5.0 out of 5 stars Audition winner vs AE, June 23, 2013

A friend asked me if I would help him find a pair of speakers to take on a move overseas. They had to be small enough to fit in a suitcase, but in this case, weight was not an issue. My friend has some rather nice home tower speakers from a respected brand, but they could not be shipped right away, so he was looking for an immediate solution to stream music from a laptop. Powered speakers seemed to be the best answer. I had heard the Audioengine A5+, and knew they would be a contender. Then I started reading audio review sites online and saw some high praise for the Vanatoos. So I got a pair of each from Amazon, gathered some good friends, and set them up on stands in my den. Source was Spotify premium for most of our listening, streamed thru a Nook HD. We set the speakers on 24" stands well away from the walls. Then we started listening.

First up were the Audioengines. We played a wide variety of music, a capella choral, jazz, blues and rock, to give a wide variety (though we tried to go through the same set of tunes with each pair). Our den came alive with Straight No Chaser, and I thought that it would be awfully hard to beat the AEs smooth but dynamic sound, which seemed larger than the beautiful bamboo boxes producing it. Volume had its limits but was plenty for sub-concert-level listening. Nice package (and a bit less expensive than the competition).

Next were the Vanatoos. They had the cherry finish which was also nice (though I kind of preferred the bamboo on the AE). The bar had been set pretty high by the AEs. Nevertheless we started through the same set of songs as before, and waited a few songs before commenting. The two pairs' sound seemed similar, but there was more harmonic detail on the Vanatoos. The music was a bit more lively and the highs were more extended. We ran through the comparison set. Then someone asked to turn the volume up, and on went some cuts from Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense. We found that the Vanatoos kept going a bit further where the AEs ran out of steam. Bass was shockingly good from such a small box. Dancing broke out. A good time was had by all.

Time came for my friend to make a choice. Both speakers were worthy, but we all agreed: the Vanatoos had the best sound. The AEs were returned. Remarkable what musical impact can be wrung out of such a small box. Bravo Vanatoo.

- Michael M.
Salem, OR

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