Canton Ergo Speaker System Reviewed

Canton Ergo Speaker System Reviewed

Canton is German's largest speaker maker and the Ergo line is right at the sweet spot of the price performance curve. Exceptional build quality and high dollar sound from a modestly priced speaker make these a must see.

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When asked to review these Canton Ergo speakers, I didn't do any advance research. I simply said, "Sure, that would be great," and forgot about it until the pallet arrived. And I do mean pallet. More often than not, my gear arrives by way of FedEx or UPS. Deliveries to my house are so common, the neighbors probably suspect I'm a compulsive catalog shopper.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore subwoofer pairing options for the Canton Ergo.

When the unmarked semi-tractor trailer slowly backed into my driveway, I knew I was in for something different. While the Canton payload was being hydraulically lowered onto my driveway, I realized why FedEx and UPS were not involved. If asked to lug around this array of boxes, the local deliverymen would have come for me with fire and pitchforks, keeping the speakers for themselves. Luckily, I survived the delivery and lived to tell the tale. It's a good thing too, because these Ergo speakers are worth talking about.

Founded by a trio of German audio enthusiasts, Canton has been building quality speakers since 1973 and is Germany's largest manufacturer and best-selling brand of loudspeakers. The company operates under one very straightforward mission statement: "to produce the best loudspeaker." While that goal sounds simple enough, the perfect loudspeaker, like the perfect wave, probably doesn't exist. After all, it's about the journey, right? Not the destination. That being said, this Canton Ergo ensemble created such a fine quality of sound, it makes me think that if we're still "on the journey," then the off-ramp must be just ahead.

Unique Features
Having recently reviewed a few speakers that sported trendy, silver lacquer finish, the Canton Ergos were a breath of fresh air. The beautiful Ergo line boasts old school craftsmanship, fashioned with gorgeous wood cabinets complete with black perforated metal grilles. My review samples had a handsome cherry veneer, but other finishes such as beech and ash are also available. After listening to them, I was reminded of the film Crazy People, in which Dudley Moore's team of loony marketers comes up with a new catchphrase for Volvo automobiles: "They're boxy, but they're good." The Canton Ergos are just that, though cabinet edges have been rounded ever so slightly. Overall, high marks in the looks department.

One of the things that make the 1002 DC towers sound as luscious as they do is Canton's exclusive "Displacement Control" (DC) technology. In essence, DC is made up of a high-pass filter which prevents the bass driver from attempting to reproduce sounds which fall below the audible frequency range. Such attempts are fruitless and only result in higher levels of distortion. Put more simply, DC technology forces the drivers to focus on the stuff your ear can actually hear and forget the stuff it can't. The end result is low distortion and linear, accurate bass reproduction at very low frequencies.

Taking a page from Canton's flagship Karat Reference 2 system, the Ergo line features newly upgraded crossover components for improved sound quality. The Ergo crossovers now contain ICW polypropylene capacitors, which allegedly reduce memory effects and produce finer detail with improved transient response. After reading some of Canton's internal design documentation and listening to the Ergos, it is evident that their engineers pride themselves on a system approach to loudspeaker construction. Each component must work together for perfect sound. The crossover network and its DC design is not an afterthought, but rather an integral part of the Ergo sound.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Canton takes great care in packing these lovely speakers. Each sits between snug-fitting Styrofoam cushions and loose parts such as carpet spikes are carefully taped down to prevent movement during shipment. The owner's manuals leave a bit to be desired: slightly vague when it comes to setup recommendations and some translation seems poor.

Each of the Ergo speakers features gold-plated, bi-wire/bi-amp connections, providing a snug fit for banana plugs. The carpet spikes are attractive metal and they simply screw into the bottom of the mains and AS-2 SC subwoofer. Overall, I was very impressed with the apparent quality of construction. It also says a lot that many visitors to my theater during the evaluation period said, "Wow, who makes those?" The AS-2 SC subwoofer is really the only speaker where "setup" comes into play. I would like to have seen some additional information and suggestions regarding crossover frequency, particularly when the AS-2 SC is mated with other Ergo speakers such as the 1002 towers I had in for review. In the end, I set the sub's crossover at its highest setting (150Hz) and let my Atlantic Technology P2000 preamp/processor perform the signal surgery. I ended up settling on an 80Hz crossover around the room, though the towers could probably easily handle 60Hz.

Read more about the performance of the Ergo on Page 2.
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Regarding the sub's crossover setting, the official "Made in
Germany" spec sticker indicates a frequency response up to 150Hz, the
owner's manual says the crossover is adjustable from 50Hz to 150Hz, and
the Canton website says the same. However, the crossover knob on the
rear of my AS-2 SC was labeled 60Hz to 120Hz. I am guessing it's simply
a typo on the back panel. It's also not a big deal, because even if
120Hz was the top end, you rarely let a subwoofer handle anything over
100Hz unless you're pairing it with miniscule satellite speakers. And
this Canton Ergo ensemble was anything but miniscule.

Finally, since my room's bass sweet spot is the rear corner, I set
the Phase knob close to the 180 degree setting (thankfully, this is an
infinitely variable control) and volume/level ended up around the "4"
mark. I disabled the (sometimes) useful "Auto-On" feature for the
purposes of this review.

Final Take
After a few calibration tests on Digital Video Essentials, I moved on
to some familiar movie material. These Ergo speakers immediately
grabbed my attention with their precision and detail, though my first
impressions also revealed a somewhat laid-back sound. I don't consider
that a bad thing. Too many speakers are harsh and edgy, but these
Cantons were subtly smooth and effectively transparent.

Gun shots and chopper blades throughout Ridley Scott's masterful
Black Hawk Down were spot-on and dialogue was well presented, never
sounding out of place. During the Diva sequence from The Fifth Element,
I noticed some bright high notes that were at times distracting, but
this problem was correctable. It turns out that these speakers sound
better off-axis than they do head-on. The brightness I heard
disappeared when I moved the towers parallel to the wall and did away
with the toed-in setup.

Music sounded wonderful. The Ergos have a nice open, airy sound.
Mid-bass and the subwoofer cutoff were very smooth and I was
hard-pressed to find any frequency gaps.

My final demo sold me on these speakers. Watching the opening battle
sequence from Master and Commander in DTS was a visceral experience in
every respect. Canon blasts were thunderous and every splintering piece
of mast and hull rang exceptionally true. The 302 surrounds provided
for enveloping surround and all of the speakers had excellent timbre
matching. Although their 4-8 ohm impedance makes them a little power
hungry, the Ergo line from Canton earned my respect as well as a
permanent place in my theater. •

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore subwoofer pairing options for the Canton Ergo.

Ergo 1002 DC (mains)
3-way floorstanding tower
(2) 9-inch polypropylene woofers
(1) 7-inch aluminum membrane midrange
(1) 1-inch aluminum-manganese tweeter
Bi-wireable, Bi-ampable
Nom. Power Handling: 200 watts
Nom. Impedance: 4-8 ohms
Frequency Response: 20Hz-30kHz
45.3"H x 10.2"W x 13.7"D
MSRP: $3,000/pair

Ergo CM 502 (center)
2 1/2-way center channel
(2) 7-inch aluminum membrane woofers
(1) 1-inch aluminum-manganese tweeter
Bi-wireable, Bi-ampable
Nom. Power Handling: 110 watts
Nom. Impedance: 4-8 ohms
Frequency Response: 26Hz-30kHz
8.9"H x 19.7"W x 11.3"D
MSRP: $800

Ergo 302 (surrounds)
2-way bookshelf speaker
(1) 8-inch aluminum membrane woofer
(1) 1-inch aluminum-manganese tweeter
Bi-wireable, Bi-ampable
Nom. Power Handling: 90 watts
Nom. Impedance: 4-8 ohms
Frequency Response: 27Hz-30kHz
15.7"H x 8.7"Wx 12.1"D
MSRP: $1,400/pair

Ergo AS 2 SC (subwoofer)
12-inch side-firing cellulose/polyester woofer
Variable Phase (0-180 degrees)
Auto on/off setting
Line-level and speaker-level inputs
Frequency Range: 20Hz-150Hz
Adjustable Crossover: 50-150Hz
22"H x 14.2"W x 17.6"D
MSRP: $1,500

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