Canton Chrono Series Speaker System

Chrono logical.

The Canton Chrono Series seems to have a split personality. With the grilles off, you can’t help noticing the gleaming diamond-etched aluminum trim rings that hold the almost equally flashy aluminum drivers. With the grilles on, the floorstanding models become impassive black totems, complemented by equally self-effacing centers, stand-mounts, and subs. The only hint of style is a glossy lacquered fiberboard baffle that twinkles slightly on close inspection under a bright light.

This personality shift carries over from looks to sound. With the grilles on, the Cantons are suave, smooth, and the soul of moderation. With the grilles off, they take on a more aggressive personality, with a livelier top end. If you want your speakers to look and sound flashy, the Chronos will do it. If you want them to cut out the nonsense and disappear into the music, they’ll do that too. It’s not unusual for speakers to sound different with their grilles on and off, of course. The interaction of aesthetics and grilles must have made me more than normally conscious of it.

High-End Technology
The Canton family includes a dozen product lines. Setting aside various niche products, there are a half-dozen orthodox speaker lines in a full range of sizes. The Chrono Series is fourth from the top, outranked by the Vento, Karat, and Ergo series but lording it over the more modest GLE and CD series. Like many astute and creative speaker brands, Canton likes to let materials and ideas trickle down from their upper lines to their lower ones. Thus, the Chrono employs technology and design criteria from the higher-priced Ergo line—specifically, premium drivers and an optimized crossover—encased in cabinets similar to those in the lower-priced GLE line.

Although their sharp-cornered vinyl-wrapped enclosures are staid and unremarkable, the Chronos shine (in more ways than one) in the parts and construction of their driver assemblies. The tweeter dome is not aluminum but an alloy of aluminum and manganese. Among other design features, it forms a single piece with its voice coil former for better heat dissipation and high-frequency response. And it’s set into a recess whose flared shape is easier to feel with a fingertip than to see. This may limit room interaction and diffraction off the baffle. But it also provides solid off-axis response—voices don’t change their character as you move from side to side, and the soundstage remains intact. I don’t like sitting in one place for the two-hour running time of a movie, so I liked this a lot.

The Chrono uses aluminum cones for its woofer and midrange drivers—and those things aren’t cheap. Aluminum is stiffer and faster than the plastics or papers found in most woofers, often providing more focused imaging, but the stiffness can also make it less responsive. Canton uses an improved spider and surround that allow up to 40 percent more excursion and 3 decibels more output than in the higher-end models where the driver originates. In the floorstanding models, a high-pass filter prevents subsonic frequencies from shaking the driver. Canton calls this Displacement Control, and they’re apparently proud of it; “DC” finds its way into the model numbers of both Chrono floorstanders.

The one under review here is the Chrono 507 DC, a 2.5-way design with two 7-inch drivers (one woofer, one woofer/midrange) flanking the flared tweeter. In the center position, the Chrono 505 speaker works the same way except with 6-inch drivers. The Chrono 502 is a two-way design with a 7-inch woofer that matches the one in the floorstanding model, anchoring all four corners of the soundfield with what appear to be identical woofers and tweeters. (Actually, they have different coil and magnet specs.)

Rounding out the package is a space-saving sub with a small footprint. The Chrono AS 525 SC features a 9-inch aluminum-coned forward-facing driver. Although modestly powered at 100 watts RMS, it worked well at an 80-hertz crossover. Unusual adjustment options include a continuously variable phase control and a room-compensation switch. The latter has two settings: normal and narrow. The narrow setting slightly reduces mid- and low-bass output to mitigate room resonance. I used the normal position and never felt I was getting too much of anything.

Associated equipment included the Rotel RSX-1065 A/V receiver, Integra DPS-10.5 universal disc player, and Pioneer BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player.

Legends of TrueHD (Via PCM)
While I enjoy many of the things I review on one level or another, only about one in ten passes the “I could live with this” test. The Canton Chronos made the cut. What clinched the deal was top-to-bottom smoothness, especially the gentle yet involving midrange. The modest sub punched through as needed (although a true bass addict might prefer something more substantial). Where high-frequency information was available, it zipped through the grilles without any irritating sizzle. A megabucks system might have provided a little more air at the top end, but the Chronos were not unduly numbed or reticent. In terms of overall comfort and satisfaction, they were up there with the best.

Legends of Jazz—a PBS sampler I’ve mentioned in a previous review—was even better the second time around in the new Blu-ray release with Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. My player converted it to high-quality PCM, but there was no mistaking the increase in clarity over the previous edition, and the Cantons easily tracked the differences. Various scat-singing performances sounded as though the singers had moved closer to the mikes. And piano sounds fluctuated, even with the same Steinway piano and TV-studio setting. The speakers might have been picking up changes in the mix, which varied from act to act, although the distinctive touch of some pianists (Chick Corea was a notable example) also transformed the instrument’s tone color.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony gets the full 5.1-channel treatment in the Telarc SACD featuring Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Comment from my notebook: “Like vinyl.” The smoothness of the strings enabled me to turn up the vol-ume. That, in turn, enabled me to hear more detail in the bowing, especially during the crescendos, as well as more ambience surrounding the quieter solo-instrument parts, especially the bassoon in the first movement. Järvi’s workmanlike and ungimmicky phrasing prevented the highly emotional work from tipping over into the realm of sentimentality.

Richard & Linda Thompson fans have waited more than 30 years for In Concert November 1975, recorded in the prime of their partnership by ace engineer John Wood. The Cantons did justice to the world-class rhythm section of Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg, including the former’s mighty kick drum. At no time did Linda’s sharp-edged soprano become fatiguing. Richard’s Strat was a feast of jangling, singing tone color.

I reduced the speakers to stereo and compared them with the grilles on and grilles off. When I removed the grilles, I heard a zippier top end but not a more comfortable one. I put them back on again and left them there. I have a long-standing bias toward grilles in general—I usually prefer them on. Most (although not all) speaker designers voice their products to be used that way.

The Disappearing Speakers
The Chronos’ dynamic prowess came to the fore in the DTS 5.1 soundtrack of Mr. Brooks, with Kevin Costner as a compulsive murderer, William Hurt as his imaginary friend, and an unlikable but intense Dane Cook as the loser who fastens onto him. The first thing I wrote in my notebook was, “These speakers just disappear”—they were commendably free, to my ears at least, of any obvious midrange bulges, and better in that respect than lower-priced Canton products I’ve reviewed in the past. But what blew me away were the dynamics of action scenes. The sound designer just loved using sudden loudness to shock, then falling back to the deadly quiet that pervades most of the movie. Time and again, this combination of speakers and soundtrack made me twitch. In a good way.

Home of the Brave and its Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack took a different approach. Sound effects in the first 20 minutes—set in present-day Iraq—were ever present but relatively muted. Compared with the previous movie, the dynamics were relatively gentle, making it possible to stomach the ballistic and explosive shocks without missing the dialogue. After that, the movie turned into a thoughtful examination of the postwar experiences of returning soldiers, led by an acoustic-guitar-led orchestral score. Samuel L. Jackson headed up a highly effective cast. The Chronos got me through the experience without a single vol-ume adjustment.

The Invisible tells the story of a dying teen whose ghost rises up to confront the characters who assaulted him. This teen-dominated story uses music in much the same way as, say, a Warner Brothers TV series. There was lots of soul-searching pop music that commented on the action in obvious, tear-jerking ways, and it generously filled all channels. The high-resolution PCM soundtrack on this Blu-ray disc made it all the more vivid, giving the speakers a chance to make the demographically appropriate songs from Snow Patrol and others sound truly beautiful. There was also a certifiably great sound effect—the rushing waters of a dam, roaring through the Chronos’ ample soundfield.

For the value-oriented consumer, the advantage of doing business with a mature speaker manufacturer is that lower-priced lines, over time, often taken on the characteristics of higher-priced ones. Good materials, scrupulously voiced, make the Canton Chronos a great set of speakers in their own right, not merely a compromised version of the company’s more expensive lines. They’re also interestingly set up to appeal to two different kinds of listener—those who want bright, shiny aesthetics and sound to match, and those who (like me) prefer something more relaxed. I hope Canton sells a lot of them.

Highlights
With grilles on, a smooth and natural sound
Flashy appearance with grilles off
All-metal driver cones and domes

COMPANY INFO
Canton USA
(612) 706-9250
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