Review: Kanto Yu6 Powered Speakers With Phono Pre-amp
We caught up with Kanto at this year’s Bristol show. Its range of powered speaker systems impressed us, and so we’ve been spending some time with the YU6 active speakers.
The Canadian company has been around for a decade and offers a good selection of powered speakers with the YU6 sat at the top of the tree.
The YU6 sports rear-ported 0.75-inch fiberboard enclosures that look after a 1-inch silk dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch Kevlar cone woofer.
The left speaker is the powered unit, and so rocks the front-panel control knob and status LEDs. Operation is super-simple: twist the knob to adjust volume, press it to cycle through inputs.
On the back of the speaker is the RCA stereo input, which is switchable between being used as a moving magnet phono pre-amp in and an analogue line-in. Additionally, there is a second analogue input in the form of a 3.5mm minijack. You also get two optical inputs for extra flexibility. Handy if you want to add your TV, CD player or gaming console into the YU6 party.
The USB jacks on the YU6 are for charging, which seems like a missed opportunity for another computer input option to me. However, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX support is onboard for slurping up wireless hi-res from your smart device.
The speakers come bundled with a remote control along with a pair of AAA cells. You get a 3.5mm aux cable, a power cable and the interconnect to run between the pair of speakers. Also in the box are some rubber feet - you can either affix them or leave them in the box and use the threaded connectors if you plan to bolt the YU6 to a speaker/tripod mount.
Kanto kindly couriered the bamboo-finished YU6, and they are attractive in a shiny kind of way. The YU6 manages to be modern-looking while retaining a classic style. You do get the option of a few matte and gloss finishes including an eye-catching red.
Fit and finish are spot-on and my only slight concern is that the speakers daringly have exposed drivers with no provision for covers so choose your placement carefully should you host inquisitive guests, pets or kids. However, if you are planning to use them on a bookshelf or to partner your office system, you should be fine.
The right speaker is the brains of the Kanto YU6 as it contains the electronics, takes care of all the IO and also receives commands from the included remote via the IR receiver. Again, if you are planning to use them as your desktop buddies, then the front-facing volume dial is a bonus.
The receiver has a status LED that changes colour to represent the selected input, on/off/mute status, and pairing modes. The speakers are powered by a standard 3-pin’ kettle lead’ power cable and so can easily be swapped for different a length should it be required.
The passive unit connects to the active one via generously long speaker cables that attach via spring-loaded connectors. The YU6 has a subwoofer output enabling bass to be further augmented by Kanto’s own subwoofers or those from third parties. You might find this an excellent addition for use in larger spaces or a more extended low-end for films and games.
Being an active speaker system, you don’t need an external amplifier. Additionally, thanks to the integrated phono -pre-amp and Bluetooth AptX connectivity, you get the choice of multiple sources at your disposal.
The included remote sports dedicated source buttons with separate Bluetooth pairing button. You also get volume adjustment and, bass and treble controls. There is are reset buttons so you can revert to the default settings. Also included are playback controls that function over Bluetooth in addition to channel balance. It is easy to overlook just how handy the remote is when you have the speakers sat on your desk; however, imagine having them placed on a reasonably high shelf.
Kanto YU6 Sound Quality
Without touching the bass or treble adjustments, the YU6 provides a well-balanced sound with well-separated bass and midrange. The vocals stand a little forward of the mix, allowing expression and detail in the voice to easily be discerned.
Overall, the Kantos are relatively neutral in tonality with a little bit of warmth and richness added in the low-end, which will suit a broader range of listener than if Kanto made these speakers more analytical. Those of you seeking extensive bass extension may require an additional woofer for clarity. Pushing Billie Eilish’s Tough Guy through the YU6 at volume on my desk did see them getting a bit smeary. Placing some studio foam wedges underneath them did control this, and I am sure that adding the bundled feet (I didn’t do this as I am assuming these are loaners) or IsoAcoustics speaker stands would allow the speakers to hit cleaner lows; a theory partially proven by placing the speakers on my SolidSteel stands with blobs of tac between the speakers and stands. That said, the bass is quite impressive on tracks such as Human by Sevdeliza where you get tight and impactful hits.
Tweaking the mid-bass region grants a hint of warmth and additional body before smoothly sloping into a lightly attenuated lower-midrange.
The top-end is smooth and highly refined in the default setting, but you can add more edge should that be your preference. Imaging is impressive with plenty of headroom. You do not get heaps of micro detail, but there is also a lack of shimmer and hyped peaks. I did notice when bringing them into my main room, that the tweeters are less directional than some others, which makes room placement easier for the YU6 without ruining the speaker’s soundstage.
Orchestral pieces fair quite well, but it was string quartets that came off best thanks to the YU6’s attack in the higher end with the mid-treble bringing an openness together with the high-mids.
However, it is the midrange that is the star of the show here. Clean tone, transparency and smoothly prominent vocals are the main event. Female vocals are treated with a slight preference over the males even though there did appear to be a mid-bass bias. I found that the YU6 really seemed to like 80s electronica with the likes of Human League, Heaven 17 and OMD benefitting from the speakers’ mid-range prowess.
Meanwhile, instruments are granted plenty of body on behalf of the YU6’s fuller bass, and they remain well separated from vocals, ensuring uncluttered presentation of both. The YU6 doesn’t have the most musical midrange, but it is refined and precise.
The phono pre did a decent job when used with my Elipson deck and being able to A/B the Bluetooth radio with the turntable's wired and wireless connection proved that the Kanto's Bluetooth connectivity would prove suitable for most households.
The speakers deliver an impressively high volume quoted at 200W RMS. Again, ensure that they are sat on something that will enable bass clarity if you are partial to low-end heavy music. If you take that minor precaution, the YU6 can easily power a party.
When not being really pushed by a reviewer, the Kanto YU6 is a tight and concise performer. Its overall neutrality means you don’t get a particularly organic or artificially warm presentation, nor is it bloated or muddy.
Kanto YU6 Review Conclusion
The Kanto YU6 has spent most of its time with me sat plugged into my office system and its clean, modern design suits this well. Although, it could easily look at home in your living room.
I have been impressed by the YU6’s balance and clarity mixed with a build quality seemingly beyond its asking price.
Bass might not be the Kantos strongest suit, although there is plenty enough there to keep this bass player happy. It is the well-separated tuning and clarity of detail that enabled this set to be sat at my desk for so long.
With the addition to adjusting the EQ to your taste and a phono pre-amp, allowing you to hook-up a turntable makes the YU6 an excellent choice for a compact bedroom system.
The YU6 is a versatile performer that should not be overlooked.
The Kanto YU6 are widely available now, including from Amazon, for £349.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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