Canton Reference 7K loudspeaker Page 2

The half-step–spaced tonebursts on Editor's Choice spoke cleanly and evenly down to 32Hz, the frequency of the lowest one. Listening to the enclosure with a stethoscope while these tonebursts played, I could hear very little liveliness, though I could hear some low-level mechanical buzzing in the low bass from inside the speaker with serial number 100726.

I took part in a number of blind listening tests of loudspeakers in the 1980s in which one of the test signals was my Fender Precision bass guitar, played live. The sound of the bass, with its combination of a sharply defined transient attack and high levels of energy in the upper bass and lower midrange, was very revealing both of a loudspeaker's woofer tuning and its dynamic limitations (footnote 1). So when I created the channel identification and phase-check tracks on Stereophile's Test CD 2, repeated on Editor's Choice, I recorded some riffs with the Fender. The Reference 7K did well with these tracks, offering excellent clarity and upper-bass weight.

With the out-of-phase track, the image of my bass was unambiguously positioned to the left of the left-hand loudspeaker; image stability was one of the Canton Reference 7K's strengths. The first multitrack digital recording I made was in 1997, when I recorded a jazz quartet led by pianist Marc Copland for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. The concert venue was a reverberant, stone-faced chamber completely unsuitable for small-scale jazz, so I had to close-mike all the instruments. Even so, with the help of some Lexicon-sourced reverberation, I was able to come up with a mix that satisfied both the musicians and the festival organizers. Contractual issues meant that the album was never released, but I still use it as a yardstick for stereo-imaging performance.


The Cantons excelled at reproducing this track, the stable image of Copland's piano extending from the left of the soundstage, guitarist John Abercrombie on the right, German bassist Peter Herbert front and center, and the great Billy Hart's drums unambiguously behind the other three members of the band and spread across half the width of the stage. Listening to the album, I was saddened to remember that Abercrombie passed away in 2017 at just 72, the same age I was when I started writing this review, but my spirits were elevated by his great music making.

Male voice is always revealing of problems in the lower midrange. Richard Lehnert's speaking voice on the Editor's Choice tracks sounded uncolored, though with a little more body than I am used to. Similarly, Jeff Hamilton's kickdrum in the solo drum passages and Ray Brown's solo double bass in the Ray Brown Trio's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" from Live at the Loa—Summer Wind (16/44.1 FLAC, Concord Jazz, Tidal) were a touch too rich-sounding—not that this bass player objects to that! Gene Harris's piano sounded clean and uncolored.

As I have written before, piano is revealing of problems in the upper midrange due to the lack of masking and the fact that the frequencies of the notes in this region are spaced relatively far apart. In the months that have passed since I heard her play at a pre-pandemic recital in Manhattan's Merkin Hall, Russian pianist Anna Gourari has become a favorite. During the recital, as she performed the Adagio from J.S. Bach's Concerto in D Minor, the audience hardly breathed, so hypnotic was her left-hand chord ostinato. This work concludes her Elusive Affinity album (24/96 MQA, Tidal/ECM). Playing this track on the Canton speakers took me back to that magic night, the uncolored and stable image of Gourari's piano hanging between the speakers.

Elusive Affinity includes Alfred Schnittke's Five Aphorisms for Piano. The contemplative fifth Aphorism is punctuated by atonal, lower-register crashes with the piano's loud pedal depressed. The clarity of these crashes as reproduced by the Cantons was impressive, as was the low-frequency extension.

If recorded piano can reveal problems, the same can be said about the marimba. One of the things I love about Roon is its integration with streaming radio stations. A favorite is Linn Classical, which plays tracks from the Scottish label's expanding catalog of well-engineered recordings. One evening, before I started some Canton critical listening, the Linn station streamed the Allemande from the Cello Suite No.5 in C Minor, BWV1011, performed on marimba by Kuniko Kato. Immediately impressed by the Japanese percussionist's empathetic approach to this work, I found the album, J.S. Bach: Solo Works for Marimba, on Tidal (16/44.1 FLAC, Linn Classical CKD 585) and listened to the entire suite. The Reference 7Ks faithfully reproduced the delightful balance between the direct sound of the instrument and the ambience behind it. The Cantons' transparency allowed me to hear clearly how the attack on each note lit up the reverberation in St. John's Church in Estonia. No specific notes seemed emphasized, though the instrument's lower registers did sound very rich.


It is fair to note that the sound of the marimba doesn't have much high-frequency content to speak of. So what about the Canton's highs?

Patricia Barber's new single, "This Town," was released on Tidal as I was writing this review. One of the last events I went to before the New York City pandemic lockdown took effect in March 2020 was a preview of Barber's album Higher in surround sound, presented by engineer Jim Anderson and his producer partner Ulrike Kristina Schwarz. Jim also played some mixes from what would be a new album by Barber's piano trio. "This Town" is the lead-off track on that album, called Clique, which was scheduled to be released around the time this issue of Stereophile hits newsstands and mailboxes.

I cued up "This Town" (24/352.8 MQA FLAC, unfolded to 24/88.2 by Roon) and took a listen. The highs on the Cantons seemed in good balance with the lower frequencies, neither the hi-hat cymbals nor the sibilance on Barber's voice sounding exaggerated. Her piano was reproduced without coloration and, as with my Fender bass on Editor's Choice, Peter Herbert's bass on the Santa Fe album, and Ray Brown's bass on Live at the Loa, the sound of the double bass on "This Town" had an excellent combination of leading-edge definition and weight.

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. And at $6995/pair, it is significantly less expensive than the Reference 2 DC, which cost $10,000/pair in 2003, equivalent to $14,630 in today's money. Indeed, it seems $7000/pair is becoming a sweet spot for the balance between a loudspeaker's sound quality and cost. Canton's Reference 7K is a great loudspeaker at an affordable price—check it out.

Footnote 1: You can find the spectrum of an E-string transient in one of these tracks here.
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? ;)