We hold German brand Canton in high regard, thanks to the outstanding performance of its two soundbases, the DM50 and DM75. Not only do these speakers deliver a potent, room-filling sound that quite frankly shouldn’t be possible from a box sitting under your TV, but they also add a level of refinement missing from most of their rivals.
With this in mind, we have high hopes for the DM 9, a ‘flat’ soundbar designed primarily for wall-mounting. A glance at the spec reveals a similarly hi-fi approach with its three-way driver arrangement plus a few nifty features and decent connectivity. Trouble is, at just under £500 it’s not cheap, which means Canton has its work cut out convincing buyers to splash the cash – a particularly tricky job with hordes of Japanese and Korean soundbars on the market at knock-down prices.
SEE ALSO: 10 best soundbars you can buy
It may not be the most glamorous soundbar around, but the DM 9 is a beautifully engineered speaker. The all-metal bodywork is solid as a rock and reassuringly heavy, which bodes well for its audio performance, while the curved edges and metal grille ooze sophistication.
SEE ALSO: Best Surround Sound Systems Round-up
Canton calls this a ‘flat’ soundbar due to its wall-friendly dimensions (70mm deep by 120mm high) and its neutral design should complement most flatscreen TVs nicely. Our sample is black but the white version is better suited to silver TVs.
There are holes on the back that make it easy to hang on the wall but you can also stand it upright in front of your TV – you’ll find adhesive rubber pads in the box to stick on the bottom. If you do though, bear in mind that it’s fairly tall and could block your set’s remote sensor, plus it’s a little precarious and could tip over if knocked.
The DM 9 is a minimalist’s dream. There are no buttons on the unit itself – everything’s controlled using the supplied remote – plus the LED display only appears through the front mesh when you press a button, then disappears after a few seconds.
The sockets are housed in a deep recess on the back, which allows the cables to hang down when wall-mounted. The line-up includes optical and coaxial digital inputs, analogue phono input and a subwoofer output. It’s a decent selection but hardly cutting-edge – there are no HDMI ports for example, which might disappoint those looking to route all their hi-def sources through the speaker.
As it stands you can either connect your kit to the DM 9’s digital/analogue inputs or hook everything up to your TV and pass audio to the Canton through an optical cable.
The DM 9’s standout feature isn’t Bluetooth or a fancy surround mode but its speaker drivers. That might sound dull, but it’s one of the things that separate the Canton from lesser soundbars. The three way design includes two 4in woofers, a 2in midrange driver and 1in fabric tweeter for each channel (eight drivers in total), the sort of configuration you’d find in separate home cinema or hi-fi speakers. On-board amplification is rated at 200W.
SEE ALSO: Best TVs Round-up
But the DM 9 doesn’t skimp on the other stuff either. It also offers Bluetooth with aptX to deliver CD-quality music streaming from phones and tablets. There’s built-in Dolby Digital decoding, too.
DTS TruSurround aims to deliver a more immersive soundstage than straight-up stereo, plus there are bass, treble and lip sync adjustments and three EQ modes that cater for different mounting options – on-wall, on a TV stand or in a shelf.
The DM 9 is ridiculously easy to use thanks largely to the user-friendly remote. Its thick rubber buttons are helpfully spaced out and clearly labelled, while build quality is unusually high – it’s weighty and stylish, sporting a fetching silver/black combo and an ergonomic groove on the back to sink your fingers into. If you’re not impressed you can program the DM 9 to learn commands from your existing TV remote.
The front display’s large blue digits are easy to read, showing volume level, inputs and sound modes. The Sound button on the remote brings up bass and treble adjustments; hold it down for three seconds and it brings up lip sync, sub and EQ options. In each case, you can change the values using the volume up/down buttons.
You can change inputs using the up/down buttons on the remote and to pair a Bluetooth device you switch to ‘BT’ and hit the Bluetooth Pairing button.
The DM 9 delivers more of the magnificent sound quality that made us such big fans of the DM 50 and DM 75. What we love most is its clean and natural quality of the sound, which allows you to just kick back and immerse yourself in a movie without being distracted. Even the busiest action scenes are handled with supreme composure, allowing you to turn it up loud without any fear of distortion.
The freeway scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier really shows off the Canton’s talents. When the Jeep slams into the back of Cap’s car and sends it tumbling down the road, the flurry of clattering metal and shattering glass fires into the room with real ferocity. And as they exchange gunfire, the shots feel punchy and visceral thanks to the clean, forceful mid-range and tight pops of bass. It’s a thrilling performance.
Sure, the Canton’s more easygoing approach lacks the aggression and bite of LG and Samsung’s soundbars, but there’s still enough attack in the mids and highs to make action scenes exciting – plus you get none of the hardness that besets the Korean brands. The DM 9 offers a wonderful balance right across the frequency range, which makes for a rich and deeply satisfying listen.
What’s more, the powerful DM 9 has no trouble conveying the scale of a scene. With The Desolation of Smaug on Blu-ray, the dragon’s booming voice sounds absolutely huge and the room rumbles when he starts stomping around on his piles of gold. The built-in subwoofers do a terrific job here, fattening up every footstep with deep bass and keeping pace with his fleet-footed movement.
They also blend seamlessly with the other speakers, resulting in a tight and cohesive sound. Some listeners might feel it’s not quite thunderous enough – if that’s the case you can always add an external subwoofer. But we’re more than happy with the bass on offer.
Perhaps the DM 9’s most impressive sonic trait is its crystal-clear treble reproduction. It effortlessly digs out subtle effects and background noises during quiet scenes, while more upfront sounds like smashing glass and tinkling gold coins have a delicate, airy quality without sounding forced.
The clear, confident midrange means you never miss any crucial dialogue, and although TruSurround is something of a misnomer given the complete lack of surround presence, it does offer a good spread of sound.
The DM 9 boosts its sonic credentials further with a superb music performance. As with movie playback, the sound is smooth and easy, with a pleasing balance that doesn’t allow any group of frequencies to dominate. There’s plenty of detail and agile bass that locks tightly to beats and basslines. The fact that you get this superb sound quality via Bluetooth makes it all the more impressive.
The DM 9 is a wonderful soundbar that blows most big-name rivals out of the water with its outstanding sound quality. It’s one of the few soundbars to offer separate woofers, tweeters and mid-range drivers, resulting in a clear and authoritative sound, coupled with the sort of power and attack that makes movies sound truly exciting.
It’s also beautifully made, offers plenty of sockets and built-in Bluetooth with aptX ensures superb-sounding music playback from mobile devices. There are no HDMI sockets and the built-in subs might not generate enough bass for some tastes, but overall the DM 9 is a formidable soundbar.
However, the big fly in Canton’s ointment is the Q Acoustics Media 4, a terrific hi-fi soundbar that to our ears delivers equally impressive performance for about £70 less. If push came to shove we’d pick the Q Acoustics, but if you’re looking to wall-mount your soundbar then Canton’s effort is the one for you.
Canton’s wall-mountable soundbar boasts stupendous sound quality despite its slender dimensions, but Q Acoustics’ equally brilliant but cheaper rival sticks a soundbar-shaped fly in the ointment.
Next, read more Soundbar & Surround Sound System Reviews