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Vanatoo Transparent Zero Speaker Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Vanatoo Transparent Zero (T0) active speaker. It was kindly sent to me by the company. The T0 costs US $359 pair including free shipping from Amazon.

Little is ordinary about the shape and feature set of the T0:


Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Audio Review.jpg


You can't see the difference in the above shot but you can with the rear view:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Back Panel Connectors USB Audio Review.jpg


By default the unit has an acute tilt up angle but by reversing that handle, you can level it. I can't do justice to myriad of features in this speaker from built-in DAC to subwoofer filtering and DSP control for target curve and bass and treble. As usual my focus is on the performance of the unit.

For testing I used the above sample as you see, driving it through its 3.5mm analog input. It was a challenge to stand up the T0 on my measurement rig as the platform was not large enough for the handle to provide support. I did my best but I think the speaker was still titled back a few degrees.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Spinorama Audio Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker can be used. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC CEA-2034 Spinorama Frequency Response Measurements.png


On-axis response which is so important in the performance of a speaker is actually quite good up to about 3 kHz (I don't mind the bass peaking). But then rises up as tweeter takes over. Company tells me this is a random sample pulled out and its tweeter is hotter than what it should be.

We have a couple of resonances around 730 and 1035 Hz as noted. These will appear again in some of the other measurements to follow.

Directivity meaning how good off-axis response is relative to on-axis is quite good. Look to the blue dashed line at the bottom on how smooth this is especially considering that there is now waveguide here. Early window graph demonstrates this fact:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC CEA-2034 Spinorama Early Window Frequency Response Meas...png


When on and off-axis are similar, speaker will be room friendly since reflections have the same tonality as the direct sound. And importantly, you can equalize the on-axis response knowing that off-axis will nicely take its lead.

Putting reflections and on-axis together, we get our predicted in-room response:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC CEA-2034 Spinorama Predicted In-room Frequency Response...png


That broad hump will surely result in sound that is bright (some falsely call "detailed").

Distortion graph shows the woofer getting unhappy around the resonance point of 700 Hz as seen before:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Distortion Percent Measurement.png


Looking at the distortion relative to tweeter axis response we get:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Distortion THD Measurement.png


Given the limited power and small woofer one expects to see such distortion in bass frequencies. What I like to see is just blank past that but here, we get the rising distortion around 600 to 700 Hz. There is a solution to this though as I show in the listening tests.

I don't have 96 dB graphs since around 93 dB the speaker started to compress and reduce the bass output. By 96 dB, it nearly shut down with no usable output.

By compensating for room effect as with above graphs, we see what we already know in CSD and waterfall graph:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC CSD Waterfall Measurement.png


We see two resonances in time domain dragging on at 700 and 1 kHz as we see in the on-axis response.

Here are our directivity plots which show how I am off by a few degrees both horizontally and vertically (although not enough to impact what is measured):

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Horizontal Directivity Measurement.png



Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Vertical Directivity Measurement.png


Speaker Listening Tests
I must say, my first impression of the T0 on my desk in near-field was not good. I initially put the speaker on the table, slanted up as it comes. The sound was bright and not pleasant at all. I elevated it a few inches using my stand and this improved things a bit but brightness and lack of detail was an issue. So I went to work with parametric filters in Roon as such:

Vanatoo T0 Powered Monitor Speaker DAC Parametric EQ Filter Correction Settings.png


Band 1 and 2 nicely got rid of the resonances and with it came much better detail. Sharp notes floated in a more quiet background, no doubt due to reduction of distortion. While I placed these quite accurately using the frequencies from the measurements, the other two were more or less visual guesses. Band 3 was very important as it nicely took care of most of the sharpness. Band 4 was for that little peaking towards the end of the response and it helped a bit.

All up, the filter package made a remarkable difference. The sound was transformed to be much warmer, clean, detailed and pleasant. It was still a bit on the lighter side but there is so much you can do with a small speaker and available power.

Conclusions
Vantatoo brings great innovation in many aspects of the Transparent Zero speaker from connectivity to form and function. Our focus here though is pure audible performance and there, the graphs so clearly tell the story. A couple of resonances add significant distortion and the broad rise in treble makes things bright sounding. Thankfully due to nice directivity, both of these were addressed with equalization.

To be clear, I would not use these speakers if they come with the treble rise as shown. But if you apply equalization (at least with the treble control), then these are nice set of speakers and I can recommend them.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

The price of meat has nearly doubled around here. Since that is all I feed the panthers, they are costing me a lot more than they did a few months back. So help me offset this added expense by donating using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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Sancus

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#5
Considering they come with a very simple-to-use built-in EQ(switch the "VTB" switch to "T" position, use volume knob to tune, then press pair/prog button to save) I'm sort of curious if turning down the treble a bit also fixes the brightness, subjectively. I own these speakers and I tuned them that way when I bought them. To me their main distinction is their very tiny size(significantly smaller than the Neumann KH80, even) and great feature set.
 

Koeitje

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#7
The pictures were so confusing I had to look them up at the manufacturer's website. Very interesting design. Too bad about the treble, will they send a new one to test? Because if that is solved it seems like a pretty nice speaker. Also surprised at how compact they are.
 
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pavuol

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#8
Also worth noting for common folks that these are true bi-amped speakers (not very common among "personal monitors" designed as a pair, with main electronics in one speaker).
So you have 4 amps total like in proper "studio monitors" (one for each driver / 2 for tweeters + 2 for woofers). As opposed to, for example Presonus Eris E4.5, which have 2 amps total (one for a speaker, which powers both tweeter and woofer)
 

pavuol

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#9

thewas_

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#13
Thanks Amir.
I think you've been very kind giving them a resting panther, given the amount of EQ needed to make them sound right.
Also this way the panther rating is quite inconsistent to older reviews with much better measuring loudspeakers which didn't get the "listening with EQ" option.

Doesn't look worthy of such a pink panther, but well. That passive radiator looks badly implemented, as THD skyrockets at what looks like its tuning frequency.
Fully agree, also directivity and voicing are off, so actually it fails in quite every measurement discipline.

Maybe everyone has forgotten that the LSR305 are similarly bright on axis, anechoically, lol.
The problem on the Vanatoo is that brightness on axis adds to the widening of the directivity at the region, giving that huge bump on the PIR that imho cannot really be corrected by EQing:

1590914787968.png 1590914804005.png
 

Sancus

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#14
Also this way the panther rating is quite inconsistent to older reviews with much better measuring loudspeakers which didn't get the "listening with EQ" option.
I agree with all your other points but honestly the panther rating has never been consistent. It has drifted pretty seriously with amplifiers and AVRs, as well, for example.
 

restorer-john

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#15
Also this way the panther rating is quite inconsistent to older reviews with much better measuring loudspeakers which didn't get the "listening with EQ" option.
Surely there isn't a soul who considers the coarse-grained panther rating anything other than a bit of subjective fun?

I have a soft toy walrus which sits on whatever speaker 'he' decides is his favourite. Sometimes the cat (Julio) will knock him off and drag him away.
 
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tuga

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#16
Doesn't look worthy of such a pink panther, but well. That passive radiator looks badly implemented, as THD skyrockets at what looks like its tuning frequency.
Doesn't the same happen with the Buchardt? Perhaps it's inherent of passive radiators to "resonate"?

Better to go for a sealed cabinet and a sub than adding a poorly-performing crutch...
 
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