Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Canton Chrono 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

Canton has been making upscale speakers since 1972, with acclaimed models such as the Vento and Karat series. Besides sounding great, Cantons tend to look really nice, which adds to the cost of the speaker.

The new Chrono line (that’s Chrono, no “s”) is intended to achieve a happy medium in price/performance by mating the technology and components of Canton’s higher end speakers with a less elegant physical appearance. So does the old adage about not judging a book by its cover apply to speakers as well? Yes, in this case.

Specifications

  • Chrono 509 Front Main Left/Right
  • Design: 3-Way, Ported
  • MFR: 52 Hz - 24.4 kHz, ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Dimensions: 41.3" H x 7.5" W x 11.4" D
  • Weight: 45 Pounds/Each
  • MSRP: $2,000/Pair USA
  • Chrono 505 Center
  • Design: 2-1/2-Way, Ported
  • MFR: 70 Hz - 24.4 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Dimensions: 6.7" H x 17.9" W x 12.2" D
  • Weight: 20.2 Pounds
  • MSRP: $650 USA
  • Chrono 502 Surrounds
  • Design: 2-Way, Ported
  • MFR: 62 Hz - 24.4 kHz, ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Dimensions: 14.2" H x 7.5" W x 11" D
  • Weight: 15 Pounds/Each
  • Chrono AS 525 Subwoofer
  • Design: Ported
  • Driver: 9" Aluminum Cone
  • Dimensions: 17.7" H x 10" W x 14.6" D
  • Weight: 28.6 Pounds
  • MSRP: $600 USA
  • Canton USA

The Design

The Chrono series consists of two floor-standing front speaker models, the 507 and 509. For this review, Canton provided a pair of the 509’s, which is a four-driver, three-way design. Note that the group-photo at the top of the article shows the 507 speakers.

The 502 surround speakers are a vented bookshelf-size two-way design, which use the same seven-inch aluminum woofer/midrange and one-inch aluminum-manganese tweeter as the floor-standers.  You can also choose the wall-mounted 501 surround speakers, a sealed-box design with the same tweeter but a slighter smaller, six-inch woofer.

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The 505 center-channel speaker uses two 6" drivers, one as midrange and one as a woofer, in a 2-½ way design. The two 6" drivers flank the 1" tweeter in an MTM configuration. Technically, it’s a WTW/M arrangement, since the crossovers route deep bass to both 6" drivers, while directing midrange signals to only one of them. The center channel 505’s tweeter is oriented horizontally with the midrange/woofers.

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Rounding out the package is the Chrono ASA 525 SC subwoofer. The 525 SC uses a front-firing, 9" aluminum (wave surround) speaker, and incorporates Canton’s SC (Speaker Control) technology, which is said to improve deep bass response. Given the rather modest size of the sub (the cabinet is only 10" wide by 14.6" deep), I set my expectations regarding low bass accordingly.

The Chrono line uses the drivers and crossover technologies of Canton’s Ergo speaker series (the Ergos sit below the well-known Vento and Karat lines, followed by the top-of-the-line Reference series). The Chronos all use Canton’s ADT-25 tweeter, a variant of the same tweeter used in Canton’s higher-end speaker lines. For the Chrono series, the tweeter uses a new flared baffle, which is claimed to increase the off-axis response of the driver. I’ve listened to other Cantons using the ADT-25 tweeter (Canton CD 3200 Active speakers), and found in both subjective listening and bench testing that they had excellent off-axis response. The fact that Canton’s engineers are still trying to wring that last bit of performance out of the driver is testament to their skills.

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Cosmetically, the major difference between the Chrono and its higher-end siblings is in the use of cabinet materials. The Chronos use low-resonance MDF, finished in either silver lacquer or simulated wood veneer. Removing the front grilles reveals a high-gloss polished lacquer finish, which I thought made the speakers look aesthetically much more elegant than a simple black box.

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The floor-standing 509s come with a shock-absorbing isolation base. The rear of the 509s includes a flared port near the bottom of the enclosure, and gold-plated bi-wire/bi-amp binding posts. The center-channel 505 has dual ports, and surround-channel 502s a single port. Both the center and surround speakers sport a single set of binding posts.

The Sound

I set up the Chronos with the 509s bi-wired, and the crossover on the Integra DTR 7.8 receiver set to 80 Hz on all five channels. First off was a mix of two-channel CD and 5.1 hi-rez music, followed by movies in both regular DD/DTS, and DD+/Dolby TrueHD codecs.

I took two general impressions away from my extended listening sessions with the Cantons. First, the Chronos were capable of creating a large soundstage, with surprisingly good imaging for speakers in their price range. The second impression, the proverbial other side of the coin, was adequate but not superior detail.

"King of Pain", from The Police’s greatest hits collection on SACD, Every Breath You Take, places Sting’s vocals in all five channels. The Cantons disappeared, leaving Sting’s voice hanging in space. But the recording of the lead vocal has subtle little details, like husky breath sounds and pronunciation quirks, that were just beyond the Chrono’s ability to resolve.  Old stand-bys, like "New Kid in Town" from the Eagles’ Hotel California (DVD-Audio), confirmed my initial impressions. Glen Frey’s lead vocal and the seemingly endless layers of guitars were all solidly anchored on the soundstage, but I couldn’t quite make out the delicate sound of picks strumming on guitars. This is not a knock on the Chronos, merely an observation that at that price point there are trade-offs involved.

Movie soundtracks sounded great on the Cantons. No Country for Old Men is a really bizarre film. The almost complete lack of musical accompaniment seemed to magnify background sounds, like wind blowing through the scrub brush, or the soft padding of socked feet on carpet. The Chronos were up to the task of re-creating the sudden, random acts of violence that were almost a constant presence.

I found that the Cantons seemed to open up as the volume increased. The 509 floor-standers are rated at 88.3 dB sensitivity; the 505 center channel speaker at 87.5 dB, and the 502 surrounds at 86.5 dB. So the Chronos should be mated with an amplifier or receiver with ample power reserves to get the most out of them.

Low frequency effects were subtle but noticeable. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of mid-bass energy the AS 525 SC was generating in both film and music. I did not expect, and did not perceive, a significant amount of low bass impact from the modest-sized sub. If I were purchasing the Chronos for myself, I would probably opt for a subwoofer that had a little more authority in the bottom end.

 


 

On the Bench

All measurements, except frequency response sweeps, were conducted with the calibrated microphone placed one foot from the driver. For bench testing, the speakers were moved away from corners to the middle of the listening room, to minimize room-loading effects. Frequency response (on and off-axis) was measured at 1 meter.

As expected, the 509 floor-stander had excellent off-axis frequency response, particularly in the mid and high-frequency range. Frequency response dropped off at 60 Hz.

At 1 kHz, the 509's distortion was 0.19%.

At 50 Hz, THD+N was 0.81%.

And at 31.5 Hz, 1.33%.

The off-axis frequency response of the 505 center is quite good, considering the lobing effects that usually plague horizontally oriented MTM center channel speakers (although there is a dip in the 3 kHz range). Again, frequency response drops off at 60 Hz.

The AS 525 SC subwoofer put out a robust 100 dB at 50 Hz with only 0.49% distortion. This was consistent with my subjective observation that the Chrono sub could pump out a significant amount of mid-bass energy.

At 40 Hz, distortion was at a still respectable 1.4%.

At 31.5 Hz, the AS 525 SC had just about reached the limit of its low end output, registering 8.8% THD+N at 97 dB. Again, if you’re looking for a system that will reproduce bass impact down to 20 Hz, you should consider upgrading to one of Canton’s larger subs, such as the Ergo AS 650 SC.

At 25 Hz, the limits of this subwoofer are obvious, with 16.6% THD+N. I wasn't able to get much output at all at 20 Hz.

Conclusions

The Canton Chrono speaker system proves that you cannot judge a book solely by its cover (although I thought the front baffle lacquer finish was pretty slick looking anyway). It provides a realistic soundstage, with imaging that is particularly well-suited for surround sound film reproduction. If you’re looking for a 5.1 system in this price, you’ll definitely want to put the Canton Chrono series on your audition list.