For most of my life, I’ve really dogged on small speakers. I haven’t just leaned on a “bigger is better” simplistic argument, but I’ve actually spewed forth about the physics of air movement and the size of drivers and how you just can’t get certain things out of small speakers. To a certain extent, this is true, but lately, I’ve had a couple sets of bookshelf speakers really change my thinking, and I’ve begun to open my mind a bit.
Years ago, when I was a rep in the audio business, a retailer insisted that I audition a set of Cantons that had recently come in. I was really impressed, but also dismissed them based on their diminutive size, and hefty price tag. It just didn’t fit in with my mindset. It hadn’t clicked for me.
Then, came the day, a few months ago, I stumbled across a pair of Canton Plus D bookshelf speakers locally online for… get this… 40 bucks. I’m no dummy, there’s no way I can pass up on this. Even though they’re small speakers, I can find a good use for them, right? At the time, I had the desire to put together a small, 2-channel system just for light listening in my basement. Why not? The transaction was a little difficult. I had a hard time pinning her down to a meeting day and time, but after about a week, I finally got it done.
So, here they were, in my home. They cleaned up beautifully, but they were more industrial than what I was thinking they were going to look like. Still, I had to hear them. Do you remember that Canton sub I wrote about a couple months ago? I had that all ready to go, and figured this would all pair up fairly well. I had no idea how right I was about to be.
I had also just picked up a semi-vintage (depending on your perspective) Pioneer VSX-512S receiver. I love these receivers because of their clean, warm sound. Pioneer was making some great gear at the time. I had also had someone in my audiophile group ask me why the hell I wasn’t using my Rotel 955 CD player more often, so that was new in that stack, as well. So here was this whole new grouping, all ready to go.
This really required minimal tweaking. I wanted little from the sub. One thing that drives me crazy is an overwhelming sub in someone’s system. I really wanted to hear the Plus Ds and what they were all about. And it was good.
Fast forward to now. I’m listening to The Alan Parsons Project “I Robot.” Imaging is just superb. The stereo field sounds far wider than it actually is. They are making much more out of this listening environment than it even deserves. The tweeters in these Cantons are responding to the hi-hat beautifully as it comes in – far better than speakers I’ve heard that were in those hefty price ranges I told you about. As all the instruments start rolling in, left and right, the Plus Ds throw sound around the room like pros.
I switch up to something fun. “Renegade” by Thin Lizzy. At first, they do sound like smaller boxes. Now I can tell what they are. I’m ok. It’s still pleasant. But man… when the guitars kick in… what is this? They sound… they sound… big! They really sound much larger than they really are. Do these things want to rock? I’m willing to find out.
One of my favorite releases of 2017 was the posthumous album by Ronnie Montrose, “10×10.” The first track starts with someone screaming “Ronnie!” The voice came from the center of the room. That’s imaging! Skip up to track 3, where Sammy Hagar sings “Color Blind” on the record, and this whole system comes alive. I’m glued to this. Ronnie’s guitar has so much depth and clarity. I hear every note in every chord.
So, near as I can tell, Canton produced these speakers around 1999, but don’t quote me on that. They’re a 6.5”, 2-way, bass-reflex design, in an all metal chassis. The cabinets and grills are all metal. I suppose that contributes to their feeling like a substantial speaker, as they do to me. For a small speaker, they’re also relatively efficient, with a 90dB sensitivity rating. They’ve got great binding posts in the rear, as well.
Have I turned over a new leaf? Well, not entirely. I still love large speakers, and always will. Big is beautiful. But, I’m learning that some small speakers can do some truly amazing things, as well. Stay tuned. There will be more articles to come on amazing bookshelf speakers from me in the future!