Canton Ergo 5.0 Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Brian Kahn   
Monday, 01 March 2004

While it’s a fairly new name to the North American market, Canton has been producing high-end speakers in Germany since 1972, reportedly capturing an impressive 25 percent of the German market with its wide variety of speaker offerings. This review features the Canton Ergo RC-A’s at $5,000 per pair used as front main loudspeakers, Ergo CM502 center channel speaker at $800, and the Ergo 302s at $1,400 per pair for rear surrounds. The Ergo line being reviewed is more traditional then Canton’s more contemporary Karat line and is a step up from the LE and Movie series loudspeakers. Both lines share many of theme drivers and other components and the build quality is the same. I was asked by Canton to review this system without a separate subwoofer, using the powered woofers in the RC-A towers to handle the low end.

Canton is a fairly large speaker company, with considerable research and development resources. I met with Canton’s development manager, Frank Gobl, who explained Canton’s extensive use of CAD for development in both mechanical and electronic design of the speaker. Canton performs extensive simulations of cabinets, driver components and crossovers, allowing the design team to experiment with numerous design options. Canton manufactures its own drivers, utilizing a variety of materials from paper to aluminum manganese. Gobl pointed out that Canton went into such detail in designing their current line of drivers that similar sizes and material composition may differ radically in their geometry and utilize variable material thicknesses to make similar-appearing drivers perform differently, in order to best suit their intended purposes. The manufacturing of the speakers and nearly all components is also done in-house in a large, modern facility. Each of the one million-plus speakers Canton manufactures each year are hand-inspected before shipping. Each crossover network must perform within 0.4dB of the reference specification and the speaker assembly must test within 1dB.

The RC-A is the largest and most expensive speaker in the Ergo line and is the only speaker in the line to feature an internal amplifier. The three-way system features two active, powered nine-inch polypropylene woofers above a front-firing port, a one-inch aluminum manganese tweeter and, at the top of the baffle, a seven-inch aluminum midrange. The baffle is covered with a felt-like sound-absorbing material that is normally hidden by a black perforated metal grille. The RC-A measures 45.3 inches tall, 10.2 inches wide and 13.7 inches deep. The 72-pound cabinet is available in a variety of wood veneer finishes. The review samples were finished in black ash.

The back panel features a detachable power cord connection, one single-ended input, a power switch and a pair of large, sturdy binding posts on the bottom section. Halfway up the back panel is a cut-out for the amplifier module. Above the heat sink fins are two knobs and a toggle switch. The knobs on the amplifier module are for the “RC,” room correction circuit, and the toggle switch controls the power-on mode for the amplifier, either manual or auto. The RC circuit allows for +3.0 dB and - 4.5dB correction below 1,000Hz and –3.0dB to + 1.5dB above 10 kHz.

This technology, as explained by Gobl, consists of a filter in the crossover that compensates for the speakers’ low-frequency roll-off, extending response up to one octave, minimizing subsonic energy and unnecessary driver excursion.

The SC technology 250-watt amplifier and nine-inch drivers help the RC-A reach down to the rock bottom low end of 18Hz. While I was initially skeptical of this claim, the RC-As substantiated it in my listening tests. While the RC-As are capable of sound reproduction below 20Hz, their displacement control prevents the woofers from attempting to produce signals below their range, reducing unwanted harmonic distortion while working in conjunction with the “SC” circuit to provide smooth response down to the lower limits.

The CM502 and 302 speakers are relatively simple in comparison to the RC-As. The CM502 center channel speaker measures 20 inches wide, nine inches high and 11.3 inches deep, with a perforated metal grille covering two five-inch aluminum drivers, which flank a one-inch aluminum manganese tweeter. The rear panel features a port immediately above the single pair of binding posts. The 302 is a solid, fairly large “bookshelf” speaker, measuring 15.7 inches high, 12.1 inches deep and eight-and-three-quarters-inches wide, weighing just under 20 pounds. The driver complement on this bass reflex speaker is a one-inch aluminum manganese tweeter above an eight-inch aluminum driver. The 302 is rear-ported and sports two pairs of binding posts that allow for bi-wiring if so desired. All of the cabinets appear to be solidly manufactured.

I connected all the speakers in a single-wire mode (as opposed to a bi-wire connection). I then connected the LFE output of my processor into the back of the RC-As and finally plugged the RC-As into the power supply. The RC-As were eventually positioned closer together than normal for my theater setup, the inside edges were just over 67 inches apart. I positioned the speakers firing straight ahead with no toe-in, approximately three feet from the front wall. The CM502 was positioned under my projection screen, angled up slightly, and the 302s were flanking and slightly behind my listening position.

Music and Movies
From the depths of my music collection, I pulled one that I had not heard for a while, Michael Penn’s March (RCA Records). The track “This and That” is an intimate recording with great imaging. The track’s simple guitar and drums provided pinpoint imaging of the instruments. Although not a surprise to me, any time a speaker nails a soundstage image, it’s exciting. The great imaging continued with the track “No Myth.” This track features a larger recording space and the Cantons portrayed this venue with an abundance of detail and impact. Again, as with the track “This and That,” the vocals, percussion and guitar were realistically portrayed as though I was listening to Penn in a small nightclub.

I then stepped up the dynamics with Paula Cole’s This Fire (Warner Brothers). The song “Tiger” begins fairly mellow but has a very dynamic bass line that begins about 40 seconds into the track. The Cantons were able to handle this load with great aplomb. I listened to this track at a level slightly above moderate and had no problems at all with dynamic compression. The difficult low end was as deep and detailed as I have ever heard in my room. The definition and texture brought the bass line to life. The soundstage, as with the Michael Penn recording, was both deep and detailed. Female vocals were clearly portrayed without any artifacts of chestiness or annoying edge. The RC-As provided a very musical and engaging listening experience.

Now that I knew the Cantons could handle themselves with relatively simple vocals tracks, I next listened to Pink Floyd’s much more complex Dark Side of the Moon on CD (Harvest Records/Mobile Fidelity). The recording opens with the heartbeat in “Speak to Me” and then breaks into “Breathe.” Listening through the Cantons, I could hear clocks ticking well outside the outer edges of the speakers as the beat of Mason’s drums grew progressively stronger, becoming palpable before breaking into lush voices and instrumentals that formed a solid sonic wall, extending slightly beyond the outer edges of the speakers.

I did note that the cash register and coin sound effects on “Money” were slightly harsh at high volume. However, this harshness never came through the aggressive instrumentals at anything approaching normal listening levels. publisher Jerry Del Colliano suggested this is not the case on the James Guthrie remixed hybrid SACD on either the CD layer or the SACD multi-channel mix. Back on the Dark Side CD, the opening guitar riff was solid, powerful and well placed in the soundstage. The bass guitar is also well defined, with a good sense of weight and detail. Dick Parry’s saxophone work was clearly portrayed and imaged incredibly without any harshness at normal volumes. I cranked the stereo up until I thought the neighbors were sure to come running over and I am pleased to say the Cantons shone like crazy diamonds.

During the course of my review, I picked up a copy of Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me (Blue Note SACD). Jones’ voice was dynamically palpable in the opening track “Don’t Know Why.” The Cantons portrayed a soundstage that put Jones and her band in the room with me. The images were three-dimensional and solidly situated on the soundstage. The next track, “Seven Years,” featured some very clean percussion that the Cantons reproduced with detail, depth and good natural decay.

An old favorite, Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth (DTS), served up a challenge for the Cantons with a demanding bass track,. The opening bass line on “I’ve Been to Memphis” was not as deep as I heard with a dedicated subwoofer, but the Cantons sounded incredibly detailed in the bass. I heard more detail in the bass region with the Cantons than on most other systems, no doubt due in part to leaner and more detailed voicing. The vocals were accurate, with Lovett’s voice as clear and distinct as ever. On the track “Church,” my listening impressions were further confirmed. The extensive bass lines were reproduced with great detail and dimensionality, but with slightly less weight than normal. “Church” features a wonderfully layered choir section that is reproduced in both the main and surround channels. Listening carefully to the choir in the Ergo 302s, I was easily able to pick out individual voices that matched their portrayal in the RC-As. The voicing was consistent between the Ergo 302s and RC-As making for smooth pans. The Ergo 302s are substantial speakers in their own right and would be well-suited as main channel speakers in a smaller room.

I then listened to Insane Clown Posse’s The Wraith: Shangri-La (DVD-Audio, DTS, Riviera Entertainment). The track “Ain’t Yo Bidness” featured bass that was both outrageously deep and powerful on the one hand and taught and detailed on the other. I found all of the vocals to be resolute, sounding like they were emanating from a physical presence. This track also made good use of the surround channels, which were consistent in their sonic portrayal.

Watching “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Warner Home Video), I saw that Chapter 19’s Quidditch match further tested the Ergo system as a whole, with the characters flying all around the 360-degree soundstage. I had no problems following the individuals from channel to channel as they flew about and their sonic signatures remained intact as they traveled.

I then listened to some scenes in “Finding Nemo” (Disney) that I used in a recent subwoofer review. In Chapter 8, when Dory and Marlin meet Bruce the shark, I noticed that the bass from the Canton system at least equaled the MartinLogan Descent in detail, but did not match its weight when the LFE channel output was calibrated to the same level as the Descent. The Cantons were still able to provide a visceral impact, as the minefield explosion proved later in the scene. As before, the bass was extremely tight and detailed, but it did not shake the room to the same degree as I have heard from a quality off-board sub.

The Downside
The Cantons are hard to fault sonically as full-range speakers. They behaved fantastically well at moderate listening levels. It was only when they were pushed to obscene concert level volumes that I found them to exhibit an ever-so-slight harshness in the upper midrange level. The bass reproduction was first class. I doubt many enthusiasts, especially those in small to medium-sized rooms, will feel that the RC-As need additional bass reinforcement. In fact, when I listened to the RCAs without a subwoofer in a 5.1 surround system, I was not left wanting for bass with any 5.1 music, but with action movies I appreciated the extra low end “oomph” available from a quality subwoofer, such as the recently reviewed MartinLogan Descent.

I would also recommend keeping the rear-mounted toggle switch in the “on” position, rather than on “auto.” I found that when the switch was in the “auto” position and the system was at a low volume level, I could hear the relays switching on and off.

The Canton Ergo system is easy to recommend. The RC-As are the smallest speakers I have had in any of my review systems with truly deep and articulate bass. I found listening to the Ergos sans subwoofer to produce an incredibly clean and coherent sound field. It was only on some of the explosion-type scenes in a cranked-up action flick that I noticed the lack of impact that I have come to enjoy with the best subwoofer systems.

The Ergo system’s neutral and natural sound, including the deep and accurate bass, make it a worthy contender for both two- and multi-channel sound systems. I strongly recommend a close listen for those in the market for speakers in this size and price range, especially if you seek clean, deep and coherent bass response. The Ergos can hang with serious competition from B&W, Revel, MartinLogan and even Wilson, in some cases at a lower cost.
Manufacturer Canton
Model Ergo 5.0 Speaker System
Reviewer Brian Kahn
Configuration 5.0

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