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CAF 2018: Vanatoo; Transparent Zero and One Encore

KEF R Series

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My first encounter with Vanatoo self-powered speaker systems began here at Capital Audiofest 2014, of which we shall all do our best to forget that was well before my Part-Time Audiophile days, and near the end of my “mobile saloon” days. For the proper story on that, see Mark Sossa of Well Pleased A|V.

The Story

Back to the self-powered speakers. Originally I heard a pair of Vanatoo speakers and I was wowed at how large they sounded. Clean and clear bass, smooth treble, and imaging you don’t expect from nearfield or desktop speakers. That however, was 2014 and just four years later the marketplace for self-powered speakers has bloomed and matured.

Enter the Transparent One Encore (T1E for short), an updated and almost all-new speaker design that plays deeper, louder, cleaner, and more relaxed than its predecessors. Added are Bluetooth (aptX) and an all new remote system that raises the bar. Each channel has a 5-¼” XBL woofer and long-throw passive radiator of equal displacement. A 1” aluminum dome tweeter graces the front of each speaker, where it receives 20 watts x 2 for the high frequencies, and 100 watts x 2 for the aforementioned woofers. The T1E’s come with USB, Toslink Optical, and Coaxial digital inputs, and a single pair of analog RCA inputs. Ideal for a turntable, but only those with a built-in or outboard phono preamplifier in-line. It does puzzle me as to why a phono-stage wasn’t included in the design of the T1E when so many other self-powered speakers offer it at the same, above, and below price point. Yes, the cost would have to increase, but the problems it would solve for many would be ideal and in keeping with the Vanatoo ethos of offering a complete two box stereo solution.

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Rounding out the feature set is what I think sets the T1Es apart from a few strong competitors. A dedicated sub-woofer output with custom DSP Smart Sub controls. The DSP crossover inside the bi-amplified T1E already handles crossover duties between the tweeter and mid-bass (at 2,000 hz), and can work double-duty to high-pass the mid-woofers. Allowing the sub-woofer signal to handle the lowest bass duties without overlap or mid-woofer distortion becoming a problem.

The Sound

This is now twice in a row that I’ve had my ass kicked by a pair of Vanatoo speakers. Admittedly the first time, we’re all still pretty sure I was three sheets to the wind, but this go round, I’m a teetotaler.

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The Transparent One Encore speakers dig deep in the bass without sounding bloated. I credit this to their passive radiator design. The treble is somewhat bright, but not overly so. Would I prefer these with a sub-woofer? Likely so. But where the T1Es function in their stated bandwidth, they function remarkably well.

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For comparison the smaller and more affordable Transparent Zero speakers were on hand. As we buzzed through the demo tracks, which were played on both, it became clear how much more the T1Es offered for larger spaces. The Zero is ideal for desktop installation, whereas the T1E could easily be at home in both desktop positions, or used as a small 2.0 (or 2.1) Home Theater system

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The System

Vanatoo

– Transparent One Encore – $599 USD

– Transparent Zero – $359 USD

All cabling included with each wireless speaker system.

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