Kanto Living YU4 Bookshelf Speakers: Not Your Parents’ Bookshelf Speakers


I’ll begin this review with a disclaimer. I am a Millennial. Born in 1981, I’m an old Millennial, but they tell me that’s the year they started, so a Millennial nonetheless. When I’m not eating avocado toast instead of buying a home, killing the wine industry, hotels, the movie business, golf (sorry?), the 9 to 5 work week (you’re welcome), marriage, and unnecessarily exhaustive example listing, I like to make and record music. Not just in passing, mind you, my profession prior to making it big at B&H was a recording engineer, so I’m picky about speakers.

I’ll also check my privilege and acknowledge I do most of my listening on my home studio speakers, but when I was asked to review the YU4 2-Way Powered Bookshelf Speakers, I was intrigued. My freelance work gives me the need for what is, essentially, a dedicated music space, but many of my friends who don’t have a background as audio professionals aren’t invested in using their apartment like that. As Millennials living in the New York City area, all have at least 1 roommate and, in many cases, their apartments forgo a living room/communal space in lieu of having another bedroom for another roommate to cheapen the rent for all. Setting up big speakers in a small bedroom is typically a no-go for obvious reasons, and many of my friends, to my horror, listen to their digital music on their laptops.

Kanto Living YU4 2-Way Powered Bookshelf Speakers

The YU4s provide several solutions to these problems, on paper. The speakers provide an impressive amount of connectivity options in what amounts to a small package; they are Bluetooth compatible (with aptX for higher-quality streaming), feature a USB port to charge your phone as you play back, as well as two digital optical inputs to connect a home theater system. As for analog I/O, there is a stereo RCA input that can be switched between line and Phono level for use with a turntable, along with a 3.5mm stereo input, and an RCA output for connecting an optional subwoofer. The included remote goes above and beyond what I was expecting, as well, giving you bass and treble EQ and balance control on top of the expected volume, power, and input controls. With their sleek finish, it’s clear that Kanto wants you to control the YU4s from the remote, not the speakers themselves.

I received a pair of the teal YU4s, the color of which actually grew on me as I tried the speakers, to the point at which I prefer the color to your more typical black or gray finishes (also available). The gloss looks great from across the room but, like your typical gloss finish, does show smudges. The design themselves, as you can see from the images in this piece, is modern and minimalistic so, depending on the color that matches your room and tastes, they’ll be unobtrusive and at home in most placement scenarios.

Sonically, the YU4s surprised me. Initially I was concerned if their size would kneecap their performance, but they pump out 70 watts RMS, so they provide more than enough coverage for your bedroom or living room. The speakers favor the midrange a little more than my tastes call for, but I found the simple two-band EQ on the remote surprisingly useful at getting my music “there” for my tastes. A notch or two down on the treble end really cleared up the Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper, while a bass and treble boost brought Beyonce’s Lemonade to life on the speakers.

Though they’re “only” sporting 4-inch woofers (accompanied by 1.25" bass ports), the YU4s have a solid bass response when set flat, but may not be enough for bass heads and EDM fans out there (or if you’re watching a movie and really want to feel the low end). While I’m always weary at playing around with a speaker’s EQs, I must say the bass EQ is really forgiving, and I found myself pushing it within reason and not noticing increase in distortion or sonic wonkiness. This gives a little extra “thud” that would have most people appreciate watching an action movie with them. Ultimately, if bass is your top priority, you can make use of the dedicated RCA output for connecting a subwoofer.

Kanto Living sub6 100W 6" Active Subwoofer

Ultimately, the YU4s provide some nice bang for your buck. The variety of input options plays more like a fulfilled wish list rather than the kitchen sink approach some speakers have, and can cater to your analog and digital collection. A flexible EQ can help push the speakers into the direction you’re looking for sonically, because they perform on their own in a neutral fashion, slightly favoring the mids and upper mids (which will be just right for most genres).