Desk speakers under $400?

Been rocking Audioengine A5’s for 9 years, looking to upgrade to something better now that I know there are much better options out there. Wanted to get your guys’ opinion on what to get.

My budget is around $400 give or take. Right now I’m torn between the Vanatoo T0s and the Adam T5Vs. I’m gravitating toward them for their lauded stereo imaging, depth, detail, and low-end performance without a sub. I can’t have a sub where I live, and desk space is at a premium. They need to be active, don’t want to fuss with an external amp. I want good stereo speakers that can give the best for sheer music-listening enjoyment, light gaming/movies, and light non-serious hobbyist-level music production. I listen to everything, from 1950’s big band to 1980’s glam rock to smooth jazz to R&B to EDM. I currently route all audio through a Topping D30 DAC (which I absolutely LOVE) and a JDS Atom amp/preamp.

If anyone can give a personal comparison between the Vanatoo T0 and Adam T5V I would love to hear your opinion!

I was facing this very decision and chose the T5V. I prefer to use my own DAC/Preamp rather than something built into a speaker. That means I would be paying for a bunch of stuff I would never use in the T0. No regrets at all. The T5V is fantastic.


Thanks for chiming in EvilGnome6! I’d love to hear more about what you think of the sound of the T5V!

Yesterday I bit the bullet and bought the Vanatoo T0’s on Amazon for same-day shipping. They’re sitting on my desk right now right next to my Audioengine A5s. I’m very impressed by the T0’s by what they can do for their size and price, but after 12 hours of A-B comparison, I’m sad to say that no, they don’t replace my Audioengines and I’ll be returning them.

I tried everything, turning off Shelved DSP and Limiters, connecting through my DAC instead of the on-board optical/USB, different speaker placements and positions, flipping them upside down Zeos style, messing with the EQ, etc. When I closed my eyes and listened to my music everything just felt, “small,” like I could just completely tell that the sound was coming out of small speakers. I was excited for the stereo imaging everyone is talking about, but I didn’t get that. It just felt like the sound was coming out of 2 speakers and meeting in the middle. Any panning in the mix just sounded like left and right and that’s it, not a lot of depth. The Vanatoos can get low, but even the bass just feels like an illusion. Most of the bass gets lost in whatever surface the speakers are sitting on, even if they are yoga blocks, because I feel my desk rumbling but I can’t hear any of it. Trebles and details are there, but they are either getting buried in the muddiness of the low end or clipping from distortion. The tweeters distort on piano tracks even at negative treble EQ settings.

I wanted to “upgrade” from my Audioengines because of the general consensus that they are just “average” speakers. I bought them a long, long time ago when I knew nothing about audio. But with the Vanatoos I traded off the Audioengine’s clarity, imaging, and wide soundstage for the Vanatoo’s sloppy low end.

I know I should be grateful for what I have, but it’s hard knowing that the grass is greener in the audio world. Would the Adam T5Vs still be a recommendation in my case, or is it just a lateral upgrade?

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The real hero of the T5V is the AMT. Somehow they are very revealing and detailed without ever sounding harsh, brittle or bright. Tonally, they’re just “right”. The impression I get is that the tone of each instrument just sounds like what you have coming from your source without the speaker imparting any character of its own. It’s not a speaker that will make everything exciting or make everything sound smooth. They’re more intriguing in terms of how much they reveal in the recording rather than trying to impress you with the sound of the speaker.

They also really shine when it comes to imaging. They won’t throw up a soundstage beyond the boundaries of the speakers but you can pick out the exact position of instruments as they are spread around the soundstage.

Where they won’t impress anyone is bass. They just don’t dig deep or give you much punch. You’ll be able to clearly hear bass instruments, but you won’t “feel” them. The T5V do greatly benefit from a sub but I won’t say it’s necessary unless you really like bass (which I do).

Overall, the T5V just sounds great, but not in a way that will grab your attention. You’ll get everything presented to you in an effortless, professional manner that lays out every detail in a recording for your scrutiny. Want to hear the tonal details of an instrument? Just focus your attention on it. Want to hear the positioning of every instrument in an orchestra? Just focus your attention on it. That’s when they become engrossing. You can hear deeply into recordings when you want to or just sit back and enjoy the music. How Adam Audio managed to do such a good job at this price point is beyond me. I have a $1,000 pair of passive speakers (Wharfedale EVO4.2) that don’t do tone and soundstage half as well.

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