SYD Powered Speaker Review
Company & Product Overview
Since Kanto products landed at Audio Advice about a year ago, we have found them to offer an excellent value in powered speakers. Their YU2, YU4, and YU6 speakers certainly offer a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to small powered speakers.
David Reid, the founder of Kanto Audio, came from a home where music was always present. David’s father was a huge audio enthusiast and loved to experiment with different combinations of gear. David started his career in the telecommunications industry, where he acquired skills and contacts to later help design and manufacture electronics.
Kanto was born in 2007 with the goal to bring audio products to market that deliver great performance at reasonable prices. They wanted to assemble a great Canadian design team who could use the power of Asia-based manufacturing to meet these goals. The first Kanto product was an iPod docking station, which won them a number of awards. They followed this up with powered speakers and accessories, including TV mounts and speaker stands.
We love that Kanto products are not only a great value, but also appeal to those that are interested in the visual appeal of their gear. Their products look good and come in a variety of colors, providing a lot of flexibility and the ability to own a product that is semi-unique. This design philosophy continues with the new Kanto SYD.
Design & Build Quality
The SYD is a really unique piece of gear, with the potential to appeal to a wide range of listeners. It reminds us of a center channel but describing it that way wouldn’t do it justice.
Physically, it’s taller, but not as long as your typical soundbar. It’s 17 ½” wide, almost 6” tall, and 7” deep. It comes with a slick-looking angled stand, which gives its design a unique flair. The speaker rests on it at a 16-degree tilt, which not only sends the sound up into the room but also decouples the speaker from the table or cabinet it’s sitting on. This provides some clear acoustic benefits, including a cleaner midrange and more accurate bass.
The SYD is available in black, white, pink, and burgundy and features the same grill-less studio monitor look you’ll find in their powered bookshelves. The front of the SYD has a small round light on the bottom left corner that indicates whether the power is on or off and if the device is connected to a Bluetooth source. You’ll also find a multipurpose knob on the bottom right corner, which is a power button, input selector, and volume control. Push and hold is for power, push and click is for input selection, and simply turning the knob controls the volume.
The fit and finish are similar to all Kanto products. Nothing over the top, but extremely well done for the money. No complaints from us in this department.
Features & Technology
As we mentioned earlier, we think the SYD is a really unique product. It’s a bit of a Swiss Army knife. First, the SYD has an optical input, a 3.5mm AUX input, an RCA input that can engage a built-in phono stage, a subwoofer out, and a USB charging port. If that weren’t enough, it also has AptX Bluetooth built-in, so you can stream from your smartphone!
With its optical input and long narrow shape, the SYD can easily serve as a greatly improved TV speaker. Simply take the optical out from your TV and connect it up to the SYD. If you have a turntable, you can put it in phono stage mode and connect up to the RCA inputs. You could also use the AUX input to connect an iPod, CD player, or another source. Then, of course, there’s Bluetooth which provides tons of flexibility.
The SYD includes two 1” silk dome tweeters on the outside and two 4” Kevlar drivers for mid-range and bass frequencies. It’s a rear-ported design, allowing you to get more bass out of the SYD than you would expect from two 4” drivers.
In the box, you’ll find a well-thought-out remote control, which allows you to tailor the sound to your personal preferences. The remote has a large power button and buttons for each input. There are also buttons to skip tracks, play, and pause, as well as two large buttons for volume up and down.
You’ll also find a mute button, which we think is pretty unique. As we mentioned, the SYD has a subwoofer out, allowing you to get even more bass by connecting a separate subwoofer. If you want to see exactly how much additional bass you’re getting from the extra sub, just press and hold the mute button for 5 seconds and it toggles the sub out off. This is great for comparing or for late night listening sessions when you don’t want to disturb the neighbors.
Interested in adjusting the bass, treble, or balance control? You don’t have to fuss with any internal menus -- these buttons are also included on the remote, along with a reset button to set everything back to flat.
There’s also an interesting button that Kanto labels as Bluetooth Reset, which breaks the Bluetooth connection so that you can easily pair the SYD with a different Bluetooth device without confusing the speaker or your phone.
Speaking of Bluetooth pairing -- it’s effortless with the SYD. We didn’t even have to put it in pairing mode. Our Pixel 2 found the SYD right away and was able to connect. The Bluetooth range was also impressive, allowing us to get around 40 feet away before the signal began to cut out.
The SYD also includes an auto on/off feature. If it doesn’t see an audio signal for 15 minutes, it goes into standby mode. The second it sees a signal, it comes back on automatically. If you change inputs, you’ll need to turn the SYD back on manually, but all you have to do is push the knob and it’s back in action.
First, we have to applaud Kanto for their owner’s manual. While most good powered speakers give you great information on setup, most all-in-one speakers like the SYD explain how to connect it to a source and leave it at that. The SYD manual goes much further, explaining in detail how your room affects the sound. It reminds us of more of a high-performance speaker manual than a typical consumer electronics manual.
We tested the SYD on its stand as well as sitting flat on a table. The SYD sounded clearer on its stand in almost all cases, as it eliminated any resonance produced by the table. If you will be sitting with your ears lower than the SYD however, we would recommend laying it flat.
Our testing involved a variety of music from classical, to jazz, to rock n’ roll. It’s clear that Kanto designed the SYD to be used in a small space. Its ultimate volume output is pretty limited if you are trying to really crank up the SYD in a large room. We’ve seen many other all-in-one speakers that can play a lot louder. If you keep your expectations realistic, however, and keep the SYD in a small to a medium-sized room, it sounds fantastic!
It’s clear that Kanto weighed their options and decided to make a trade-off, focusing on quality sound over pure volume. By making this choice they were able to use drivers that produce a super sweet yet detailed sound. Anything you get in this price range will come with trade-offs, but we think Kanto made the right call with the SYD. It can easily fill up a moderately sized living space.
Every type of music we played had that sweet pleasant sound we expect from much more expensive speakers. We were especially impressed when listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. The percussion was very fast and accurate and we could actually hear a lot of tonality in the bass line. It was pretty staggering for a $329 all-in-one speaker!
Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” had us tapping our toes to the beat. Every single cut we played from Jimi Hendrix to Bach to Kenny Chesney just made us want to keep listening. We never got any sense of listening fatigue or strain, even when playing it at full volume.
Having all of the speakers in a 17” wide box had us lowering our expectations when it came to the SYD’s ability to produce a stereo image, but it actually did a pretty decent job. If you’re looking to get a lot of left-to-right separation, you may want to consider one of Kanto’s powered bookshelf speakers, but all-in-all the soundstage was wider than we expected.
The SYD is the perfect solution for anyone looking or a music system that can provide utility in a moderately sized space. You can easily make it the centerpiece of your entertainment system, assuming you have realistic expectations. Connect it to your TV, stream from your phone, or listen to your vinyl, all from the same device.
Add in the great open stand and a fully featured remote, and you’ve got a speaker that packs a ton of punch for the money.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Love the Open Stand
The SYD comes with an open stand that allows you to tilt it up into the listening area. This helps it better fill the room with sound and reduces any resonance from the furniture it’s sitting on.
Inputs for Everything
Phono, Bluetooth, Optical for TV, and another analog for an old CD player. You can make the SYD the center of your home audio experience.
Designed for Great Sound
Kanto made the decision to focus on quality sound over pure raw volume. The SYD sounds amazing in a small to a moderately sized room.