Kanto Audio YU2 vs. YU4 vs. YU6
Powered Speaker Comparison

Kanto Audio has been on our radar for the past few years, but we brushed them off as just another brand trying to take a piece of the powered speaker market. At CES 2017, however, we wandered into their room and found a lineup of small speakers in an impressive variety of colors.

We almost walked out, but after taking a look at the back of one of them, we asked for a short listen. It did not take us long to realize that these guys knew a bit about speaker design and style.

They showed us some upcoming models. A few months passed and some Kanto speakers arrived in our testing lab, where we put them through their paces, as we do with every product before we decide to carry it.

For an affordable price, the Kanto models sounded great and included a lot of great features. We decided to bring in their three bookshelf powered speakers — the YU2, YU4, and YU6, along with their two matching subwoofers — the SUB6 and SUB8.

Company Overview

David Reid, the founder of Kanto comes from an interesting background. According to David, “Audio products were a huge passion growing up, with a father who tinkered, bought and sold audio gear, and filled the house with music.” He got into the telecommunications industry and learned all about Canadian design and offshore manufacturing for several large cable companies as he lead the design and manufacturing of cable modems. The company grew tremendously and was eventually sold to a large US based telecom.

David started Kanto to bring high-performing, value products to the market. Using Canadian design coupled with Canadian and Asian logistics their first big hit was an award winning Apple docking station in 2007. This lead to the launch of their powered speakers and other audio accessories.

David has a desire to bring both great performance and high visual aesthetics to every piece they produce, which is readily apparent in their new YU series of powered speakers.

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What Do the YU2, YU4, and YU6 Have in Common?

To help you decide which of three models best suits your listening needs, we decided to do a comparison. The YU2, YU4 and YU6 are two-way bookshelf speakers. They have monitor-type look with the woofers and silk dome tweeters exposed and all of the corners rounded.

All three Kantos are powered speakers, meaning that they have a built-in amp designed to match the speaker drivers. No receiver or separate amplifier is required to play them.

Having an amp built-in that is specifically made for that speaker gives the manufacturer a huge advantage. An amplifier manufacturer needs to make sure that no matter what kind of speakers you connect up, the amp will be able to work well.

On the other hand, when you know the precise characteristics of the speaker you are trying to drive, it is much easier to make an amp for that exact speaker and it’s specifications. In addition, the manufacturer can usually save some money that allows them to either make a better amp, use better speaker drivers, or simply to lower the price of the product.

All three of the Kanto speakers are also ported designs. This type of design allows you to have a smaller box, and still produce decent bass output.

Now that we’ve covered the similarities between the three speaker models in the YU lineup, let’s discuss some of the differences and benefits of each individual model.

Kanto YU2 Powered Speakers

The Kanto YU2 ($199.99 for the pair) is the smallest of the three. It uses a 3” composite material woofer and a ¾” silk dome tweeter. The YU2 is available in a variety of colors, including bamboo, gloss black, gloss white, gloss teal, gloss red, matte black, matte grey, and finally matte white. We don’t think you will have any trouble finding one that fits your style!

The YU2 makes a perfect desktop speaker. On the back you’ll find a mini plug aux input and a USB input to handle the USB out from a computer or laptop. It comes with the cables and speaker wire, so setup is a breeze.

If you are unfamiliar with connecting up via USB, it is a great way to port sound from your computer to an audio system. Your computer will send a pure digital signal out of its USB connection, while the other end plugs into the back of the Kanto YU2.

 

Kanto YU2 front view
Kanto YU2 rear view

Standing alone, the YU2 produces a very nice warm sound, but as you would expect, due to the small size, it is lacking in bass. Luckily, the YU2 has a subwoofer out, allowing you to add one of the Kanto subwoofers (the SUB6 is only $249) to fill out the bottom end.

If you plop these on your desk as an upgrade to your built-in computer speakers or something from a big box store, however, you should undoubtedly notice a huge improvement — even without the sub.

The YU2 has a small DAC (digital to analog) converter built-in, which converts the signal to analog and passes it directly onto the built-in amp. This is a very clean and simple signal path.

All and all, for $200 a pair, this is a great little speaker value to improve your computer sound or to connect up to a turntable with a phono stage built-in.

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Kanto YU4 Powered Speakers

When you move up one level to the Kanto YU4, you get tons more features! If you have room for this slightly larger speaker on your desk or wherever it is going, it is well worth the extra $100.

The YU4 has both larger speaker drivers and a beefier amplifier. Kanto changes to a 1” silk dome tweeter and upgrades to a 4” Kevlar driver. Like the YU2, the YU4 is ported on the back for an improved bass response. It does drop the USB computer connection, but what you get in return is very impressive.

The YU4 has 2 sets of optical inputs, two sets of AUX inputs (one of which you can change to an MM phono input), a subwoofer out, and best of all, Bluetooth streaming. You will also get a nice remote control and a spare USB power charging port on the back. For quick volume adjustments, there is a little round volume knob located on the front side, as compared to the back on the YU2.

 

Kanto YU4 front view
Kanto YU4 rear view

The YU4 has 2 sets of optical inputs, two sets of AUX inputs (one of which you can change to an MM phono input), a subwoofer out, and best of all, Bluetooth streaming. You will also get a nice remote control and a spare USB power charging port on the back. For quick volume adjustments, there is a little round volume knob located on the front side, as compared to the back on the YU2.

There are lots of bookshelf speakers in the $300 price range that sound as good as the YU4, but here is the kicker — they don’t have a built-in amplifier!

Not only is the YU4 a great desktop speaker system, but you can pair them with a turntable for a simple starter vinyl playback rig. Having the built-in phono preamp is a feature we love, as many beginners don’t want to contend with having an extra component. Their midrange sounds very rich and the 1” silk dome tweeter gives them a very smooth sound, which is perfect for showing off your vinyl!

Kanto drops the bamboo finish option on the YU4 but you have all the same gloss and matte color choices as the YU2.

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Kanto YU6 Powered Speakers

The Kanto YU6 is a bigger version of the YU4 and costs a little less than $100 more. All of the features, controls, and inputs are the same. What you get is a larger speaker cabinet, a 5” Kevlar woofer with the same 1” silk dome tweeter, and more amplifier power.

These little guys put out great sound for their size! We found them very pleasant and musical, which made them a lot of fun to listen to.

 

Kanto YU6 front view
Kanto YU6 rear view

We see these being used as a more serious music speaker on a desk, table top, or as we tested them, on a pair of speaker stands. They have the built-in phono stage so you can pair them with a turntable like the YU4. However, since these guys can get down pretty low on the bottom end, we would not recommend having them on the same platform as your turntable unless it is really solid. All the extra bass energy they can put out might cause some feedback. This will only apply if you crank them up, but if you want to get the best performance out of them, then check out Kanto’s selection of speaker stands purposely built for the YU6. This would allow you to put your turntable on a cabinet and have the YU6’s on stands flanking it for a great look.

When you think about the very modest price of the YU6, plus the fact that it has digital, analog, and phono inputs with Bluetooth streaming, it makes for one heck of a great value!

Color choices for the YU6 are about the same as the YU4 except you lose gloss teal.

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Which is Right for You?

All of the Kanto speakers are fun to listen to. They never hurt our ears with a screechy high end, glaring midrange, or boomy bass that plagues a lot of the other brands that we have tested and passed on. They are very true to the music!

The Kanto YU2 is an entry level budget speaker. Unlike a lot of its counterparts in its price range, it’s actually very pleasant to listen to. Although, if you have the budget and space, the YU4 is a huge jump up in performance. It goes much deeper, has an even smoother sounding tweeter, and can produce far more output. Moving from there to the YU6 will give you even deeper bass and the ability to fill up a larger room.

So it comes down to your budget and the space you are trying to fill with sound. If you want near field listening just at your desk, the YU2 or YU4 will do a great job. If you have an open loft area or family room you are trying to fill with sound, you will be way better off with the YU6.

We also tried pairing the YU4 on stands with the 8” Kanto sub. That is a darn impressive little system and reminds us of the sound of some of the famous satellite/subwoofer systems from the 1980s that got the category going. Take that rig, a turntable and/or digital/streaming source and you will have a great little complete system that comes in enough colors to work in any room!

If you have any questions or need help figuring out which speaker is right for you, feel free to chat us! We’re happy to help.