Aesthetics and Build Quality:
The YU4 are a seamlessly finished product that looks sleek and polished. The rear panel on the left side has the inputs and bass port and the right side has the bass port and speaker wire terminals. The front is clean and smooth, with a power button and volume control on the left side. The size of the YU4 allows them to fit nicely on a larger desk or on a cabinet/windowsill. You could stand mount them but I think they are a little small to be used for a main system.
Build quality is great, the cabinets feel substantial and the inputs on the back are all very sturdy. For an active speaker at this price range, the Kanto’s feel very well made.
The YU4’s smaller bass driver means they are best used in a near-field setup rather than in a typical hi-fi setup. Using them in a more typical hi-fi setup you lose a little body and the sound is a little more focussed on the midrange/treble. These are rear ported and placing them close to a wall will reinforce low frequencies, you can play about with the distance between the back of the speakers and the wall to create the best amount of bass without bloom due to resonance. In a near field setup they sound best when they have some room to breathe.
The YU4’s have a 3.5mm aux input, a pair of RCA inputs which can handle a standard line-in or at the flip of a switch it can be used as a phono input from a turntable (there is a built-in phono pre-amp). You also get Bluetooth with AptX support, a subwoofer output and 2 optical inputs. There is a USB port on the back, but this is not for audio use, purely for charging USB devices unfortunately.
You get a remote which allows you to control all the functions of the YU4’s, including inputs, bass and treble controls and standby on/off. The remote allows you to fine tune the sound and is really handy if you are not next to the speakers.
Bass: The bass on the YU4’s varies depending on how they are placed, but when you find the right spot, they have good reach (limited by the driver/enclosure size) and the bass is tight yet full bodied, however there is sometimes a little bloom in the mid-bass. Of course, for a speaker of its size, you have to be realistic when it comes to extension and volume, but the bass is present and controlled and gives the sound good overall balance. You can dial in a little more bass with the remote, but I have found that it becomes a little boomy if you do this. Kicks lack a little weight and come across a little dry, but bass guitars have good articulation.
Midrange: This is where the YU4’s really shine, with great separation the midrange is given space to breathe and has plenty of insight and detail. The upper midrange is not pushed back, so there will occasionally be a little sibilance if it is present in the recording. Vocals are rendered with excellent clarity and the tonality is good. Acoustic guitars have good reverberation, and the layering of instruments in the midrange is excellent. Overall performance in the midrange is very good with a slight lift in the upper mids that can add a little bit of a hard edge to certain notes, but this is a minor gripe.
Treble: The treble is not dialled back on the YU4 and has very good energy in the lower treble region. This makes cymbal crashes stand out with great energy but it might be a little too exciting for those who are a little more treble sensitive. The treble control on the remote works quite well, and just dialling it down a notch or two can help on hotter recordings. There is a slight metallic tone to the highs sometimes, not being the smoothest or most refined, but again at the price point they do a very good job at pulling out finer details and adding air to the sound.
Bluetooth: Bluetooth performance when paired with an aptX compatible device is remarkably good, with very much the same core sound signature with slightly compressed dynamics. These work very well with bluetooth devices and the performance doesn’t drop massively compared to a wired connection.
The Kanto YU4 with matching S4 stands make an excellent near field setup, without the stands they do a good job as a backup/bedroom or kitchen setup. Their size is a good middle ground between real bookshelf speakers and desktop monitors and they have excellent features in a polished housing. All this is backed up with an expressive and open midrange, ample low end to give the sound some warmth and body and an airy and well extended top end. You could add a sub to the system to bring up the lows a little, but as they are, they make a fine pair of desktop speakers.
Build Quality: 5/5
Sound Quality: 4/5
Ease of Use: 4/5