When you first look at pictures of the Canton Movie 120 MX satellite/subwoofer package, it's a little hard to wrap your head around the actual size of the satellite speakers and subwoofer. The sub looks huge, practically towering over the five satellite speakers. But it's basically an optical illusion. It's not that the sub is all that big; rather, the satellite speakers are tiny, standing a mere 4.5 inches high. That said, the subwoofer is 16.7 inches high, which is somewhat larger than average; we imagine most buyers will stash it away in a corner because it's the micro satellites that are the stars of the show. The combination of truly petite satellites and a sizable subwoofer doesn't always make the best match, and we felt the Movie 120 MX did not stray away from that generalization. While it's an attractive, ultracompact system and the satellites' sound was lively, dynamic, and "fast," the subwoofer's muddy sound drags things down. We'd strongly recommend spending a bit more money and upgrading to the slightly larger step-up model, the Canton Movie 150 QX.
Design and Features
First, a little backstory on the company: Canton was founded in 1972, when four German hi-fi enthusiasts joined together with the goal of manufacturing the best speakers in their class. Canton may not be the most high-profile brand in the U.S., but the company bills itself as Germany's largest and best-selling manufacturer of loudspeakers.
The Movie 120 MX is a six-piece system consisting of four satellite speakers, a center channel speaker, and a subwoofer. It's available in high-gloss silver and black finishes. Canton claims the Movie line (which includes eight other models) was designed using the same computer-aided modeling and testing facilities it uses for its high-end speaker lines.
We think the Movie 120 MX's gloss black satellites are more attractive than the more expensive ones that come with the Movie 150 QX. That said, both share the same curvy shape and feature nonremovable perforated metal grilles. The Movie 120 MX may supply some added luster, but both systems' satellites cabinets feel unsubstantial compared with the more common medium-density fiberboard cabinets we'd expect in the Movie 120 MX's price range.
The satellites and center speaker feature a 0.6-inch aluminum tweeter and 4-inch woofer. You can literally see them peeking out from behind the grilles. The center speaker features dual 4-inch aluminum woofers flanking the 0.6-inch aluminum tweeter.
The included L-shaped plastic wall-mount brackets allow the sats to swivel laterally, so you can aim them toward a desired listening position. The center channel speaker's bracket is a simpler affair as it bolts the speaker square against the wall. The satellite speakers and center speaker don't accept banana plugs; instead, the all-metal connectors work with bare wire ends, spades or wires fitted with pin type connectors. Canton includes wall brackets for the sats and center speaker or you can purchase the optional LS 80 floorstands for the sats.
The black vinyl-covered medium-density fiberboard sub has a black, perforated metal grille covering its front panel and front-mounted port. The sub's 8-inch cellulose/graphite driver and 100-watt amplifier are hidden inside the cabinet. It's a relatively large subwoofer for this type of system, especially compared with the tiny satellites. The sub's connectivity runs to stereo speaker and line level (RCA) inputs. Size-wise, the sub measures 16.7 inches high, 9.6 wide, and 16.5 deep.
Unfortunately, the owner's manual setup info isn't all that helpful in finding a perfect harmony between the satellites and the subwoofer. During our test, we were happy with what we got from a 120 Hertz crossover setting in our Denon AVR-1909 receiver. We did, however, have a hard time settling on a single subwoofer volume setting. We found ourselves continually adjusting the sub volume whenever we changed movie and music discs because the bass was either too loud or quiet after a change in source material.
The Canton Movie 120 MX produces a detailed, big, highly dynamic sound. One thing is for sure, the system definitely sounds bigger than it looks. With the subwoofer volume level adjusted just right, bass had plenty of punch and impact. As long as you're not listening at too high a volume, the Movie 120 MX is an impressive performer.
We started our auditions with the There Will Be Blood DVD. Jonny Greenwood's orchestral score was quite vibrant, but the Movie 120 MX's remarkable clarity sometimes crossed over the line and sounded a tad bright. Dialog was crisp and articulate, but when an oil well suddenly erupts like a geyser, the subwoofer's bass turned out sounded muddy. It was only when we turned down the Denon receiver's volume did we get the subwoofer back under control.
Lucinda Williams' Little Honey CD sounded lightweight, as if the Movie 120 MX had been replaced with a small table radio. If you're going to be playing a lot of music then we'd recommend moving up to the Canton Movie 150 QX. Its much smoother sound is better in every way than the Movie 120 MX's.
If the 150 QX isn't what you had in mind, why not consider the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 ($999)? Its sweeter, more forgiving treble response is easier on the ears than the Canton, however the sound from the 150 QX is more detailed. It's also more dynamically alive, as home theater jolts from Blu-ray discs like The Dark Knight will be more exciting over the Canton system. We think the Energy system's subwoofer is a little more capable performer, with superior low-end punch and power.