Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 01 February 2010
Canton was founded in 1972 by four hi-fi enthusiasts with the goal of always producing the best speakers of their class. They currently offer numerous speaker and sub models in seven distinct product lines. They are continuously improving their products through an on-going R&D effort. I have always been drawn to their contemporary styling and clean, open sound.
The 5.1 system under review here is assembled from Canton's GLE line which, among their wooden cabinet offerings, is one step up from their entry-level CD line. The main speakers are the floor-standing GLE 470's. The center speaker is the GLE 455 CM. The rear speakers are the GLE 420's. The sub is the 10" AS 105 SC. You can get the whole package for a very reasonable MSRP of $2,792.
- GLE 470 Tower Speakers
- Design: 2-1/2 Way, Floor-standing
- Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 7" Aluminum Cone Midrage, One 7" Aluminum Cone Woofe
- MFR: 40 Hz - 27 kHz, - 6 dB
- Sensitivity: 87.5 dB (1W @ 1 Meter)
- Power Handling: 170 Watts
- Nominal Impedance: 4-8 Ohms
- Dimensions: 37.4" H x 7.5" W x 11.0" D
- Weight: 34 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $549.50/each USA
- GLE 455 CM Center Channel Speaker
- Design: 2-1/2 Way, Sealed
- Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 6.3" Aluminum Cone Midrange, One 6.3" Aluminum Cone Woofer
- MFR: 63 Hz - 27 kHz, - 6 dB
- Sensitivity: 87.5 dB (1W @ 1 Meter)
- Power Handling: 140 Watts
- Nominal Impedance: 4-8 Ohms
- Dimensions: 6.7" H x 17.9" W x 11.8" D
- Weight: 15 Pounds
- MSRP: $499 USA
- GLE 420 Surround Bookshelf Speakers
- Design: 2 Way, Ported
- Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 6.3" Aluminum Cone Mid/Woofer
- MFR: 57 Hz - 27 kHz, - 6 dB
- Sensitivity: 86 dB (1W @ 1 Meter)
- Power Handling: 130 Watts
- Nominal Impedance: 4-8 Ohms
- Dimensions: 11.6" H x 6.7" W x 10.2" D
- Weight: 10 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $274.50/each USA
- AS 105 SC Subwoofer
- Design: Ported
- Driver: 10" Forward-Firing Aluminum Cone
- Amplifier Power: 200 W
- MFR: 22 Hz - 200 Hz
- Low Pass Filter: 55 Hz - 200 Hz
- Phase: 0°-180° (Variable)
- Dimensions: 19.9" H x 11.6" W x 16.9" D
- Weight: 35 Pounds
- MSRP: $699 US
- Canton USA
This system is based on the GLE 470 floor standing speakers. The 2-1/2-way front-ported 470's include dual 7" aluminum cone main drivers. The woofer crosses over at 300 Hz and the woofer/mid driver operates up to 3,200 Hz. The 470's tweeters are 1" silk domes with "Transmission Front Plates" which look akin to shallow horns.
The center speaker is the GLE 455 CM speaker. This sealed–cabinet speaker has dual 6.3" aluminum cone main drivers. Like the 470, the 455 CM is a 2-1/2 way design. (The 2-1/2 way design is a somewhat unusual design choice for a center speaker, but is consistent with the other models in the GLE speaker line.) The 455 CM's main drivers cross over at 400 Hz and 3,000 Hz. I do like that the speaker is sealed and not rear-ported. This gives the installer a little more flexibility in placement options. This speaker has the same 1" silk dome tweeter found in the other GLE models.
The surrounds are a pair of GLE 420 bookshelf speakers. These medium-sized speakers are rear-ported and have a single 6.3" aluminum cone main driver which crosses over at 3,200 Hz. Interestingly, the Audessy MultEQ system in the Integra DTR 50.1 receiver automatically set the high pass crossover for these speakers at 55 Hz which was a lower crossover than it chose for the main speakers.
The sub in this system was the 200-watt 10-inch powered model AS 105 SC. The driver is a front-firing aluminum cone which is mounted in a medium-sized cabinet. There is a generous port which also exhausts out of the front of the cabinet. With the port on the front of the baffle, the installer may place this sub in a cabinet or shadow box. This sub has multiple connection possibilities, including line level inputs and speaker level inputs/outputs. It has a master power toggle, a volume control, a 55Hz – 200Hz continuously variable crossover control, a continuously variable phase angle adjustment from 0° – 180°, and an on/auto on selector with two sensitivity ranges for the auto on function. The sub also has a selectable contour control which can be used to select "Normal" or "Narrow" room compensation. The Narrow setting is for small rooms. I kept it on "Normal".
The GLE series of speakers embodies some interesting technical, design and manufacturing details. The aluminum cone main drivers have glass bead-reinforced polycarbonate baskets. These drivers feature a concave dust cap which promotes improved linearity and better dispersion characteristics. The driver surrounds are injected rubber and the motor assemblies are specially ventilated to increase power handling.
The silk dome tweeters have horn-like "Transmission Front Plates" which help increase their output by 3db over previous models. This is a significant improvement in sensitivity. These front plates also promote a more homogeneous dispersion of sound waves. The tweeters have a very narrow gap between the coil and magnet. The coils are centered for each individual tweeter using a series of set screws during manufacturing. The narrow gap further improves the tweeters' efficiency which means that smaller magnets and less steel are necessary in the build. Finally, the narrow gap means fewer windings in the voice coil which reduces the impedance of the coil.
All five main speakers have a single pair of heavy duty five-way binding posts. The crossovers are mounted on separate blocks to minimize vibration effects. The second-order filters also employ fewer components because the Canton designers apparently feel that this design approach reduces the possibility of the crossover introducing deleterious effects to the sound. Canton also outfits each speaker with a high pass filter for the woofers. The consequential reduction in distortion allows a lower cut-off frequency for the woofers.
Like most Canton speakers, the GLE series of speakers have a very contemporary look. The cabinets are available in seven finishes: Beech, Black Ash, Cherry, Silver Matte, Walnut, Mocha White and White. My review samples were Black Ash. The cabinets were very rigid, with substantial internal bracing. The front baffles have a slight curvature which promotes stronger response in the crossover region. There is also chamfering at the cabinet edges which improves dispersion characteristics: the speakers are optimized for flat response at an angle between 15° – 30° degrees off axis, so toe-in is not typically necessary. I liked the GLE's perforated metal grills. They mount very securely (no buzzes or rattles), you can see the drivers through them and the Canton engineers even optimized the diameter and spacing of the perforations to limit the grilles' impact on the sound!
I want to stress that I really did enjoy the speakers' overall visual aesthetic. The GLE 470's and the AS 105 SC subwoofer are all supported by cylindrical, silver feet and looked almost stately in their appearance. Also, the logos on each speaker sparkled in the light like gemstones.
I set up the GLE speaker system so that the main speakers and my head occupied the vertices of an equilateral triangle that was roughly 12' on a side. Despite the manufacturer's recommendations (that the speakers are optimized for off-axis listening), I toed-in the main speakers to converge about 4 feet behind my head.
The AS 105 SC sub woofer has its natural limitations due to its size and power rating. So, after experimenting with a variety of set-up options, I eventually placed the sub near my room's front wall to provide some boundary reinforcement. I also crossed over the mains at 40 Hz. The center and surrounds were crossed over at 50 and 60 Hz, respectively. This deviated from my typical tendency to set all channels at 80 Hz. I found that the lower cross over points were well within the satellites' operating range and relieved the sub of some of its burden, so I ultimately benefited with a more relaxed presentation along with greater dynamic potential. The lower crossover points also provided a better integrated sound in the bass registers.
This GLE speaker system needed a moderate break-in period before reaching its peak performance capability. Out of the box, the speakers had a slightly wooden sound. So after about a week and a half of normal use, I started my serious auditioning with the Pixar movie "Up". This touching, bittersweet animated movie has a very passionate score by Michael Giacchino. The GLE's ability to reproduce all the delicacy of this score was the aspect of the GLE's technical performance that I enjoyed the most while screening this film. There was also a certain transparency in the reproduction of voices, especially Carl Fredrickson's (Ed Asner) voice.
The sub produced satisfying bass weight within the audible range, down to about 25 Hz. The bass response was more than adequate and even respectable in the house lift-off scene. Across the upper registers, the sound was subjectively low in distortion and very flat.
Almost all of Canton's speakers have a "hard" look about them with their contemporary styling: their cabinets are sharp-edged, their veneers are glossy, their grilles and drivers are metal. But don't be fooled by all this as their sound was full and rich. To this point, I felt a sense of cognitive dissonance with the GLE's. Their sound was so rich that I often felt like someone was pouring maple syrup on my head while listening to the GLE system. But the GLE's weren't just syrupy sweet, they were also pleasantly articulate. It is quite a feat for speakers to embody both of these qualities!
From the very beginning, I sensed that these speakers had a solid music pedigree. I think it really adds to a good movie when there is a well done musical score which is being accurately reproduced. Take "Angels and Demons", for example. The music on this film sounded really great through the GLE speaker system, particularly the sound of all the different drums throughout the movie. They were full sounding and impactful, preserving much of the dynamics and harmonics of real drum sounds.
Also on "Angels and Demons", there was excellent presence in the sound of the flames in the fire scene. There was a great, tactile realism with the chopper sound in the film's penultimate scene. The bass was clean and satisfying throughout.
As mentioned above, this sub has its limitations. It didn't enjoy being pushed on a movie like "The Day the Earth Stood Still". If I owned this GLE speaker system, I'd personally go ahead and get two of these subs (or one of Canton's larger, more powerful models). Truth be told, though, I'm only a part-time bass freak and I was perfectly happy with this system's bass capabilities at least 98% of the time, even with just the one AS 105 SC sub. A lot of that was due to the bass being clean and nearly pitch-perfect.
These speakers continued to deliver solid reproduction movie after movie, even on lighter fare like "Management". The acoustic guitar throughout this movie sounded great over the GLE's. "Feel Like Makin' Love" plays during the parachute scene and it sounded awesome! It was all good, right down to the sound of the BB gun just after the 'chute scene.
I had to see "Jeff Beck: Performing This Week - Live at Ronnie Scott's" on Blu-Ray to really appreciate his talent and his hybrid playing technique. And he is being supported by a stellar backing band on this disc. I would recommend this disc as demo material for any fan of amplified guitar music. The GLE speakers sorted out the complex passages on this disc very well. They also preserved a lot of the natural timbre of instruments. These are obviously well-engineered speakers with wide, flat frequency response and excellent dynamics. The bass was extremely tuneful as in the amazing bass solo by Tal Wilkenfeld on "Cause We Ended as Lovers". Vinnie Colaiuta's brush work was extremely vibrant.
Imogen Heap's "yodels" were thoroughly seductive on "Blanket". Later, the sound took on a fiery intensity with an amazingly realistic soundstage across the front speakers. I can really appreciate Beck's work when I see him playing with Eric Clapton.
The 1999 CD release of Hilary Hahn's "Beethoven Violin Concerto and Bernstein Serenade" is one of my all-time favorite orchestral works. Halfway through the first movement, I decided to turn off the Audessy EQ on the Integra DTR 50.1 receiver. This setting adjustment opened up the sound and leveled off the bass response. I left the EQ off for the remainder of my time with the GLE system.,/
The GLE's placed me at about the 20th row in the audience. I also felt that the orchestra was physically higher than my seated position which further supported the realism of the performance. The speed of these speakers really impressed me on this disc while the sub helped delineate the boundaries of the performance space. I could hear the natural harmonics in Ms. Hahn's instrument. Once more, I felt that the GLE's had a subjectively very clean, low-distortion sound. These speakers are indeed very musical.
Next up was the MFSL Gold CD of Carlos Santanna's classic "Abraxas". I used DPL II Music on this disc. I have listened to this CD hundreds of times over the years, but with the GLE system's fresh and clean sound, I felt like I was enjoying all these songs for the very first time. The leading edges of transients were exceptionally clean with amazingly well-integrated bass. The localization of the instruments was rock solid as well. All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable performance.
Since I was finishing up my review of the GLE's just after Thanksgiving, I also tried them with Diana Krall's Christmas Album, also on CD. The GLE's revealed the less than stellar mastering of this CD. But I enjoyed listening to Diana sing nevertheless.
I honestly couldn't find very much to criticize about these speakers. They had a confident ease about them with a smooth, yet articulate and transparent sound. They are very musical speakers. Meanwhile, the sub laid down a clean and solid performance. All the pieces are very well designed and built. They are also very competitively priced.
They are a strong recommendation for anybody interested in good quality, musical performance at a reasonable price point. You certainly owe it to yourself to audition them before making a speaker system purchasing decision.