Canton Reference 7K loudspeaker

German manufacturer Canton Elektronik has a strong presence in Europe, but distribution of its loudspeakers in the US has been sporadic. Consequently, the most recent review in Stereophile of a Canton speaker, the Reference 3.2 DC, was in 2010. When we heard, in December 2020, that Bluebird Music would be bringing Canton back to North America, we were eager to review a Canton loudspeaker. Balancing performance and price, we selected the Reference 7K, which costs $6995/pair.

The Reference 7K is a handsome three-way tower, 1m tall and finished in high-gloss lacquer—black lacquer in the case of the review samples. The enclosure is formed from several layers of wood glued together with heat and pressure to achieve a stiff, well-damped structure. The sidewalls curve gently toward the rear, and the box is held clear of its baseplate by two vertical supports that Canton calls "Bass-Guides," forming a 1" rectangular opening that runs from front to back. The port that loads the two woofers fires downward into this space. The baseplate is supported by four adjustable feet.

The Reference 7K's 7" woofers feature ceramic-tungsten cones terminated in an unusual double-roll rubber surround, which Canton says allows the drive-units to achieve high output with low distortion. The woofers cross over at 220Hz to the 7" midrange unit, which looks similar to the woofers, with an anodized ceramic-tungsten cone and double-roll surround, although the midrange cone has a complex profile that Canton calls TCC, for Triple-Curved Cone. The Reference 7K's midrange unit is mounted at the top of the baffle, above the 1" tweeter, to which it crosses over at 3kHz. The tweeter uses an aluminum-ceramic-oxide dome acoustically loaded with a shallow waveguide, protected by a wire mesh and with a small circular damping element front and center.

The Reference 7K's crossover is said to use premium-quality components and to feature Canton's Displacement Control (DC) technology, implemented as a high-pass filter that is said to extend the linear low-frequency response of the woofers while minimizing out-of-bandwidth cone excursions that result from the reflex loading. Electrical connection is via two pairs of high-quality, gold-plated binding posts on the rear of the enclosure.

Setup and system
After some experimentation, each speaker's front baffle ended up 140" from the listening position and 79" from the wall behind it. The latter distance is considerably greater than the 8–39" recommended in the manual, but I wasn't able to move them any closer to the wall owing to a raised step that leads to the vestibule behind the right speaker. The woofers of the left Reference 7K were 30" from the LPs that line the nearest sidewall; the right-hand speaker's woofers were 47" from the bookshelves that line its sidewall. When I sit in my listening chair, my ears are 36" from the floor, level with the Reference 7K's midrange unit. I didn't use the vestigial grilles.


The music source was my Roon Nucleus+ powered by an HDPlex linear power supply loaned to me by Jason Victor Serinus. MBL N31 or PS Audio DirectStream DACs were fed audio data over my network, and amplification was provided by a pair of Parasound Halo JC 1+ monoblocks. (I didn't use a preamplifier.) The speakers were single-wired with AudioQuest K2 cable.

Soon after I installed the Reference 7Ks in my listening room, I decided to run some preliminary tests with one of the samples, serial number 100727. I neglected to reduce the volume control of the digital audio interface driving the Parasound amplifier and destroyed the tweeter. Fortunately, the crossover components weren't affected. Frank Göbl, Canton's technical director, shipped two new tweeters to me, and I used one of them to replace the broken tweeter. With the tweeter removed, I could see the extensive bracing and the large amount of fiberglass damping inside the enclosure.

With the new drive-unit installed, I performed impedance sweeps and on-axis response measurements on the repaired sample and the other, undamaged sample (serial number 100726), to make sure the two speakers matched. The impedances of the two samples were basically identical, and the frequency responses matched to within ±0.15dB up to 12kHz and to within ±0.25dB above that frequency. All was well.

With the repair complete, I ran the Cantons in for more than the 20 hours recommended in the manual and then listened to the test tone files I created for my Editor's Choice CD (Stereophile STPH016-2). The dual-mono pink noise track sounded smooth, though with some upper-bass emphasis, a slight grumbly quality, as it were. The image of the pink noise was appropriately narrow and stable, with no "splashing" to the sides at any frequency. The balance didn't change appreciably as I moved my ears a little higher or lower. The Reference 7Ks reproduced the 1/3-octave warble tones on Editor's Choice down to the 40Hz band with an increase in level for the 160Hz warble. The 32Hz tone was strong, reinforced by the lowest room mode, and the 25Hz warble was just audible at my usual listening level. I couldn't hear the 20Hz tone. The warble tones sounded clean, implying low distortion.

Canton Elektronik GmbH + Co. KG
US distributor: Bluebird Music Ltd.
1100 Military Rd.
Kenmore, NY 14217
(416) 638-8207

MZKM's picture

At least the name matches the price.

Looks very solid, though I wonder if the wider dispersion at 2kHz-5kHz could lean it towards the brighter side. With 7” drivers though it is impressive how well controlled the 3kHz crossover region is.

latinaudio's picture

were reviewed just 8 days ago, for 70.000$, these Canton for just 7.000$. Both looks very nice, both have rave reviews, both have good measurements, and almost the same driver complement. I will look forward to the ranking of both speakers in October´s Recommended Components...

georgehifi's picture

Can you tell us which comes first JA, because it would be hard not to focus on areas with the listening review to any areas where the measurements shown were a bit off before hand.

Cheers George

John Atkinson's picture
georgehifi wrote:
Can you tell us which comes first JA, because it would be hard not to focus on areas with the listening review to any areas where the measurements shown were a bit off before hand.

Though this isn't always possible, I try to conclude my critical listening to a product before I perform the measurements. In the case of this Canton speaker, I was having some issues finding the optimal positions in the room with listening alone so I wanted to check the in-room response. That's when I blew the tweeter of one of the speakers.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

mtrot's picture

If these beautiful Reference 7K are competitive, from a sound quality and measurements perspective, with similarly sized models from the likes of Focal Kanta or B&W 804D3, the Cantons have to be viewed as quite the value. To me, they are certainly equally or even more premium looking.

rusoaie's picture

Hello, John!
First of all thank you for this in-depth review.

If you have the time, could you please share some tips on positioning the Canton Ref speakers? What are the issues you encountered when trying to position the 7K? - and what worked best for you (distance between the speakers, toe-in or no toe-in or other adjustments to get focus the center image and widen the sound-stage)?

Thank you and keep up the great reviews & measurements.

Regards, Mihai

gpdavis2's picture

JA - when I read your speaker reviews I'm always left wanting............ as in, "how would these work with a lower power amp?". I listen to Canton Ref 9K speakers driven by 20wpc of Class A tubes (after several considerably higher power solid-state amps) and have often wondered about upgrading to the Ref 7K. Was really looking forward to your review, but, sadly, am still wondering about using them with my 20wpc amp. What do you think? Would this be a good match? Would like to see you (and MF & the other JA) do as HR and other reviewers and also give a listen with a smaller amp. Even a tube amp. Not all of us have nor want 450wpc amps.

rsleve's picture

Dear John Atkinson, I'm upgrading from my ProAc Response D8s moving to full-range 3-way, and considering both Canton R7s and Triangle Signature Deltas, both of which you have reviewed and are in the 8k range. I listen to Jazz, Classical, nuanced Rock, and love vocal music as well. I am running Hegel 190 and Gold Note DS-10 and PS-10 in a room 15 x 20. Can you tell me your sense of difference between the two loudspeakers? Rob

John Atkinson's picture
rsleve wrote:
I'm upgrading from my ProAc Response D8s moving to full-range 3-way, and considering both Canton R7s and Triangle Signature Deltas, both of which you have reviewed and are in the 8k range. . .

Been six years since I had the Triangle speakers in my system. I would choose the Cantons, as they have a more neutral high end, though the Triangle's high sensitivity means it would be a better match for low-powered amplifiers.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

rsleve's picture

Thanks, John. I had a feeling that might be the case from your review. Rob

supamark's picture

Kevlar is a polyAmide, not a polyImide. Kapton is the most well known polyimide - pretty cool stuff, it's the clear orange film on stuff going to space and also used to form woofer voice coils. Sorry, biochem degree, couldn't not say something :)

Mark Phillips,
Contributor, Soundstage! Network.

elfrigo's picture

I was wandering, though many years have passed how these two speakers differ from each other. Of course the CDM1SE’s lack the lower base in the review from 1998, but seem almost the same on the rest.
Ive listened to both CDM7SE and the 7K seem to be more responsive/tighter on the middle, the bass extends a bit further. But I really have to do my best and change plugs in between songs.

@John Atkinson, can you please enlighten me, if in all those years the B&W are still on par with these Cantons or am I missing something important? ;)