Using professional-level monitors for home computers is becoming an increasingly popular setup. However, actually getting all the equipment to hook up a pair of these speakers is quite the task, especially when not used for any particular professional purpose.
To answer this hole in the market, companies like Vanatoo and AudioEngine has released products that claim to hold that same audiophile quality but are a self-contained system. Sure, all the high-end wiring options are there, but these speakers can easily be hooked up to a computer via USB.
Both the Vanatoo Transparent One and AudioEngine A5+ provide excellent audio quality, with quick set up and a small footprint. However, the slight difference in price tag may mean one of these pairs is better suited for you.
Read on as we pit the Vanatoo Transparent One against the AudioEngine A5+
|Vanatoo Transparent One
|48Hz – 20K Hz ±3dB
|5.25″ lXBL woofers, 1″ silk dome tweeters
|5″ Kevlar woofers, 3/4″ silk dome tweeters
|60 watts RMS per channel
|150W peak power total (50W RMS / 75W peak per channel)
Vanatoo Transparent One
It’s a bit difficult to track down a pair of the Transparent Ones, but, if you do, it’s well worth it. This self-contained system packs a serious punch and, while the price tag is slightly higher, the extra coin may just be worth it to you.
Design and Build
The look of these speakers is a bit interesting. Vanatoo went with a clean design on front, covering up most of the business with a removable front grille. Once you take it off, the speakers become far more interesting.
The driver itself is silver in color, but not obnoxiously so. It shimmers just a bit, with reminders of old Yamaha white-cone speakers in mind. It’s a design that could be offensive, but we found quite pleasing pitted against the black background.
Above it, there’s a 1-inch silk soft dome tweeter that looks gorgeous. It’s a gray color, almost resembling a blended Carbon Fiber, protected by three metal brackets running horizontally across the tweeter.
The back has far more going on, with all the hookups can control for the speaker and a large passive radiator with the Vanatoo branding. For such a simple design, the Transparent Ones are actually quite unique, and definitely worthy of a second glance.
Features-wise, the Transparent Ones don’t have a ton to offer. They’re a straightforward pair of speakers, meant for you to simply setup and use. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have some options.
The speakers come with three digital inputs. You can choose to hook them up through an optical cable, coaxial cable, or just USB. Additionally, there’s a 3.5mm input in case you wanna just run an analog device directly into the speakers.
Internally, the speakers run off a D2Audio amplifier, providing 60W of Class D power to each channel. DSP acceleration helps clean up the sound, providing and fairly loud sound that won’t get muddy as you turn up the speakers.
Around the back, you find all the necessary hookups for the speakers, as well as three control knobs. There are bass, treble and volume, each to tune the speakers to your tastes. While we certainly appreciate the inclusion, having a remote or some sort of software to control these functions would be far more ideal than reaching around the speaker.
Overall, the Transparent Ones don’t exactly live up to their name of being transparent. If you’ve listened to any decent pair of studio monitors, you’ll know the sound is fairly colored. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad coloration.
The speakers actually sound quite excellent, with a clear and pristine sound. Maybe that’s the closest to transparent they get, allowing you to hear nuances in music that would otherwise go unnoticed.
They can, however, be used for some light mixing. While they certainly don’t hold a candle a proper pair of studio monitors, you can get some mileage out of these speakers in the recording world. In the best case, it’s simply a good tool to do some light audio work, with the heavy lifting of the speakers reserved for listening.
That’s where these speakers shine the most. Listening to them is an absolute treat, with a surprisingly open sound for the size and price tag. If you want a pair of speakers to mainly listen on, while dabbling in a little audio work, then these ones may be the right ones for you.
Vanatoo Transparent One Overall
The Transparent Ones are one of the better all-in-one solutions for desktop audio. With a clean design and excellent audio quality, it’s hard to fight against the high price tag. While searching for a pair is difficult, it may be worth it.
For a more modern (and readily available) pair of speakers, the AudioEngine A5+s are a great option. You have the choice of a beautiful array of colors, with excellent sound to boot. Also, a lower price tag certainly doesn’t hurt this pair as a contender for the Transparents Ones.
Design and Build
Right out of the gate, the A5+s are a far more attractive pair of speakers. The look matches up well with current audio hardware, coming in three different, beautiful finishes. You have the choice between matte black, gloss white, or solid natural bamboo.
The downer is that each finish comes at a different price point. With that said, though, it isn’t without reason. For instance, the bamboo is actually solid bamboo, not just a stain, meaning, depending on the finish, you will get a different sound from the speakers.
The back of the speakers has all the essential hookups you’ll need. That includes completely gold-plated connectors, with a full-size 5-way binding post. You have the option to connect through RCA or 3.5mm as well if you’re not using the USB connection to a computer.
One large difference over the Transparent Ones is the movement of the volume control to the front of the speaker. You lose out on bass and treble controls, yes, but you also don’t need to reach around the speaker to simply adjust the volume.
If you don’t want to use the knob on the front, though, AudioEngine includes a remote control. This is a small, but the vastly significant difference over the Transparent Ones that all these speakers to edge out in this category from the get-go.
This is a modern feature, of course, but one that is accompanied by quite a few others. For instance, you have complete compatibility with iPod, iPhone, AirPlay, etc. with these speakers, meaning you can easily cast to them even when not at a computer.
If you’re willing to spend a little more money, you can also get the speakers in a wireless variant. This is a great choice at only around $50 more, meaning you can clean up all the speaker wires and maintain the same level of audio fidelity.
The A5+s certainly feel like a pair of speakers crafted to meet the demands of today’s listeners. The feature set is far better than the Transparent Ones, adapted to the current state of the audio world.
All of that, and we haven’t mentioned the sound yet. The AudioEngine A5+s is a feature-rich set of speakers, that looks great, but above all else, a pair of speakers that sounds absolutely great for the price.
Put simply, these speakers are the best 2.0 computer speakers you can currently buy. You don’t have to fuss around with any sort of clunky setup but instead can hook up an excellent sounding pair of speakers with ease. If you opt for the wireless option, it’s just icing on the cake.
The sound is clear and open, providing an excellent representation of the music you’re putting through it. Despite the size, too, you actually get a pretty good bass response. It isn’t excellent by any means, and actually falls slightly short of the Transparent Ones, but still suffices.
In many ways, these speakers are even further from monitoring than the Transparent Ones, but that’s not a bad thing. The listening experience is excellent, with plenty of options to tweak the speakers to fit your needs.
AudioEngine A5+ Overall
The A5+s feel like a modern pair of speakers that suits the needs of the current state of audio. Practical features make the speakers integrate well into any digital setup, with excellent sound, and plenty of ease of use.
Both of these speakers are very well situated for a desktop setting. They’re easy to set up, sound great, and won’t take up too much desk space. However, the pair that’s right for you comes down to a few different things.
Price and availability play a huge part in this. While the speakers aren’t too far apart, the AudioEngine pair is slightly cheaper. That combined with the lack of availability of the Transparent Ones makes the decision come quite clear.
However, the choice is up to you, so which one will you go with? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.