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Vanatoo Transparent One Powered Monitors Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 April 2013
Article Index
Vanatoo Transparent One Powered Monitors Review
Set Up and Listening
Bonus Interview

ImageActive speakers have had a tough road in the audiophile world. They are fairly commonplace in recording studios and other pro sound environments. I have heard several theories for this, including the fact that powered speakers are not as tweakable. Certainly, audiophiles seem to relish in the ability to independently choose every element of a system, and maybe most importantly, the amplification.

Powered speakers do offer several distinct advantages over passive speakers. In a nutshell, amplifiers inside powered speakers are usually matched to the specific characteristics of the drivers, enclosure, impedance, and frequency response. Another obvious advantage is the shorter signal path, and there is no need for speaker cables, which account for huge cost savings and other technical shortcomings.

There is one market active speakers, especially monitors, have taken a foothold, and that is in desktop computer audio set ups. The obvious reason for this is the limited space the desktop offers. But another development has also helped, and that is the inclusion of digital inputs by several manufacturers on their monitors. One such company -- Vanatoo, out of Federal Way, WA -- has their own unique take on powered monitors, and they have already racked up multiple positive user and pro reviews.

Rick Kernen and Gary Gesellchen, the two founders of Vanatoo, sent me a pair of their Transparent One monitors finished in natural cherry. The speakers are also available in black. They are sold direct and through a modest dealer network for $499, with a $50 premium for the cherry finish. They are also available through The last powered monitors I reviewed were the similarly-priced Paradigm Shift A2. I thought they were well designed and easy to integrate. The Transparent One, while on the surface is a similar product, seems to have a very different feature set. It also seems to reflect the designers' emphasis on some very specific performance parameters.

First here is an overview of the features, and then we will look at some of the design characteristics:

  • 1 Analog input (direct connection to your player´s headphone jack)
  • 3 digital inputs: USB audio, TOSLINK® optical, and Coax 
  • 60 watts per channel
  • D2Audio® Class D amplifier with integrated Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
  • Patented 5 ¼ inch XBL™ 1 inch silk dome tweeter
  • Custom long-excursion passive radiator
  • Volume, treble, and bass controls
  • Left/Right switch
  • Auxiliary AC power out connector for your Apple Airport Express other powered device
  • Optional subwoofer output

Vanatoo Transparent One Powered Monitors

The speakers are packaged very nicely and are shipped with good quality, unterminated speaker wire, an AC cord, 3.5mm cables, and a Y adaptor. This is everything you need to get started outside of a source and digital cable. I am a big fan of companies that ship products with “starter” kits. Kudos to Vanatoo. Certainly, once you settle in, you can upgrade some of these elements. More on that later.


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