Reference 2023

The range includes two more floorstanders not shown.

The canton of Reference, 2023. It's not the latest Swiss county; nor its swankiest zipcode. It's Canton's new 8-deep Reference range which dropped at this year's Munich show. Today we look at the line's model 9. It's a 17.4cm or 6.85" two-way monitor with 25mm tweeter. Across the range, aluminium midranges and woofers both take a page from the Børresen, Monitor & Raidho cookbook. How so? They galvanically convert 1/4th membrane mass to aluminium oxide on both sides i.e. ceramic then optimize this already harder surface with tungsten aka wolfram and other metal particles. Steel and carbide treated with tungsten are popular with hard-wearing tools. So are tungsten filaments in tubes and lightbulbs. The waveguided ceramic tweeters omit this extra layer. Their far smaller surfaces don't need the extra strength to resist deformation at higher SPL. The Reference series spans from €3.6K for the monitor to €20K for the top tower. It includes a 30.8cm subwoofer with passive radiator and a center channel. Finish options are gloss white or black; plus walnut veneer for certain models though not today's. Venting for all is accomplished with ports which fire down into plinths with front and back openings.

Working harder = smarter has been a recent leitmotiv. We came across raceways coated in synthetic diamond for zirconia ball bearings in Carbide's best isolation footers. We've seen exotic skins being grown via magnetron sputtering in Ansuz product. Think scandium, titanium nitride and zirconium. Nagra's elite turntable exploits Exium. That's a twin-crystal manganese/copper alloy developed by a foundry for the French aerospace industry which also shows up at Carbide. Wilson Audio meanwhile continue to exploit ever harder ceramic/mineral filled methacrylate polymers for speaker cabs. Børresen's best transducer baskets 3D print from zirconium.

The waveguides are made from POM aka polyoxymethylene, an engineered thermoplastic.

Speaker diaphragms pursue mutually conflicting ideals of stiffness vs lightness. Harder materials have the advantage of allowing ever greater thinness. That drives down moving mass for better sensitivity and pushes first break-up modes farther out of band. Going beyond raw ceramic membranes as popularized by Germany's Accuton is now possible with transducers which don't position themselves at our sector's very top end.

With Canton for example, €3.6K/pr for a compact with curved front baffle, bowing cheeks, sloping top and narrower rear already gets us into the harder = smarter play. Add fine two-tone finishing with the white paint scheme. Add a convenient jumper-based tweeter contour. It all read promising enough in the news release. Prompted further by reader Steve Fink, I thus contacted marketing director Moritz Jung. Would he fancy a maiden Canton review in our 21-year old pages?

By starting in 1972, Canton themselves have been at it for a whopping 50 years. Today they employ 150 people between their HQ and production facility in Germany's Weilrod and their parts factory in Czechia. Their present catalogue breaks out into 12 different product ranges. Those are exported to 53 countries. Canton are neither a newcomer nor small boutique with part-time staff. And, if you drive a Škoda Superb, Octavia, Karoq or Kodiaq… you're already listening to Canton speakers.

Clear is that with today's Reference 9, we don't drive stock – drivers that is. Whilst far more bespoke loudspeaker houses remain content to fit off-the-rack transducers, our curvaceously styled monitor refuses. In the world of Canton, spend €3½K on a pair of small speakers and you deserve better. Hearing these black ceramic tungsten cones in action thus had to be my next step. To be sure, there's categorically nothing wrong with fare from Scanspeak, Seas, Purifi & Bros. But in my book, whenever a speaker house transitions to in-house driver design and manufacture to take more control, it signals next-level maturity. It also speaks to greater more holistic engineering competence and deeper vertical integration.

Now the question was, would Canton even want to send samples to Ireland to make reader Steve happy? And in case you wondered why the smallest new Canton Reference, I use subs with external analogue precision xovers in my upstairs and downstairs systems. I high-pass the resident speakers to lighten their load and enjoy superior active bass. Such a stereo 2.1 approach wants no more than a quality 2-way monitor. Otherwise one pays for bass reach only to toss it again. Not very sensible. The Canton monitor measures 26 x 45 x 39cm WxHxD and weighs a very solid 18kg. Its 2.83V/1m rating is 87dB, its claimed bandwidth a most ambitious 25Hz-40kHz, its filter transition 2'900Hz. Matching stands are optional, the single-wire terminals WBT. The warranty is a confident 10 years, manufacture in Germany. Might we call Canton that country's Monitor Audio? One could probably draw far worse parallels.

Due to production limits, Canton explained that they won't have review samples for press members who aren't already in their working pool until 2024.