Vanatoo — Small speakers Big Sound
Right out of the box I was impressed by the fine furniture smell of the Cherry wood Vanatoo Transparent One powered speakers. Polished to a mirror finish these 6.5”W x 10”H x 8.125”D little beauties are small enough to fit anywhere and look good at the same time.
First a bit of history. Gary Geshellcen and Rick Kernan two engineers with a love for audio and technology spent 5 developing these small speakers and named their company after the island of Vanatu descroibed as the “happiest place on earth”. According to their web site Rick and Gary figured that the happiest place on earth to work would be a place that designed speakers so wonderful that their sound would make those places the happiest place on earth for their customers too. It’s a bit corny, but true. So with a nod to happiness, and a twist on the spelling, Vanatoo was born.
Back to the speakers. As I said they look like a small piece of furniture. The front is a black cloth grill with a discreet logo at the bottom in front of a 5.25-inch woofer and 1-inch silk-dome tweeter. Turning them around reveals a 5.25″ passive radiator. That’s all there is on the satellite speaker which at 7.5″ is about a half inch less deep than the powered unit. That speaker features an impressive array of inputs and controls for the D2Audio® Class D amplifier with integrated Digital Signal Processor (DSP) that puts out 60 watts per channel. There are inputs galore: S/PDIF (Coax and Toslink), USB, analog 3.5mm mini jack. Outputs include connectors for the passive speaker as well as a sub-out jack for an optional sub-woofer. There are controls for volume, treble and bass.
But how do they sound? Now I’m no audiophile and the specs claim a frequency response of 49Hz – 20K Hz ±2dB which I’m told is pretty impressive for a small speaker. Before I get into the specifics let me just say that I was blown away by the quality of the sound coming out of these little boxes and any volume. They sounded equally great down low for background music and cranked up high for a party or action movie or game.
The flexibility of inputs for these speakers is impressive. I tried them Playing back from an iPhone and a Mac using the digital output from an Airport Express. Bluetooth using the Avantree Bluetooth 4 Home Music Receiver which Vanatoo sells for $35 extra when bundled with the speakers and direct USB from a MacBook Air.
The quality of the music from all of these situations was great..the sound stage was centered as it should be and the range was such that I was able to pick out all of the instruments while listening to an orchestral piece. I detected no internal static during quiet pieces or when the input device was not playing back. This was especially appreciated when I used the Transparent One’s as a desktop monitor with my MacBook Air. They just sat there quietly with nary a pop or a his until I sent some audio to them. To my uneducated ear a digital or direct USB connection produced a dynamic range that was a tiny bit better than Bluetooth…or maybe it was my imagination.
Finally I took the Vanatoo speakers into the family room and connected them digitally to my Pioneer AV receiver and watched some television. Wow! the quality was better than any sound bar I have tried including one that sells for double the price of these speakers. The sound is impressive and the base is so good that it was only slightly improved by connecting my subwoofer that allowed me to feel rather than hear that really low stuff.
Now, popular wisdom is that great sound requires big speakers and for the most part that is true but many of us don’t have room for big columns and have to make do with more compact devices. Well with the Vanatoo Transparent One you give up very little…most people will find the noise that comes out of these little boxes way more than adequate..certainly better than most sound bars which are currently popular for home audio systems. If you are not looking for surround sound, the Vanatoo speakers are terrific for home theatre. No need for fancy AV equipment; just hook them up to the audio output of your TV and prepare to be amazed.
The Vanatoo Transparent One is available from Vanatoo or Amazon.com. The price is $499USD a pair for the Black on Cherry finish and $549USD for the Natural Cherry Finish (my choice). Ground shipping is free to the US and Canada. Canadian customers will be charged tax and brokerage which in my case for a shipment to Quebec amounted to $37.76.