Canton Reference 7K loudspeaker Ken Micallef March 2022

Ken Micallef auditioned the Canton Reference 7K in March 2022 (Vol.45 No.3):

In his September 2021 review of the Canton Reference 7K ($6995/pair), Stereophile Technical Editor John Atkinson wrote, "The last Canton loudspeaker I reviewed was the Karat Reference 2 DC in 2003. Though I felt that the balance of that loudspeaker, which was then Canton's flagship, was somewhat forward in the treble, I concluded that it had 'powerful-sounding low frequencies, clean and grain-free highs, coloration-free midrange, high sensitivity and dynamic range, and stable, precise stereo imaging.' With the exception of the forward treble balance, I can say much the same things about the Canton Reference 7K.”

Manufactured by Canton Elektronik in Weilrod, Germany, the Canton 7K Reference is a large-ish floorstander. Its 50mm thick, multilayer cabinet is moderately tall at 39.8"; the speaker weighs a solid 72lb. Its tall'n'slim stature, curved sidewalls, and the black lacquer finish on the review sample cause the 7Ks to exude a quiet but substantial presence. The muted colors of the drivers, which blend well with the black lacquer, added to their sophisticated visual appeal.

The Canton's driver array is notable for its exotic materials: a 25mm aluminum oxide ceramic tweeter, a 6.8" ceramic tungsten midrange, two 6.8" ceramic tungsten woofers.

Why ceramic tungsten? Because "up to 20% of the existing molecular structure of the aluminum cone is transformed into a ceramic structure and refined with tungsten particles," the company says. "The result is a membrane with an optimum ratio of rigidity to weight and improved inner damping."

One feature of the 7K is what Canton calls a "Bass-Guide"; it's a port firing into the speaker's base (approximately 16" deep by 11" wide by 2.5" high) where "Vibrations are directed away from the cabinet and flow noise is reduced. The usable inner volume of the loudspeaker is maximized while the external dimensions remain the same and there is greater flexibility in the set-up location," stated the company's website.

Most of the speakers I'm accustomed to using employ more traditional technologies and materials. My DeVore speakers have a silk-dome tweeter and a paper-cone woofer. The Klipsch Forte IVs use a titanium-diaphragm compression driver in the tweeter and polyimide (Kevlar-ish) in the midrange—horn-loaded of course—but the woofer is fiber-composite. My reference amplifiers are old-school tubes from Shindo, and I'm a regular user of a Thorens TD-124 turntable.

Those traditional tastes were formed, in part, by early unsatisfactory experiences with higher-tech speakers and components. And yet lately I've had much better experiences with more recent technologies. I'm thinking in particular of the Technics SU-R1000 integrated amplifier and the LKV Research Veros PWR+ power amplifier. I was eager to hear what a recent, well-engineered speaker employing high-tech materials would sound like.

I auditioned the 7K using my streaming setup: Denafrips Ares II DAC, Sonore opticalRendu, Trendnet Ethernet switch, Small Green Computer sonicTransporter i5 Roon Core server, and SGC 7v Linear Power Supply. I played vinyl on my Kuzma Stabi R/Kuzma 4Point tonearm with EMT TSD 15 moving coil cartridge into a Tavish Audio Design Adagio phono stage and then on to amplification including, variously, the Ayre EX-8 2.0, Schiit Ragnarok 2, and Parasound Hint 6 Halo integrated amplifiers and the LKV Research Veros PWR+ power amplifier. To connect stuff together, I used a Sonore system Optique fiberoptic cable, an In-Akustik Reference USB 2.0 cable, Triode Wire Labs Spirit II (RCA) interconnects, and Auditorium 23 and AudioQuest Robin Hood speaker cables.

Out of the box, the Reference 7K produced perhaps the widest soundstage I've heard in my small Greenwich Village penthouse pad. Tonally, the Canton bordered on lush, with a clear, refined treble and midrange and focused bass with ample weight. It's a reasonably dynamic speaker, and it played all styles of music well, from classical and UK techno to contemporary R&B and jazz.

On the slow, swinging "Blues to Elvin" from Coltrane Plays the Blues (24/192 MQA, Atlantic/Tidal), which was engineered by Tom Dowd, Elvin's snare drum was fine grained, and Trane's horn flowed like water. The sound was dynamic, forceful, and direct.

Hank Mobley's "Carolyn," from No Room for Squares (16/44.1FLAC, Blue Note/Tidal), was creamier than the Trane, reflecting the more honeyed sound of Rudy Van Gelder's work compared to the drier sound Dowd captured on "Blues to Elvin." Good as they are, Dowd's early-'60s Atlantic jazz sides are no match for the immediacy of Rudy Van Gelder's productions from the same era—and so it is here. The 7Ks made the distinctions between these approaches totally clear.

Staying with hard bop titles, on "But Not For Me" from Bag's Groove (24/192 MQA, Prestige/Tidal), Miles Davis's trumpet had exceptional fluidity and weight and satisfying decay through the Canton speakers; Percy Heath's upright acoustic bass was tuneful, toneful, and textured. The soundfield lacked some depth—it's recorded that way—but the instruments were so palpable, dense, and present that I found I didn't care. Speakers can't fix a recording's flaws, but they can compensate in other areas.

On Ornette Coleman's "Chronology," from The Shape of Jazz to Come (24/192 MQA, Atlantic/Tidal), the music popped hard, with plenty of bass energy and a focused, energetic snare attack. The horns, panned hard left and right, poured out of the Cantons with big, saturated sounds. Broadly, the Cantons played jazz very well, reproducing the genre's common acoustic instruments with handsome color and realistic dynamics riding on a generous bass foundation. They played music as a thoroughly human event, touchable textures and silky physicality joined to satisfying, juicy tonality.

But their effortless way with jazz didn't prepare me for the heft and wraparound sensuality they gave King Crimson's prog rock masterpiece "In the Court of the Crimson King" (16/44 FLAC Atlantic/ Tidal). That song is used to tremendous effect in director Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film, Children of Men, which is set in the UK in 2027. The world is in turmoil after 18 years of human infertility. In one scene, we see a London street over the hood of a Bentley Arnage as it turns onto a busy thoroughfare. The instant the car rounds the turn, Michael Giles's staccato drum figures ignite a surreal Mellotron tape loop, Greg Lake's throbbing electric bass, and Robert Fripp's guitar. Against this menacing soundtrack, we wind through streets jammed with protesters, police on horseback, and a street preacher barking "Earthquakes, pollution, the seeds of the famine!" A digital sign blinks "Suspicious? Report all illegal immigrants."

As I listened on Tidal, the Cantons brought me back to that catastrophic scene, with all its dread and terror. I was of course listening with just two channels, a modest-sized screen wedged temporarily in between, yet the soundstage extended beyond the speakers, well out into my listening room and well behind the speaker plane. Drums, bass, and guitar were nearly full-sized and immediate. The Cantons presented a satisfyingly thick, detailed wall of thrilling prog rock.

Firing up the Cyrus CDi-XR CD player (to be reviewed next month), I researched my top jazz releases of 2021, including Kevin Sun's <3 Bird (Endectomorph EMM-010), William Parker and Patricia Nicholson's No Joke! (ESP Disk ESP5067), Relief, A Benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America's Musicians' Emergency Fund (Mack Avenue MAC1185), Marc Cary's Life Lessons (, and Tobias Meinhart's The Painter (Sunnyside SSC 1613).

Kevin Sun's <3 Bird finds the New York–based tenor saxophonist and clarinetist inspired by the compositions of Charlie Parker, framed through his own unique lens. The Cantons played this great-sounding jazz CD with scale, intensely swinging drama, and rich tonal hues and fine resolution. The Cantons repeatedly cast a giant soundstage in any stereo medium.

Multi-reedist Tobias Meinhart was previously unknown to me, but his exceptional album The Painter, with a top-flight cast including drummer Obed Calvaire, bassist Matt Penman, and guitarist Charles Altura, stands out for its fine compositions, engrossing group interplay, and the quality of the album's sound, which, via the Cantons, was palpable and liquid. At times sounding like a sci-fi soundtrack, other times an ethereal groove-fest, the 7Ks painted The Painter with their usual huge soundstage, gobs of ambient air, and an intense low end.

William Parker has been a top bassist and band leader on the NYC jazz scene for decades; he cut his teeth as a member of Cecil Taylor's group. His acoustic bass is undermiked on No Joke!, his album with vocalist Patricia Nicholson, but the music swings and brays like the ghost of Charles Mingus, swinging the band for all it's worth. The Cantons reproduced this high-octane jazz with punch, copious depth, and realistic weight. Patricia Nicholson's voice was too high in the mix, relegating horns to the back of the studio. The Cantons kept it that way, clarifying the choices made by Jim Couse, the recording engineer, for better or worse.

Vinyl is still the most natural source to my ears, so I dropped a few classic jazz favorites on the Kuzma platter and let fly. Spinning sides from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Hank Mobley, and Lee Morgan,

I could hear all the way to Rudy Van Gelder's Englewood Cliffs studio. The Canton's ample air and deep bass tonnage made the most of these RVG treasures.

When I swapped amplifiers, the Cantons reflected each amp's personality. The Schiit Ragnarok II imbued a visceral midrange and stellar dynamics; the Parasound had a neutral mien; the Ayre showed off its tonal color, soundstaging, and naturalism. When I used the Ayre's preamp section to drive the LKV Research Veros PWR+ amp, the Cantons' soundstaging depth, height, and width grew incrementally, with images that remained corporeal.

My room has a penchant for bass, but even with that in mind, the 7K's gorgeous midrange and munificent lower bass made every record sound fat, liquid, and pleasurable. The 7Ks possessed a sweet, lustrous treble with well-recorded cymbals, strings, and percussion. Listening to music through the Canton Reference 7K loudspeaker was great, engrossing fun. If you have the cash and the space, these speakers are a must-hear.—Ken Micallef

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? ;)