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Product Review
 

Canton Vento 809 DC Floor-Standing, 802 Bookshelf, and 805 CM Center Channel Speakers

June, 2005

Piero Gabucci

 

Specifications
  Vento 809 DC Vento 802 Vento 805 CM
  Floor-Standing Bookshelf Center Channel
Price $2,500 each $1,000 each $1,500
Nom./Power handling 180/340 watts 80/150 watts 110/160 watts
Efficiency 88.5 dB 87 dB 87.9 dB
Frequency Response 20-40,000 Hz 27-40,000 Hz 26-40,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance 4-8 ohms 4-8 ohms 4-8 ohms
Size inches (W x H x D) 9.8x44.1x13.8 8.7x14.2x12.2 20.7x8.7x12.2
Weight 63 Pounds/Ea 19 Pounds/Ea 29.5 Pounds
       

  LS 800 stands are $200 each

 

Canton Loudspeakers

www.cantonusa.com

Introduction

Upon reviewing the press material for the new Canton Vento line of speakers, I came across a phrase “appearance follows function” quoting chief designer Frank Gobl, in referring to Canton’s speaker design philosophy. This widely used axiom was originally coined by noted American architect Louis Sullivan when describing the skin on his new scheme for a high rise building. His design was unlike the popular Beaux Art architecture of the day where the skin of the building and the structure were one and the same.

Louis Sullivan defended ornamenting his steel framed building with a veneer, claiming just like the skin on your hand reveals the bones within, the veneer of his building reveals the function of the structure. Mr. Gobl’s reference, although a derivative of the original, is actually quite interesting when speaking about the design of this new speaker series.

Vento, Italian for “wind” is the latest loudspeaker design from the 32 year old German speaker manufacturer. Canton’s philosophy from the early years still ring true today: speakers belong in the living room, and of course their “furniture” speakers must, beyond their task of high fidelity, contribute to the aesthetic of the space. Vento is a perfect realization of that position.

Vento is a close relative to Canton’s Karat Reference line. In fact, if you’re familiar with Karat, it shares much of the same technology. The company continues its philosophy that speaker design is an “evolution, not a revolution”. Hence the design goals at Canton were to give its engineers freedom to design a line from the ground up, learning from the early achievements in the Karat design.

For this review, Canton sent me two Vento 809 DC floor-standing speakers, a pair of 802 bookshelf units, a pair of LS 800 stands for the 802s, and the 805 CM center channel. At this time, no subwoofer is available, however I’m told that a 250 watt Vento sub, named the AS 800 DC should be out in the fall of 2005.

Vento is available in cherry veneer or silver lacquer, but there is no comparison in my book. The cherry veneer is stunning. Perfectly executed, the finish is impeccable, with a conservative sheen rather than a high gloss. My immediate impression was they reminded me of a musical instrument, in finish and shape.

This is of course no accident. Canton likens the speaker design to a fine quality instrument such as a violin. To further expound on the beauty and simplicity of design, the speakers have no modular panels, no caps, or end pieces. The veneer is 100% from edge to edge, front, back, and on top. I can only describe the build quality as having a very high level of craftsmanship.

The departure for Canton in Vento is the tapered side walls. With a gentle curve from front to back, the tapered shape adds a distinct elegance to an otherwise simple enclosure design. The more time I spent with the speakers, I thought about the shape of an acoustic guitar or violin, and the very complex nature of sound emanating

Six layers of wood, individually formed and laminated layer to layer, comprise the construction of the curved sides thereby creating a stiff “monocoque” structure.

The triangular footprint is inherently much stiffer than a rectangular section, and the significant internal bracing prevents distortion from the enclosure itself and therefore creating a “sonically neutral enclosure”. Monocoque describes the process by which the skin absorbs the stress of the internal structure. Secondly, with the two side walls not in parallel, Canton hopes to achieve a reduction in standing waves.

The 809 DC Floor-standing Speaker

The 809 DC is a three-way design with an impressive pair of 8” (200 mm) woofer drivers. At 7” (180 mm), the AM-180 aluminum cone midrange/woofer driver is found on all the Vento speakers. Canton’s ADT-25 dome tweeter, a 1” (25mm) aluminum and magnesium cone, is also found throughout the line. With a sensitivity of 88 dB, and impedance from 4-8 Ohms, the 809 delivers frequencies from 20 Hz - 40,000 Hz.

The 809 is front ported and weighs 63 pounds. On the rear, nicely placed near the base, are gold-plated bi-amp/bi-wire screw clamp speaker posts. Although I found the posts firm and solid, my banana clips interestingly enough did not fit snugly, but rather loosely, forcing me to use bare wire. I never got around to using spade connections, but those would have worked fine.

The 809 loudspeaker sits firmly on a 2” base in which Canton places silicon shock absorbers, providing further isolation it from the floor. I very much like the hearty blunted steel spikes. They were not sharp, and this is a great advantage when positioning the speaker on carpeting.

The 802 Bookshelf Speaker

The Vento 802 is a two-way shelf or stand (which I have) speaker. Once again, sporting the same AM-180 midrange and ADT-25 tweeter, the 802 is rear ported. Similar to the 809 it has a sensitivity of 87 dB and is also capable of 4-8 Ohms impedance with a frequency response from 27 Hz - 40 kHz. The 802 is 14.2” high and 12.2” deep. On the stand provided, it sits about 40” high. My curiosity about the capability of this unit led me to audition them independently for two-channel music. More on those results later.

The black LS 800 stand is sturdy and mimics the shape of Vento gracefully. With a solid wide base, it also has the steel carpet spikes.

The 805 CM Center Channel Speaker

The center channel 805 CM is rather large at almost 21” across and 9” high. In the horizontal D’Appolito arrangement of 7” drivers flanking the 1” tweeter, the 805’s shape is perfectly functional in that you can rotate it horizontally on the provided black stand plate to aim it at the sitting position. With an efficiency of 87.9 dB and a frequency response between 26 Hz - 40 kHz, the nominal impedance is similarly 4-8 Ohms. It has dual rear ports, one behind each midrange driver.

The Technology

Canton uses computers for a number of aspects in the design of the speakers; simulation and measuring are used for not only the cabinet enclosure but also the drivers. Canton states that hundreds of technical details all contribute to the sound quality of the Vento line. Mindful of quality control, Canton designs and builds all of its own drivers, crossovers, as well as the enclosures.

Common to all units, the ADT-25 is a 1” one-piece aluminum-manganese dome tweeter that is newly designed to boost efficiency, and the flared front plane aids in improving sound dispersion.

The 7” midrange driver, although large enough to move bass frequencies as well, is also common throughout the Vento line. Again through computer simulation, the aluminum cone and surround form a powerful magnetic system, original to the predecessor Karat Reference line.

The large 809 DC (DC stands for Distortion Control) is a proprietary circuitry designed to aid in bass response and extension. Sporting large dual aluminum 8” woofers, the technology helps eliminate “infrasonic oscillations, reduces harmonic distortion, and boosts low-end response”.

The 805 CM center channel is a 2 1/2 –way speaker and shares with all four models a bass-reflex design. Because of the inherent irregularities from horizontal driver layouts, Canton argues the sophisticated crossover design sends both drivers anything below 350 Hz, while midrange frequencies between 350 Hz to 3 kHz are routed to only one of them.

Setup

Canton recommends that no toe-in is necessary. Remember that it’s the higher frequencies that are directional, unlike lower bass frequencies. Recall my description of the 1” ADT-25 tweeter, the new mounting baffle design is “transmission” styled, which gives greater heat dispersion.

So, I did not toe them in, and found the claim to be true. Given that they are front ported, I wasn’t worried about keeping them too far from the back and side walls, like I actually have much choice in my smallish listening room anyway.

I don't think enough effort is spent on the proper placement of speakers in a listening environment.  Perhaps lately not only have we accepted room EQ as the answer, but it has become a crutch, or an easy fix.  After all speaker manufacturers like Canton, spend countless hours and enormous amounts of engineering to produce full-range speakers.  To artificially alter some aspect of the frequency chain certainly can affect the performance. 

It is completely understood that most of us hardly have a choice for placement, but for my evaluation, I made a tremendous effort to neutralize the equipment feeding the speakers, allowing them to perform to their maximum potential.  Moving the speakers around, especially the fronts, either the 809s or the 802s (as mains), I found the best location about 3 feet from the rear wall and about 2 feet from the side walls.  My room is about 12 feet wide, and I sat about 8 feet back. 

I think it’s important to mention a variety of sources were used on these speakers and in many modes, both two-channel and surround. I was fortunate to have the Denon AVR-5805 receiver on hand while reviewing the Cantons. This allowed me to take advantage of the bi-amping capability that both the Vento 809 and the receiver offered. I also used my own Denon AVR-3805 and the Onix Melody SP3 two-channel tube amplifier from AV123 (review forthcoming). For interconnects and speaker wires I used Ethereal Elite cables.

Listening

Canton is as interested in music reproduction as they are in cinema. The Vento line is meant to be attractive to the discerning audiophile for music and also bridge the gap to theater.

The promise I was most interested in was that the 809 DC loudspeaker can deliver full deep bass. Although I imagine Canton may introduce a subwoofer for this line, as of this writing it doesn’t exist. With the 809 sporting dual 8” woofer drivers, Canton is making a statement.

Listening to the 809 first with two-channel music - the Denon 5805 pushing 170 WPC -  I played a variety of CDs.

Off-axis differences are greatly reduced as a constant walk-around during playback revealed a substantial soundstage. Even beyond the left and right, I felt a sense that the music extended beyond the narrow alley between the speakers.

As I mentioned earlier, the 802 stand-mounted units are substantial enough to merit a separate audition. Sporting a 7” aluminum cone woofer and 1” tweeter, four of these could easily become the basis for a serious surround package. Other than a slight loss in fullness, the 802 sounds very much like the larger 809 floor-standing speakers. Overall, they share a sound surprising similar, but not quite as warm, to my reference Krix Symphonix speakers.

The very first serious audition came from watching Discovery HD Theater, enjoying a BBC production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo from Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liccu. This stage production looked awesome in High Definition with rich scenes, stage sets, and costumes, and the Vento perfectly blended the visual and audio textures. Listening to this opera on the Cantons simply placed me amongst the attendees of the stage performance.

As I played a variety of CDs, what was becoming abundantly clear was my enjoyment of any material with acoustic guitar, and any wood instrument for that matter, because the Vento was most transparent in the midrange.

Mark Knopfler’s steel guitar sounded rich and soulful on the fourth track "Fade to Black" from Dire Straits CD On Every Street. Airy and full sounding, the track "You and Your Friend" revealed so much detail, that I almost wished they had turned down the reverb in Knopfler’s voice.

One of my first DVD-Audio purchases was The Doobie Brothers, The Captain and Me. The rangy mix of Cajun and southern rock music never, ever sounded better. The very short but sweet guitar rich "Busted Down Around" sounded like a gem. In "South City Midnight Lady", the dual 8” drivers delivered a polished deep bass.

Further, in multi-channel audio, the quintet Ventos came alive and despite no subwoofer for the playback, they delivered seamless tight bass; in Roxy Music’s title track "Avalon", the prominence of bass guitar is almost disturbingly brought to the forefront along with Bryan Ferry’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, this took some getting used to, but once I did, I realized that all the instruments had more definition.

With the aid of my own subwoofer, Dr. Chesky’s 5.1 Surround Show is an excellent test for surround sound. Delicate bells and the wonderful harmony of voices from track 8, were simply splendid. Flute or sitar, percussions and bass guitar, Vento is a very musical speaker. Track after track, the swing of sounds from low to high was handled easily, and I sensed a limitless top end.

Having the Canton Vento speakers for several months, I was able to watch some old favorite DVDs. Recently replacing my old version of Amadeus with the new Director’s Cut, I intensely watched my favorite scene early in the movie where Salieri speaks about the first time he hears Mozart’s music. Waving his finger in the air, he passionately describes the transition from a single unwavering flute note high, hanging slowly taken over by an obo. The Vento was there, I glanced at the ceiling, the sound was exactly as he described, and as magical. Mozart’s and Salieri’s music are superb, from the warm violins to the heavy bass voices in the operas.

The DVD Independence Day is bass-intensive. The individual ships separating from the main mother ship roar to life; the Vento 809 dual woofers powerfully reproduced the disembarking ships. The 802 surround speakers were remarkably detailed as the aircrafts whirled and whizzed around me.

The 805 CM center channel had its own high points, as dialogue from movies was warm, natural, and well defined.

Conclusions

The gripe that I mentioned - my banana plugs not fitting - is minor.

These are not economical speakers with the entire package running a cool MSRP $8,500 (without a subwoofer mind you). Please notice I mentioned no complaints about what I heard, so I reiterate these gripes are minor.

I wouldn’t be afraid to suggest four of the Vento 802s with the center 805 CM for a surround package, sub issue aside. If two-channel music is your passion, I’d highly recommend auditioning the tower 809 DC for your music room. They more than deliver their promise for deep bass. I do hope Canton is developing a subwoofer for this series, for I wouldn’t completely rely on the floor speakers for bass exclusively for cinema. Besides, I’m sure a Vento sub would probably be awesome considering its pedigree.

Vento is an elegant name. Canton has masterfully coordinated the name with a line of speakers that lives up to that philosophy of evolution. What you see on the outside is simply foreshadowing. If form follows function, the exterior beauty of these speakers surely represents the substantial performance from within.
 

- Piero Gabucci -

© Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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