Kanto TUK active Bluetooth loudspeaker

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Music servers and computer audio
Kanto Audio TUK

In terms of wired inputs, the TUK sports a USB and Toslink optical inputs, a line-level input via two RCA sockets, and a phono preamp with a ground connection also via a pair of RCA sockets. The USB DAC behind the input is capable of 24-bit, 96kHz precision, but is not asynchronous input or galvanically isolated. The phono stage supports moving magnet cartridges. This is eminently sensible – putting a moving coil option on a pair of speakers at this level is gilding the lily. The only other connection is a charging port for a USB device (this does not act as an input for the DAC).

The front panel is also reasonably minimalist in aspect. Drive units aside, the controls on the master unit comprise a single multi-function knob (turn it... volume; push it in... source selector, with matching LED; press and hold... toggle standby mode). An IR receiver eye and a 3.5mm headphone minijack output complete the deal. You can also feed it from a Bluetooth device, and the TUK supports Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD and AAC codecs.

Kanto has built in Class D amplification capable of delivering 130W RMS, but such figures are relatively meaningless unless the efficiency of the loudspeaker section is taken into account. Fortunately, although not an insane party powerhouse of a loudspeaker, it plays more than loud enough to cope without clipping, and you’d really need to go full rabies on the volume control for sustained periods during a thunderstorm to do any damage to the TUK’s drivers. It’s a very well matched system in this way.

And that is the big feather in the TUK’s cap, it’s a very well-balanced piece of engineering. It was clearly designed to play the long game; not so loud and shouty that it attracts people in the short-term and pushes them away in the long. A volume headroom that makes you think twice before playing too loud, yet is perfectly comfortable at low level listening, and an overall balance that is big and expansive without being too showy to make the more sensitive audiophiles on the planet run for cover.

The speakers perform extremely well. The first thing that hits you about them is the bass. There is a lot of it, but it is not overblown, too fat, too obvious, or uneven. Like many speakers of its size, there is some thickening around the 80Hz mark to give the impression of bass depth, but the impact on the sound is mild and only really serves to make the sound seem that bit fuller and larger. OK, if you listen primarily to very pure female vocals such as Joyce DiDinato [Stella di Napoli,Erato], that slight lift might come over as a little too much chestiness, but for most listeners with most music, it’s just a good, big and clean sound, that’s fun to listen to.

Let’s not underplay the TUK’s hand, it’s got the audiophile chops. It’s more than just a big, bassy sound, and can give fine stereo imaging, when used on speaker stands. And they are fast, too. The combination of quick metal coned driver and notoriously fast AMT tweeter combine well here.

The TUK is also very unforgiving in performance, which is not a back-handed compliment. The TUK will have to play nice with a range of inputs that are not likely to have much in the way of audiophile snootiness, and the results might sound too compressed on conventional audio are absolutely fine sounding through the TUK. It won’t make the most compressed signals magically solve their problems, but the TUK is a lot less forgiving than a lot of its older-style rivals at its price and above.

Detail is perhaps ‘good plus’ rather than outstanding, but the loudspeaker goes instead for speed of delivery than sheer weight of information on offer. On balance, I like that position for the TUK, as it makes it all the more listenable, and I’d rather this sheer speed of delivery, than blandly listening to well-produced aural wallpaper replayed tiresomely, but with tireless detail.

The phono stage is perhaps the best example of this balance in the system. It is ideal for good turntables with moving magnet cartridges. I can easily see the TUK being used with a turnatble that costs roughly as much as the loudspeaker itself. Swap out that turntable for one that costs ten times as much and you won’t get the concomitant improvement in performance that you might expect to hear elsewhere, but in the context of the TUK, this all works together perfectly.

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