This soundbase (like a soundbar but it's a base) from German brand Canton is designed to sit underneath your TV and boost the sound quality of movies, TV shows and whatever else you care to play through it. Its 200W power output provides the perfect antidote to feeble, bass-free TV speakers, but does so from a box that you’d barely know was there.
These under-TV speakers are really taking off – understandably so, given their convenience and clutter-free installation – and we’ve tested most of the models on the market, from the budget Maxell MXSB-252 right up to the pricey LG LAP340. At £400, the DM50 (or Digital Movie 50) is the most expensive of the lot, but if it offers superior performance then it could be well worth it.
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The dashing DM50 comes in a choice of silver, white or black, allowing you to match it to your TV (Canton sent us the delectable silver version). It’s a dinky, 65mm-high box with a metal mesh covering the front and gently curved corners – the only detail is a discreet Canton logo. But press a button on the remote and blue LED lettering appears behind the mesh, displaying various operational messages. It's a simple but effective balance of aesthetics and practicality.
Build quality is fantastic. The heavy HDF enclosure feels like it was hewn from granite, giving it the strength to support TVs up to 40kg. Take a peek underneath and you’ll spot two 4in woofers, which complement the two 2in midrange drivers and two 1in fabric tweeters at the front of the cabinet.
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Rear connections include optical and coaxial digital inputs, allowing you to simultaneously connect a TV and Blu-ray deck, plus analogue stereo input and a subwoofer output. The latter is an unusual addition - considering half the point of a soundbase is to offer that much better base than a slim soundbar - but welcome inclusion for those who like plenty of bass oomph.
It’s a useful array of sockets, although the lack of HDMI inputs is slightly disappointing at this price. Not everyone will need them, but with Maxell’s MXSB-252 giving you three for £90, it’s a shame Canton couldn’t follow suit.
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The DM50 comes equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 and apt-X support, allowing you to play music wirelessly in CD quality. It also offers Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, plus Stereo and Virtual Surround modes.
There are also bass, treble and lip sync adjustments, plus three EQ settings that let you match its acoustics to the location – EQ1 is for free-standing sideboard placement, select EQ2 if your TV is placed on top of the unit, while EQ3 is for placement on a unit or shelf.
The remote is excellent too. Instead of the plasticky credit-card affairs offered by many soundbars, Canton has crafted a weighty, well-made zapper with satisfying rubber buttons and a lovely black/silver finish. The keys are nicely spaced out and clearly labelled, and there are few enough that it's easy to remember the layout, thus negating the lack of backlighting.
You can switch between stereo and surround modes using the Play Mode key, while the Sound button lets you tweak bass and treble. Hold it down for three seconds and you can access the EQ presets and lip sync settings, or turn off the built-in sub. If you’d rather continue using your TV’s remote, the DM50 has a learning remote function too.
Let’s not beat about the bush – the DM50 is a fantastic performer, producing the sort of large-scale sound that most other soundbases can only dream of. Engaging and confident, this is the best-sounding soundbase we’ve tested – even better than polished performers like the Denon DHT-T100 and Cambridge Minx TV.
There are two main reasons why it succeeds. Firstly, its bass output is incredibly deep and muscular, easily filling the room and boosting the scale of movie soundtracks. Bass notes are tight and nimble, and its dynamics are thrilling.
During Star Trek Into Darkness, the attack on the top brass at Starfleet HQ sounds incredible. The first explosion is an almighty blast of bass that floods out to every corner of the room, hard-hitting yet beautifully controlled.
Not since the Minx TV has a soundbase delivered bass with such gusto without turning it into a boomy mess. We doubt the DM50’s subwoofer output will get much use…
Secondly its surround processing creates genuine width and makes you feel part of the action. Activate Surround mode and the soundstage really opens up, with high-frequencies flittering around at the sides of the screen. In Stereo mode the sound is flatter but more direct.
As well as its big, thumping bass and spacious soundstage, the DM50’s also teases out an impressive amount of detail. As Kirk and Bones leg it through the Nibiru jungle in the opening scene, the rustling of foliage is crisp and perky, likewise the hissing water as the Enterprise bursts from the sea. It’s spellbinding stuff.
There’s also impressive subtlety to voices and a silky quality to the movie’s string-laden score. It’s rare to hear a soundbase sounding so smooth and textured, putting the Canton on a higher plain than its rivals.
It’s even a dab hand with Bluetooth-streamed music, making the acoustic piano and soaring vocals of Frank McComb’s Remembering Donny Hathaway live album ooze with depth and emotion. With more upbeat tunes like Daft Punk’s Digital Love, the Canton displays superb rhythmical ability in the kick drums and renders the noodling guitars with conviction.
A word of warning though – don’t be tempted to use the surround setting for music, as it’s too vague and unfocused.
Absolutely. Thanks to its phenomenal bass performance and silky detail, it’s by far the best soundbase we’ve heard. Luxurious construction and chic styling seal the deal.
The lack of HDMI inputs is a little disappointing and it’s certainly not a cheap option, but its sound quality is sufficiently superior to the competition to make it worth the added expense.
The DM50 is hands down the best-sounding soundbase on the market, with sumptuous build quality and some nifty features to boot. It’s pricey, but like L’Oreal it’s worth it.
Next, see try our round-up of the best soundbars for more options.