Canton Vento 809 DC loudspeaker

"I have an interesting loudspeaker for you to review," said John Atkinson.

Uh-oh. I know what interesting means. I had a barber once who told me that, at barber school, he'd actually taken a course in conversation...

"What the heck do they teach you in a class on conversation?"

"They taught us there was one thing you could say to any statement a customer uttered, no matter how bizarre."

"Which is . . . ?"

"'That's really interesting.'"

So when JA told me that the Canton Vento 809 DC was "interesting," I reckoned he just had nothing else to say about them. He dropped them off at my place and I set them up. I discovered that they're really, umm . . .

They're really interesting.

This is the part of the review that goes like this
Canton's Vento 809 DC is a three-way, four-driver, front-ported floorstanding loudspeaker with a slender, curved, monocoque cabinet made of six layers of laminate. The slimline enclosure (44.1" H by 9.8" W by 13.8" D) has curved side panels, a narrow baffle, and an even narrower rear panel. The midrange driver is mounted above the tweeter, which, in turn, is above the twin woofers. The review pair came finished in a handsome silver lacquer; the 809 DC is also available in cherry.

The "DC" indicates that the Vento 809 includes Canton's Displacement Control technology, which prevents a speaker's woofers from responding to signals that approach the drivers' natural resonance frequencies—cited by Canton's literature as "below 20Hz." These infrasonic frequencies can produce "significant driver motion with no audible output at the signal frequency, but with very high output at multiple harmonics of the signal," according to a Canton white paper. "This wastes energy and generates high levels of distortion." Canton's DC technology is, the white paper claims, essentially a high-pass filter that controls those excursions, effectively decreasing the lower cutoff frequency of the drivers by as much as an octave.

Also present in the Vento 809 DC (and its stablemate, the Vento 807 DC) is a nifty "shock absorbing isolation base"—a wooden plate decoupled from the speaker's cabinet by four silicone shock absorbers and designed to isolate the cabinet from the floor.

Many curved speaker cabinets are constructed from a single sheet of material with grooves routed in it to allow the sheet to flex into a curved shell supported and stabilized by cross-braces. Canton hasn't used that approach in the Vento 809. Instead, each sheet of the six-layer laminate is individually pressure-molded to assume the shape of the speaker's hull, which is said to be unusually stiff as a result. In my knuckle-rap test, the 809 DC didn't produce the dull thunk so beloved by audiophiles, but it did exhibit a fairly uniform albeit lively tap that reminded me of a good guitar. I'll be, ahhh, interested in JA's accelerometer measurements; I suspect they'll show that the 809 DC's cabinet sings a little, but nowhere near enough to muddy the sound.

Where the Vento 809 DC gets really interesting, however, is when you get to the drive-units and crossovers. Canton has the resources to use all the latest technological tools to design and measure its transducers. Because it can, Canton relies heavily on finite-element analysis and magnetic-circuit simulation programs in its efforts to emphasize diaphragm excursion linearity while reducing diaphragm breakup modes.

The midrange driver is a 7" aluminum cone with a concave dustcap and a hefty magnet system. The "wave system" (which is what Canton calls the cone, dustcap, and surround) is based on drivers designed for the Karat Reference line, but this transducer boasts a new cone shape, improved spider weave geometry, and a totally new sinusoidal (double-curved) surround.

A word of explanation about that sinusoidal surround—especially as the woofers also employ it. Canton says this double-curved shape offers significant advantages over the half-round surrounds used with most cone drivers; eg, drivers outfitted with them "experience significantly less structural deformation at high excursions." This means that they can be driven harder with less distortion—Canton says the surround can increase driver excursion by as much as 35%. That improves power handling as well, the company claims.

The 809 DC also has two 8" aluminum woofers, the largest aluminum-cone driver Canton makes. These boast new, improved speaker coils and a new double-ferrite motor—also said to improve excursion linearity, support higher output levels, and lower distortion.

Canton's research has shown that the large excursions experienced by woofers create "significant compression and rarefaction" within the internal air cavities in the motor and driver assemble, which can have "a dramatic impact on the sound quality." To counteract this effect, Canton has designed vents into the pole-piece structure and voice-coil former, as well as open-air spiders.

But it's the tweeter that Canton seems proudest of. The 809's 1" tweeter is a variation on the company's ADT-25 aluminum-manganese dome, which combines the dome and coil former in a single structure. This is a very trick tweeter, with an underhung voice-coil and a narrow, "high-intensity" air gap—that is, the precise alignment of the coil in the gap allows for "perfect" centering of the coil, and a cross section of coil and former that is much "thinner than in conventional designs."

The Vento 809 DC's three-way crossover has a 12dB/octave electrical slopes and crosses over at 250Hz and 3kHz. The electrical network employs both air-core and ferrite-core inductors and ceramic resistors. Parts quality is cited as "selected under very strict 5% tolerance guidelines."

The speaker is rated as having a sensitivity of 88.5dB, which ought to make it fairly easy to drive. It seems to like current, however; certainly, it gave me the best bottom end with such beefy amps as the Conrad-Johnson Premier 350 or Coda S5. If you're into tubes, I 'spect you'll want an amp with some real grunt.

The 809 DC is biwirable, boasting WBT binding posts—which are expensive and probably measure wonderfully, but which frustrate me because I can't cinch 'em down with a nut driver. However, one thing the 809 DCs had going for them was the heftiest biwire jumper I've ever seen. It's the next best thing to a solid copper bus bar.

The Cantons came with spikes for them what likes 'em (I do), and pliant little bumps for sissies who are afraid of putting holes in their floor. (Hmmm, would I ruin my macho posturing if I asked you guys not to tell my wife about those holes in our wood floor?)

I almost forgot the most interesting detail of all: The Canton Vento 809 DC sells for $5000/pair.

Setting up is hard to do
I left the spikes off the 809 DCs until I dialed in their positions in my room. Measuring everything from the woofers' dustcaps, I ended up with the speakers 34.5" from the sidewalls, 45" from the front wall, and 84" apart. I sat 18' away with my ears at 38"—3" above the tweeters, which were 35" off the floor. I did not find that raking the speakers back or toeing them in helped with focus or sparkle, so I kept 'em eyes-front and level. (By the way, one of the cheapest tweaks you can perform is to precisely level your speakers, side to side and front to back—or, if they need backrake, get them identically aimed. I can't think of any audio gizmo that pays a higher cost-to-sound-improvement dividend than a simple 9" torpedo level.)

Striving for form; hoping for beauty
When I first set up the 809 DCs, I was impressed by their clarity and detail but thought they sounded a tad lightweight. Perhaps I hadn't cottoned to their true playback range—every speaker has a certain volume level at which it starts to come alive—but I suspect that the woofers needed some play-in. After a few days of casual listening and playing around with placement, I began to notice that I was hearing some seriously deep, taut bass, which is when I began to really crank 'em up. Had I been polite before that because I thought they were being polite? Don't know, don't care. Once I realized they were ready to rock, so was I.

In a manner of speaking. Just as that realization struck me, my doorbell rang. It was the postperson dropping off the latest ECM releases, Charles Lloyd's Jumping the Creek (ECM 1911) and the Tord Gustavsen Trio's The Ground (ECM 1892). Talk about tough choices!

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