The Canton Reference 7 K is the second smallest floorstander in Canton’s highest loudspeaker family. Well, ‘small’. It is quite large, although this German still presents modestly thanks to a masterly piano lacquer and curved lines. In any case, it plays great.
The name makes it clear right away: the Reference K line includes the flagships with the best technology from Canton. They are speakers that count as references, designed with the latest computer design techniques, it says. This high-end family is composed in a special way, different from what is usually the case. You can compare it to how Bowers & Wilkins approaches it with their 800 Series. As with the British, the Reference K series is divided into two levels that are easy to distinguish because of the different design. The Reference 7 K floorstanders we look at in this article belong to the traditional side of the family, while the 3 K, 2 K and 1 K stand out with a split front where the top with tweeter and midrange tweeter is narrower than the section with the woofer. With the 7 K you are talking about a more conventional baffle or front in one piece on which all drivers are mounted.
Yet this speaker does not exactly look like a boring rectangle. No, Canton’s designers were in a more adventurous mood. They not only wanted to make the speaker more beautiful, but they combined slender lines with a number of acoustic interventions. The end result is successful. The convex sides and narrower rear give the Canton Reference 7 K a slimmer profile than you would expect and combat internal standing waves. He is not really high with his 1 meter. However, it is a sturdier, deeper speaker that also weighs 33 kg each. That is surprising; in its packaging, such a Canton speaker is really a job to move.
The higher than expected weight is due to the thick panels on the outside, but also because the housing has been strongly reinforced internally. Its footprint is also slightly larger because the speaker is mounted on a wider base. Because the connections between speaker and base are slightly inwards and there is an opening at the front, the 7 K seems to float above the ground. Visually nice, but again: acoustically smart. After all, the Reference K floorstanders have a bass port that faces the ground. Air can escape through the opening at the bottom, which gives the speaker better bass performance. Unlike many other speakers, there are no rear or front ports, making placement closer to a wall easier.
For completeness, we note that in addition to the 1 K, 2 K, 3 K, 5 K, 7 K and 8 K – all floorstanders – there is also a 9 K upright speaker, 50 K center speaker and the Sub 50 K subwoofer. to exist. So you can also build a high-end home cinema with these Germans. In addition, you can get the Reference 5 K speaker in a smart and active version, the Smart Reference 5 K, which you can combine with the many other Smart devices from Canton. Ten different models, that is a very extensive range.
Canton Reference 7 K
|Frequency range||37 – 26,000 Hz (+/- 3dB)|
|Impedance||4 Ohms (with a minimum of 3.1 at 340 Hz)|
|crossovers||220 and 3,000 Hz|
|Dimensions||100 x 29 x 42 cm|
|Price||2,600 euros each|
Three colors of Canton Reference 7 K
We are particularly pleased with the finish of the Reference K speakers. The Reference 7 K has a very lavish piano lacquer, seamlessly applied with twelve layers of varnish applied in quick succession. Very quickly in fact, because the previous layer is not yet dry when the next is sprayed, a technique that produces a very special result. The speaker is then polished by hand up to three times.
Our test devices were wrapped in a classic black color, but you can also get these Cantons in a glossy white. As always with these types of gloss paints, you can regularly take out a duster to keep them tidy. Maybe that’s just the cost you have to pay. If you want something different, Canton also offers the Reference 7 K in a 300-euro more expensive version with cherry wood with a layer of varnish. Do you need to dust off that version less? Probably not.
The refined paintwork is perfectly complemented by a nice integration of drivers and tweeter in the front, with bi-amping-ready large speaker terminals and with damped feet. You can replace the latter with spikes. The Canton Reference 7 K comes with two-piece grilles.
The beautiful finish of the 7 K’s makes us wonder how much they cost. 2,700 euros each is of course not little, but with a higher middle class car like this one you can usually not count on a spacious finish of this level. It makes more sense with the more expensive top models from this Canton family; maybe the manufacturer just thought it was consistent to also equip the cheaper Reference K models with it. You will in any case find few competitors of the 7 K with the same finish.
According to Canton, their engineers were not limited in time or budget when devising the Reference K line. If that’s true, that was a bold move on the part of the company. Engineers who are allowed to strive unrestrained for ultimate achievements can sometimes stay busy for a very long time. Either way, it’s noticeable that every aspect of this speaker has seemingly been thought through. Like some other audio designers, most notably Karl-Heinz Fink, Canton designers have prioritized designing an enclosure that doesn’t vibrate with the music. That may seem obvious, but a) it’s not easy to keep something vibration-free when vibrating drivers are mounted in it and b) making a cabinet inert usually carries a high price tag.
The Reference 7 K is less sophisticated in terms of cabinet construction than the more expensive 1 to 3 K flagships. But it is still special. Canton opted for a self-supporting monocoque construction that is internally divided into two separate rooms. The latter happens more often, usually to isolate the tweeter from the violent air currents of the other drivers. At the 7K it is different. The second chamber starts above the tweeter and separates the midrange driver from the chamber in which the two woofers and tweeter are mounted. The walls of the loudspeaker are 2.1 cm thick and consist of four layers of fiberboard that are pressed together under pressure. The lacquer and varnish layer of 0.1 cm thick is then placed on top of this.
The aluminum driver used for the mid frequencies and the woofer are derived from models that Canton had already developed for other speakers. In that sense, the Reference K is really a successor to the Vento and older Reference lines. One of the novelties is the creation of a ceramic layer on the inside and outside of the aluminum cone, followed by the application of tungsten parts. All this to better dampen the metal drivers – read: that they vibrate less and thus reproduce sound more accurately.
Stands like a house
The word ‘reference’ is often eagerly embraced by marketing departments of audio brands. It sounds impressive and indicates that the product in question is so good that others have to compete with it. A benchmark, in other words. If you think of a loudspeaker that behaves very neutrally and goes for things like ultimate detail reproduction, then you are not on the right track with these Cantons. When you listen to it, it quickly becomes clear what the Reference 7 K’s talents are. We are immediately impressed by the mature bass and dynamic performance. Even at a lower volume level, music sounds full, with real body and midbass that comes across as tight and controlled. Rock and electronics immediately sound good to your ears, but in fact anything with a touch of bombast in it. John Williams is therefore certainly welcome, even if you use the Cantons in a stereo solution for TV sound. The attention to a solid construction of the speakers does appear to pay off, because there seems to be little question of cabinet coloring or vibrations.
We mainly listen with the NAD C 658 and C 298 combination, a set that offers both good BluOS streaming options (including support for Roon, which we use a lot during testing) and excellent Class D amplification from Purifi. A good match, we think, because we have the impression that it is best to marry these Cantons with something that does not come out too hot. Even if we attach the speakers to the JBL SA750 with class G amplification, it doesn’t sound wrong. Based on our experience, we would also run the Reference 7 K. It really sounds best when the speaker is pointed more towards you, without saying that the sweet spot is really small.
With the NAD we reach for a number of classic albums that have fascinated us in recent months. Of course this includes ‘The Berlin Concert’ by the Berliner Philharmoniker, a best-of-concert album of John Williams’ hits – with the composer himself holding the baton. We absolutely love the ‘Imperial March’ on this album (although the version Williams recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic a few years earlier is even better). Just like the movie version, but with the power knob turned to 11. The horns really blow into the room, the percussion pops – all very impressive. The glockenspiel may be a bit soft and it is a wall of sound rather than a grand orchestra hall, but it does make your heart beat faster. The celesta in ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ of the Harry Potter comes off the speakers nicely, it sounds as magical as it is intended. And when the full orchestra joins in, the Reference 7 K takes that dynamic leap effortlessly and you also get the full impact.
There are no vocals in these classical works, which did not prepare us for the centerstage presentation of JS Ondara’s fascinating voice in ‘American Dream’. The catchy live version ‘Rapture’ also puts Anonhi from Antony and the Johsons in the spotlight, as does Mystikal’s rapping on Mark Ronson’s ‘Feel Right’. With the latter, this funky song is put down nice and dry and tight, rhythmically it is completely right. Vocals were clearly a focus for the Canton designers.
We also play some vinyl, with the Argon TT-4 (see elsewhere in this issue) connected to our Hegel H590 amp. Our hunger for post-punk has recently been satisfied with ‘Crawler’, the latest album by the British band Idles. Dark tracks like ‘MTT 420RR’ roll convincingly and fiercely from the Cantons. Despite the much noise in these songs, including screamed vocals that seem to reverberate through a PA, the chaos does not dominate. The combination of that thicker bass layer with sufficient definition also makes genre music like this sound good. In addition, ‘When the Lights Come One’ in particular effectively demonstrates the wider soundstage that the Reference 7 K can lay down, adding a little more of a live feel to the listening session. These speakers also like more refined work. In terms of sparkle and micro-detail feeling, we class them more with all-rounders than with audiophile detail hunters – we compare for a moment with the Focal Sopra n°2’s that are fixed in the test room. But that is not necessarily a disadvantage, on the contrary. It nevertheless gives these speakers a refreshing universal character, which tends to the high-end. And yes, with the tracks on ‘re:member’ by Olafur Arnalds those piano sounds may not be perfectly defined, the total reproduction is sublime and enveloping. The Reference 7 K presents these neoclassical works with a lot of body and depth, which we find pleasant. At the moments when the orchestra joins the synth lines, the music wall also swells enormously. There’s nothing aloof or skinny about it, we’re really into the music.
Conclusion – Canton Reference 7 K
The Canton Reference 7 K surprised us a bit. This speaker family may not always be as high on wish lists as some of its more famous rivals, it should be. The sophisticated acoustic design, the sense for dynamics and mid-detail, and the mature yet controlled basses make these floorstanders from Canton capable reproducers. They emphasize depth and grand presentation, rendering modern genres better than some audiophile rivals. The Reference 7 K’s may not be as compact as you would expect from a ‘small’ model, their slim design and especially that lush piano lacquer makes up for a lot. They are very nice speakers for the price.
- Lush piano lacquer finish
- Good driver integration delivers a real wall of sound
- Strong, quality bass performance
- Very universal renderers
- Pretty heavy and deep
- Would like a better amp
- dust magnet