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Activating the entry-level: Vanatoo’s Transparent Zero

A complete hifi system for three hundred bucks? We could build our own – loudspeakers, amplifier, DAC and Bluetooth streamer, interconnects and loudspeaker cable – or we could let Vanatoo and their Transparent Zero (T0) active loudspeaker system take care of the whole shebang. Unbox and go.

Not only do we lose the kabelsalat but active loudspeakers have one key advantage over their passive brethren: one amplifier per driver, each specifically tailored to its input impedance plot, and therefore optimised for the best possible sound quality.

Tying together the T0’s 4″ aluminium mid/bass driver and 1″ soft dome tweeter is a digitally active crossover network. Executed in the digital domain with prior to the amplification stage, the crossover is a DSP-based 8th-Order Linkwitz Riley at 2200Hz which, according to company co-founder Gary Gesellchen, “makes for very good off-axis response and downright scary imaging.”

Allow the music signal to pass from the input speaker to its ‘slave’ is what appears to be an Ethernet cable. Only it isn’t. Not quite. Here’s Gesellchen with the details: “The interconnect cable we supply is not really an Ethernet cable. Ethernet uses a 8 conductor cable with RJ45 connectors. We use a 10 conductor cable with RJ50 connectors. This allows 3 pairs to be used on the woofer and 2 pairs on the tweeter. The result is greater redundancy and lower cable resistance, both of which are a good thing. HOWEVER, an RJ45 Ethernet cable will plug in and work just fine, so we have maintained that flexibility for customers.”

Getting music into the T0 is a remote-controllable affair: aptX Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm analogue and TOSLINK. Combined with their brick-like size, the latter input has the T0 primed for TV amelioration. Your average TV’s loudspeakers suck. The T0 won’t. Each loudspeaker’s reversible stand angles the speaker upwards, toward the ear, or fires ’em straight-y 180.

“The T0 won’t make your bed in the morning or butter your toast, but it does preserve the essence of music and make it more accessible than ever,” says

[On the V-T-B switch, details remain TBC. My best is guess is DSP customisation according to surface/room placement a la Dynaudio].

UPDATE:

“The V-T-B switch serves multiple functions. When the speaker is in use the switch defines the function of the knob on top. The knob controls either the volume the treble, or the bass, depending on the switch position. If you ever lose or misplace the remote, you can still tweak the sound coming from your T0’s.”

“The less obvious use is that the switch is used when setting up the speakers to alternate configurations. You can do things like make the speaker mono (if you just want one for Bluetooth on the deck), vary the brightness of the LED, switch between “Flat” and “Shelf” EQ modes (changes bass profile and overall output level), etc. Many customers will probably never use the alternate configurations, but for those who want to changes things to best fit their usage, we think it will be really helpful. We had 3 years of customer feedback on the T1 that went into the T0, so we know what people told us they wanted.”

Having reviewed said T1, memories linger of a sound that’s clean on transient incision and BIG on bass. Bigger than that of Audioengine’s HD6. If Vanatoo’s ClearBass tech has been applied in a similar fashion here, you’ll likely want to hear the T0 before taking advantage of their subwoofer output.

Those in the Chicago area at the end of April can audition the T0 at AXPONA. Vanatoo will be in room 1249.

Gesellchen and his business / audio engineering partner Rick Kernen are more than ready: “I’m kind of excited to stand in front of a group of people who might be skeptical of a “cheap” $300 cable and claim with a straight face that they will find music from a $300 system to be listenable. And then prove it to them!”

Otherwise, taking a punt on the T0’s US$299 introductory price, after which an RRP of US$359 applies, is the way to go. Vanatoo offer 30-day returns on direct sales.

Further information: Vanatoo

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
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12 Comments

  1. Always enjoy your content mr.Darko
    Regarding Vanatoo’s Transparent Zero
    Any chance of oz availability

      • Yes, but I think what’s being driven at here Rick is the absence of AAC support, which means any iOS device will fall back to the inferior-sounding (to my ears) SBC.

  2. I have the Vanatoo 1’s which I use as bedroom speakers connected to an Apple TV so I can Airplay to them. I was using them with a subwoofer but they are bassy and so I disconnected the subwoofer and prefer the sound now.
    However I bought Kef LS50 wireless for the living room and now the Vanatoo’s don’t sound nearly as good as they used to….:-)
    Not sure what if any advantage the new Vanatoo’s would have over the old ones…they do include a remote now. Bluetooth built in but life is too short to use bluetooth for music especially when being all Apple I can’t use AptX except for my laptop. They could support AAC bluetooth but looks like they haven’t.

  3. This would make a good desktop system. It doesn’t have a built in DAC so I think you need one that has a USB input and output, if they exist. This would provide at least Redbook sound quality instead of the regular low rez from a computer.

    • Paul – what do you mean it doesn’t have a built in DAC? It absolutely does! And low res from a computer? Say whaaaat? 😉

      • Yes, I missed it. It was in their specs, but only 48K from USB, not 96. By low rez, I meant the base computer sound without using a DAC.

        So I guess this better for TV with an optical output. Except I have a home theater system for my large TV and I don’t care about the sound from my other TVs

        Bluetooth with aptX for wireless connection

        USB audio up to 48K at 16 bits

        Toslink optical up to 96K at 24 bits

        3.5mm (1/8″) analog input, ADC sampled at 48K at 24 bits

  4. John, I know you’re a fan of the Chromecast Audio – less so the Toslink connection and IME that’s prudent. There’s a vid on YT of a guy in the US who has used 4 Chromecasts in different parts of his house to show how well the system works – his main system at the time was a pair of Vanatoo bookshelves and one of their subs. We’ve all seen the vids from a show where the 200K+ of gear just cant overcome the room+mic+YT compression, but that vid blows my tiny mind. He readily admits that the mic on his camera is nothing special and I’m not going to link to the vid for fear of being told I have cloth ears, but for a 35USD puck streaming Spotify into the back of some cheap speakers via Toslink (toslink, ffs ..), I’d far prefer to spend time in his room than the aforementioned showqueen rigs. Maybe I *do* have cloth ears, but isnt this hobby about finding something you like and running with it ?

    (Genelec need to start sending you gear now that you’re in their backyard)

    McLovin, a Vanatoo convert

    • Oh – and my major beef with the Chromecast isn’t the TOSLINK quality – that can be sorted with a reclocker. It’s the Chromecast’s lack of gapless playback that bugs the bejesus out of me.

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