Canton Vento Series (809 DC, 802, 805 CM, AS 850 SC) Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Ken Taraszka, MD   
Tuesday, 01 August 2006

Sound comes from the movement of air – short pulses of wind, so to speak. So it’s no surprise that the newest speaker line from the German speaker manufacturer, Canton, derives its name from the Italian word for wind: Vento. Four audiophiles founded Canton in 1973 with the mission of making the best speakers possible, and through the years they have remained dedicated to this principle. The Vento line employs technologies learned from experience, as well as computer modeling and extensive listening tests. The Vento 5.1 surround sound speaker system that I received for review consisted of a pair of Vento 809 DC floor-standing speakers that retail for $2,500 each, an 805 CM center channel with a retail price of $1,500, a pair of 802 compact speakers that retail for $2,000 and the AS 850 SC subwoofer that lists for $2,500, bringing the total system price to $11,000. They are available in a dark cherry, light maple or silver lacquer finish and all come with black cloth grilles on wood frames.

The Vento 805 CM is the center channel for the system, utilizing two of their seven-inch aluminum cone drivers with the tweeter between them. These employ a two-and-a-half-way crossover that uses both the bass drivers to reproduce bass frequencies below 350 Hz. Only one of them is needed to cover 350 Hz to 3000 Hz, giving the speaker the effective woofer size of a single 10-inch driver without the problems of canceling out the midrange frequencies from two separate drivers off-axis. The speaker has the same shape as the other members of the line, and can be placed both horizontally or vertically. To accommodate horizontal placement, the 805 CM comes with a base that cradles the curvaceous shape of the center channel and allows the speaker to be tilted up or down to suit its positioning when placed horizontally. Two rear ports are present to enhance bass output. Canton quotes a frequency response of 56 Hz to 24.4 kHz +/- 3 dB. The center is 20.7 inches wide by eight inches tall and 12.2 inches deep, weighing in at 29.5 pounds, with an efficiency of 87.9 dB and impedance of four to eight ohms. The center channel is magnetically shielded to allow placement close to televisions.

The AS 850 SC subwoofer completes the package. It is almost a perfect cube, measuring 15 inches wide by 20.5 inches tall and 20 inches deep and weighs in at over 71 pounds. It sits atop a black base that is connected to the body of the subwoofer by four aluminum pillars and has a quoted response of 20 Hz to 200 Hz, with an adjustable crossover frequency from 45 Hz to 200 Hz. A 350-watt amplifier powers the 12-inch aluminum coned woofer. Phase and level are adjustable. The subwoofer can be connected via low-level inputs in mono or stereo through its gold-plated RCA connectors. There are also high-level inputs, which use the crossover in the subwoofer to filter your amplifier’s powered output prior to connecting to your monitors, or as a loop within your preamplifier. A room compensation switch allows you to adapt the subwoofer to different room sizes by altering the low-frequency crossover, limiting room acoustic problems.

The entire system was delivered to my home on a large pallet. Fortunately, I had arranged for a friend to help me carry the system into the theater and unpack it. All the speakers were solidly packed in single boxes. The 802s, packed in Styrofoam, shared one box; the subwoofer was packed in high-density foam. The speakers were covered in a soft white cloth to protect the beautiful semi-gloss, dark cherry finish of my review samples from damage. The cabinets of the speakers in this system all share the same shape, with a flat front, top and rear. The sides are curved slightly outward toward the front, then back in to make the rear significantly narrower than the front. The fit and finish of the Cantons was excellent, and the cherry veneer was smooth to the touch. Blunt metal points accompanied the 809 DCs and the AS 850 SC. All speakers in this system come with stick-on rubber feet for use on solid flat flooring.

After unpacking the speakers and rearranging my home theater, I allowed the entire system to burn in for 200 hours. I then adjusted the placement of the speakers and ended up with the 809 DCs 33 inches off the front wall, which seemed to give me the best bass response. Subtly toed in for image focus, the 802s were placed on my Lovan 29-inch Affiniti II stands off to the side and slightly behind the seating position, with the 805 CM horizontally below my TV on its stand and slightly tilted up to face the viewer. Trials with subwoofer placement led me to position it along the front wall between the main speakers on the open side of the room. I did one final trimming-in of speaker distances and levels, as well as speaker size on my pre/processor and turned off the room correction software to evaluate the speakers. I was now ready for some serious listening.

Music and Movies
Throughout the break-in period of these speakers, I was impressed by the clear and taut bass response they exhibited, so for my first critical listening choice, I opted for the Crystal Method’s Vegas (Outpost Records), which is full of bass-heavy techno that carries with it a consistent groove, being almost hypnotic in nature. The first track, “Trip Like I Do,” starts with a trancelike aura of sound that seemed to fill the room, then, as the song progressed, its fast, solid low end and expansive wall of sound was as accurate and tight as I’ve ever heard. When played through just the 809 DCs, I found a slight lack in the lowest registers of bass, so I opted to listen with the sub, at which point I truly fell in love. The sub mates perfectly with these speakers and filled in the lower end with rich, musical bass. The Cantons were able to clearly separate all the complexities of this song with ease and still keep the bass punchy. They reproduced an enveloping soundstage and were able to do so at the volume levels this album deserves, without losing any of the dynamics required of electronic music.

Flowing into the second song of the album, “Busy Child,” my favorite cut, the bass remained clear, never boomy. Sounds seemed to fling back and forth across the room. The Canton 809 DCs were easily capable of running in the 95 dB range without significant distortion. Moving on to the throbbing riffs of “High Roller,” the bass remained full, with highs that were easy to listen to and non-fatiguing, while the cymbals remained true in timbre and had plenty of air around them.

Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company (Concord Records) is one of my favorite new CDs and, fortunately for me, Monster Cable just sent me some of their new Super Discs, including this one. These new Monster discs have both an audiophile-mastered CD, as well as high-definition Dolby Digital and DTS 24/96 surround mixes, along with high-definition stereo mixes and bonus tracks. They even include high-definition files compressed to both MP3 and Apple Lossless directly from the master tapes, with Dolby headphone surround. I started off listening to Ray Charles and Natalie Cole doing “Fever” in stereo. The mix was quite enticing; the Cantons reproduced the bass lines with palpable fullness. Both Charles and Cole’s voices were clear. Cole showed the bite and attack I expect of her, with only the slightest hint of sibilance. Imaging was precise and consistent. When I switched to the 24/96 DTS surround mix, I seemed to be drawn right into the midst of the band. The balance between all the speakers in this package was perfect.

The Canton system again seduced me with its sound on Charles’ duet with Norah Jones, “Here We Go Again,” pulling me into the emotion of the song from the first note. The xylophone is clearly represented, though very subtle in some parts of the song, and seems to flow across the soundstage as the notes ascend in pitch. Jones’ vocals are smooth with slight warmth to them that I found very enjoyable. Once again, I switched to the multi-channel surround mix and found myself right there within the music with the consistent placement of vocals and instruments I had come to expect from the Cantons.

For a foray into DVD-Audio, I loaded up The Doors L.A. Woman (Elektra). Starting with the title track, I was impressed by how vocals seemed to effortlessly fly around the room, while the band stayed in place. The Canton system managed a full feel, with tight and accurate bass now accentuated by the subwoofer, which blended in seamlessly. The introduction to “Riders on the Storm” was so realistic that it sounded as if it was raining here in Florida while I was doing this listening session. The richness of the bass line was intoxicating and Jim Morrison’s voice virtually consumed me as it came from everywhere in such a balanced manner that it seemed to come from inside my head.

Neil Young’s Harvest on DVD-Audio can be a tough disc to reproduce well, due the generally rough original recording, but the music is timeless. The title track was consuming, with warmth and fullness I am not used to on this recording, but that was very welcome, and truly the best I have heard. “A Man Needs a Maid” was amazing on this system. I felt as though I was inside the piano, with Neil Young singing just in front of me. I saw Young in 1985 at an acoustic set at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey, and I have never since felt so attached to his music until I heard this system reproduce it. When the strings come in halfway through the song, the dynamics were stunning and the ability to transition to the quiet subtle ending of the song was equally impressive. “The Needle and the Damage Done” has always been one of my favorite songs, and the Canton Vento system managed to do it justice, smoothly reproducing Young’s voice with just the slightest sibilance and recreating his acoustic guitar in a way that was alluring. The surround effects gave me the feeling that I was in a small club and Neil Young was playing just for me.

I started watching movies with a Superbit version of “XXX” (Columbia/Tristar Home Entertainment). In the opening scene, the first thing that impressed me was the positioning of the start and finish of the shot of the wire, beginning in the left rear and crossing to dead front center for the hit into the door, then the recoil back to the left rear. The sound of the assailant sliding down the line was so perfectly placed that I listened to it several times in awe of how well the Cantons depicted the transitions and how smoothly the sounds shifted from one side to the other, front to back. Yorgi blowing out his absinthe is not only a great ending to this opening scene, but was so true to life I could almost feel his breath on my neck. Later at Yorgi’s party, the placement of surround sound effects was dead-on perfect, the dynamics of the music sensational and, with the sub, the sounds of the helicopter flying in were inspiring.

I chose the classic “Beetlejuice” (Warner Home Video) to test the Cantons some more. The general surround effects were great from the start, and as the movie progressed, they got more dramatic and exciting. Voices were always clear and easily discernable with this system, which could reproduce the large dynamics needed to make you jump the first time the sandworms appear. The final scene with the entire crowd dancing in the air had the instruments well placed and filling the room with such liveliness that you might find yourself dancing along with them.

The Downside
The more I listened to these speakers, the more I grew to love them, but they aren’t perfect for everyone. Their slightly laid-back and warm presentation of music might not be forward enough for hard rock or punk lovers, so if you want to bang your head to AC/DC at high volumes, you might have to look elsewhere.

The 809 DC’s bass response seems to drop off on the lower bass registers, causing me to use the sub in many of my listening sessions. In today’s system, I assume most people will opt for a sub to get the most from the low ends of their soundtracks.

The WBT binding posts are exquisite but do not accept spade connectors, which can be a problem for some users, who will need new speaker wires.

I have long seen Canton advertisements, but until last month, I was never privy to hearing the speakers. It was truly my loss. The full, rich and slightly warm sound, combined with the incredible detail and clarity with which they reproduce music and movies, is exceptional. The Canton Vento speakers all share the same drivers, which allow them to mate seamlessly, the surround effects are topnotch and they offer accurate imaging and a deep and wide soundstage. Throughout all my movie and TV listening to the Cantons, voices were easily discernable and distinct.

The Canton Vento system can envelop you in sound as only few systems can. I just loved watching movies and listening to music with these speakers. They reproduce the dynamics you need, and do so with a smooth and even grace. They never are fatiguing, even on treble-heavy material. How much did I like them? When it came time to return them, I bought them for my reference system instead. They’re that good.
Manufacturer Canton
Model Vento Series (809 DC, 802, 805 CM, AS 850 SC) Loudspeakers
Reviewer Ken Taraszka, M.D

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