Review: Kanto YU2 Speakers
When you think of consumer electronics companies, there are some well-known giants that might spring to mind. These companies have their fingers in everything, and the sprawl of their product lines can make it easy to forget about their smaller, more focused competitors. One such competitor is Kanto, a Canadian manufacturer of computer accessories like speakers and adapters.
You won’t find Kanto products in a Best Buy yet. Heck, at the time this post is being published, you can’t even buy Kanto products from Kanto itself. The company is in the midst of tweaking its marketing and distribution, and the YU2 speakers I reviewed were pre-production models. But the company assures me that the YU2s will be shipping to both the U.S. and Canada in 2-3 weeks, and big box stores in Canada will start carrying the product soon. So it won’t be long before we see some Kanto products out in the wild.
My time with the YU2 speakers has convinced me that Kanto has a shot. There is a design choice I don’t necessarily agree with, and the price tag may turn some folks off. But the speakers are high quality, not to mention pretty. If the rest of Kanto’s product line follows that same Apple-like philosophy — quality materials, good looks — the company could make a play for the high-end accessories market.
Now, on to the review.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Kanto YU2s is that they look good. The line comes in various pastels — my review units were blue — and the exterior features rounded corners and a minimalist feel. The speaker cabinets are made of MDF acoustic board with the woofers and tweeters utilizing Kevlar and silk, respectively. It all comes together in a set that would look right home on a bookshelf, though thanks to their size and the lack of a dedicated subwoofer, you could put them just about anywhere.
In terms of sound, I think most will be pleased with what the YU2 set has to offer — that is, if they’re after a set of premium desktop speakers. What you’ll find with a lot of desktop speakers is that there are tweeters and woofers to cover the highs and lows and that’s it. You won’t find anything in between, so the mid-range feels a little thin. It’s very noticeable on cheaper desktop speakers and it’s noticeable on the YU2 speakers, though not as much. It’s something you’ll have to come to terms with if you pick these up, though the YU2 does a nice job everywhere else. That makes it a bit easier to deal with.
As far as design goes, Kanto went really simple here. There isn’t a center receiver-type box for the speakers to plug into and there isn’t a little “remote” to control volume and bass level. The back of the left speaker serves as the location for the power jack, volume/power knob and USB port (for USB audio) as well as the aux-in port, the sub out port and the connection for the right speaker. From the front, you don’t see a single knob, button or port at all.
It’s quick to set up — I’d say you could be listening to some tunes within five minutes. There’s only one real knock I have with the design, and it’s that the volume/power knob is located on the back and it’s kind of tough to turn without pulling the speaker toward you and flipping it over. This is inconvenient when the speakers are being used on a desktop, but imagine if you had to do this with the speakers on a bookshelf. An easier to reach knob or some inconspicuous buttons would be a welcome change.
I think this is where a lot of people are going to be shocked. Kanto plans on selling the YU2 at an MSRP of $229. It’s not mind blowingly expensive — there are sets that double that — but $229 for speakers that will be most at home on a desk is asking a lot, especially from a company that isn’t well known. Note that the set includes just the two speakers — no subwoofer and no remote. There are higher tiers in Kanto’s line of speaker sets with wireless capabilities and Bluetooth functionality, and the company will offer a subwoofer in the future, but you’ll have to pay more for all of those.
The reality is, at $229, the YU2 is actually the entry-level speaker set from Kanto. And the company has chosen to price itself in the same range as respected names like Audioengine and Bowers and Wilkins, though it doesn’t quite have the name recognition yet. Only time will tell if that strategy is going to work for Kanto, but I’d have an easier time recommending the YU2 set if the price was lower — maybe between $149-$179.
Though I don’t necessarily agree with the company on price, I’m going to go ahead and recommend the YU2 set based on build and sound quality. The set feels sturdy, the materials look and feel high quality and the speakers sound good (aside from the mid-range). And who knows — we’re at least 2-3 weeks away from seeing Kanto products in stores and online, so the price could move by that time.
I’ll be reviewing some other Kanto accessories over the next week or two, so stay tuned.
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