Creative Sound Solutions Criton 1TD v2 Bookshelf Speaker Review
Build 7.0 | Sound 6.7 | DSP Sound 7.0 | score breakdown
You guys want a DIY Kit reviewed, well this is that.
Creative Sound Solutions has been a name in the DIY scene for quite a while. I first remember seeing the brand on solen.ca maybe 8 years ago.
At that time I believe they were mainly known for their tweeter, a dome that used the XBL magnet technology usually associated with high end woofers.
Today CSS is still selling a version of that same tweeter, but is under new management and now has a woofer and even a couple of subwoofers in the product line. With this range of drivers CSS has developed a handful of kits. Speakers that use their drivers with custom crossovers, and a mix of off the shelf cabinets or plans for those in the hobby that feel comfortable cutting and gluing wood.
Creative Sound Solutions contacted me to review one of these new kits. The Criton 1TD version 2 is using the CSS tweeter and CSS 7 inch woofer in an off the shelf Parts Express 0.5cuft cabinet. After a long time of only reviewing the cheapest and nastiest garbage available on Amazon I jumped at the opportunity to dip my toes back into the high end.
This is a middle of the road tweeter solution for the high end. It's a 22mm dome, which is just a hair smaller than the standard 1 inch, and a hair bigger than the 3/4 inch seen on many desktop solutions I review. The driver has good specs and a reasonable price at $65 a pop. The completely ridiculous surround is used for damping and lower the FS of the driver so it can crossover cleaner/lower than otherwise possible. The tweeter does not "flex" or even visibly move, the surround is just for damping.
An arrangement of neodymium rings and a strangely designed rear chamber(yes it is sealed) for canceling back waves makes this an interesting piece compared to other more boring tweeter solutions.
This is the most impressive part of the speaker, and something that I did not expect to be so nice. This is the only woofer that CSS makes, and they make it right. We got some paper products, a rubber compounds a chunk of cast aluminum, a bunch of copper and magnets mixed together in the right portions to make a really killer low distortion woofer. While this is a review of the speaker kit, if you are planning your own DIY project this woofer should be on the list of good shit to have in your build. This woofer easily sits next to more expensive offerings from ScanSpeak.
Back shows off the massive spider and magnet structure, as well as a fluted vent for the larger than most 1.5 inch voice coil. This driver has a super low FS of 30Hz, while maintaining a good 89dB efficiency. This means lots of damping of the light weight paper cone, and control from a stiff suspension with a powerful motor that can drive that extra load without needing a ton of watts. It's a recipe for low distortion bliss.
Holy Jesus, we have our first real over the top high end crossover. Jantzen Z-Superior Caps, precision resistor from Mills, and a Dayton air core inductor. That cap is the same 6.8uF value found in many of the shit speakers I review, in budget electrolytic form it's usually 1/4 inch across and .5 inch wide. This cap is a behemoth 1.5 diameter and 2.5 inches wide... and this crossover is just for the tweeter.
Woofer crossover has more good stuff. Big poly caps and massive inductors from Dayton, and another mills resistor. Take a long look, DIY and boutique builders are the only place you will find this level of insanity.
Cabinet is super glossy, heavy, and well built. This version is the flat box, but the rounded Dayton cabinets will work for the kit as well. CSS told me they now have a knockdown kit available for $115, which is unfinished MDF. This is an atractive option for people looking to save a few bones or want to have a speaker with a unique finish.
There is a hole with a tube in it, I'm guessing a 50-55Hz tune based what it looks and sounds like... but I have not done the math.
No flares on the port, but I did not hear any hint of chuffing. The port is located on the rear which avoids cancelation would help hide and port leakage or chuffing - I did not detect either of those issues with these speakers.
Nice nickel colored terminals that work. Only issue here is that they stick out, but at least they look prety.
Grills were supplied, but I didn't use them for any testing. I glanced at them before tossing them back in the box, and they looked reasonably transparent with no obvious acoustic issues.
Desktop Listening Notes:
Sound is very smooth through the midrange, with no cone breakup or comb filtering evident at all. Let me repeat that important bit no cone break up at all. This is a god send for my tired ears.
The clarity of the CSS Criton TD1 Kit beats the off the shelf speakers I've tested, so much so that I suspect a rising response issue.
Using my robot ears I detect an ever so slight sharpness to the treble in the top octave. Sounds like diffraction or a horn loading related higher order mode.
Lower midrange and transition to bass is some of the nicest I've heard, there is a slight bump here, but it is the low distortion and smoothness that really sells the performance.
Bass is clear, linear, and mostly present. There is a smooth roll off starting just a bit before 60hz, as such a subwoofer or DSP bass boast will be required for "full range" sound. Nicely, the speakers do not include very much of a mid bass bump to artificially try to tonally balance the speakers missing bass frequencies. This will make integration with a subwoofer much easier.
Vertical lobing on this speaker is only slightly worse than most other 6.5 or 7 inch 2 way designs. Even with the close driver spacing and relatively low crossover point, the tweeter is noticeably louder above axis. Couple this behavior with the early bass roll off and diffraction sound around 10kHz and we end up with a few, mostly unavoidable - given the topology, blemishes on an otherwise perfect performer.
Living Room Listening Notes:
Set up with my phone and SMSL SA50 amp I got more than enough headroom out of these mostly efficient speakers. Much of the same was found from the desktop. The CSS Criton TD1 Kit performs exceptionally well, but sounds like too much treble, and not deep enough bass.
Unsmoothed, windowed to avoid reflection, outdoor on-axis measurement with ground plane measurement for bass response stitched in at 300Hz.
Frequency Response looks retardedly flat with a earth shattering +-1dB. This is still leaves room for a bit of color to the sound of the speaker with off axis behavior and vertical lobing. Included are my nit picking notes, perfection is always just out of reach.
Horizontal off axis outdoor measurements windowed to remove reflections 0-75 degrees.
Off Axis Response shows the directivity mismatch of the small tweeter and very large midwoofer in the form of a dip around 1.5kHz. This is inherent in the topology, and nothing can be done outside of surrounding the tweeter with a thick felt ring or other absorber. This off-axis behavior is pretty well behaved, being only 3db down at 60 degrees off axis. It is however a likely source of the rising response extra detail I was hearing, and can give a bit of a loudness button sound to the tone of the speaker.
While I could, and did attempt to EQ the dispersion mismatch of the tweeter and woofer the results not a sonic improvement by my ear. The speaker is very flat, and no correction is needed.
There is room to flatten and extend the bass response a bit on the speaker which has more headroom than you would ever need on a desktop. Ended up using a 6dB bass boost, which is not too crazy and could work in most medium sized living rooms.
Bass Specs Before: Flat to 63Hz, -3dB 51Hz, -10dB 35Hz
Bass Specs After: Flat to 41Hz, -3dB 37Hz, -10dB 28Hz
Corrected Listening Impressions:
More bass extension is more better. Flat to 40Hz with a sharp roll off gets the walls shaking and music sounding tonally balanced. This bass extension got rid of all of my rising response concerns and issues of too much treble. Sometimes not deep enough bass will sound like too much treble, and that was the case here.
One of the reasons why many purist audiophile setups lack lower midrange and bass extension is accurate bass performance will hide some details in music. I prefer my music to be tonally balanced and to listen through the music for the details that float to the surface. This was not the design intention by Creative Sound Solutions, but a limitation of the cabinet size and passive nature of the speaker kit.
To wrap things up, Creative Sound Solutions has an amazing woofer here, and while the tweeter is pretty good, I've heard better domes for more money.
The quality of the crossover components is overkill, but is kind of a requirement from the boutique DIY customer base.
If I had to pick from the current kit line up, I would either opt for the larger ported version of this speaker being hopeful that it can produce bass just a hair deeper, or the sealed version and plan to have a subwoofer in the system to cover the low end.
Bare bones kits are currently $425/each, and full kits with flat pack are $590/each. Ready to go out of the box speakers in professionally built cabinets are $850. Regardless of the option you pick, you get what you pay for when going DIY.
Speaking of subwoofers, CSS makes a few of those drivers as well. I'm always dreaming up monster speakers, and I imagine a setup similar to my own with a pair of 10 or 12 inch subwoofers and with some DSP amps under each speaker to make true full range tower speaker with near limitless headroom. Could be a killer setup, hopefully one of the crazies out there in DIY land puts something like that together.
|DSP Sound Quality|
Click here to buy a Creative Sound Solutions Criton 1TD Bookshelf Speaker Kit.
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