Kanto Audio YU6

Building a starter system used to follow a traditional pattern that involved establishing a budget and dividing it roughly equally between source, amp and loudspeaker. Fast forward to the present day and things are rather different. You can build a system based on the ‘classic’ way of doing things, but as the concept of a piece of source equipment becomes increasingly intangible there are numerous speaker systems with built-in amplification and wireless music streaming capabilities.

The YU6 looks like a traditional pair of speakers although one is an entirely conventional passive design with a pair of speaker terminals on the back, while the other is powered and incorporates an internal amplifier and selection of physical and wireless connection options. The built-in Class D amp claims 100W of peak power to both the speaker it is housed in and its passive partner connected via the supplied run of speaker cable.

The cabinets are conventional enough and are nicely engineered with curved corners and fitted with a 25mm silk dome tweeter partnered to a 133mm Kevlar mid/bass driver. The low end is augmented by a circular rear port that means it sounds best placed a little way out from a rear wall. Unusually, there’s a threaded insert on the underside that allows it to be bolted to dedicated 26 or 32in floorstands – available soon.

There’s a useful spread of digital and analogue connections. Two 24-bit/96kHz-capable optical connections are joined by a Bluetooth wireless receiver (v4.0) with aptX support. These are partnered by two analogue options – one RCA and the other a 3.5mm connector. The former can be used as a regular line-level input or as a phono stage for a turntable fitted with a moving-magnet cartridge. To activate the MM phono stage simply slide the selector switch on the powered speaker’s rear panel to the phono position and there’s even a ground connection to ensure that hum isn’t an issue.

A mono subwoofer output is available to boost the low-end frequencies should you so desire and there’s also a USB-A port that can charge a phone or tablet or a piece of USB connected source equipment – Yamaha’s WXAD-10 MusicCast network player (HFC 442) or Chromecast Audio’s network player (HFC 443) being ideal candidates.

The Kanto YU6 looks and feels smart for the asking price. The red gloss finish of the review sample is well applied and makes it a bit more eye catching than might otherwise be the case with the other available colours such as matte grey, although the optional bamboo finish that comes with a small price premium (an extra £30) also looks rather enticing. The cabinets feel sturdy and resonance free and you get a remote control that while not the last word in elegance, does offer the ability to control the system from across the room. Most of the inputs are in keeping with its competitors – even the addition of a phono stage is something we’ve seen before – but the inclusion of two optical inputs is unusual and useful, as it allows for TV sound and another digital source to be connected at the same time. In a perfect world, the second 3.5mm input would be a line-level RCA connection, but it seems rather churlish to complain at the price.

Sound quality
Connecting up a Chromecast Audio network player so that it’s powered via the USB port and outputs audio to the optical input does a good job of establishing the basic capabilities of the YU6. The most immediately apparent aspect of the performance is that the claimed power output on tap feels believable in use and imbues the Kanto with impressive levels of headroom for a fairly affordable product. The gorgeously emotive and atmospheric Soft To Be Strong by Marina has a level of heft to it that is more than simple bass weight. Vocals are carried with their full weight and power and the supporting piano feels equally well judged in terms of scale.

The bass response that underpins this performance is convincing and so long as the rear port is a little way from a rear wall, feels remarkably agile too. The fast-paced Tell Me (Doko Mien) by Ibibio Sound Machine has a real sense of pace and intensity to it and complements the upper registers well. Moving to high-resolution material – in this case, a 24/96 FLAC of Paul Simon’s Graceland – doesn’t really alter the presentation significantly. It sounds very listenable, but doesn’t really ‘kick on’ in the way that some digital sources so often tend to.

The other issue for the Kanto is the Bluetooth implementation. In recent years, we’ve become used to this being a reliably stable wireless connection that’s capable of delivering decent sound quality, but the YU6 feels a little underwhelming. It is reluctant to connect to both an Essential PH-1 and iPad Pro, and the performance is periodically affected by stutters and drop outs. I’m not sure why this is the case, but reboots and re-pairing don’t seem to completely eliminate it, which is disappointing given expectations with this kind of connectivity.

The phono stage is much more impressive, though. With EAT’s Prelude turntable connected, it is impressively quiet at idle and has no shortage of gain. Listening to Jon Allen’s lovely Deep River is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The commendable neutrality of the EAT is left intact by the Kanto and while some of the finer details of Hummingbird Blues that I know to be on the record are harder to discern here than on some more expensive setups, the overall balance is extremely enjoyable.

Like a number of devices that I’ve tested at this price point, Yamaha’s WXAD-10 MusicCast network player makes the most sense as an accessory here. It can be run off the USB port of the Kanto and provides UPnP streaming, AirPlay and more reliable Bluetooth for an additional £150 outlay. Running it into the 3.5mm aux socket on the rear allows the phono input to be kept as such and makes the YU6 a very capable proposition indeed – certainly something that gives affordable source, amp and speaker combos something to think about.

At £350, the Kanto YU6 looks the business, is robustly made and has a very useful selection of connections that mean that used as either a starter system or as a second room option, it should have the facilities to work well. As a pure Bluetooth device it occasionally finds itself a little outclassed, but if you can hunt down a Chromecast Audio before they vanish or budget for something like Yamaha’s excellent WXAD-10, it has the ability and scope to be a very enjoyable device indeed. It might not look like a traditional starter system, but don’t be fooled; the YU6 is more than up to the job of putting you on the road to hi-fi bliss. ES    

Product: Kanto Audio YU6
Price: £350
Origin: Canada/China
Type: Powered loudspeaker
Weight: 5.2kg (powered), 4kg (passive)
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 175 x 272 x 205mm

● 1x 25mm silk dome tweeter
● 1x 133mm Kevlar mid/bass driver
● Claimed power output: 100W RMS
● Inputs: 2x optical; 1x stereo RCAs switchable between line-level and MM phono
● Bluetooth v4.0 with aptX support

Read the full review in June 2019 issue 450

Dynamic Distirbution (UK distributor)
01242 820000