Vanatoo Self-Powered Speakers – Florida 2019

My first encounter with Vanatoo self-powered speaker systems began at an audio show way back in 2014, of which we shall all do our best to forget as that was well before my Audio-Head days, and near the end of an era for my infamous “mobile saloon”. For the proper story on that, see Mark Sossa of Well Pleased A|V — now back to the self-powered speakers.

The first time 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 five years later the marketplace for self-powered speakers has bloomed and matured. Vanatoo too has since created new models and evolved their sound. For this time at the Florida Audio Expo, it is a second chance to hear the Transparent One Encore ($599 pr USD) and smaller Transparent Zero ($359 pr USD).

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.

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 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.

For comparison the smaller and more affordable Transparent Zero speakers were on hand. As we buzzed through the same demo tracks, it became clear how much more the T1Es offered for larger spaces. The Zero in my opinion is ideal for desktop installations, 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

by Eric Shook