German engineering, whether with cars or speakers, has the well-earned reputation for substance and quality. Canton Electronics, the largest speaker manufacturer in Germany, has done its part to ensure such a traditional reputation is upheld. Canton’s Vento, Karat, and Ergo series speakers are well regarded among audiophiles for the high-quality engineering behind their technology. In addition to in-walls, and even car stereo speakers, Canton has also earned high marks for a wide range of surroundsound offerings, including the affordable CD 200 series speakers reviewed here.
While applauding speaker companies that channel their engineering know-how into a wide range of systems, some suitable for the budget-conscious consumer, I become suspect when these same companies cut costs by encasing their budget models in substandard enclosures. I’ve seen some plastic enclosures that were so light that the speakers had to be strapped to the stands because heavier-grade cable would topple them over. That’s not a good sign. No need to worry about Canton’s CD 200 series speakers, however. Encased in weighty aluminum shells, these beauties exude substance and quality right out of the box.
For our review, we chose the Movie CD 201 System, which is based on four CD 220 satellites. These two-way speakers were bright and somewhat mid-range forward, yet not always transparent. The CD 250 center channel uses the same driver configuration as the CD 220s but adds another woofer. Rounding out the system is the small but hefty AS 80 SC powered subwoofer. This 100-watt puppy offered vigorous output on movie soundtracks but was not the last word in control, sometimes not integrating smoothly with the center channel and satellites.
When you sit down to watch the visually and sonically extravagant V for Vendetta, you want a surround sound system that will rise to the challenge. The Cantons did not disappoint. Many scenes, such as the one featuring a larger than life outdoor screen spewing Chancellor Sutler’s booming voice throughout the streets of London, depend on a megaphone-like quality to be effective. The system conveyed this sonic characteristic with authenticity, while the rear surrounds bolstered the requisite chair-rattling effects during the numerous fight scenes.
Ditto in the great martial arts scene in Batman Begins during which our hero elects to skip beheading the prisoner, choosing to destroy his nefarious hosts’ lair instead. The Cantons delivered the kind of in-yourface sound and subwoofer spinetinglers that die-hard movie fans thrive on.
Among all these sonic pyrotechnics, however, there was a hint that some parts of the frequency range weren’t as dialed in as they could be. Specifically, I detected a small gap between the lower midrange and upper bass. While it might slip through unnoticed on action-packed movie soundtracks, the gap becomes more apparent with music. Take the Kodály Quartet’s recording of Schubert’s challenging Death and the Maiden [Naxos]. The Cantons nailed the three-part violin and viola harmony passages but the cello was less emphatic as it moved through the lower-midrange to the bass.
Still, on Damien Rice’s “Cold Water” [O, Vector Recordings], the singer’s highpitched voice was recreated masterfully and the resonant “underwater choir” possessed the eerie, mysterious quality that makes this cut so memorable. The Cantons were almost bright to a fault, however. At times, guitar riffs and Rice’s singing would pull my ear toward a speaker rather than blending into the soundstage.
Considering what you get for $2000, the Canton Movie CD 201 system is a bargain for those who want a bold and bright sounding surround rig. It is a bit more satisfying on big-action movie soundtracks than on full-range music CDs, but if music is your bent, you might consider upgrading the front speakers to Canton’s larger, tower-type CD 200s. Even so, the CD 201 system met most of our expectations and exceeded a number of them. It deserves a listen.