Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
But first, let me take a selfie.
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for speaker sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible (Yes, it is quite a paradox haha). For wireless tests, I used an Apple iPhone X and a Sony Xperia X over Bluetooth 4.0. After over 100 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the Kanto YU6 to the tests. All tone controls on the speakers were set to neutral. All tracks on our devices are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher. Once again, we made comparisons to one of our benchmark of speakers, the Audioengine HD6, but considering the price delta between the two pairs of speakers, differences between the two are to be expected.
The first thing I really should speak about is the soundstaging and imaging capabilities of the YU6, as this provides an overlook as to how the rest of the YU6 form their sound signature. In terms of width, the YU6 was impressive on its own. They might not be as wide as the HD6, but they provide a really good amount of depth and width, making for an immersive experience. The separation of instruments feels like a real concert. However, with the imaging, it is quite clear the speakers are forward-biased, which pushes the music into the face of the listener. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does push it to the point where we hear some deficiencies, especially in the midrange to upper-midrange area. The image created was still pretty realistic, though I would have preferred a more neutral image personally.
Moving on to the "big three", let me first clarify on some expectations. The fact is, even though you can reliably move quite a bit of air with its 5.25" Kevlar woofers, the Kanto YU6 is not a subwoofer. If you want to completely fill the low end, you will need big drivers to move lots of air. There is no way around physics. That said, I did a frequency sweep on these speakers, and there was almost flat response down to 50Hz -- exactly what its specifications suggest. It dropped off quickly past this point, but you could still hear things reasonably clearly down to 30Hz. I do not believe it is unreasonable to expect owners of the YU6 to buy their own subwoofer, especially since Kanto has their own subwoofers to pair with their speakers.
With all of this in mind, as for the bass, there is no way around the physical limitations, but I am quite pleased with the low-end performance. There was an adequate amount balanced with a warmth of oomph. Its low-end reproduction was smooth with a marshmallow-like plumpness. However, when compared with the aforementioned Audioengine speakers, the YU6 sounded a bit more "on the edge", which is to say it sounds closer to bottoming out. The oomph was also not as present in the YU6 as it was in the HD6. Even so, on its own, the YU6 is quite impressive in this lower region.
Moving to the midrange, the YU6 was quite good. The low-midrange end was thick with warmth and clarity. Electric bass lines felt progressive and moved with the right amount of richness. The upper-midrange felt natural and clear too, with stringed instruments like violas and violins offering a smooth feel. The wooden resonance from pianos and guitars rang true to form, sounding wet and natural. Vocals in this region did not sound dry. I will say it is almost unfair to compare it with the HD6 in this region specifically, especially as those speakers offered thickness, substance, and clarity that is bested by none. Comparatively speaking, the YU6 had a bit of discomfort, especially due to its forward-focused image. This reveals a bit of lacking portions, and overall the YU6 did not sound as thick as the HD6.
At the highest region, the Kanto YU6 is once again quite good, with its deficiencies only really appearing when compared to the Audioengine HD6. It provided an accurate and clear reproduction of high instruments like violins. Clashes from the high hats and similar sounds in this area did sound a bit harsh at times, though it was still controlled. Compared to the HD6, once again, the trebles were thinner and tinnier sounding, though I think it was us being a bit nitpicky. In addition, the HD6 revealed some lacking tightness at times, in what Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan would refer to as "sporadic looseness". Overall, the balance between the three regions can be called a slight V-shape, which was not too surprising. This type of frequency distribution is pretty much expected for casual and enthusiast listening. While it may not be the most accurate or reference like pair of speakers, they produce a fun sound signature with this shape.
In terms of layering of frequencies, there was a good amount of detail overall, keeping a lot of instruments audible in complicated music. I will say there were some times where extremely layered music caused the YU6 to strain at keeping all of the detail. Cleanness of the sound could also still be worked on, though this is more when compared to the Audioengine HD6. Otherwise, the YU6 was cohesive with good transitions between the three frequencies, while still being separated enough to distinguish between each of the regions.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis