Back in mid-2005, I auditioned Canton’s new Vento line of speakers with an entire surround package, (although the matching sub had yet to be released). I found them impeccably designed and crafted, while sounding outstanding. Almost four years later trickle-up theory prevailed and Canton introduced the flagship 3.2 DC floor standing speaker based on the design success of the Vento. Although just the beginning, Canton’s accomplishment with the 3.2 (a monster speaker weighing over 100 lbs and standing almost 4 feet tall) led them to fill in the line, one of which is the slightly smaller 5.2 DC.
- Design: Three-way, Ported
- Drivers: One 1″ Aluminum Dome Tweeter, One 7″ Aluminum Cone Midrange, Two 8″ Aluminum Cone Woofers
- MFR: 43 Hz – 26.5 kHz ± 3 dB
- Crossover Frequencies: 220 Hz, 2.8 kHz
- Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
- Power Handling: 440 Watts
- Dimensions: 43.3″ H x 10.4″ W x 14.2″ D
- Weight: 66 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $10,000/pair
The 5.2 is the middle of the pack in their floor standing Reference line, with the larger 3.2 DC and the smaller 7.2 DC while a stand-mounted 9.2 DC is also available. Whether you call it significant, the difference among the floor standing units is in cabinet and driver sizes. Otherwise looking at them you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart – the design is that consistent.
The full-sized loudspeakers share the same 3-way bass-reflex design. And they share the same compliment of drivers, the 5.2 has 2-8″ aluminum cone woofers, a 7″ midrange aluminum cone and a 1″ aluminum oxide ceramic dome tweeter replacing the previous Reference aluminum-manganese dome – more on that later. It stands about 43″ tall and weighs a hefty 66 pounds.
In terms of sheer visual design, the Reference is exceptional in its simplicity and quiet elegance. There are no straight lines, with all sides curved and edges radius. The classic piano black is liquid glossy. Rational and functional, there are no “gestures” in the design save for the obvious base or plinth.
Considered a shock absorber the podium reducing or eliminating external interference and essentially “floats” it off the floor. Reaching up underneath between the main body of the speaker and the base reveals the down-facing port which also helps prevent the wall or floor from contributing to the low frequency range.
The cabinet is very much Vento, the curved side walls are multiple layers of MDF forming a rigid monocoque enclosure almost an inch thick, or 21 mm. Internal bracing also adds rigidity by separating driver compartments into 2 chambers. The outer finish is second to none as the stunning piano black is a built-up of up to 12 coats of varnish applied while the preceding coat is still wet. The final luster is achieved polishing by hand over and over.
The “DC” in the line is Canton’s Displacement Control design. Built into the circuitry it controls bass by limiting driver excursion via a high pass filter at unwanted or “infrasonic” frequencies.
The 5.2 DC can be bi-wired/bi-amped with gold-plated screw-type binding posts. This in the end was one of my minor gripes, although substantial in girth, the screw would not tighten to my satisfaction by skipping the threads, almost feeling stripped. Because the threads have a gap it allows the “nut” to squeeze the two sides together a bit too much.
Immediately noticeable about the mid-range and woofer drivers are their shinny aluminum cones – aluminum for its high strength and rigidity, and ultimately for its ability to create detail especially in the midrange.
Examined closely the drivers employ multiple diameters in the shape of the cone. Canton refers to this as TCC or triple curved cone technology. The obvious reason would suggest a more rigid driver produces less distortion. But more so, it’s a complex formula that allows the driver to function at multiple frequencies accurately.
Because the dust cap is integral to the surface of the cone, Canton believes “multiple resonance paths” prevent the formation of standing waves across the driver, also reducing distortion. Lastly the larger radius increases the surface area with the double cone shape. This is said to provide less deformation especially at higher excursions, and once again, lowering distortion.
The gem however seems to be the new tweeter. The dome composition combines aluminum and oxide ceramic creating a rigid and lightweight structure. Even the shape of the new dome is greater in height and width, integrated with the baffle provides greater bandwidth especially at highest frequencies.
Known as the ADT-25 for the reference line, the tweeter flared baffle was also redesigned for greater off-axis dispersion. I can tell you that this was extremely obvious while walking side to side while listening. Canton claims a 3dB increase in efficiency, which is quite dramatic.
Crossover circuitry is given the same consideration as cabinet design or driver execution. Rubber mounts separate the circuit board from the cabinet. Mentioned already was DC technology or displacement control. Canton controls the bass drivers from infrasonic signals (which are described as those under 20 Hz), because as woofers try to reproduce frequencies below their capabilities, harmonic distortions are produced.
I was happy to have Raney Nelson, of Canton’s PR Agency, deliver and help me lug the Canton 5.2’s down a flight of stairs to my listening room and help set them up. My modest space dictates pretty much where my speakers are placed, save moving them a few inches in either direction. We placed them about 7 feet apart, 2 feet from the rear and side walls, ever slow slightly toed in. We sat about 9 feet back.
Then it got interesting.
So here’s the part where I describe how I basically broke every cardinal rule in the reviewer’s handbook including the length of time I spent with the Canton Reference 5.2 DC- changing too many variables instead of just the one, speakers. Secondly, length of the review, what should have been a sweet 60 days turned into many months and I wonder if at any point I became too attached and lost perspective because in the end I simply grew to love them in every possible way.
But how I got to that point.
I’ve enjoyed my low-medium powered integrated tube amplifiers for a number of years and they’ve served me very well for most other components I’ve auditioned, not just speakers.
After Raney and I finished the setup and began playing a CD, within a few minutes we both realized that the tube amps weren’t cutting it with the power starved speakers. On paper my 55 tube-watts should have been adequate to drive the modestly sensitive (88.5 dB) Canton’s, yet what we heard was to the contrary. The mid-range was shallow and lacked dimension.
The sound was not quite as articulate or forceful. We concluded that the 5.2 DC’s needed something more substantial (perhaps even in solid-state) than my modest tube amplifier provided.
Hmmm, a dilemma.
I turned to a friend in Richard Schram at Parasound who without hesitation came to my rescue. His highly regarded JC 1 mono blocks were my first choice, by far. But knowing I was probably going to make the investment, I backed off and Richard suggested the equally superb A 21 which would give me at least 400 watts into 4 ohm loads. I also asked for the Parasound P3 preamplifier, which Sandy Bird glowingly reviewed.
Variable two (variable one of course being the Cantons themselves)
I had been happily using the OPPO DV 983H for a reference CD/SACD player until I reviewed the Marantz SA-15S2 which I finished just before the Canton’s arrived. I was overwhelmed with the new source in the Marantz and it never left my rack.
Variable three (I was on a roll)
While attending an event in NYC at audio retailer Stereo Exchange, I was put through an A/B comparison swapping out cables from Transparent of Maine. The improvements were immediate and obvious and not just slight, I could distinguish the difference 100% of the time. After a discussion with Transparent’s David Schultz about the issues I was having with the Canton he was kind enough to loan me a set of MusicWave Super speaker cables and interconnects as I promised to return them to Stereo Exchange when I was done with them.
Up until then I was very pleased with Wireworld cables throughout my system but I was smitten with the Transparent cables that I swapped them out.
Concentrating however on the Canton Reference 5.2 DC
And this point I was so far past comparing the Cantons that I simply chose to experience and react to the Reference 5.2 DC. Through all the changes however I’m thrilled to report, the Canton’s came to life and I remembered why I loved the Canton Vento so much, the one other speaker I hated to see leave my listening room.
Having said that, the only comparison I will make is with the slightly higher priced KEF Reference 205/2, at about $12,000 for the pair, which I had and reviewed about a year earlier. The KEF’s nearly became “my” speakers, I truly loved them. The sound was enormous yet so articulate, wonderful attack and delay. Truly the sweetest sound I’ve ever experienced in my home. Alas I couldn’t pull the financial trigger. My one wish was to have the KEF’s back for a real comparison because I believe the Cantons would have held their own.
Gone was the washed out midrange, replaced by articulate and natural voices with dimension. Gone was the flat bass, instead a smooth and clean, weighty transition into the low end. Gone was the dullness in the upper range, the highs extended and delicate. I finally was hearing the true potential of the Canton 5.2 DC – a reference level performance.
First as always, the soundstage or breath was immediately evident, instruments were nicely imaged and separated across my room side to side, and front to back.
For big orchestra sound I pulled out one of my favorite sampler CD’s, Super Sounds II, an XRCD24 format disc produced by Winston MA. If you ever want to impress anyone with your system, play them the first track, an incredibly dynamic rendition of the Magnificent Seven. The shift in instruments is startling and the speaker has to respond quickly, with snap, tightness, and recovery. Percussions are lively, metallic, while the brass section is brilliantly portrayed.
In the Cantus CD, While You Are Alive, believability and realism in abundance from the beautifully recorded nine male voice ensemble that make up Cantus. The Canton 5.2 DC captures the sense of space in the concert hall around you.
This is also very much evident in The Essential Tallis Scholars CD recorded in various chapels where the voices are sweet, full and distinct.
Something a bit more earthly is Raising Sand, the collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. This recording is gritty and yet the pair’s voices are smooth and harmonized. The 5.2’s renders my favorite track, Please Read the Letter with such emotion and beauty.
It dawned on me that I chose music that was emotional and moving because I found the 5.2 DC that engaging. But I didn’t exclusively listen to classical music, in fact jazz and rock made the rotation and I found no genre was excluded from sounding natural and organic. Treble elements such as acoustic guitars had snap and warmth, saxophones and trumpets popped. Highs were controlled but not overly bright. Bass transitioned so evenly it wasn’t until something in the room shook that I realized how deep.
Finally I never fatigued listening to the Canton 5.2 DC; I never stopped just because I couldn’t listen any more.
In the end it felt more like I was putting together a new system with the Canton’s at the heart. I understand the need for a reviewer to be as exact in his routine, namely changing as little as possible including his listening chair, (I did that too), to be objective. But what I learned with the Canton 5.2 DC Reference speakers is that sometimes we lose ourselves in the process and not allow the music to speak for itself, to react, to listen, to enjoy.
Sure the Canton’s did need more effort but I’ll chalk that up to experience and will remember this review more as a journey than an auditioning. I was happy to have the Canton’s push me to re-evaluate my system and just as I was happy to settle into a nightly listening with the 5.2’s, I had extended my time with these gems and I was grateful.
Frank Gobl (Canton’s chief designer) has once again hit the mark with the Vento inspired Reference 5.2 DC’s. And as I flip through the Canton brochure I picked up at CEDIA 2009, my eyes were fixated on the new 1.2 DC Reference, the really big boys! Bring them on, this time I’m ready for them.