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Canton GLE 409 Loudspeaker Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

In 1972, the German speaker company known as Canton was first formed. From the outset, the engineers at Canton have been designing high-end speaker system that can replicate a ‘live’ performance from the London Philharmonic just as easily as it can reproduce the bombs and explosions emanating from an action-packed Blu-Ray DVD’s soundtrack for a truly electrifying home theater experience. The rest of the home audio industry took note of what Canton was doing, and in 1995 Canton was awarded the “European Audio Award” for best audio innovation when Canton manufactured their first digital speaker line earlier in that same year.

Audio engineers the world over recognized that these new digital speakers would create true musical reproduction in home audio that most engineers could only dream about just a year before. And Canton would not stop there. Just three years later they would contract with Lucas-Film to develop the very first surround-sound speaker system designed specifically in coordination with THX specifications. These speaker systems were later installed in hundreds of movie theaters worldwide, and they were made available to home audio systems soon after, so that the home-theater buffs could take full advantage of true THX cinema sound.

2007 saw Canton premiering a new line of floor standing speakers entitled the GLE series. This series was designed with a much lower retail cost for the average consumer in mind without omitting the musical reproduction abilities of Canton’s much costlier line of speakers such as the Ergo, Vento and Karat lines, which retail beginning at $3000/per pair and up. The GLE-409 is a 3-way bass reflex system speaker and weighs in at almost 20 pounds per speaker, so for the low cost of around $1100/per pair, you can still enjoy the prestige that comes attached with acquiring a Canton loudspeaker system without going broke in the process.

Overview

The Canton GLE 409 pair of speakers that were showcased in the media room of Premiere Home Entertainment stood at an imposing 3 ½ feet tall. The total width of the speaker cabinets is 8.3 inches and the depth is 11.8 inches, making for a nice and compact design while still conveying to the viewer its strong ability to deliver powerful audio to the entire room. The featured speakers came in a walnut wood veneer.  I popped off the right speaker grille to take a good look at the speaker’s pair of 8-inch woofers, the single 7-inch midrange and its 1-inch silk dome tweeter.

Canton’s engineers replaced the LE series’ more traditional polypropylene cones with the much more audio-friendly aluminum bass and midrange drivers, thus insuring that the quality of the GLE line is following the same lofty standards set by the higher priced speaker systems in the Canton repertoire. Heat dissipation isn’t a problem for the GLE 409 because Canton’s engineers re-designed the speaker system’s driver motor structure with powerful magnets, and they installed vented voice coils in each speaker’s drivers that help tremendously with unwanted high levels of heat flowing through the speaker’s circuitry.

The GLE crossover networks are precisely matched with the driver and enclosure systems for a stronger frequency response and overall linearity. This type of new design improves audio imaging, and the engineers even refined this speaker series’ enclosures to incorporate much narrower front baffle systems, which helps with image enhancement. The accuracy levels in the silk dome tweeters have also been improved from past Canton speaker lines by including a more powerful motor structure in the tweeter driver, which helps with sound displacement in the higher musical ranges when listening to audio playback. This vast improvement of sound displacement also helps decrease the possibility of distortion when the system’s owner increases the volume of the audio playback exponentially, or when a movie’s soundtrack overwhelms the speakers with huge bomb explosions during an especially loud battle sequence.

The crossover frequency of these speakers is rated at a respectable 300/3.200 Hz, the nominal impedance level is at 4 to 8 ohms and the nominal/music power handling is rated at 150/320 watts. These types of levels are well in line with delivering pure and clean audio levels to anyone’s discerning ears and the power handling ability of the 409’s means that these speakers should be able to deliver superior surround sound audio when attached to a decent 7.1 digital receiver for a full service home theater experience. The speaker’s grille is made out of lightweight mesh material that you can easily see through. It compliments the light and airy feeling that the designers were going for when creating this less-than-imposing loudspeaker system.

Set Up

The Canton 409’s were the main speakers highlighted in one of the smaller showrooms located at Premiere Home Entertainment and they were attached to a Rotel RSX-1550 5-channel a/v receiver, along with a Furman Elite 15 power conditioner, a Marantz BD8002 Blu-Ray player and a Marantz VC 6001 DVD changer. This room was built to showcase home theater surround sound while watching high-definition movies being shown on the attached 102-inch Stewart movie screen with the attached Marantz DVD player. A Velodyne DLS-3750 R was used as the main subwoofer for this speaker configuration and a Canton GLE-455 CM was used as the center channel. Kimber cable was used throughout this audio configuration and the room itself was about 12 feet wide and 15 feet long, with insulated curtains hanging over the sliding-glass entrance door, insuring that I would be able to experience full surround sound in the best possible way, without any loss of high-end audio due to harsh sound conditions in the showroom.

The Canton 409’s were positioned about four feet away from the back wall that held the movie screen, and they were sitting at a 75-degree angle around 6 feet away from where I was sitting. The center channel was placed in the middle of the audio configuration, about 5 inches off the ground, sitting on a speaker base in front of the RSX-1550 a/v receiver. There were also two small Velodyne surround speakers placed on both sidewalls of the showroom.

The main audio/video source of the movie clips I would be watching were coming from the attached Marantz VC 6001 DVD changer, which is the crowning jewel of Marantz’s line of DVD players. Since it was very important for me to determine what the 409’s sounded like when they were used primarily as the main speaker centerpiece for a home theatre, the VC 6001 was the perfect DVD player for the job. This player features the ability to decode Dolby Prologic II as well as DTS surround sound and the player drives 24-bit audio to any a/v receiver it is connected to, so I knew that this audio system configuration would really highlight the 409’s capabilities.

For maximum low-end impact, the Velodyne DLS-3750 R is a competent subwoofer for smaller to medium-sized rooms and the unit’s 10” forward firing driver brings this low-priced subwoofer ($300) up to the levels of higher-end bass components. The DLS-3750 features four presets on its remote control that consists of movie surround mode, game mode, rock music and jazz/classical sound modes.  Along with the Velodyne subwoofer, the Canton GLE 455 center channel speaker was also an integral component in rounding out the total home theater surround sound experience. The Canton 455’s contain a 2 ½-way closed system for accurate sound dispersion and a dynamic power range of 140 watts. 

Music and Movies

The first part of the demonstration began with a bang as the first movie clip from the compilation DVD featured an exciting action scene from the movie “The Transporter 2” (Europa Corp 2005). This sequence included action star Jason Statham driving his black Audi A8 sedan through a parking garage under hot pursuit by a gang of street thugs, and the Canton 409’s did a great job of replicating the sound effects of Statham’s car smashing into the thug’s cars while narrowly escaping hitting the parking garage’s many concrete pillars situated all over the parking garage’s multi-levels. The gunfire effects while the car chase was ensuing blared out at me with a sound clarity that made it sound as if the action sequence was right outside the showroom’s doors. When Statham finally gets out of his now-damaged Audi, the street thugs surrounded him, knives and guns drawn. Statham took out his foes one by one, and as his feet connected with the bare bones of his enemies, the 409’s really brought out the clear sounds of the crunching impact associated with Statham’s ability to bring his victims to their knees with his glancing blows.

Even when a thug draws out his knife and flips it around, the 409’s helped to accentuate the sound the blade made as it was sent flying through the air after Statham kicks it out of the hoodlum’s hand. Another man came after Statham with a crowbar and I could easily hear the hard metal of the crowbar clang hard against the concrete floor of the garage as Statham sends the man into the air after grabbing him by the shoulders and flipping him backwards over his head. The scene ends with all of his foes laying on the floor, writing in agony as Statham gets back into his Audi and rushes out of the garage into the daylight, looking for the kidnapped victim of the man he is working for. The movie’s soundtrack then hit into full swing as the 409’s sent crystal-clear midrange audio to fill the showroom with full orchestration of violins, timpani and a driving percussion to accompany Statham’s determined desire to run down and incapacitate all of his main enemies that stood in his way.

Looking to see what the Canton 409’s could bring to a rock soundstage, the next clip up was from the well-known classic rock group the Eagles and their “Farewell 1 Tour- Live from Melbourne” (Rhino/WEA 2005) DVD. After stating for years that they would never get back together because of inner turmoil between band members, the Eagles finally reunited for a huge world tour in 2003-2004, and the next clip I would be seeing came from this group as they performed “Life in the Fast Lane” in front of a huge Australian audience filled with die-hard Eagles fans. This clips begins as Joe Walsh, the group’s main lead guitar player, starts playing the central riff from this fast-paced song and the 409’s came alive as the high-end guitar sounds were projected throughout the showroom with an accurate precision that showed off the strength of the Canton 409’s 7-inch aluminum midrange drivers.

A good way to determine if the main speakers you are listening to are doing there job well is by being fully aware of exactly which speakers are dispersing the most audio during any audio playback. I stood up during this Eagles song and walked over to both of the 409’s to determine if they were in fact filling most of the soundstage with the music I was now listening to, which they were. The Canton center channel was primarily responsible for broadcasting the song’s background vocals, and the Velodyne subwoofer was pushing out most of the low-end emanating from the band’s bass player, Timothy B. Schmidt. The entire audio system did a good job of disbursing the Eagle’s powerful yet clean sound during “Life in the Fast Lane” and I could clearly hear the pounding drums thundering through this song as main vocalist Don Henley sang about the “beautiful people” in Hollywood getting their comeuppance in life after burning themselves out due to heavy drug and alcohol abuse.

An important element to consider when upgrading your loudspeaker system anytime in the future is to make sure that the main speakers you are adding to your audio configuration can be easily assimilated into your system with no harsh clashes between the older speakers and the new ones. Canton engineers design their main loudspeakers to work well with any other high-end speaker manufacturers on the market today, and as I listened to how well the Velodyne subwoofer was working with the Canton 409’s as well as the Canton GLE-455 center channel, I was impressed with the way all of the speakers played off each other with agility and grace. The live performance of “Life in the Fast Lane” was drawing to a close as Walsh’s ending guitar solo flowed with clarity against the rhythm guitar playing of fellow musician Glenn Frey, and the 409’s high-end capabilities shined through as these speakers did an excellent job of showcasing just how great of a guitar player Joe Walsh still is.

A light-hearted action scene from the animated movie entitled “Robots” (Twentieth Century Fox Animation 2005) was up next, and this movie features voice-over work from actors such as Robin Williams, Halle Berry and Drew Carey. The clip seen on the compilation DVD I was watching featured an old robot played by Robin Williams trying to persuade a much younger robot to come with him to stop some oppressing force from taking control of the world’s robots. As he is finally having some degree of success in persuading the younger robot to come along with him, a massive robot’s hand comes down hard on the area surrounding these two, and I could hear the 409’s let loose a huge and explosive sound as the ground the robots were standing on concaved inward and the two robots were sent spiraling down the just-opened hole into the center of the earth.

I could hear the clang of the robot’s metal bodies as they were sent end-over-end to their ultimate destination of another underworld lying beneath the Earth’s surface. The musical soundtrack flared up a cacophony of swirling saxophone and trombone music as these robots continued to fall, and the 409’s did a respectable job of ensuring that the robot’s screams of terror was perfectly balanced with the movie’s musical elements and the music never drowned out the ensuing dialogue sequence between the two robots following their great fall towards the underworld city.

Downside

Although the Canton 409’s did an admirable job of replicating true movie theater sound during most of the film clips I witnessed during the demonstration of the speaker system at Premiere Home Entertainment, I was slightly disappointed by the speaker’s inability to bring a more natural, warmer tone to the ‘live’ musical performance by the Eagles. I kept waiting for the speakers to fully enrapture my ears with a dynamic range of subtle sonic tones during the song “Life in the Fast Lane” that never occurred. So if you are looking to purchase a pair of these loudspeakers primarily for audio playback of your extensive CD collection, or you really want to enjoy the clean purity of 2-channel stereo, I would recommend the higher-end Canton Ergo series instead.

The low-end audio coming out of the Canton 409’s was never substantial enough for my tastes as the Veodyne DLS-3750 subwoofer handled all of the bass signals delivered to it by the Rotel RSX-1550. I prefer loudspeaker systems that do not have to rely on a separate subwoofer to surround the listener with heavy bass, especially when the loudspeakers are used primarily for a home theater audio configuration. These speakers work a lot better when they are attached to a very high-end set of a/v components, so if you have a medium-end audio system that you need to upgrade by purchasing a loudspeaker system that is multi-functional, I would not recommend the Canton 409’s for your audio system.

Conclusion

For the relatively low price of $1100/per pair for the Canton 409’s, the consumer who is looking for quality speakers to balance out their average home theater audio configuration with a much more crisp sound, these speakers will do a fine job. The speakers are pleasing to the eye, they have a nice design element to them that will perfectly compliment the style of most people’s audio systems and if you currently are happy with the subwoofer that makes up the low-end in your system, you should look into buying a pair of these loudspeakers. The engineers at Canton have done a fine job of creating a speaker line that delivers when it comes to dispersing clean and concise sound during playback of 5.1 and 7.1 digital surround-sound.

The mid to upper high range of these speakers were quite capable of replicating all of the sound effects during the movie clips that I watched and the guitar solos from the musicians in the Eagles really sounded full of life and brought a genuine authenticity to the audio soundstage that I was really pleased with. Compared with other higher-end loudspeaker systems that are priced in the same lower range of $1000-$1500/per pair, I would recommend these speakers over the others primarily because of the sleeker design that the Canton 409’s retain, and because of the engineer’s attention to creating speaker drivers that eliminate most of the sound distortion you might get if you purchase another, less superior manufacturer’s speaker line.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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