Kanto YU powered speakers review

Canada’s own Kanto Audio has a well-deserved reputation for designing high performance, self-powered speaker systems. Its YU series in particular has reached iconic status among those who want quality, stereo audio performance in a stylish and minimalist system that doesn’t require the space, complexity, and expense of a component amplifier. The latest in the YU series drops the numbers—it’s simply the Kanto YU. The YU is a compact, powered, bookshelf speaker system that delivers the audio the series has made famous, but does so at a much more affordable price.


How did Kanto make YU speakers more affordable? 

Kanto Audio recognized there was a demand for high quality, stereo audio from a demographic that either didn’t need all the bells and whistles of other YU series speakers, or simply couldn’t afford its more expensive options.

That’s where the new YU speakers come in. The great thing is you don’t give up the basics that make the YU series so popular. The speaker enclosures are still MDF instead of plastic. They still have a potent combo of 4-inch Kevlar woofers, 1-inch silk dome tweeters, and a powerful Class D amplifier with 70 Watts RMS power. They still have the front-mounted control and handy remote. And they still offer both RCA input and Bluetooth 4.2 wireless. They even keep the subwoofer output.

Kanto YU powered speakers reviewSo how did Kanto shave the cost down? Extras that are available on various other YU series speakers have been left off. No choice of colours, no glossy options, and no wood veneer—these are matte black. Kanto’s YU5 powered speakers offer additional features like dual optical inputs, a USB charge port, an AUX input, and larger 5.25-inch woofers. Other models in the series even feature an integrated PHONO pre-amp.

The Kanto YU speakers offer the solid basics and the ability to connect virtually any audio source (physically or wirelessly), but in a more compact package that skips the extras … I suspect most people who would want a good pair of powered bookshelf speakers won’t miss any of that, but they’ll still be able to enjoy great audio at a very affordable price.

Kanto YU powered speakers, key specifications:

  • Two-way bookshelf speakers with 4-inch Kevlar drivers and 1-inch dome tweeters
  • Class D amplifier with 70 Watts total RMS (140W peak power)
  • MDF cabinets with tuned rear bass port
  • Subwoofer output
  • RCA input
  • Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX
  • Front-mounted volume/input/standby control
  • 1/4-inch mounting hole
  • Each speaker is 14 x 19 x 22 cm
  • Includes remote with batteries, power cord, 16 feet (4.9 metres) of speaker wire, 8 rubber feet

Easy setup, with flexible connectivity

Setting up the Kanto YU powered speakers is easy. You won’t need any tools or any knowledge about stereo systems. The amplifier for the system is built into one of the speakers, so all you need to do is connect the two speakers with the included cable and plug in the power cord. There’s no power brick to deal with either—the power supply is also integrated in one of the speakers.

Kanto YU powered speakers review

I’ve evaluated other powered bookshelf speakers that connect to each other with a proprietary cable. Just plug the cable into a jack. This is convenient, but I much prefer Kanto’s approach. The YU speakers are equipped with standard speaker binding posts, and they connect with standard speaker wire (Kanto includes 16 feet of it in the box). This takes a few seconds longer, but it’s still pretty easy—insert the red half of the speaker cable into the red binding post and tighten it, then do the same with the other half of the speaker wire and the black binding post.

The advantage of using standard speaker wire is that you can buy it inexpensively at any time. This gives you the flexibility to buy longer cable if you want to place the speakers further apart, or you can use a shorter chunk to cut down on bundling up extra wire. Standard speaker wire is also easy to tuck under baseboards to keep it out of sight.

You can easily connect any Bluetooth device wirelessly to the speakers. So you can play your favourite streaming music from a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Just like a wireless speaker! There are also RCA inputs to physically connect an external source. You’ll need the RCA cables, and if your source only has a 3.5mm AUX output, you’ll need a 3.5mm to RCA cable.

Kanto YU powered speakers reviewThe heart of a compact, stereo, audio system

The Kanto YU powered speakers are a great way to get great, stereo sound in a compact space. The amplifier on my desk measures 40 cm across. Besides adding to the cost, that takes up a huge amount of space. With powered speakers, you skip the amplifier altogether.

So you can create a true bookshelf stereo system with a CD player or turntable plugged into Kanto YU powered speakers. The YU speakers don’t have an integrated PHONO preamplifier (that’s one of the ways Kanto kept the costs down), but most consumer turntables these days have their own. Check out my buying guide to record players and turntables if you want to learn more about connectivity options.

Kanto YU powered speakers review

The Kanto YU speakers cost about what a decent portable wireless speaker goes for. However, they seriously outperform that wireless speaker. The key is stereo separation. You get true left and right channel stereo sound, with a much wider soundstage—portable speakers rely on DSPs to simulate this effect, but it’s never the same. The woofer and tweeter (as opposed to the full-range drivers and radiators most portable speakers use) provide more nuanced audio. MDF cabinets instead of plastic add some warmth. These even have decent bass, thanks to 4-inch woofers. And with 140W of peak audio power, these have the volume to fill any room with music.

Also great for upgrading your PC audio

My focus in testing the Kanto YU speakers was as part of a bookshelf stereo system. However, Kanto speakers have always been very popular for use with PCs. Connect the YU powered speakers to a PC or laptop and you’ll be rewarded with a serious audio upgrade for your gaming, video streaming—and even video conferencing.

For that matter, you can physically connect these speakers to any device that has analogue audio output capability, including many TVs and game consoles. Even devices with optical output (another extra that was cut on these speakers) can usually still be connected with an optical to RCA converter.

Kanto YU powered speakers reviewHow to make these speakers sound even better

These powered speakers sound pretty amazing for the price, especially once you get some distance between them to make the most of the stereo separation and soundstage. To take things to the the next level, there are two improvements you might want to consider. 

The first is the use of speaker stands. Small speakers like these benefit from being elevated. Even if they’re placed on a desktop or bookshelf, a tilted stand like Kanto’s own low profile option adds a bit of tilt for more effective audio dispersion.

The second is a powered subwoofer. You can connect any powered subwoofer to the YU for much more impressive bass rumble. Kanto also offers its own powered subwoofer if you want to coordinate the system.

Kanto YU powered speakers reviewThe perfect, budget-friendly speakers to upgrade your sound

Kanto’s YU powered speakers are a great choice for adding true stereo sound to virtually any system. They are perfect for everything from listening to your vinyl collection to turning your PC into a multimedia powerhouse. Add in Bluetooth streaming audio support and these compact, affordable speakers are tough to beat.

If your home audio setup could use an upgrade but you want to keep it small, check out the wide selection of powered bookshelf speakers at Best Buy. You’ll find all the top audio brands, including Canada’s own Kanto.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. I have been writing about technology for several decades for a wide range of outlets including Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, MSN, About.com, Kiplinger, and GeekDad. I’m in my 10th year as a senior contributor for Forbes with a focus on reviewing music-related tech, Apple gear, battery power stations and other consumer electronics. My day job is with the Malware Research Center at AI-native cybersecurity pioneer CrowdStrike.


  1. i would gift this to my father who doesn’t hear so great anymore and we’d use this to watch movies; play music and enjoy entertainment!

  2. I would set Bluetooth to my iPad and listen to religious merciful servant, daily reminder lectures to stay in tune with life.

  3. I’d set these up to my PC, and to my phone with Bluetooth. Listen to some noise rock, hip hop, and podcasts/audio books
    I mostly just listen to those on my phone, so the boost in sound quality would be amazing.

    I have some old records from my dad as well, so I might even pick up a record player for those if I get myself some good speakers.

  4. I would love to play some records on my tele funk system that we got after my father-in-law passed away. The speakers that came with them no longer work. I would love some new speakers so I can listen to my favorite music again.

  5. I would give them has a gift to my man. He loves to listen to his music, would rather listen to music then watch tv. It would be such a special gift for him. He enjoys all kinds of music. Speakers are always a great addition to any music lovers home.

  6. Omg!! Would love to win this, as my husband is building my new deck, and could use some great speakers for outside and listen to country

  7. I would listen to classic rock and replace my current worn-out speakers with these new Kanto YU speakers. Thanks for the opportunity.

  8. I will use it in my shed when I’m in the swimming pool and I will stream some Greta Van Fleet from my smartphone.

  9. If I won these Id use them as my alarm clock to help me get up early for work. That way I can wake up to my favourite song & maybe my day wouldn’t be so bad.

  10. I would play my vinyl collection (rock, folk, classical, jazz) on my turntable and listen through the Kanto YU speakers.

  11. With the Kanto YU speakers, I would listen to some progressive metal and electronic music mostly from my laptop, and sometimes from my phone via bluetooth.

    Actually, I’d do some comparisons to see how the audio quality differs when connected via wire vs wireless! One of the few speakers you can do that kind of comparison on directly.

  12. I’d love to have these as an addition to my “home office” space. I use music as background noise to stay focused (usually random instrumental playlists from Spotify), and I’d love stream those to these speakers!

  13. I would set the speakers up for my 78 year old mother who loves listening to classic country music and her much beloved music from the 50s. right now she listens to music from her old CD player with speakers which have seen better days!

  14. I like streaming Neil Diamond and Gordon Lightfoot from my laptop when I am working. It helps to keep me calm.

  15. I would love to stream my play list from my phone when I am out gardening. Michael Buble is my top choice.

  16. Stereo speakers such as there Yu’s combined with a sub woofer are more flexible than a soundbar. Added to an android tv or a Nvidia Shield for chrome casting and you are set to go with great sound staging for your music. Stream from your phone or laptop and let guests stream as well without worrying about getting out of range.

  17. I would use it by connecting it to my Desktop or my friends laptop. I would play a lot of old School classics. Everything from A Tribe called quest, The Beatles, Bob Marley, The Beastie Boys, Nas, Red Hot chili peppers, Tupac, Usher, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson (GOAT), prince, Sade (favorite singer)

  18. Would stream some Beatles from my laptop. Be nice to have some great sound while I’m working at home.

  19. I will listen to Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles. I like the look of the speakers as they would fit in with my decor and also that they are wireless.

  20. Great looking bookshelf speakers! I would pair them with a Google Home mini and listen to my summer favourite; Steve Aoki – Azukita radio on Google Play music!

  21. I would connect them to my laptop and use these to amplify the music from youtube over bluetooth

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