Canton is Germany's largest and best-selling speaker maker, for good reason. They have been building speakers for over 35 years and make everything from car audio and iPod boom boxes to ultra-high-end audiophile speakers with something for pretty much any buyer at every price point and application. The subject of this review is one of their top-of-the-line Reference series speakers, the 3.2 DC, which retails for $16,000 per pair and is the second largest in the line. The Reference 3.2 DC is designed for the most discerning audiophiles who want full-range sound and gorgeous looks from a floor-standing speaker.
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The Reference 3.2 DC is a three-way bass reflex speaker with two nine-inch aluminum wave surround woofers, a seven-inch aluminum wave surround midrange and a one-inch aluminum ceramic oxide tweeter. The aluminum cones of the midrange and woofers are shaped for minimal distortion, while the wave surround can accommodate twice the normal excursion, allowing these drivers to produce huge depth and dynamics for their size.
The speaker is just over 45 inches tall, eleven-and-a-half inches wide by 16-and-a-half inches deep and weighs 108 pounds. The top, front and rear panels of the speaker are flat, with the front much wider than the rear, while the sides are smoothly bowed out from the front, then tilt back in to meet the narrow rear. The tweeter sits under the midrange and above the woofers, while a large single down-firing port allows the speaker to maximize bass performance without compromising positioning. With a reported 89 dB sensitivity and an impedance of four to eight ohms, the speaker can handle up to 600 watts of power. The entire speaker is elevated above the base plate that is isolated from the cabinet. Included with the speakers are both blunt metal spikes and large rubber discs to interface with the floor. The cabinet is heavily reinforced to suppress cabinet resonance and has a multi-chambered design to further isolate the different drivers.
The Reference line is designed to sound incredible, as consumers at this level demand perfection. Canton has delivered on all fronts. The speaker has a high-grade piano finish that comes in black, white, silver, or the beautiful Cherry (the finish of my review set). The grain of the woods was amazing and the rich depth of the medium-gloss finish was perfect. I found the gloss finish to not be to my taste in d�cor, but I loved seeing the aluminum drivers and found it difficult to keep on the grilles. The edges are softly rounded off, making them easy to handle and giving them a slightly relaxed appearance. On the bottom rear are the two pairs of binding posts. Canton's Reference series speakers have both parts of the crossover (bass and mid/treble) completely separate to further maximize performance. The binding posts are huge knurled knobs, with included gold-plated jumpers for those with single-wire speaker cables.
My Cantons came shipped on a pallet, but when I first saw the boxes, I felt my heart sink. The boxes were destroyed, and one of the boxes was actually pulled up and off the speaker. I assumed the worst and began taking photos and contacting everyone involved with the review to alert them. To my surprise, neither speaker had sustained any damage whatsoever from the rough shipping. This was truly amazing, as to un-box the one, I simply lifted the box off and carried the speaker inside. Fortunately, the speakers are very well-packaged in thick boxes, with plenty of internal supports and cardboard that allowed mine to survive the shipping gorillas' hands.
I moved the speakers into my reference rig, which consists of the EMM Labs TSD1 and DAC2 CD/SACD player, Krell Evo 707 AV Preamp and Krell Evo 403 amplifier, and wired the entire thing with Transparent Reference wires. The only issue I had was with the binding posts, which are so large I had to use spade to banana adaptors, as my speaker wires' spades weren't large enough for the Reference 3.2 DC's posts. I positioned the speakers approximately three feet off the rear wall and faced them dead forward. These were show models that were already broken in, so I cued up some music and tweaked the positioning until I had the best imaging, which seemed to occur with just the slightest toe-in. Once I had them positioned where I wanted them, I added the blunt spikes, leveled them and set off to listen. The rest of the speakers in my system for multi-channel applications were Canton's Vento 805 DC center, 802 DC surrounds and a Definitive Technology Super Cube Reference subwoofer. For movies, I used a Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray disc player.
Right out of the boxes, the Reference 3.2 DCs sounded special. The first disc I played was Jimi Hendrix's Blues (MCA). From the start of "Hear My Train A-Comin'," the detail and warmth of the speakers were apparent. They covered deep bass notes with ease, while keeping the soul of the song intact. Jimi's voice was clear and well-placed. Moving onto my favorite song of this record, "Catfish Blues," I was impressed by how solid the bass was, while the strumming of the Stratocaster vibrated through the room. Attack was sharp and true, while the whole tone of the speakers was just slightly on the warm side, making them very enjoyable to hear. Jimi's vocals and guitar stayed well-placed in the soundstage.
To push the bass to a new level, I cued up Puscifier's V is for Vagina (Puscifier Entertainment) and was treated to some of the most luscious bass I have ever heard in my room, at a tradeshow or at an audio salon. On "Momma Sed," the opening notes of the guitar jumped, while the deep vocals filled the room and threw a huge soundstage. "Rev 22.20 (Dry Martini Mix)" really showed just how well the Reference series does bass. The opening notes of the piano held perfect tone and filled the room, while the brushes on the drums were perfect. The deep piano notes held constant and true and were able to be played to obscene levels without distorting or bottoming out the drivers. The vocals were well-placed and had no hint of harshness to them. This song relies on deep, long piano notes and the Reference 3.2s reproduced them exceptionally well, making the bass fill the room without ever wavering. The Reference 3.2 DCs made a huge sweet spot and walking around the room showed exceptional off-axis performance.
I cued up Keb' Mo's The Door on SACD for something more relaxed. The guitar on the title track had liveliness to it, while Keb's vocals were clean and smooth, while the subtle notes of the acoustic guitar on "Loola Loo" jumped from the speakers, never overshadowing the knocking on the guitar body that keep the pace of the song. "Anyway" showed how well the Cantons could reproduce subtle details as the screeching over the frets and the guitar seemed perfectly centered between the speakers.
I wanted to see how the speakers handled film soundtracks, so I cued up the Bond film Quantum of Solace (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). From the opening Alicia Keys number, I knew I had something special. The Cantons have such a warm nature to their sound that they simply draw you in. Bass performance seemed more than adequate, but halfway through the film, I powered off my subwoofer and reconfigured the pre/pro so all LFE effects went through the Ref 3.2s. They had no trouble handling the large dynamics and depth of explosions in this film, while their warmth kept voices lush.