- Written by Ross Jones
- Published on 09 November 2007
While most consumers are probably into surround sound, the reality is that a fair percentage still listen to two-channel stereo. The shift to flat-panel video displays and "thin-is-in" look of home theater has perhaps increased the interest in two-channel.
In fact, most of the homes I've been to with flat-panel displays in them were hooked up to a two-channel stereo system. Speaker manufacturers have taken notice, and many companies have dedicated lines designed to match the sleek, narrow look of the new video displays.
Canton, the German manufacturer of top-notch speakers such as the Vento and Karat lines, recently introduced its "CD" series of speakers, incorporating the slender profile and aluminum cabinets to match today's flat panels.
Their newest entry to the CD line is the CD 3200, a fully-active speaker with an integrated digital amplifier for those who prefer their music, like their martinis, stirred rather than shaken.
The 3200's share the same cabinet and driver arrangement as the passive CD 300 speakers, a 2 ½-way design consisting of a 1" aluminum/manganese tweeter bracketed by four 4-inch aluminum cone mids and woofers in a woofer-tweeter-woofer configuration.
The 3200 uses Canton's ADT-25 tweeter, the same speaker used in its higher-end Vento, Karat, and Ergo series. The woofers are the same ones used in the CD 300's, but the drivers have been re-engineered with an enhanced motor structure, improved spider assembly, and "Wave" surrounds with sinusoidal cross-sections to increase excursion capabilities, which are said to improve the power handling and deep bass response.
The 2 ½-way crossover (400 Hz, 3.3 kHz) operates so that the lower pair of woofers produce only low frequency bass, while the upper two woofers reproduce both bass and midrange frequencies (because the two sets of woofers cover different frequency ranges, they are not considered a D'Appolito design).
The Canton's are unusually tall speakers (47 inches), although the woofer-tweeter-woofer configuration places the tweeter at ear level when you are seated. The 3200's follow the sleek design typical of speakers intended to be mated with flat screens: very narrow across the front, and tapering off even further towards the rear of the cabinet.
Fit'n-finish is excellent. The enclosures are brushed aluminum, with permanently mounted grilles. The bottoms of the Cantons have threaded holes for spikes, but also include heavy-cast aluminum circular base plates for use on hardwood floors.
The 3200's are active speakers, the merits of which are discussed in the Secrets feature article, "The Benefits of An Active Speaker Lifestyle" .
The Cantons use B & O's "IcePower" switching (Class D) amplifier, which has the efficiency of Class D amplifiers without the distortion commonly associated with Class D designs. As a result, the 3200 - which is less than five inches wide and barely six inches deep - sports an internal amplifier capable of producing 200 watts into 4 ohms.
Because the 3200's are active, the back panel bears a closer resemblance to a powered subwoofer than passive speakers. The primary connection method is through line-level single-ended RCA jacks, either from a receiver/pre-pro, or directly from the source component such as a television, CD or DVD player's analog outputs.
Speaker level inputs are also provided which are attenuated to line-level. Lastly, there is an RCA output jack for connection to a subwoofer if desired.
- Drivers: One 1" Tweeter, Two
4" Midrange, Two 4"
- MFR: 27 Hz - 30 kHz
- Crossover: 400 Hz, 3.3 kHz
- ICE Amplifier Module: 200
- Dimensions: 47.2" H x 4.9" W x
- Weight: 28 Pounds/Each
- MSRP (USA): $3,200/Pair
Like a subwoofer, the Canton's can be powered on full-time, or automatically triggered by an input signal. There are two volume push-buttons on the back of each speaker (one each for up and down), but the Canton comes supplied with its own remote control to adjust volume.
A telephone cable connected between the speakers ensures that any volume adjustments made from the remote control are applied to both speakers. The rear panel also includes a balance control knob, should you place the 3200's at uneven distances.
Finally, the back panel includes a button that automatically cuts 50 dB if you use a fixed-level source input such as a CD player or fixed-speaker output from a TV. Canton obviously placed a lot of thought into the various intended uses and connection possibilities of consumers.
I configured the 3200's as if I were a targeted consumer, in a two-channel active system. During my time with the Canton's, I ran them through the pre-outs of my THX-Select certified Integra DTR 7.6 receiver, as well as directly from the analog audio outputs of my Comcast-branded Motorola 6412 (Ph. III) digital cable box.
While running the 3200's through the Integra, I mostly operated the speakers full-range, but also experimented by sending the low frequencies (below 80 Hz) to Hsu Research and Crystal Acoustics subwoofers. The 3200's were placed eight feet apart at the sides of my decidedly non-flat panel CRT-based RPTV, with just a hint of toe-in towards the prime listening position. When running directly through the cable box, I used Canton's remote control to adjust volume.
So, how was this surround-sound junkie going to adjust to a steady diet of two-channel?
Two characteristics became apparent immediately when listening to the Cantons. First, they threw off a very wide soundstage. I wasn't particularly surprised, since the combination of narrow front baffle and woofer-tweeter-woofer arrayed speakers typically result in a wide soundstage presentation, but it was still an impressive amount of sound coming from two slim speakers.
NFL football coverage, decoded into two-channel DD by the Integra's processor, almost had a pseudo surround-sound atmosphere. Play-by-play was locked solidly in the phantom center, with crowd noise wafting around the edges of the soundstage. The usual trade-off of having such a wide soundstage, i.e., reduced detail, was barely noticeable.
The second immediate impression (which I should have expected, but it was still surprising), was the clarity of the 3200's tweeter. Since my daughter is an aspiring ballerina, The Nutcracker (Mercury SACD, London Symphony Orchestra) is a staple of our playlist. The fast transients of bows against strings, breaths into woodwinds, ringing triangles, all came through without a hint of harshness or sizzle. The lower end provided a satisfactory amount of energy, of course limited by the physics involved in 4" drivers. Personally, I preferred the addition of a powered subwoofer to fill out the lower octaves. However, I don't know if the typical CD 3200 customer will bother to pair them with a subwoofer, since the K.I.S.S. approach would be to connect them directly from the video source (cable/satellite/OTA tuner). Indeed, once my wife realized that operating the system involved simply turning on the cable box and using the Canton's two-button volume remote control, the Spousal Acceptance Factor went through the roof.
These speakers are sufficiently revealing that they will truly shine when fed high-quality source material. PBS's Keeping Score series features Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, and I happened upon an episode featuring the music of Stravinsky. Excerpts from The Rite of Spring and The Firebird Suite were presented in Dolby Digital, with the cable box making the digital-to-analog conversion. However, replaying the same content recorded from my PVR, this time through the Integra receiver's higher-quality DAC's, there was a noticeable improvement in sound quality. Then, in perhaps an unfair comparison, I played The Firebird from the Telarc SACD (Paavo Jarvi-Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra) through the Integra/Canton combination. Point made: it may be convenient to run the Canton's directly from a source, but you are keeping the Porsche in first gear by doing so.
On the Bench
The Canton's frequency response (quasi-anechoic, measured at 1 meter) reflected my subjective impressions: relatively flat with a drop-off in the lower frequencies. The bass response became unstable around 200 Hz, and was permanently down 3 dB at 60 Hz, which is to be expected from 4" drivers loaded in a slim cabinet.
The high-frequency response was superb, given the combination of Canton's ADT-25 tweeter and ICE amplifier module.
As expected, the Cantons had excellent off-axis response, even when seated 30 degrees horizontally off-axis.
The Cantons are obviously not designed to reproduce the bottom octave, as distortion is almost 5 percent, and the near harmonic overtones blur the signal.
At 50 Hz, the Cantons were struggling, both in increased distortion and difficulty reproducing a clean 50 Hz waveform.
But, at 1 kHz, distortion was less than a quarter percent.
And at 10 kHz, distortion was really low.
The Canton CD 3200's were designed for the sizeable market of flat-panel TV owners who don't want a lot of speakers cluttering up their room, or have to deal with cables running between various components.
With their built-in IcePower amplifiers, the Canton's deliver solid performance even when connected directly to the display or set-top box (plus the benefit of a high SAF based on its plug-and-play abilities). However, when paired with a quality processor/receiver and a subwoofer, the Canton's are capable of producing audiophile sound. Either way, they will make a very attractive complement to any flat-panel display.