Everyone likes surround sound, but everyone also hates the extra wires and speakers required in a typical home theater system. That's where the niche of sound bars come in, promising faux-surround sound from just a single long speaker. Yes, the claims are too good to be true, but for many people it's good enough.
Canton's new CD 90 SB ($650 suggested retail price) is a different kind of sound bar. At first glance the sleek design doesn't look so different than sound bars from Polk, Definitive Technology, or Zvox, but the CD 90 SB is, essentially, a three-channel speaker. Canton doesn't claim it's any sort of single-speaker surround system. Peek through the perforated metal grille and you'll see the CD 90 SB's left, center, and right speakers arrayed across its front baffle. And unlike most single-speaker surround systems, the CD 90 SB isn't self-powered, so you have to hook it up to an AV receiver. That may be one of the reasons this Canton sounds better than your average sound bar, and it's right up there with the very best sounding ones for music.
Design and features
We liked the CD 90 SB's clean design. It's a sleek 39.9-inch-long bar, coming in at 3.5 inches high and just under 4 inches deep. It's available in silver or black brushed aluminum, with matching perforated metal grilles. The CD 90 SB comes with a metal wall mount bracket and small rubber pads for buyers who prefer shelf mounting. The rubber pads are better than nothing, but we would have preferred a more substantial cradle, like the ones included on the Polk Audio SurroundBar 360.
Fit and finish standards are high, and the extruded aluminum cabinet feels remarkably inert. The Canton CD 90 SB contains three--Left, Center, and Right--speaker channels, internally isolated from each other. All three speakers are two-way designs; the left and right channels each use a 0.5-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 3-inch aluminum woofer; the center channel section features two 3-inch aluminum woofers flanking a single 0.5-inch tweeter. The speaker's backside is fitted with three pairs of all-metal spring connectors that accept bare wire ends, or wires terminated with pins or spades; banana plugs won't fit. As much as we liked the exterior design, we found the recessed speaker connector frustrating to deal with.
Our review sample didn't come with an owner's manual, just a small sheet that listed the CD 90 SB's specifications. That's unfortunate, as we expect that a product this expensive should at least have some basic setup and usage guidelines. Lacking setup information, we plunged ahead, experimenting by treating the speakers as either "Large" and "Small" in our receiver's setup menus. For "Small," we set the Denon AVR 1909's bass management's subwoofer crossover at 80Hz and also 100Hz. But we preferred the CD 90 SB's sound when we treated it as a "Large" speaker, so that's how we listened to the speaker. (A passive filter circuit blocks unwanted low-frequency signals that might otherwise damage the CD 90 SB's drivers or produce distortion.)
We set the front left, center, and right speaker levels to "0 dB." If you're using the CD 90 SB in its standard three-channel mode we recommend turning off your AV receiver's surround channels; that way, any sound mixed into the surround channels will be redirected to the CD 90 SB's left and right channels.
Canton doesn't claim that the CD 90 SB is a full-range speaker, but it certainly provided adequate bass when used without a subwoofer. That said, the CD 90 SB can be matched with any of Canton's AS line of active subwoofers. We didn't have an AS series sub on hand, so we briefly auditioned the CD 90 SB teamed with the subwoofer from a Canton Movie 150 QX.