Surround Sound Speaker Systems
Canton GLE 490 Floor-standing Speakers, GLE 455 Center Channel, GLE 430 Bookshelf Speakers, and AS 105 SC Subwoofer
- Written by Andrew Yang
- Published on 21 May 2009
It may be a result of having used various satellite and subwoofer combinations over the years, but the most striking thing in listening to this system was the physicality of the sound. The closest approximation I could make was to the difference between an upright piano and a grand. The notes are certainly the same, but the grand is a more visceral listening experience. Even understanding the limitations of the human ear in localizing low frequencies, I think the physical sensation of low frequency sound is significant well within the range of human hearing. It commonly seems that only infrasonics are attributed to physical sensation. If space were not a issue, the physicallity delivered by these full range tower speakers would be very compelling compared to the sub/sat configuration I normally run.
The mids and highs were very natural sounding, and quite neutral to my ear. In addition, the system had very tight, and controlled bass output. Much of this can be attributed to the improvements in the woofer modules and the new crossover design. The linear output from the AS 105 SC also did little to bloat the output from the towers. I would expect, an alternative subwoofer with a less linear output would lessen the precision bass output. On the whole, the bass output from the system was well defined, and almost crisp, if that word has ever been used to describe bass.
I specifically requested a 7.1 system, as compared to a more common 5.1 arrangement. In poring through my collection of Blu-rays, however, it became quickly apparent that despite the technical ability to carry 7.1 sound, very few titles are produced with a 7.1 mix. Taking a look through my personal collection, and recent rental history, I determined that just 2 of the 43 titles had a 7.1 mix. (For the record, Hairspray and Pan's Labyrinth.) So unfortunately, the rear channels mostly provided ambient effects by way of Dolby Pro-Logic IIx processing. Personally, I enjoy the additional sense of immersion the rear channels provide. It is unfortunate that the full capabilities of the Blu-ray disc format are not being utilized. It seems with the recent advent of Dolby IIz, and Audyssey DSX that processor generated channels are making a resurgence, where it had seemed the available bandwidth for completely discrete channels obviated that need.
One can always rely upon blockbusters of summers past to exercise a surround sound system. Iron Man features a number of scenes with the prototypical big explosions. This represented a bit of a paradoxical situation for me, in that this was the only time where I was not caught up in the sensation of the sound. The explosions, gun fire, and even flight scenes could be characterized as almost clinical. The speakers provided a clean and succinct representation without bloat. While the absolute lowest octaves were difficult for the subwoofer to reproduce, the working range of the subwoofer was well characterized.
The list of high resolution, surround sound recordings is rather slim, certainly in comparison to the growing Blu-ray and existing CD catalogs. Immortal Beloved has a fine recording of a number of Beethovenâ€™s more notable works. I would say the system truly excelled in reproducing the various orchestras and ensembles throughout the movie. The horns, on a number of pieces, were particularly well portrayed. The combination of the GLE and my electronics did not quite get to the point of recreating the sensation of hearing any of the instruments live, but the reproduction was uncolored, and clear. The soundstage was well defined, and as broad as I might expect from direct radiators.
Jewel: The Essential Live Songbook
It is likely too early to tell whether the growing number of live concert recordings will continue or sputter once the novelty of a new format has gone. Regardless, the recording by Jewel at two very different venues provided a listening experience. While the sound quality of the recording was very good, the mix failed to take full advantage of the medium. The mix remained anchored in the midst of the crowd, while the camera angles changed periodically to show the view from the stage, up close on the performer or from the crowd. This mismatch between the audio and the video was a bit distracting. All this to say that despite being a 5.1 recording, the surrounds were limited to ambient noise, and applause. The reproduction of Jewel's voice, and guitar were well handled by the GLE system. Jewel has a rather interesting vocal style given some of her background in yodel, and the speakers did a fine job in handling her tonality as well as her range transitions.