The portable Bluetooth speaker market is proving extremly popular to the extent that it has attracted some top end sound brands such as Canton, with their Music Box offering, Dali with their KATCH speaker and KEF with their overpriced MUO speaker, then there is also the Bose SoundLink Mini II which is a serious challenger to these top end brands especially as it is priced at $299.
During a recent visit to a Melbourne based, specialist audio dealer, I heard for the first time the larger of the two Canton MusicBox portable speakers, I was then handed the smaller XS version and that is a story on its own.
Instantly I was blown away by the high quality of this German engineered product especially as I had recently played with the Dali KATCH portable audio player and I already own a Harman Equire and a Bose Soundlink Mini II speaker.
It was when heard the smaller version of the Canton offering called the XS which is selling for $329 that I got the distinct impression that this Company really knew a lot about packing big sound into a small box.
The big question is which one, the Dali or the Canton delivered value for money.
Let’s start with the Canton branded product, their portable sound offering comes in two sizes. The Canton MusicBox S and the mini XS.
The smaller MusicBox XS was the Companies first entry into the portable Bluetooth speaker market, and while the device looks like the Bose Soundlink Mini II the quality of the components are miles apart.
The Canton offering has German made drivers and speakers which is a major plus for any small speaker system.
The first thing you notice, is that the Canton offering has an all metal enclosure and a soft rubber base, it also has an auxiliary input for non-Bluetooth devices.
Standing in the store I could easily Bluetooth pair both speakers.
All I did was hold the Bluetooth button down until I heard “Bluetooth Pairing “I then fired up my Spotify app on my Android phone, as the source for content.
The sound output was way beyond what I expected from such a small speaker, significantly better than the Dali KATCH which at $699 struggles to remotely deliver value for money.
On top of the speaker, we’ve got buttons for power, auxiliary input, Bluetooth and volume, I shuffled my content via the Spotify app on my smartphone.
What I liked about the MusicBox XS was that one could easily create a stereo pair.
You can either choose the Canton Party Mode resulting in each speaker playing the same stereo signal or you can move to true stereo mode with each speaker playing a separate stereo channel.
When compared to the Dali KATCH the Canton Music Box is a significantly superior offering with price being a significant decider. At $699 the Dali KATCH is a beautiful looking player and where the Canton Music Box delivers 60 Watts of output the Dali KATCH only delivers 50 Watts from 2 X 25W Amp.
The pill-shaped aluminium cabinet looks the part and the black speaker grill which consists of ABS/polycarbonate baffles also adds to the look and feel of this device but the big question does this deliver $200 worth of added value over the Canton Music box S offering or $400 worth of value over the Bose SoundLink Mini II.
Like the Canton offering there are buttons that control the volume, power, Bluetooth pairing and sound modes are
on the top bar of the Dali KATCH.
Again, this device was easy to pair, flip up the rubber button on the device and one can easily plug in none Bluetooth devices like the Canton speakers.
Inside this speaker are dual 3.5-inch woofers that sit on a specially designed chassis.
In a little bit of marketing spin Dali will tell you that the device has an inverted aluminium membrane and a special spider suspension system for their components.
There is also a port for the power charging adapter. The built-in battery takes about two hours to charge and delivers over 18 hours of playtime according to Dali. Though I am still mystified by their reference to “24 hours of untethered playback”.
The driver array includes two 21mm lightweight soft dome tweeters, backed by a strong neodymium magnet with high-power handling and high sensitivity to the tweeter.
Missing is a dedicated app for streaming and like the Canton offering, this device was easy to pair with a smartphone with music streamed via Spotify. I could play, skip tracks and adjust volume using my smartphone.
Like the Canton speakers one must hold the volume down and you instantly get a huge, sound filling a room to the point that it can become uncomfortable when at maximum volume. With the Canton offering sound distortion technology kicks in to balance the output.
I tested both the Canton speakers and the Dali KATCH speaker with recently release Jazz and Pop music. I have often found that older 60’s and 70’s tracks don’t sound as good when testing speakers as the content is often remastered and was not initially recorded as a digital file.
If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, and money is no object the Dali KATCH delivers, but is not worth the $280-dollar difference between the Canton MusicBox S or the $370 difference between the Canton Mini XS.
Both these speakers deliver sound equal if not better than the Dali KATCH.At the same time the Canton offering comes over as a better engineeered product which is not surprising as it is made by a German Company.
Canton Music Box S $449
Canton Music Box XS $329
Dali KATCH $699