Important Specs Overview
Speaker type: powered, sealed /w passive radiator
Power output: 2 x 48 W
Frequency response range: 56 – 20k Hz (+/- 3dB)
Driver size: 4 in
Unit weight: 4.5 lbs
Cabinet dimensions: 4.5 x 10 x 7.5 in (width x depth x height)
Warranty: 3 years
Review And Discussion
Vanatoo is a mere two-man operation that currently only advertises two products on its entire website: the smaller and less expensive Transparent Zero (reviewed herein) and the higher end Transparent One Encore (review forthcoming), which is a subsequent iteration of their flagship speaker.
And yet, this tiny company has managed to gain quite a reputation in the audio world because their powered speakers are, according to many, the best you can get for the price. They do say pick one thing to do really well, right?
What immediately sticks out is the unique trapezoid cabinet shape – its a clever idea that opens up a myriad of placement options. On a desk they can be angled upward to meet the sweet spot right where the head of the user would be. Conventional box speakers would otherwise require stands or another suitable inanimate object to accomplish the same thing. However the Transparent Zeros can be made perpendicular to the floor with detachable prop-stands too. Or you could even angle a pair horizontally. Lots of options, as we said.
These speakers are pretty clearly intended for near-field desktop listening, but a 2 x 48 W amp will allow these to get plenty loud for most rooms. The response range is also solid for a speaker as small as this is, about as good as it gets for non budget crushing speakers. The tweeter is a full sized one inch soft dome, and the woofer is a nice looking aluminum blend.
The next distinguishing feature of this speaker is the use of a passive radiator, which in effect serves the same purpose of a port to promote the bass. This is just something you don’t see on smaller powered desktop speakers because it’s a definite level up in design, and it’s also just hard to fit one in to a cabinet this small. The elongated top/bottom panels via the trapezoid shape probably help to accommodate the extra driver.
The Transparent Zero has every input that a person could probably want, including a line-out option to add a subwoofer if you’d like, though these might sound perfectly decent on their own. All essential connection cables come included, and additionally the come with foam isolation pads which is a nice touch.
Vanatoo powered speakers (all two of them, haha) come with a three year warranty that includes electronics, which is top of the line coverage. You’re usually lucky to get a year or more of warranty on non-elite powered speakers.
Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition
What’s really amazing with these is just how small and light they’re able to remain with the specs and design they bring to the table, worth particular mention are the full one inch tweeter, the metallic woofer, and the additional passive radiator.
The PreSonus Eris (reviewed here) and highly popular AudioEngine A5+ (reviewed here) are the only two competitors we’ve really seen that compare in specs while managing to stay small, but are both slightly more expensive, and lack features the Transparent Zero has. The PreSonus also has an inferior warranty.
There are competitors which may be more performant, but will be a lot bigger and heavier (looking at you JBL). All in all? These might be the best current option for the price, which is really good for what you get.
Some might not need so much power, or they’d rather save money and accept a marginal decrease in quality (no judgements, seriously). Check out the links below for some cheaper alternatives that are great in their own right.