Canton Ergo 620 Speaker System Page 2

The token lossy selection was the Quantum of Solace DVD, in DTS 5.1, which a friend brought over one night. In the constant procession of review samples that figure in my listening life, some are quite happy with lossy surround, while others are somewhat intolerant. At low to moderate volumes, the Ergos seemed to be reconciled to lossiness. But when the action kicked into high gear, the relative crudity of the old-school codec became more apparent and fatiguing. The speakers weren’t compressing, as all the other material demonstrated. They merely told the truth about the limits of perceptual surround coding.

From 1972 to 2001
Everybody’s in Show-Biz by the Kinks is a double concept album, half studio, half live, with a title track that lovingly name-checks Hollywood heroes and got significant FM airplay back in the day. The studio half was recorded in classic early-1970s style with a huge drum sound and a reticent top end. My vinyl copy was perfect for playing thunderingly loud through the 10-inch woofers of the KLH 17s I once used. That’s great for fans of underrated drummer Mick Avory, but the remainder of the reverb-free mix can seem spatially flat and lackluster, especially in terms of vocals. The Ergos accepted the challenge, peeling off layers of voices and instruments trapped in the muddy midrange. They liberated Ray Davies, the horn charts, Dave Davies’ doubletracked slide guitars, and the steel drums on “Supersonic Rocket Ship.” And the sub delivered the monster drum sound I’ve long known and loved without adding a trace of bloat to what’s already inherent in my room.

When I moved on to the live half, the speakers made the most of a more naturally proportioned midrange. Aided by the Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode, my default for music listening, it mined a lot of ambience I hadn’t previously noticed. This didn’t just include the band onstage and the laughing sing-along audience, but the walls of the hall and the placement of the proscenium.

I’m not sure I’d call Deodato’s Prelude—another happy memory of the free-form FM days—an audiophile classic. Although it’s from the analog era, Creed Taylor’s lavish production is highly compressed and tends to underplay some elements, especially Billy Cobham’s driving drums and Ron Carter’s bass. But the Ergos once again revealed every thread in the instrumental tapestry without losing sight of the lushly orchestrated whole. Of course, the highlight was their version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, or as it was known in those days, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Brass and strings suddenly leaped out of the bubbling foundation of Deodato’s electric piano and various percussion instruments.

Two-channel performance is the moment of truth for many speaker systems because surround is forgiving in ways that stereo is not. Among other things, surround speaker systems generally have a dedicated center speaker to plug the hole in the middle, while a stereo pair has to deliver a phantom center image, real soundstaging, and side-to-side uniformity. The Ergos got their moment of truth with Sharon Isbin’s Journey to the New World, a richly varied trove of Anglo-American music arranged to showcase Isbin’s awe-inspiring classical guitar technique, with guest appearances by Joan Baez and violinist Mark O’Connor. The soundstage that remained when I cut the center and surround channels was so well defined that I could have chalked its outline in an 18-inch perimeter around the speakers. Sound came from in front of them, behind them, between them, and slightly outside them—to the point where the speakers disappeared, as though no sound was coming from them at all.

While my satisfaction with the Canton Ergo 620 stems partly from having configured the system the way I prefer—with five matched speakers and a sub—that’s not the end of the story. These speakers deliver well-rounded performance that’s worthy of an investment in a high-end receiver. They do the job confidently from top to bottom: The midrange feels right, highs are well developed but not exaggerated, and only a crazy person with a large room wouldn’t be satisfied with the Ergo AS 650.2 SC sub’s authoritative approach to bass reproduction. Canton also gets the niceties right, like the look and feel, the quality of parts and workmanship, and the sheer dedication it takes to produce products of this quality—a dedication that is apparent in every detail. I loved ’em.

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