Canton AS120SC review

Can Teutonic precision equal accurate and low bass?

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Our Verdict

An ordinary looking subwoofer that is capable of an absolutely extraordinary performance

For

  • Rich performance

    excellent control

    idiot-proof room EQ

Against

  • Plasticky finish

    easy to drive into distortion and overload

Canton was started up in the early 1970s by four like-minded German speaker engineers. After a time, it evolved into a family company with one leaving and another family member joining in.

The same people run things today, even though it is now the fifth biggest speaker producer in the world, making over 286 models of loudspeaker and covering every possible application and price point.

I was told that the ethos behind the Canton method was to make the best- value product, no matter whether it be entry-level or its most expensive. When it comes to comparisons with other makers kit, the brand feels it has to be up there with the best but selling cheaper.

To be honest, the subwoofer that came out of the supplied carton looked to me to be a bit cheap, and yet it costs a reasonably fat £550. Certainly more than the hotly- contested £350 active subwoofer price point, where we find so many similarly- sized items in the UK.

The AS120SC is the top model of Canton's 'affordable' active subs range. It is the only one to have the bigger Class D amplifier in its guts, rated at 200W RMS or 350W peak.

As well as yucky silver, it also comes in more tasteful cherry and black, beech and silver or else just black. They sell heaps of silver ones in Germany, though.

Engineering-wise, it isn't stripped down at all. The front wears a steel plate mesh grille, with the silver logo badge showing just below. This logo is always present then, even if you remove the grille to reveal the gas-fl owed port mouth below the serious looking 12in woofer.

Unlike some sub designs where the driver's suspension is as rigid as a priapic bull's thingy, the Canton driver has a double parabolic rubber suspension that can really reach an awful long way in and out.

Canton stresses the need to properly run its woofers in and after a week or so of general use, I got at the item to properly test it and found out why. Where some woofers need to push air with huge violence to grip the cubic of your room, the Canton method is to have truly massive, extra wobbly cone excursion. More like a holiday than an excursion really...

Around the back, there is the usual mass of control ordnance.

First off, at the top, you get three knobs, two switches and six phono sockets and eight binding posts, all in red and white. There's a switch for on/ auto as well as the mains input on/off switch at the bottom and one marked 'Room Compensation'.

The knobs cover a variable phase adjustment, crossover point choices from 45Hz - 200Hz, and a gain control.

The phonos are for a stereo or mono LFE input. You can get an 80Hz high pass signal from the next set along as output for another woofer. As an alternative, use the third set of phono outs: these are unfiltered, should your second woofer have different needs and/ or its own crossover.

The room compensation switch alters the characteristics of the AS120SC's crossover. It's designed to tame the effects of room resonance, which can lead to exaggerated and unnatural low- frequency reproduction.

There are three switch positions, each of which subtly modules the crossover frequency band and impulse responses. As Canton says, install the sub in its final resting place and use the switch position that sounds the best...

The Dolby Experience reference disc contains some amazingly powerful stuff, including clips from House of Flying Daggers, The Two Towers, Spider-Man, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Hulk, Spider-Man 2 and more from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Designed to show off pure Dolby 5.1, the sequences are beautifully mastered, featuring astonishing bass extension and holographic imaging.

If anything, the tones used in the DVD's menu sequences are even more extreme and, indeed, were so much louder than the clip material that I found these a better barometer of the system's limits.

Although there is no mention of any protection circuitry in the manual, it'll simply click and shut down if you try to force-feed your sub and make the unit drive massively beyond its normal limits. You then power down and switch it back on again before turning it up with a tad more caution. Before that happens, though, the output of this bass-box is exceptional.

In most cases, you need to spend some serious money to own a subwoofer that will pressurise your room even at low volumes. Some will go very low to shake the foundations but only the really capable subs can wobble out true, deep, extended low frequencies at low to medium sound levels. It calls for huge cone excursion even under a sensible level of wattage - and that's what this unit can deliver.

This Canton provides a truly rich, mellifluous bass. Melodic and well-gripped by the amplifier, it flows, reaches and wobbles in perfect fashion. It is deep without ever becoming overblown, and, if you do turn it up, the effect is like having your head and body gently squeezed all over, but it feels good. This suddenly turned from seeming expensive in my eyes, to being utterly lunatic value for money.

The really German thing is that, like big old autobahn cruisers, the power is provided and it leaves it up to you how to apply it. There is a soft clipping limiter inside the pre-circuit for surge protection and a more drastic shut-down switch for times of stress.

The AS120SC can be set too loud, but as the driver is a close-tolerance item rather than an over-engineered flinger, there is a tighter space between the voice coil gap in the magnet and the coil itself. So overdrive the unit and you'll hear it complain. However, the output is so satisfying in any case that nobody but an idiot (that'll be me, then!) is ever likely to find themselves bumping up against the unit's limitations.

The AS120SC is an ordinary looking subwoofer that is capable of an absolutely extraordinary performance! So I am going to I give it two big thumbs up. It seems that Canton really can-do. Adam Rayner