Canton Vento Reference 1 DC loudspeaker Page 2

I was ready to hear a big difference with the Krell Evolution gear, but as much as I'd hoped to get better sound with a dedicated line, I didn't anticipate it being so obviously better. Even when I thought I was getting top-of-the-heap sound, the Ref 1 was capable of revealing even better when it was fed even better. That's what a "reference" is supposed to do, innit?

While knowledge may provide a useful point of reference, it cannot become a force to guide the future
In my auditioning, I found the Vento Reference 1 DC responded best to a firm hand. It's specified at 88.5dB sensitivity, and I did successfully drive the pair of them with the 100W NuForce amps—but with more power they really opened up. Unlike some large loudspeakers, the Canton didn't require a minimum level of loudness before it began to sing. It's true, as Quad's Peter Walker used to say, that every recording has a level at which it sounds real, but some speakers need to be booted in the booty before they start to cook. Play me loud or don't play me, they seem to say. Not the Ref 1.

That's not to say the Vento wouldn't crank up to stupid-loud, just that it didn't have to in order to sound great. I'm with the late Mr. Walker on this one: I try to match loudness to the source, which means I listen to solo lute at fairly quiet levels, rock at fairly loud volumes, and big symphonic works at, well, I think of them as realistic, but sometimes those ffff tuttis are really freaking loud. The great thing about the Ref 1 was that, at whichever level I played it, it continued to exhibit ungodly dynamic extremes and tonal contrast.

Paavo Järvi's new recording of Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, with Elgar's Enigma Variations (CD, Telarc CD-80660), is a collection that is entirely about tonal and dynamic contrasts. Listening to it through the Ref 1s was intensely visceral. The Young Person's Guide begins by laying out a simple theme of Purcell's, then explores that theme with, first, the families of instruments and, later, individual instrument sections. J‰rvi manages to imbue this venerable primer in orchestral color with drama and verve, and I found myself swept along by it. The timbres of the individual instruments were vividly delineated and, despite my natural cynicism, I was transported by the performance. (I'm usually much too sophisticated to enjoy a children's work.)

Then we hit Variation L, for tuba and trombone, and this ex-tubaist was jolted out of his mild musical euphoria by the realization that This is precisely what lower brass sounds like. Those of you who aren't brass players might not know that the power and projection of tubas and trombones are almost always shorted by reproduced music. The wider embouchures required to play the lower brasses produce tones that come mighty close to squarewaves in their buzzy, blatty glory, and most speakers just can't do them justice.

I was now riveted by this disc. When the Four Sea Interludes began, the way the Ref 1s inserted me into the moody landscape of Dawn had the hairs on my arms standing erect—I could feel the clouds scudding across the lightening sky. Moments later, the chimes of Sunday Morning nearly made me jump out of my skin. Gloriosky, did the Ref 1 get the ringing overtones of high frequencies right.

I've mentioned that I found the Ref 1 "relaxed," but that doesn't mean it didn't have HF acuity. It was there, but the speaker didn't rub my nose in "detail." It was just there when it was appropriate.

Then there's the bottom end. I listened to the remastered version of David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (CD, Nonesuch 79894-2), and the tight and tuneful synthed bass line of "A Secret Life" had my whole house shuddering. I'd never heard anything that deep and that controlled outside of a concert hall. I'd heard Canton's DC technology before, as applied to several smaller loudspeakers, and had never been sure if it actually extended the amount of perceived bass or not—but with the Reference DC 1, something remarkable was going on down there.

However, the Ref 1's greatest glory, to my ear, was its relaxed, grain-free midrange. This might also be its most controversial area—listeners used to hyperdetailed superspeakers might find the Canton too laid-back. Perhaps I'm just tired of that rising top-end edge, but I found the Ref 1's midrange a blessing.

Revelation and the nature of truth must be viewed in reference to the structure of language
I didn't have anybody else's flagship loudspeakers around to do direct comparisons for this review, but I've spent extended periods of time with both the Aerial Acoustics 20T ($23,500/pair) and the Dynaudio Evidence Temptation ($30,000/pair)—two loudspeakers that are world-class in anyone's book.

As much as I enjoyed my time with the Dynaudio Temptations, they're strict taskmasters: Feed them a less than perfect recording and you have a less than perfect listening experience. God knows I want to hear my best recordings sound as good as they can, but I also want to enjoy all of my records when I listen to them. The Canton's lack of overetched detail made it a better match for me, but your taste may differ, depending on how detailed you like your music. I side with Goldilocks on this one, coming down on the side of "just right"—which is what I got from the Ref 1.

I also loved the Aerial 20Ts when they were in my listening room. While I certainly didn't feel I was missing any deep-bass information while listening to the 20Ts, my time with the Cantons makes me think I might not have known what I was missing. I also found the 20Ts' performance to rely very much on my ears being placed properly in regard to their ribbon tweeter. The Cantons were much more forgiving in that regard.

There's another aspect of the Cantons that I preferred over almost any other large, expensive loudspeaker I've had in my house: I like the way they look. I'm not saying the Temptation and the 20T aren't handsome loudspeakers, but the Canton's curved shells, finished in cherry veneer, looked more like something that belonged in my living room.

Does that make me superficial? I don't think so. If you're spending $30,000 on two good-sized somethings that are going to dominate your room, you should give some thought to whether or not you're going to enjoy looking at them every day. If you're an audiophile, this probably won't be your first priority, but it probably should factor somewhere in your calculations.

It all comes down to your frame of reference
Eventually, in every review, we need to confront the question of value. I'm not sure that I, who can't afford a $30,000 pair of speakers, am qualified to do that. You know what your budget is; if it doesn't extend to this price point, there are a ton of less expensive loudspeakers that offer very good sound.

On the other hand, the Canton Vento Reference 1 DC is competitive with the best loudspeakers I've had in my system, and, in many particulars, is more to my taste than most. You can also spend a lot more than $30,000 and still not like those speakers more than the Ref 1s.

Canton has always stressed solid engineering—all else comes in a distant second—and everything about the Vento Reference 1 DC reflects that commitment to excellence. I recommend it to anyone looking for a loudspeaker that can truly be thought of as a "reference."

Canton Electronics Corp.
504 Malcolm Avenue SE, Suite 400
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 706-9250