Vanatoo Powered Speakers: WOW to the MAX
By Tom Piper, appleJAC Mac Users Group, June 19, 2014
Extraordinary quality sound ... an impressive and often expensive goal for audiophiles, and an elusive aspiration for Mac users. For walking or exercising, my iPhone or iPod earbuds are sufficient, and for mobile use, the Infinity audio system in my car is excellent, but in my home office, the old Harmon Kardon Soundsticks III just fall short of my iTunes potential. With over 6,000 songs in my playlists (and over 30,000 on external hard drives), I want to hear excellent sound when I’m working or relaxing. Finally, my expectations have been met and surpassed by a wonderful new product.
The Vanatoo Transparent One’s Powered Home Stereo Speakers have brought achievable audiophile quality stereo sound to my budget. I now enjoy music the way it was meant to be, with impressively full deep bass, crystal clear articulate mid-range, and thrilling high-range. This is music the way I believe it was meant to be heard and enjoyed.
Obviously, these speakers were designed to look good in my living environment. As advertised, they combine classic real wood veneer (in black or cherry) with contemporary styling to blend seamlessly into my surroundings. The compact bookshelf size (6.5”W x 10”H x 8.1”D) allows easy placement so that they don’t draw attention to themselves, but are very substantial at 12 lbs. for the active speaker (11 lbs. for passive speaker). But, don’t let the size fool you, these boxes will knock your socks off with the volume, richness and range of their ability. The sound reminds me of my huge Kenwood speakers over 40 years ago!
This system lets me easily connect to just about any of my music sources. The 3.5mm mini-jack allows direct connection to any MP3 player, Apple iPod, iPod dock, iPad3 or mini, iPhone 5, television, or nearly any other device with an analog output using the cables included with this setup. There are three digital inputs (USB audio, coax, optical) which make my music sound even better when directly connected to my MacBook Pro 15” retina or 27” iMac (or other device with digital outputs).
But, wait, convenient wireless streaming is supported through either an external adapter (I’m using an Avantree Bluetooth unit), so that as wireless standards change, my speakers won’t have to. I’m told that most wireless adapters can be set up to use my iPhone or iPad as both a source and/or remote control, making the most of the devices I already have (and my devices work perfectly with these speakers). The options are many, the connections are seamless, and the convenience is addictive.
As I write this review, I’m using my the AirPort Express (at other times I’ve also tried my Apple TV), which easily supports AirPlay for streaming from all of my iOS devices, including my iPod Touch. This also allows me to stream popular internet music sources like Pandora (also Spotify, or Rhapsody) from any of my iDevices. This setup supports Apple’s Remote App for streaming from my computer’s iTunes library (which is what I’m doing right now). As an added bonus, the AirPort Express and Apple TV offer optical digital connections for “bit-perfect” replay (the included optical cable makes this easy).
There are other companies like Logitech who offer both Wi-Fi based Squeezebox, as well as Bluetooth-based adapters for wireless streaming from other platforms like Android, Windows, UPnP/DLNA equipped servers, and other devices. Apparently, Sonos also offers a great streaming option via dedicated Wi-Fi, with control Apps for most smartphones. And, if you want more answers, Vanatoo experts are easily accessible to provide responsive answers.
The bottom line, is the quality of sound, which, for these speakers, is superb! The volume, bass and treble can be individually adjusted via knobs on the back of the “active” speaker. There are also connections in for analog, USB, optical, and digital coax, plus out for subwoofer and AC (including a master power switch). The acoustical quality is staggeringly beautiful, with repeated looks to see how such a small box can produce such incredibly deep, full and bright sound. Regardless of what I play, whether it is throbbing rock, inspirational classics, stimulating jazz, brassy big band, flowing new age or soothing ballads, both instrumentals and vocals are clear, articulate and authentic to the source. These words still seem insufficient to capture my praise, admiration and satisfaction with this system, but I will continue to rave about this high quality to any listener or viewer.
The Vanatoo Transparent One’s Powered Home Stereo Speakers are available (from www.vanatoo.com, or Amazon) in a variety of configurations from the basic Black on Cherry Finish ($499 per pair) to the Natural Cherry Finish ($549 per pair), plus Bluetooth bundles ($535 and $584, respectively), and AirPlay bundles ($579 and $629, respectively). An investment in these speaker systems is protected with Vanatoo’s Three-Year Limited Warranty, which is one of the strongest warranties in the industry. The two engineers who have designed and produced these speakers are experts in the audio field and have produced a “masterpiece of sound” here, which is well worth the comparatively modest investment.
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