What is the Canton Smart Soundbar?
As the name suggests, the Smart 10 adds various smart features, including Google Home app with Google Assistant, Chromecast and Spotify Connect. There’s also Hi-Res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, and the ability to build multi-room or multi-channel systems in conjunction with other Smart Series speakers. The Canton Smart 10 costs £899 as at the time of writing (December 2019), but if it can deliver a performance that matches its features and specifications, it might prove a decent high-end immersive audio soundbar.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
Design, Control and Connections
Unfortunately, the Smart 10 falls into a similar trap to other high-end soundbars. Aside from the two upward-firing speakers, the majority of the top is composed of tempered glass (black or silver depending on the finish you choose). This might look nice but it reflects the TV screen, which gets annoying, especially at night.
The two forward-firing speakers are located behind the front metal grille, which also has a simple LED display built into the middle. At the top centre there some basic touch-sensitive controls built into the tempered glass for power, preset 1-3, input, plus, minus, and play/pause.
Canton also includes a remote control, which although small, is well-made and includes all the buttons you’ll need. These are laid out in a sensible fashion, with the power and mute buttons at the top, and navigation controls underneath. Further down there are buttons for Play Modes, the menu, and sound controls. There are also three presets, skip backwards/forwards, and play/pause buttons, along with a Bluetooth pairing button at the bottom.
Canton is to be congratulated for offering a comprehensive selection of connections, especially when it comes to HDMI. Too often manufacturers short-change consumers when it comes to HDMI connections, but the Smart 10 has three inputs and an output.
These connections all support 4K/60p, HDR, 3D, CEC and HDCP 2.2, while the output also supports ARC (audio return channel). The Smart 10 can pass Dolby Vision and HDR10+, although the latter is still in the process of being certified by Canton. So my only real complaint is that there’s no support eARC (enhanced audio return channel).
In terms of other connections, there are optical and coaxial digital inputs, along with stereo analogue RCA inputs and subwoofer output for a wired connection. There’s an Ethernet port, a two-pin connector for the power cable and a USB port for service only. In terms of wireless connections, there’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Related: What is Dolby Vision?
Features and Specs
When asked for comment, Canton said: “For the initial product launch, we focused on the native implementation of Dolby Atmos, utilising the Smart Soundbar 10’s upfiring speakers. We also engineered the soundbar so that the included formats work seamlessly with our unique 7-channel wireless multichannel protocol setup, alongside the Google Chromecast multi-room Wi-Fi feature. However we are working on several software updates for next year, including the addition of DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X, the implementation of which has already started. Once the implementation is complete, we will go through the official certification procedure. After that, we will be ready to roll out the update.”
The soundbar itself uses a 2.1.2-channel layout with a total of eight drive units, a bass reflex system with a passive membrane, and 300W of built-in amplification. The two forward-firing speakers each use a 50mm aluminium midbass driver and 19mm fabric tweeter, while the two upward-firing speakers each use a 79mm aluminium driver. There are also two 79mm woofers for the lower frequencies, with a crossover at 150Hz and a claimed frequency response of 37Hz to 23kHz.
The Smart 10 offers a number of sound modes, which Canton call Play Modes. There’s a dedicated button on the remote that allows you to toggle between Stereo, Movie, Music, and Night. The Stereo mode is for music playback, the Movie mode adds virtual surround for films, and the Music mode does the same for concerts, while the Night mode balances the audio for better sound at lower volumes.
If you feel you need to boost the ultra-sonic performance of your Smart Soundbar 10 you can connect any subwoofer using the dedicated RCA output. However, as part of Canton’s Smart range, there’s also the Smart SUB 8 for those who would prefer something wireless with matching styling. You can even add the Smart Soundbox 3 and create a full wireless 5.1 system.
The soundbar measures 990 x 70 x 100mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 5.24kg. There’s the choice of positioning the ‘bar in front of your TV (the height shouldn’t block the screen) or wall mounting using two screw holes at the rear.
Related: What is DTS:X?
Set-up and Operation
After that, you can connect all your devices, and here the inclusion of three HDMI inputs makes life easier. The ARC connection should be automatic, and if you want to pair a Bluetooth device, just press the dedicated button on the remote.
If you want to use Chromecast you’ll need to connect the Canton to your Wi-Fi network, but this is relatively easy with Google Home. This app works with iOS and Android, and takes you through the process step-by-step. Once completed, you’ll be able to use Chromecast and associated services like Spotify, as well as access Google Assistant via a connected Google Home device. There’s even a degree of voice control available via the Google Home app.
Once connected to the internet, the Smart 10 is able to automatically download firmware updates. The review sample went through this process as soon as I set it up, but it didn’t take long. Although the front display provides basic feedback on what the soundbar is doing, there’s also a comprehensive on-screen menu system that allows for detailed configuration.
The main menu includes options for Speaker Setup, System Setup, Network Setup, Wireless Setup, and System Info. The Speaker Setup is particularly useful because it allows you to set the channel levels, the distance to the speakers, the room height, and the height of the soundbar off the ground.
The channel levels sub-menu generates test tones for each channel, allowing you to balance the correct volume for each channel with an SPL meter or app. This is an excellent feature, and I’d like to see LG and Samsung offer something similar on their soundbars. There’s also a Voice Clarity feature designed to boost speech intelligibility.
The System Setup menu provides a host of options for fine-tuning the system setup, including a sleep timer, CEC, standby mode, input configuration, lip sync, maximum volume, and dynamic range control for nighttime viewing. This sub-menu is where you also select the language, which proved useful because my review sample was set to German. You can also perform a factory reset if necessary. The Network and Wireless Setup sub-menus are fairly self explanatory, as is the System Info page.
The Canton Smart 10 is easy to operate, and the soundbar will detect incoming audio signals from whichever input you have selected and decode automatically. You can also apply the various Play Modes mentioned in the previous section, as well as use the remote control to tweak the bass, midrange and treble if necessary.
For testing, I used a Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K and Sony PS4 connected directly to the soundbar, and a Humax FVP-5000T Freeview set-top box connected directly to an LG 65C8 OLED TV. The TV’s ARC capability with Atmos was tested using its Netflix and Amazon apps. I used Google Home to connect to my Wi-Fi network, and I paired my iPhone X to test the quality of streamed music.
Related: What is HDR10+?
It’s worth pointing out that to get the best overhead effects from the Smart 10, you need a ceiling that’s relatively low, flat and reflective. If your ceiling is very high, uneven or vaulted, then this soundbar might not be for you. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you want deep bass you really need to add a separate subwoofer (either wired or wirelessly).
I started my testing with some music, and this is an area where the Smart 10 really shines. The two-channel configuration obviously lends itself to stereo and the excellent drivers, combined with the soundbar’s width, produce some lovely imaging. The midrange is extremely well defined, the higher frequencies are clear and free of any harshness, and there’s some decent low-end.
When I moved on to TV programmes the Smart 10 proved equally as adept, with a wide front soundstage that spread out music and effects. The lack of a centre speaker didn’t appear to be an issue, with Sean Pertwee’s dulcet tones remaining clear and focused as he describes the culinary creations in Masterchef. The soundstage is big enough to give sport a sense of scale, and dramas like His Dark Materials sound suitably engaging.
The Play Modes can be used to add virtual surrounds, and there’s a choice between Movies and Music (the former seems to boost the bass over the latter). I tended to find that the Movie play mode provided a more enveloping experience, with added low-end impact. However, neither really adds any actual surround presence, for that you’ll need to add actual rear speakers. Conversely, the Night mode did prove effective at balancing the audio at lower volumes.
Moving on to Dolby Atmos content, the Smart 10 reveals an expansive and detailed sound field that takes full advantage of object-based mixes to produce a more immersive experience. The beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road places disembodied voices above, to the side and in front of you, and a similar feat is achieved in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The effect is often impressive, and streaming shows like The Haunting of Hill House and Jack Ryan both benefit from fuller and more involving Atmos soundtracks that draw you into the story. The former delivers some genuine scares thanks to the greater precision of its effects, while the latter makes use of the dynamic range and the Smart 10’s powerful amplification to produced effective action, such as when Ryan is ambushed in a motorcade.
The built-in woofers manage to give the gunfire and explosions a percussive kick, but the impact isn’t as deep as it would be with a separate subwoofer. This lack of really deep bass is obvious when watching films like Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Aquaman, which boast prodigious amounts of low frequency energy in their respective soundtracks. The Smart 10 can never deliver these mixes with the same sense of scale that a big system can produce.
Overall, this is an excellent performer with Dolby Atmos, which makes the absence of DTS:X support all the more frustrating. This glaring omission makes no sense, but might reflect a general lack of support for the object-based format from manufacturers, due to it only appearing on a relatively small number of Blu-rays and 4K discs. Dolby Atmos certainly dominates the immersive audio landscape and is the only option with streaming services. If that’s how you watch most content, the lack of DTS:X won’t be an issue, but if you have a large disc collection this probably isn’t the soundbar for you.
Related: Best Soundbars of 2019
- Excellent front soundstage
- Good overhead effects
- Passes Dolby Vision
- Full menu system and effective setup
- Plenty of HDMI connections
- Solid construction and attractive design
- No eARC support
- No separate subwoofer
Canton Smart Soundbar 10 Review
The Canton Smart Soundbar 10 not only boasts the build quality and performance levels you associate with the German manufacturer but, as the name suggests, adds some useful smart features. The result is a well-specified Dolby Atmos soundbar that’s not only easy to set up, but also offers a number of speaker controls to properly configure the soundstage.
The design is attractive and the build quality is excellent, although the glass top is rather reflective. Canton includes three HDMI inputs, which is great to see, and these can handle anything you care to put through them. Only the lack of eARC support disappoints. The remote is small but well-made, and while the front display is basic, there’s a detailed on-screen menu.
The performance is impressive, and the Smart 10 sounds excellent with two channel music. The multi-channel decoding is also very effective, with clearly defined overhead channels and a big sonic presence at the front of the room. Despite the lack of a centre channel, dialogue remains clear, and the bass is surprisingly solid.
Of course, you can always plug a separate subwoofer in if you want to boost the low-end performance, while Canton offers wireless sub and rear speaker options for anyone wishing to expand the system. My only real complaint is the lack of DTS:X support, but it appears Canton plans to add this early next year, and as a result the Smart Soundbar 10 is definitely worth a recommendation.
What are my alternatives?
Samsung HW-Q80RThe Samsung HW-Q80R falls into exactly the same price point as the Smart 10, but manages to offer a bit more for the money. For a start, this 5.1.2-channel soundbar and subwoofer combo supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It also delivers a seriously big and powerful performance, with plenty of bass thanks to the separate sub. In terms of features, there’s tuning from Harman Kardon, and the option of Alexa for voice control, but the lack of built-in test tones gives the Canton the edge in terms of optimising the performance.
LG SL10YGThe LG SL10YG also costs £899, and this soundbar offers a very similar set of features to the Samsung. The SL10YG includes a wireless subwoofer and runs a 5.1.2-channel speaker layout, with the option to add rear channels. Like the HW-Q80R, it supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and high resolution audio, but this time the tuning is by Meridian. The LG doesn’t pass HDR10+ and, like the Samsung, there are no internal test tones but it does have Google Assistant built-in, making it a fully-functioning smart speaker.
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