In 2007, Kanto’s first big hit was an award-winning Apple docking station for the original iPod — and this huge success launched their line of powered speakers and other audio accessories.
Today, Kanto creates a variety of products that look as good as they sound — and here at Audio Advice, we think Kanto’s desire to bring great performance and high visual aesthetics to every piece they produce is apparent with the YU Passive series. We will talk about the Kanto YU Passive 5.25” & YU Passive 4” speakers throughout this review.
As passive speakers go, much of the build quality and technology will be similar. Whether you are considering a pair of passive speakers for your two-channel setup — or looking to integrate several of these into your existing home theater system, the performance of each model will differ slightly. This review will show how both YU Passive models compare in a few different situations.
Packaging, Design, & Build Quality
In the box, two protective bags cover and protect the speakers. Also included is a user manual and eight self-adhesive rubber feet that attach to the bottom of each speaker cabinet to help absorb resonances.
The YU Passive series is available in two color options. Our test units arrived in matte vinyl black finish — but a vinyl white finish is also available. When we removed them from their protective bags, we noticed the simple, modern look of the YU Passives. Both models feature rounded corners — there are no logos, branding, or insignia on the speakers — giving the YU Passive series an understated, minimalistic look that will blend in with any room’s style and decor. In fact, they could actually disappear entirely into the background if you really wanted them to.
The build quality is quite impressive, especially at these price points. Designed in Kanto’s Coquitlam, British Columbia headquarters in a suburb of Vancouver, the YU Passive series is constructed from solid MDF cabinets that feel sturdy, and well-braced. Each YU Passive 5.25” speaker cabinet weighs almost 9 pounds, whereas the smaller YU Passive 4” weighs 5 ½ pounds each. Both models feature a bottom-mounted ¼-inch-20 threaded hole to securely bolt each cabinet to compatible Kanto speaker stands — and this will further reduce resonances through coupling.
What sets the YU Passive 5.25’ apart from the YU Passive 4” is the size, bass output, and price. Dimensionally, the YU Passive 5.25’s MDF cabinet stands almost 11-inches tall, about 7-inches wide and just a little over 8-inches deep. This is a little bit larger than the little brother — YU Passive 4”. For comparison, the YU Passive 4” is 2-inches shorter than the YU Passive 5.25”, and is 5 ½-inches across by 7 ½-inches deep — making a pair of YU Passive 4” speakers a more compact option for desktop and tabletops where space is limited.
Kanto YU Passive 4″ Bookshelf Speakers
Grilles do not attach to the front of the speaker cabinets, and this gives the YU Passive series a nice, clean professional studio monitor look with a view of the woofer and the tweeter. The YU Passive 5.25” consists of a 5 ¼-inch high-strength Kevlar® woofer (hence the name “Passive 5.25”). For comparison, the YU Passive 4” consists of a 4-inch Kevlar® woofer — but both models are complemented with the same 1-inch silk dome tweeter. Both models also feature a tuned bass port on the back of each cabinet to produce tight bass with low distortion, and high-quality Knurled speaker binding posts that connect with an integrated amplifier or a home theater receiver.
Kanto YU Passive 5.25″ Bookshelf Speakers
Due to their compact sizes, we see the YU Passive speakers working great on a desktop with a dedicated DAC/amp combo or with a two-channel listening station and a turntable. You could even use the larger YU Passive 5.25” or smaller YU Passive 4” in a two-channel setup to enhance your TV’s sound by connecting them to an integrated amp.
Features & Technology
The YU Passive 5.25” and YU Passive 4’ are both passive speakers, meaning they need an amplifier or a receiver to supply enough power to drive them.
For those just starting out with passive speakers, an amplifier has two parts — there’s a stereo preamplifier and a stereo power amplifier. The preamp controls the switching and the volume, while the power amp provides the current that actually moves the speaker diaphragm to produce the sound you hear. When everything is combined and integrated into one cabinet, you get what’s called an “integrated amplifier.” If the cabinet includes a tuner, we call that component a stereo receiver. Music lovers typically prefer the sound of integrated amps over stereo receivers, since the brands who specialize in integrated amps tend to focus on better sound quality over a ton of features.
There are a ton of options on the market, so If you want to know exactly what to look for when shopping for a good integrated amplifier, check out our list of the Best Integrated Amplifiers Under $1,000.
Since you are free to use any integrated amplifier or receiver with enough power to drive them, a major advantage of passive speakers is the maximum flexibility they offer. Paired with a capable amplifier, both YU Passive models will present impressive sound for their size and their price-points — and this also minimizes the number of cables needed since you do not need to run power cables to each speaker — just a speaker cable. Passive speakers like the YU Passives allow you to tailor the sound by switching out amps. With passive speakers like the YU Passives, you can change out the DAC/amplifier to tailor the sound, since you are not tied to the amp inside a pair of powered speakers.
The YU Passive 5.25” has an impedance of 6 Ohms compared to 4 Ohms to drive the YU Passive 4”. You will get the most out of either model when you use an integrated amp or receiver in the 30-90 watt per channel range. . For a dedicated vinyl setup or Bluetooth streaming station, the Sony STR-DH190 2-Channel Stereo Receiver is a great inexpensive option to consider — or, step it up to the Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier with Built-In Phono Stage for better performance.
If you want to enhance your two-channel listening experience with movies and TV shows, you will need a receiver with an optical input or ARC connectivity to pair up either model to your TV. We think the Sony STR-DH590 Multi-Channel Receiver is an excellent match for the YU Passive’s price point.
The room where we tested the YU Passive series was a typical living room space with an open floor plan — about 12-feet wide, 16-feet deep, and 9-feet high ceilings. We let the speakers break in with some white noise, first. After that, we were on our way watching movies with an Apple TV, and streaming music from the Sony STR-DH190. We also connected up a Pro-ject Debut Carbon EVO turntable to our integrated amplifier to playback a collection of vinyl records.
We fashioned the self-adhesive rubber feet to the bottom of the YU Passive 4” to further reduce vibrations and stationed them on a tabletop. We then coupled the YU Passive 5.25” cabinets to Kanto speaker stands to stabilize their positions and this improved the sound of the bass as well. To get the best results in your room, you’ll want to try and form an equilateral triangle with the speakers equally spaced apart so that you’re also sitting at an equal distance from the speakers. If you do not have a good way to position them, Kanto speaker stands will help the imaging by raising them up high enough to remove the potential of furniture or other boundaries from interfering with the sound quality. You should play around with the angle of the speakers until the dialogue and vocals sound like they are in the middle.
During our movie-watching session, we were impressed by how good both the YU Passive 5.25” and YU Passive 4” were at reproducing low-end with a decent amount of impact that actually enhanced the level of immersion to some degree — especially on special effects. Both models have the same high-performance tweeter, so the treble response goes up to 20 kHz. With both the YU Passive 5.25” and YU Passive 4”, the 1-inch silk dome tweeters produced smooth, natural treble that was pretty good for binge-watching movies back-to-back without fatiguing our ears.
The YU Passive 4’s 4-inch high-strength Kevlar woofer specs out at 60 Hz. Kanto does not provide a plus or minus point on either model, so we are not sure if the bass really gets that low, but the impact is pretty good for their size. If you like psychological thrillers, you have to check out “The Invisible Man.” At about 6 minutes in, there’s a scene where the main character is escaping her controlling fiance’s high-tech high-security mansion in the middle of the night. About 30 seconds later, the main character trips on a dog food bowl, and the low-end impact of her fall startled us and actually gave us chills!
On the other hand, the larger 5 ¼-inch Kevlar woofer in the YU Passive 5.25” specs out with a slightly deeper bottom-end weight down to 50 Hz. The same scene was not only just as impactful as it was on the YU Passive 4”, but everything else in the stereo field was just a little bit more immersive. The soundstage opened up a little bit wider with an improved sense of presentation that was natural and multidimensional. Dialogue was presented clearly and the sound of ocean waves crashing in the background and other sound effects were more three-dimensional — creating the feeling that we were really there in the scene on beachfront property.
With both models, the bottom-end weight was not chest-punching, and definitely not bone-crushing, however, the improvements were better than we expected and a noticeable upgrade compared to the speakers built into our TV. We always recommend using a good subwoofer for the best bass performance, but even without Dolby Atmos or a sub, we were really impressed with the sound that came out of these small, compact bookshelf speakers on movies and TV shows. Of course, these do have limitations, so if you are looking for better cinematic performance for your two-channel experience on movies, there are better passive speakers to consider from Klipsch, Paradigm, and Bowers & Wilkins, and more.
Next, we knew we had to demo some music! We played a lot of different genres, and while everything we played filled the room with good sound, we noticed modern recordings really shined on these passive speakers. One of the tracks that stood out was “The Less I Know The Better,” released in 2015 by the Australian Indie Rock band, Tame Impala, for their third studio album, “Currents.”
As usual with Kanto speakers, we were impressed with the YU Passive’s stereo imaging on this track. The YU Passive 4” did a good job presenting the mid-range frequencies so that vocals and rhythm sections stood out clearly and musically. Drums in particular sounded fantastic on these little passive speakers! The kick and snare drums had a tuneful sense of timing that was very easy to get lost in. Switching over to the YU Passive 5.25” presented a wider soundstage with more separation in the stereo image — however, some of that great “in-your-face” mid-range that really glued the dynamics in the song together opened up a little bit more and the music sounded just a little bit closer to the experience of a live concert. In particular, we could feel more of the rhythm and pacing coming from the electric bass guitar on this song and the bottom-end weight, overall, just came a little bit more alive more on the YU Passive 5.25”.
Next, since the Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier has a good moving magnet phono preamp built-in, we tested the YU Passives in our open room setting with a vinyl record player using the RCA connections on the back of the amplifier. We listened to a lot of records with these speakers, and overall, since the tweeters are identical, the differences were nominal. The records we played on YU Passives had natural-sounding treble that allowed us to listen to them all day — but when we switched over to the YU Passive 5.25” — again, we noticed immediately the larger woofer reproduced more bottom-end, and the wider soundstage suited our larger room slightly better than the more compact YU Passive 4”. Having said that, the YU Passive 4” performed better than we anticipated as a tabletop setup in our living room space. So, the decision really comes down to the size of your room.
If you want to experience these improvements for yourself, we recommend checking out “Surrender” — recorded in 1978 by the Classic Rock group, Cheap Trick, for their studio album “Heaven Tonight.”
There’s a deep rock ‘n roll electric bass guitar that just comes alive with a tuneful sense of timing and a rhythm and pacing on this one that is so much fun to listen to!
As far as bookshelf speakers go, everything we played on YU Passives sounded fantastic at these prices. For anyone with a hand-me-down AV receiver or an existing five-channel surround sound setup, we think the YU passive series are great entry points into enhanced sound for your TV or two-channel gear.
We like the studio monitor look of the YU Passives. With an integrated amp, a turntable and even a TV positioned between a pair of YU Passive speakers, you will have a professional-looking studio monitor setup that will blend in well to complement any room’s aesthetic. They could even almost disappear into the background of the room if that’s what you are looking for.
Being the larger model in the series, YU Passive 5.25” is the better bookshelf option if you have space and want to enhance your TV’s sound with louder output, deeper bass, and better stereo separation and dynamics.
When we switched over to the YU Passive 5.25”, we immediately noticed the larger woofer reproduced a more immersive low-end experience — especially during movies. When connected to a stereo amplifier, the wider dynamic range of the YU Passive 5.25” will sound better in a larger room compared to the YU Passive 4”. However, the smaller YU Passive 4” worked really well on a tabletop with a DAC/amp combo, and in a dedicated two-channel listening station where space was limited.
For audio enthusiasts who love finding the best bang-for-their-buck equipment or even seasoned music lovers with existing HiFi systems, we think YU Passives are a steal at these price points. While they are very inexpensive, they do have limitations, and there are better options to consider if you are looking for the best sound. But, when YU Passives are paired with a good integrated amp or a streaming station, they do a great job presenting good sound on a tabletop with a dedicated vinyl setup in smaller to medium-sized rooms. As long as you have a receiver that has optical or ARC connections, you could even add YU Passive 4’s as stereo left and right channels to enhance the sound of movies for less than $200 a pair!
Either way, you will be really happy with either model. If you are considering options for getting better sound from a two-channel setup with a turntable and a dedicated DAC/amp, we think both models offer impressive performance and value at these prices. Regardless of the model you choose, we like how Kanto offers a diverse ecosystem of compatible speaker stands and other accessories that all have matching aesthetics.
If you have any questions about which model is right for your two-channel listening setup, give us a call, chat with one of our audio experts and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!