup will want to opt for a subwoofer. I have to thank Kanto for also sending over their SUB8 for evaluation, a compact front-firing 8” unit that effectively extends the low-end. It was surprising to me how few impressions there were of this model online as it provides great synergy with Kanto’s speakers and very real sonic benefits. When adjusted correctly (and this will vary between every setup), the sub doesn’t provide bigger bass, but simply, more bass.

Comp

The YU6 + SUB8 combo is more diffuse and room filling. I found them to mesh best with the crossover set at 60Hz and half volume in a very large room. Note size is bolstered and bass becomes more richly textured. It delivers great slam that was missing on the stereo pair alone. The SUB8 delivers extension just into the physically perceptible and when gaming or watching blockbuster films, the viewer can feel some deep rumble resonate in their chest. It won’t replace a dedicated 10” home theatre subwoofer, in fact, the unit is very compact even for an 8” unit and physics cannot be overcome when it comes to the sheer displacement of air. Still, this is a sub-woofer that services films and game while flattering music too. It is well-controlled deep bass that doesn’t muddy the YU6’s clean sound. Slam is tight and bass never drones. The SUB8 isn’t a necessity for music listeners, but for listeners with larger rooms, it is a strong purchase. With the sub, this combo covers the whole audible spectrum in addition to providing some physical impact and there is no denying the enhanced versatility and musical charm that comes with that.

 

Verdict –

YU6 Opposed

It’s easy to dismiss a newcomer brand, especially one with such a focus on design as one may wonder whether this focus has come at the cost of function or performance. Luckily, that cannot be said here, Kanto’s clean, minimalist designs are just the garnish atop solid acoustic tuning. The YU6 is impressively balanced and demonstrates strong quality for its asking price. Though bass extension isn’t class-leading, its main asset is its clean, well-separated tuning that provides a clean canvas for the user to adjust to personal taste or simply enjoy their tunes with great fidelity. There is also no denying the charming aesthetic carved out by Kanto, these speakers look timeless yet serious and they do so without compromising functionality and practicality. They have terrific connectivity that trumps almost all neighbouring competitors and a very convenient full-featured remote. The YU6 impresses with its versatility enabled by a balanced yet customisable sound with excellent vocal intelligibility and flexible design and connectivity.

The Kanto Audio YU6 and SUB8 are available from Amazon (International) for $400 and $289 USD respectively at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

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