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Kanto Audio TUK Review – The Uber

Pros –

Uber-clean design, Excellent resolving power, Outstanding bass extension, Solid integrated headphone amp, Versatile connectivity, Quality remote

Cons –

Slightly thinner vocals and treble instrumentation, Large price jump over YU6

Verdict – 

The TUK is a highly versatile speaker that flatters essentially any application whether that be Wireless, TV, PC or a combination of both.


Introduction –

Kanto is a Canada-based company founded in 2007 who produce audio products that simply ooze style. With extensive experience as an OEM, they’ve made a name for themselves with their refined products that uphold strong value for the consumer. Their hallmark product line is the YU-series of active bookshelf speakers, however, the company offers a range of accessories and sub-woofers as well; all underpinned by a clean, minimalist design language. And yet, the company haven’t rested idly on their laurels, spending the last few years perfecting a new premium offering, the TUK. Similar to its new naming scheme, the TUK features its own unique design language alongside Kanto’s signature suite of highly versatile and appealing features.

This is Kanto’s current flagship speaker, coming in at $799 USD. You can read more about the TUK here and treat yourself to one here.

Disclaimer –

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

Specifications –

Driver setup:

  • Highly accurate Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter
  • 5-1/4″ aluminium woofer
  • Bass-reflex (ported) cabinet

Frequency Response: 40-20,000 Hz

Amplifier: 130-watt Class D amplifier

  • Built-in phono preamp for connecting a turntable
  • Integrated digital signal processing (DSP) optimizes audio quality
  • Built-in USB DAC improves sound from digital files
  • Active low-pass filter sends frequencies below 80 Hz to a connected subwoofer

Bluetooth: BT 4.2 with high-quality aptX™ audio streaming

Connections:

  • Toslink digital optical input
  • Stereo RCA input (3.5mm-to-RCA cable included)
  • Stereo RCA phono input
  • Mono RCA subwoofer output
  • Type-B USB input for connecting a computer (cable included)
  • Type-A USB port for charging a device
  • Front-mounted 3.5mm headphone output

Dimensions: 7″W x 11″H x 9-1/2″D

Weight: 11.5 lbs. (active speaker), 9.9 lbs. (passive speaker)

Warranty: 2 years with 60-day money-back guarantee

The Pitch –

AMT Tweeter

In order to reproduce a wide frequency range with low distortion, many speakers implement multiple drivers; of which tweeters receive special attention as they are the most technically demanding. AMT drivers represent huge theoretical benefit over other driver types. The diaphragm is a pleated film with conductive metal trace, in this respect, it resembles a planar driver. However, its function is vastly different as each pair of pleats move horizontally in opposing directions as opposed to longitudinally. As such, the vast surface area of the driver – a 1” AMT driver has comparable surface area to an 8” dynamic – doesn’t impede the transients of the driver. The low-mass diaphragm combined with low range of motion enables rapid acceleration and deceleration similar to an electrostatic driver but with huge sensitivity and velocity. AMT drivers struggle to create low frequencies, hence, the TUK’s make use of an additional 5.25” aluminium woofer. You can see an info-graphic on AMT drivers that I found helpful here.

Versatile Connectivity

Kanto’s speakers have always been considered to offer excellent value, even here in Australia where we see considerable mark-ups. The reason being, they offer an all-in-one package. The TUK sports your standard RCA inputs in addition to dedicated Phono Pre-amp inputs (including RIAA equalisation), Optical (TOSLINK) and Bluetooth with Apt-X. As the TUK accepts digital inputs, it has an inbuilt DAC and AMP which can now be utilised for headphones via the front-facing 3.5mm output. There’s also a USB charging port on the rear for use with streaming services or simply to power accessories. The TUK is, therefore, an excellent supplement to every kind of setup with abundant connectivity.

Unboxing – 

The TUK has a simple, clean and high-quality unboxing. Within the clean exterior lies a protective foam inlet much like other larger electronics. The speakers are provided with an additional layer of protection in the form of felt draw string bags that prevent scratches and scuffs during transit. In a separate box are the cables and other accessories listed below:

  • Remote with Batteries
  • 2 x Magnetic Grilles
  • Power Cord
  • Speaker Wire with Banana Plugs
  • 3.5mm to RCA Cable
  • USB Cable
  • 8 x Rubber Feet
  • Manual

Altogether, it’s a holistic package, the cables also feature gold-plated connectors so they don’t introduce any additional noises to the system. The remote is also much higher quality than that included with Kanto’s former models, more on that below. So too is the speaker wire improved, now a larger gauge wire with soldered banana plugs. However, you do lose half a meter, at 4.5m in length as opposed to 5m on the YU-series cable. Due to the screw-down connectors on the speakers themselves, this is not a huge issue to me, but may be inconveniencing for those with larger setups.

Setup & Stands –

Brett was kind enough to send over Kanto’s new 26’ speaker stands in matching white. They’re a perfect match to the TUK’s with frosted white finish and discreet cable management that enters through the rear of the top, travels down the stem and routes from the rear of the base for a tidy look. The stands are very heavy, with weighted bases. As such, though they aren’t large in footprint, they are very stable. I’m also a fan of how the speakers attach. A mounting plate screws into the base of the speakers, it has a foam cover to prevent scratches and a marked slider permitting 15 degrees of toe in either direction. The plate slides into the stands and screws in via a recessed bolt at the front for a clean look. The speakers are, therefore, also easily removed should the user want to route more cables through the shaft.

I would highly recommend purchasing stands with a height that places the tweeters at ear level for greatest fidelity since treble is more directional than other frequencies. Yoga blocks are a good budget alternative for a near-field setup, naturally, Kanto’s offerings match the best aesthetically and functionally. That brings me to the TUK’s ease of setup. The interconnect between the two sides can be easily extended. You don’t need a banana-prong cable, any wire of adequate gauge is suitable due to the screw-down connectors. For instance, the included 4.5m cable was too short for my setup when routed through the stands, but the 5m YU6 cable was a perfect fit. The power cable also connects via a standard 3-pin plug and can be substituted with a longer unit. This is a huge convenience coming from some active speakers that have integrated power cords or proprietary interconnect cables, permitting much more flexible positioning.

Design –

Clean designs are a hallmark of Kanto Audio and, once installed on Kanto’s matching stands, I couldn’t help but stare and admire; the TUK is their most stunning work yet. Offered only in matte white and black, they are smoothly formed and stunningly minimal with no obnoxious branding, graphics or non-functional accents. The matte finish highlights their smoothly formed shape, all clean with unbroken lines. Such simplicity draws the eyes away to the stunningly well-integrated aluminium cone woofer and AMT driver situated on the front, both of which brilliantly complementing the form of the speaker.

DSC09483

While the left speaker is clear, a control bar lies at the bottom of the right speaker with analogue volume knob and accompanying source selection LED indicators with a 3.5mm headphone output situated on the left. Magnetically attaching dust covers are included though I couldn’t imagine many wanting to use them given the speaker’s gob-smacking aesthetics. The speakers aren’t enormous, a little taller but also slimmer than the YU6 granting a more elegant form. Simply put, the TUK is both a complement and centrepiece to any kind of setup due to their uber-clean styling.

Connectivity –

The rears of the TUK are not quite so clean to permit a versatile range of connectivity as detailed below. Digital inputs include TOSLINK and USB at the top while the analogue RCA line and Phono pre-amp inputs are just below. The Phone input includes RIAA equalisation which elevates the bass for that warm, rich sound many have come to associate with vinyl and this means no external pre-amp is required. Meanwhile, a USB port provides 2A output to charge your smart devices or power accessories such as a Chromecast Audio dongle or wireless sub transmitter, a thoughtful addition. Another addition that’s fine to see is a sub output which also activates an 80Hz low-pass filter for easy integration and higher fidelity on the speakers themselves when connected to an external sub. There are two screw down banana-prong connectors below that send power and audio to the passive left driver. There’s a 3.5mm headphone output at the front, the quality of which I will be detailing in the sound section.

DSC09489

It should be noted that they use an older BT standard, 4.2 which is the last standard before 5. In my experience, BT5.0 makes a more substantial difference on battery-powered devices due to its lower power consumption, however, I can see some wanting the latest standard on a more premium speaker as it does offer more range. Nonetheless, Apt-X HD and AAC are both supported which offer a very noticeable step up in quality over SBC. In my experience, connected to my Pixel 4 as opposed to through TOSLINK (utilising its internal DAC/AMP), Apt-X provided low enough latency to enjoy video content with minimal lip sync and range was easily adequate in my large room, with a rock-solid connection from a 10m line of sight distance. Bass was woollier, with less definition than the digital connection and treble didn’t have quite the same extension with less precise imaging, however, as the tonality was very similar, it is not a huge drop in quality unless under direct comparison. BT does well in a pinch such as for parties and casual listening.

Upgraded Remote –

DSC09487

Kanto’s speakers have always included fully featured remotes to maximise convenience and the TUK includes a new model that provides a big setup up in quality in addition to a slightly expanded set of controls to suit the more fully-featured speaker. Notable is the new matte finish that matches the speakers and represents a step up from the somewhat tacky rubberized finish of their prior remotes. The remote has power, input and playback controls as expected. We also see a return of the basic 3-step bass and treble eQ. What’s new is that the speaker will now remember a separate eQ profile for each input, very handy to maximise vocal intelligibility when watching TV but perhaps increasing dynamics when listening gaming to name an example. There’re two new functions, one to control the sub-output and low-pass filter and another that changes the brightness of the status LEDs on the fronts of the speakers. I use the TUK’s alongside a projector necessitating a dark room where bright front-facing LEDs can be quite obnoxious. The ability to turn the brightness down and even off entirely with the convenience of a remote is a godsend in these situations.

USB DAC/AMP –

The TUK can also function as a headphone DAC/AMP for desktop users. Connected over USB, the front facing dial controls windows volume, so it doesn’t offer extra adjustment but a coherent experience, nonetheless. To test its quality, I compared the TUK’s headphone out to my THX789 paired with the Khadas Tone Board. I used the Hifiman Sundara, a planar magnetic headphone with a 93dB sensitivity and a 37ohm impedance. The THX789 provided a slightly tighter, more authoritarian sub-bass but the TUK showcased great drive and a good level of control too. Imaging was precise and the presentation well-layered. The TUK appeared to push vocals slightly forward and the soundstage was noticeably narrower than the THX789.

DSC09492

Still, we are comparing an integrated solution to a very renowned dedicated headphone amplifier here. The power output and maximum volume are strong here. Similarly, the output impedance is very low as they did not skew the signature of the low-impedance CFA Andromeda notably compared to the 1-ohm THX amp. That said, the noise floor was very high with the Andro, similarly, the drastically less sensitive Avara EST-6. As such, it is not advisable to use the TUK with in-ears unless paired with an IEMatch. Conversely, it is actually a fairly good source for headphones and less sensitive in-ears, easily preferable over my stock B550 motherboard audio and even entry level DAC/AMP units due to its higher power output.

Next Page: Sound, Comparisons & Verdict

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