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Canton Movie 150 QX review: Canton Movie 150 QX

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There's certainly no shortage of competition in the hotly contested market of tiny satellite speakers, but Canton has more experience than most; Canton introduced its first satellite/subwoofer system in 1979, a decade or so before most brands ventured into this market. While most micro speakers inevitably compromise performance--deep bass is usually the first casualty, followed by lackluster music playback--the Canton Movie 150 OX ($1,200 list price) avoids most of these pitfalls. In fact, its size-to-performance ratio is up there with the very best. The only wrinkle is that some buyers may be put off by the system's monotonous appearance. It might not be the most attractive 5.1 speaker system we've seen, but it's a sonic knockout.

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7.9

Canton Movie 150 QX

The Good

High-performance, six-piece satellite/subwoofer system; excellent sound quality on music and movies for a small system; compact, two-way satellites; 120-watt, 8-inch powered subwoofer.

The Bad

Drab styling, plastic cabinet satellites.

The Bottom Line

The Canton Movie 150 QX sounds terrific with movies and music, despite its plain-Jane style.

Design and features
The Movie 150 QX is a six-piece system with four 6.2-inch tall satellite speakers, one 11.4-inch wide center channel speaker, and a large subwoofer.

As much as we were impressed by the sound from the Movie 150 QX, we were underwhelmed by its looks. While our review sample's basic, matte black, plastic finish is nothing to write home about, the satellite's curved sides and 1-inch aluminum tweeter, with 4-inch woofers, peeking out from behind the nonremovable, perforated metal grille add slight visual interest. The center speaker itself features dual 4-inch aluminum woofers flanking the 1-inch aluminum tweeter. All of the speaker cabinets are fabricated from some sort of plastic, which is nowhere near as solid or inert as the mineral-filled polymer cabinets included in the Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 system. The Canton's dull plastic finish simply doesn't compare with the gorgeous high-gloss black we saw on the ProCinema 800.

The included L-shaped, plastic, wall-mount brackets allow the satellites to swivel laterally, so you can aim them toward the desired listening position. The center-channel speaker's bracket is a simpler affair, as it bolts the speaker square against the wall.

The satellites and center speaker don't accept banana plugs; instead, their all-metal connectors accommodate bare wire ends, spades, or wires fitted with pin-type connectors. While the Canton includes the above-mentioned wall brackets, optional LS 80 floor stands are also available for the satellite speakers.

The black, vinyl-covered, medium-density, fiberboard subwoofer is equally unremarkable in the looks department, though its large, silver, plastic port adds some pizazz to the design. The 8-inch aluminum woofer driver located inside the cabinet is powered by a built-in 120-watt amplifier. It's a relatively large subwoofer for this type of system, especially compared to the micro satellites, measuring in at 18.3-inches high by 11-inches wide and 16.5-inches deep. The sub's connectivity options feature both a stereo-speaker-level connector and line level (RCA) input.

The owner's manual isn't all that helpful in terms of setup, but we had everything squared away in just a few minutes. The subwoofer/satellite blend was best achieved with a 100Hz crossover setting playing from our Denon AVR 1909 receiver.

Performance
We used The Dark Knight Blu-ray Disc's Dolby TrueHD soundtrack to see how the Movie 150 QX would sound when pushed to its limit. In the first scene, we were shocked by the sound of one of the Joker's henchmen shooting out a nearby skyscraper's window. The intensity of the blast was amazing, but nothing compared with what came later when the Joker delivers a bigger bang into the side of a police SWAT team van. Dialog was crisp and clear, and Batman's guttural voice was impressively deep. The Movie 150 QX handled most of the mayhem in stride, but when a huge tractor trailer flips end-over-end, the subwoofer's sound grew a tad muddy.

Still, the Movie 150 QX handled high-impact home theater assaults better than anything near its size and price class that we can remember. Also, we were listening at a pretty loud volume and, besides the subwoofer losing its grip when the action heated up, the Movie 150 QX sounded well above average.

Part of this performance could be attributed to the excellent satellite/subwoofer blend. The sub's deepest bass extension was superior to what you would expect to hear from a $1,200 combo system. The Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 would be in the ballpark, although we didn't have the system on hand to do a direct comparison.

That said, we did have another Canton package to compare the Movie 150 QX with, the smaller Movie 120 MX ($900 list price). That system shared the Movie 150's sound signature (both are extremely detailed) and lively dynamic sound, which we consider essential for home theater. While listening to the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on the Across the Universe Blu-ray, the smaller Canton system sounded brighter and less well-endowed than the Movie 150 QX. The bigger sub's bass went deeper, though we don't think it's the best-defined subwoofer of the two. Again, the Definitive Technology ProCinema 800's sub is ahead on that score. The larger Canton system plays louder, sounds warmer, and performs more naturally with music than the Movie 120 MX does. We do like the looks of the smaller Canton, however. Its high-gloss black satellites have a more upscale appearance.

We finished up our testing with a few CDs and the Movie 150 QX did not disappoint. Lucinda William's latest, Little Honey, has some of her fiercest-rocking songs in ages. The opener, "Real Love," wears its Rolling Stones influences proudly, so we cranked up the volume and the Movie 150 QX didn't turn nasty the way most ultra compact systems do. Sure, there are limits to just how loud the Canton satellites can go, and if cranking music and home theater way up is a priority for you, we'd recommend picking up a larger system. The orchestral score to the film Birth on CD was also quite impressive. The strings had just the right balance of warmth and detail.

In sum, the Movie 150 QX is an excellent performer, easily defying our expectations of just how good a 5.1 channel package with downright tiny satellite speakers can sound. Additionally, we'd have to recommend this system over the Movie 120 MX, because of its superior performance with various genres of music, which was something the 120 MX had a lot of trouble with.

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7.9

Canton Movie 150 QX

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 9