Vanatoo Transparent Zero Active Speakers

See Full Specifications
Price: $359.00/pair

I pity the speaker buyer who doesn't spend due time setting up their speakers; finding the best-sounding spot. If you don't spend real time moving your speakers around, even on your desktop, finding the spot where they, and you, sing, you're wasting your hard-earned money.

Make no mistake about it, the Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers, when properly placed, will kick you in the spot where music hits hard ("One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." Bob Marley). I would not call the Zero's overly incisive and my ADAM A3X offer more perceived detail aided by their ribbon tweeter, but the little Zero's throw out a nice, fat, musical image, one I would classify as fun.

What's more, or less, is the Zero's house a DAC. I connected my iMac to the master Zero with a length of AudioQuest Diamond USB cable. The speakers connect to each other with an included cable, and the only thing left to do is plug the master into power. I sat them upright, with the 4 inch long-throw passive radiator pointing up but these well-designed babies can also sit with their 4 inch long-throw passive radiator pointing down. The attached stand/handle gives the radiator the space it needs.

As you read in the Full Specifications, the Zero's offer three inputs; USB (16/48kHz max), Toslink (24/96kHz max), 3.5mm (1/8") analog input, and aptX Bluetooth. I hate to sound like a broken file but Bluetooth = family & friend friendly as anyone with a smartphone and music can play theirs through these.

I tried each of these as under-Zero support and settled on the little Yamamoto PB-10 Macassar Ebony discs (I've owned them since 2006 and they still smell really good and feel really nice)

On my desk, I found that the Zero's needed just a slight lift from the desktop so that the tweeters were in-line with my ears. If I lifted them any higher, I lost too much of the tweeter's output making the sound too dark and woofy. The Zero's also ship with isolation pads which I used under my Yamamoto PB-10s. Once thus situated, I spent some time working on toe-in and settled on medium where I could see a decent slice of the inside sides. This provided a nice fat stable center-image coupled with a head-surrounding sense of the space of the recording. Nice.

Vanatoo claims a frequency range of 56Hz - 20K Hz ±3dB (Shelf Mode in room) which for me this translates into full-enough. Mr. Weird New Pop Stephen Mejias is going to take these same Zero's for a spin at his place where he'll talk about adding a sub. Whether or not one needs a sub is a question best left for the listener to answer. The included remote offers a number of functions including bass and treble controls which is a nice touch, imo.

I don't tend to listen to heavy music at my desk because I prefer to fill the barn with it. But one night I was listening to The Bug's new EP, Bad/Get Out The Way, and had the little Zero's fairly well cranked. I was also moving around, upright from time to time (I wouldn't call it dancing per se) and found the Zero's were doing a fine job of sending my music into the larger space of the barn. Of course no one in their right mind would think a diminutive 2-way with a 4" woofer and 4" passive radiator could fill a 35 x 40' space. And the Zero's didn't. But what they did do was energize the area around my desk with some fine fat music.

Which leads to me to believe that the Zero's are well-suited for desktop plus in-room play and I know a lot of people who use their desktop speakers to fill their room. My other guess is the more you ask of them space-filling-wise, the more that sub sounds like a good idea.

The Bluetooth input sounded really lovely where Aldous Harding's mesmerizing voice was mesmerizingly present. The Zero's offer plenty of perceived detail (I kinda hate that word) so that every Aldous vocal inflection and her every movement on guitar was conveyed for an emotional connection to her music (if you're into that sort of thing).

Complaints? The volume control on the remote is too touchy but I didn't use it, preferring to control volume from Roon. The little Zero's could also send good vibrations through my desktop as if they took care of putting the change in the bed vibrator coin slot (I'm still not sure if I really minded this). </complaints>

Switching from my every day ADAM A3X ($349/ea.)/Mytek Brooklyn ($2195) setup to the Vanatoo Zeros was great fun. When I first had the Zero's set up and playing music, I looked at my less-cluttered desk and while listening to If You're Into It, I'm Out of It by Christoph De Babalon, I thought to myself, I could be very happy with this and wondered if the ADAM's offer a bit too much incisiveness to allow for as much fun.1

If you are looking for a pair of desktop speakers that can also play in-room, and you don't mind a 16/48kHz limit for USB (you shouldn't), then I think you'd be very happy with the Vanatoo Zero's, too.

1. Back when I reviewed the Vanatoo Transparent One Powered Speakers, I really enjoyed them, too. Since then I've often wondered why I didn't give them an Award. So I just did.

Also in-use during the Transparent Zero review: ADAM A3X, Mytek Brooklyn

Associated Equipment

Hi-Reality's picture

I had the pleasure to listen to Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers and meet with Vanatoo CTO at the LA Audio Show, LAAS 2017. I absolutely enjoyed my experience with the Zero:s (despite the not-optimal room properties that is more than often coupled with audio shows).

I think the Zero:s set a clear value proposition and hit the sweet-spot in this highly interesting speaker category: audio goodness with useful features, great versatility, look & feel, and solid build quality at an affordable price.

I enjoyed reading Michael's review. Perhaps I finally should contact the Vanatoo team. You would be thrilled to experience the full potential of Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers. We aim to deliver magic with the Hi-Reality system.

Regards, Babak (Bob)
Founder, Hi-Reality Project