Thonet & Vander may not yet be a big name in the US audio market, but they’re certainly trying to make a statement. The massive Bluetooth-enabled Koloss ($400), currently scheduled for release in September, is at the top of T&V’s “high-end” home speaker line. T&V claims that the Koloss will “overcome all barriers” and “lead us to the limit of sound” with proprietary technologies like “Rage Bass” and “GlowFX.” Though our days of testing at high volume certainly forced sound through the barriers of our apartment walls, we’re not sure that the Koloss quite delivers on the pure audio experience that its marketing promises.
One look at the Koloss tells you everything you need to know about T&V’s ambitions. The large, heavy cabinets — each cabinet is nearly 2 feet tall — house a total of six drivers with a familiar design, clearly a more serious offering than most Bluetooth speakers we see. (Also unlike most Bluetooth speakers we see, Koloss clearly isn’t prized for portability.) Each channel features two 6.5’’ Aramid fiber (think Kevlar) woofers and a 1’’ silk tweeter, driven by an internal amplifier putting out a claimed 80W RMS per channel — 160W total. In the box, T&V includes almost everything you need to get started, including US and European power cables, an RCA to 3.5mm cable, a proprietary cable to connect the two speakers, and a remote control. The remote uses a CR2025 battery which, sadly, was not included.
The Koloss will play music from virtually any device. Digital and analog inputs are mounted on the rear of the left speaker, and Bluetooth devices can be quickly and easily paired using one of the four buttons (volume up, volume down, standby, pair) on a small control panel. The remote includes these functions along with mute, track controls, and bass/treble adjustments. Though we appreciate the breadth of functionality, we would have appreciated an LCD to indicate where we were in the amplifier’s 60 volume steps (we counted).
Versatility is a double-edged sword. While we appreciate that the Koloss packs so much functionality into a single product, we fear that T&V may be trying to do too much for too little. As anyone interested in audio gear knows, higher-end versions of the Koloss’ many components could each easily cost $400 on their own. We knew compromises must have been made, and that was confirmed in our testing.
Koloss is the German word for “juggernaut,” and we found that Koloss’ sound signature matches its name. Koloss’ sound is heavy and blunt; after hours of listening at apartment-shaking volumes, we were never surprised by detail or presentation. Boomy bass sometimes overshadowed vocals, and imaging always felt somewhat two dimensional. This is not to say that Koloss sounds bad – far from it – but we did not experience the purity that T&V’s marketing promised. These speakers may not be ideal for critical listening, but we had fun using them and wouldn’t hesitate to crank them up at a party.
T&V has clearly aimed these speakers at users who are willing to sacrifice a little quality in the name of convenience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Still, Koloss is held back by some minor inconveniences. The remote’s controls are not mirrored on the speaker’s control panel, limiting functionality until you make a separate battery purchase. Internal amplifier volume is independent of Bluetooth device volume, leaving you with two volume levels to manage, which gives the risk of accidentally blowing Koloss’ drivers. Aggressive auto-standby, bassy sound, and lack of front-facing display make them hard to recommend for home theater applications. Last but not least, their design won’t fit into every room – the Koloss are too tall for bookshelves, too short to be floorstanding, and too heavy to be portable.
Despite these gripes, we think Koloss lives up to its name — though not its marketing. This speaker set is big in every sense of the word: they’re large, heavy, full-featured, and loud. We appreciate versatility, but we think that T&V’s jack-of-all-trades approach might have forced compromises that hurt the overall package. Koloss may be a bit of a blunt instrument, but that didn’t make our listening experience any less fun. Ultimately, the list of strengths and weaknesses means that you’ll have to think hard about whether they will fit — literally and figuratively — into your life.
Company and Price
Company: Thonet & Vander
Compatibility: iPads, iPhones + iPods