Canton LE Series Review

Highs

  • Excellent quality cabinets
  • good sound reproduction

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 10

Lows

  • Expensive
  • the LE 103 speakers do not have strong bass

Summary

Overall, I liked the Canton LE series speaker system very much. Whether you use it in stereo or in home theater settings, they do not disappoint. At its price point, I think it’s very hard to do better.  I strongly recommend you listen to this system if you are in the market for a $2500 well matched home theater system package. They are handsome looking and their strong performance might just be your ticket to the enjoyment that you’ve been looking for.

Introduction

Canton, a German speaker manufacturer, has had a long history in the hi-fi world. Actually, Canton has been manufacturing speakers since 1973, but it seems that only recently the company started to market its products aggressively in the United States. Visiting the company’s website, you’ll get the impression that all Canton products are made with pride. Most and major vital elements of Canton products are manufactured in-house in Germany, so that the quality can be closely controlled. In this era of globalization, this is a rare practice and something that should be appreciated.

The speaker system that I review here is from the company’s LE series. It consists of a pair of LE 109 floorstanding speakers ($1000/pair), a pair of LE 103 bookshelf speakers ($500/pair), an LE 105 CM center channel speaker ($400 each), and an AS 25 powered subwoofer ($600 each). All together the system costs $2500, which falls into the boundary between budget and mid-level price home theater speaker system.

Features and Design

The review samples that I received come in handsome beech enclosure finish with silver front and metal grills. If you like black, you can also choose the Canton LE series in ash black finish with black front and metal grills. To me personally, the beech/silver finish is more appealing.

The LE 109 is a three-way front-ported bass-reflex speaker. It has a 1″ fabric tweeter, a 7″ polypropylene midrange driver and two 8″ polypropylene woofers. The speaker connections in rear are high-quality five-way metal binding posts. They are spaced well apart, so standard double banana plugs will not work. Only one set of connections are available, which means that these speakers are not biwireable.

The size of the LE 103 is larger than the average bookshelf speaker. It is a two-way front-ported bass-reflex design with a 1″ fabric tweeter and 7″ polypropylene woofer. The speaker connections used are of the same type as the ones in LE 109. The LE 103s are intended to be put on 23-24″ stands. If you like to stick on one brand, Canton also makes the matching stands for these speakers, called the LS 60 ($400/pair).

The LE 105 CM center channel speaker looks sleek when viewed from the front, but it is actually quite deep (about 13.8″ deep). Unlike the LE 109 or LE 103, the LE 105 CM uses an acoustic suspension (closed) design. It has 1″ fabric tweeter and two 6″ polypropylene woofers. It is also magnetically shielded so it can safely be put on top of your television.

The AS 25 subwoofer has a built-in 150 W amplifier. It is a front-ported bass reflex design with a 10″ cellulose/graphite driver. This subwoofer has both low and high level inputs and outputs. The rear panel also sports the usual subwoofer controls, such as crossover frequency, volume level, and phase adjustment. A switch is also provided to put the subwoofer in off, on, or standby mode. In the standby mode, the subwoofer will be automatically on when it senses the incoming signal and automatically off after a few minutes of inactivity. Metal blunt spikes for the subwoofer footing are also provided.

All these speakers are very well built. They are lighter than what I expected them to be. In a way this is good, because then they are easy to move around. The enclosures are not as damped as some other speakers I have encountered, but nevertheless I did not notice the effect of the possible enclosure resonance on the sound.

Test Equipment:

Preamplifiers: Adcom GFP-750, B&K Reference 20
Amplifier: ATI AT1505
CD playback: Yamaha CDC-755, MSB Link II DAC
Speakers: NHT 2.9, NHT AC-1, NHT SB-2, KEF AV-1
Cables: MIT Terminator 2 speaker cables, MIT Terminator 4 interconnects

Listening Experience

Now I arrive to what counts the most…..the sound! I broke-in the speakers for about 50 hours before doing any critical listening. Besides evaluating the whole package in home theater application, I also listened to the LE 109s and LE 103s in stereo only application. In a home theater setup, I used the LE 109s as the main front speakers and the LE 103s as the surround speakers put on a pair of 23″ stands. The LE 105 CM is put on top of my Sony 32″ television and the AS 25 subwoofer is located on the front right corner of the room. In general, the Canton LE speakers are quite sensitive. You can play them loud with little power.

I always like to tell the readers about my first listening impression of the speakers that I review. This is because the first impression is what usually sets the background for the rest of the impressions. When I first listened to the LE 109s in stereo application, I was immediately impressed by their transparency. It was like the sound was just hanging in the air and not coming out of the boxes. Of course, transparency alone won’t win my heart, but these speakers have other qualities that impressed me more the more I listen to them. The dynamics and overall balance of the speakers were excellent. I found no overemphasis on specific frequency range that caught my attention. Either vocals or musical instruments, they were all reproduced with nice clarity and sounded natural. Also I felt the LE 109s produced sufficient bass for most musical applications. I was also quite happy with the image and soundstage conveyed by the speakers. Smoothness in sound, however, is not the LE 109s’ strong suite. It is by no means significant, so you probably won’t notice it unless you compare it with smoother speakers, which I did. Only that you might want to choose your amplifier carefully so that this minor shortcoming is not over emphasized.

The performance of the LE 103s was comparable to the LE 109 in most cases, except for the bass. The LE 103s actually produce nice and strong bass for their size, only that the bass is not as extended as with the LE 109s. Compared to the NHT SB-2s I reviewed recently, the Canton LE 103s still has more extended bass. I would say that the LE 103s alone are more than suitable for dedicated stereo only applications.

Where the Canton LE package really shines is in home theater applications. This speaker system was really able to deliver a very enjoyable theatrical experience. Because the LE speaker system is very well matched sonically, the sound transition (front to back, side to side) was nicely conveyed. This system was not only capable of delivering impact with authority but was also able to bring on the subtlety in the musical background. The LE 105 CM was a capable performer, delivering dialogs with great intelligibility. Its tonal characteristics match excellently with the other Canton LE speakers and its horizontal and vertical dispersions are relatively wide. The wide dispersion characteristics is desirable for a center speaker and, in a way, it eases of its placement. You don’t have to tilt it towards the listener ear level perfectly in order to get good signal response. The bass produced by the AS 25 subwoofer was tight and tuneful. It didn’t, however, go as low as I expected. In my room, the response of the subwoofer rolled off sharply below about 35 Hz. So, if you are thinking of augmenting your floorstanding speakers for music containing low frequencies, this may not be the right subwoofer for such purpose. It is more suitable for movies and, in fact, the AS 25 was capable of delivering the necessary impacts when it was called for. The sharp roll-off observed on the AS 25 might be attributed by the active bass distortion correction filter employed by Canton on their powered subwoofers (called SC technology), which basically minimizes the unwanted distortion and prevents the driver from producing output outside the clean frequency range of the driver. So, while the subwoofer doesn’t produce very low deep bass, you can be sure that it does give you clean, low distortion bass.

Summary

Overall, I like very much the Canton LE series speaker system. Whether use in stereo or in home theater settings, they do not disappoint. At its price point, I think it’s very hard to do better.  I strongly recommend you to listen to this system if you are in the market for a $2500 well matched home theater system package. Their handsome looking and their strong performance might just be your ticket to the enjoyment that you’ve been looking for.

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