Product Review - Canton Karat M 80 DC Floor-Standing Speakers, CM-7 Center Channel Speaker, M 30 DC Bookshelf Speakers, and AS-300 Powered Subwoofer - March, 2002 - Part 2

John E. Johnson, Jr.


The Sound

The PR firm for Canton was a little impatient with me, because I was having so much fun with the Karats, I didn't want to rush. These are very fine speakers. I tested them with a number of our reference components, including the Audio Alchemy Transport, Perpetual Technologies DAC, Balanced Audio Technology VK-5i Preamplifier, Balanced Audio Technology VK-75SE Power Amplifier, McCormack Transport, McCormack DAC, Theta Casablanca II Preamp/Processor, Rotel RMB-1095 Power Amplifier, Cinepro 3k6 SE Gold Power Amplifier, Theta Dreadnaught Power Amplifier, and McIntosh MC602 Power Amplifier. Like I said, I was having a lot of fun with these speakers. I had to go get several massages to work out all the knots in my shoulder muscles from moving these things from room to room

I would characterize the Karats as tight and focused with a very definable soundstage that went about 3 feet beyond the sides, but a little less than that in depth. There was no emphasis in any particular part of the audio spectrum, compared to my Magnepan planar-magnetics and Carver ribbons, which tend to have a very forward midrange. Of course, it may be that the Cantons have a recessed midrange and the ribbons are neutral, or that the ribbons, being much larger speakers, just sound midrange forward. It all depends on what you are used to.

There was no sibilance or boominess from the woofers on the sides of the speakers or from the subwoofer. Instruments could be localized on the stage very easily. The CM-7 center channel speaker blended nicely across the front, including when I used either the M 80 DCs or the M 30 DCs as mains. After all, many people like bookshelf speakers in the front as well as the rear. The Canton speaker stands that were included with this package were perfect for putting the M 30 DCs anywhere I wanted to. They are easy to assemble and are very heavy, even without filling the columns with sand.

The damping on the Karat speaker enclosures is rock solid, among the best I have ever tested. Looking into the rear port, I could see lots of conventional stuffing material, and I suspect the damping is due to heavy braces throughout the enclosures.

We gets lots of CDs to review, and one in particular is a recent recording of Yuko Maruyama on the new Shigeru VII Grand Piano, introduced by Shigeru Kawai Piano Company. This is the premiere recording of the new piano ("In Tone Nation", Yuko Maruyama, Zephyr - It is a jazz album, with an easy listening style.

What captivated me about this album is the clarity of the recording. There did not seem to be any compression that ruins so many other CDs. With the Karats, I could place each instrument perfectly, including the piano, bass, drums, and saxophone across the soundstage. Maybe it was because the piano itself is a spectacular new product of Kawai, but in any case, someone spent a lot of time making this recording, and it is now part of my reference set, especially since the musicians are marvelous. Interestingly, it is an AAD recording made in 2001. In other words, it was recorded in analog, mixed in analog, and released as digital (mastered by Marcussen Studios, in Los Angeles, California).

Voices on the Karats were also very pleasant. For example, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, etc., all sounded natural and clean, save for the compression that I mentioned above. You really have to get that Maruyama disc to hear what you have been missing on other CDs. I wish they would cut out all that compression. It results in the same volume whether they are singing loud or soft, and it lessens the enjoyment.

Itzhak Perlman's Stradivarius sounded like the beautiful instrument it is, and Yo-Yo's cello had plenty of audible rosin.

I only had one reservation about this system, and that is the AS-300 subwoofer. Although the sound itself is fine and of sufficient volume, it does not go deep (low) enough for a $1,700 sub. Really, it should go to at least 25 Hz, at 3 dB down, for this price. However, I do have to say that the sound from the AS-300 was very clean. I could not hear any harmonics when I fed it the sine waves for the frequency response tests. It almost sounded like a servo-feedback subwoofer. It would not play really loud though (more than 100 dB). Perhaps there is a limiter to keep it from going non-linear.


All in all, the Canton Karats are a very impressive set of products. They are beautiful to look at, and have a marvelous sound. If you don't care about the 20 Hz rumble of a big pipe organ, the AS-300 will be OK too; otherwise, go for one of the big hog subwoofers that have 18" drivers and 1,000 watt power amplifiers to move the foundation.


- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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