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’d set-up my Kanto YU speakers in my living room where I will listen to classic rock music, hooked up to my laptop
    Thank you

  2. I’d listen to everything from classical music, to my favourite hip-hop songs, to the latest podcasts.

  3. I will set up my high performance Kanto YU bookshelf speakers in my living room because that’s where I like to listen to easy rock music, connecting them via bluetooth to my telephone & my laptop.

  4. I would connect these to my PC. It would be nice to have better sound in my home office because I spend a lot of time there these days. Great review, gave me a good rundown on what these speakers can do.

  5. I will use the Kanto YU speakers in my family room where I will be listening to classic rock hooked up to my turntable

  6. I would listen to the 70’s and 80’s rock music through my turntable and on my laptop. They would be perfect for watching shows on my laptop too. Thank you for a chance.

  7. I would hook up my turntable and play my 60’s and 70’s classic albums as they were intended to be played.

  8. I could use new speakers to enjoy my music. I will listen to baroque music using these speakers connected to my desktop computer.

  9. Most of my treasured CDs are on my iTunes account – stuff like Flaming Lips, Bowie, Dido, Mumford and Sons, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Blue Rodeo, Amy Winehouse and even some Vivaldi, Grieg, Satie and Shostakovich. I will be playing all that and more from my iTunes account via my computer. I also have a 1960s console with a turntable and 8 track player. Whew – time to recycle so I promise to do so if I get these Kanto speakers which will make listening to my favourite music a glorious experience.

  10. I would love to listen to dance hits with these Kanto YU powered speakers!
    Summer, fall, winter and spring!

  11. Would use the Kanto YU speakers in our living room, hooked to a turntable so we could listen to our old LP’s from the 80’s. Vinyl sounds so good

    • I would listen to rock, rap, ballads and probably baby shark. I would most likely use Bluetooth from my phone

  12. I would use these in the rec-room to replace the old ones and I would stream all my fav music from the 90’s

  13. These sound like great quality speakers at a reasonable price and these would be great to listen to some podcasts streamed from my tablet while working in the kitchen.

  14. I’d listen to jazz music using my laptop as the source; but maybe I’ll also finally get a turntable and listen to some vinyls.

  15. I would listen to Adrian Rogers from my cell phone. I would listen to Joseph Prince. I know my children would enjoy listening to Classical Music also.

  16. I need a set of outboard speakers for the television in my wall system. These would fit the bill perfectly.

  17. I would listen to the soundtrack from Umbrella Academy season 2 through my laptops Bluetooth. Reading all the books I got this summer with my dog as she loves to listen to music and hangout. The speakers would be amazing to have to block out all of my younger siblings screams and it would be fantastic to use when watching shows on my laptop!

  18. I will listen to my favourite radio station on my Ipad using bluetooth while working out in the basement.

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