CSS Criton 1TD-X is a DIY (Do It Yourself) speaker kit from a young company CSS Audio, based in the USA, that specializes in producing high-quality DIY kits. But why would you want to put effort and time into building speakers yourself when there are so many finished models on the market already? The answer lies in the price-to-performance ratio. But just before we come to that, let’s consider a few practical questions first.
Ease of Build
Every CSS kit can be purchased with or without a flat-pack cabinet. If you’re an experienced builder, you might want to build yours from scratch, but for the rest of us, flat-packs are a much friendlier alternative. Since I live in an apartment woodwork and big tools are out of the question, so I naturally opted for a flat-pack. I’m happy to report that sufficiently thick MDF panels are used, and there is the added internal bracing too. I could easily assemble the cabinets on my dining table, using only two belt clamps and some weights.
After the boxes are glued together, you have to assemble the crossover. This is quite easy since you get plastic boards with predetermined positions for each component. You just put them in place and do some beginner-level soldering to connect all of them into a circuitry. Finally, you place the crossovers inside the box, screw them in, and connect the cables with binding posts and drivers. The last step is tightening all drivers in their places using provided screws.
The amount of time needed for all of this will vary depending on your skill, but it shouldn’t be much longer than a few hours. Of course, I’m not counting the time while we’re clamping the cabinets and waiting for the glue to settle.
Once assembled, speaker cabinets feel rock solid and non-resonant. One more thing I didn’t do on my pair as you can see from the images is the final finish. As mentioned above I live in an apartment so painting here is out of the question, and I have never veneered anything before… so I thought to leave this to someone more skilled.
Finally, the priciest option is to go for fully finished speakers and that would set you back $2350. So all options are there and you just have to choose one that suits you the best.
CSS Criton 1TD-X is a two-way design, meaning it uses two drivers. One of them is the 7″ woofer CSS LDW7, and that one is shared with the standard 1TD version without the X in the end. Tweeter on the other hand has been upgraded to the CSS LD25X which should bring even higher resolution. Then when it comes to the crossover itself, you have a choice between these two:
1. Standard version with all Dayton Audio parts
2. Superior version with higher-quality components that include Erse Perfect Lay air core inductors, Mills resistors, and Jantzen Superior caps. I got the Superior version and that’s what I’ll be reviewing today.
Once everything is assembled you’ll be getting a speaker with 8 Ohms impedance and 87 dB @ 2.83 V sensitivity. But all the specs and features aside let’s talk about the sound.
I connected CSS Critons to my Acoustic Invader power amplifier and that proved to be a really good match. These speakers sound very bold, dynamic, and punchy but they ask for a fair amount of power to get there. If I didn’t know better I would have guessed lower sensitivity than declared. So be sure to drive them with a decently powerful and authoritative amplifier and they will thank you with a very bold and engaging sound.
Tonality is tuned to be relaxed and full. Bassline is both deep and very present in a way that can put most bookshelf speakers to shame. That’s even more impressive given that Critons are not even particularly big bookshelf. But more importantly, the bassline is also clean and well-behaved. Upper frequencies are also very clean and every note is clearly and precisely outlined. That bold bassline and midbass also lend a hand to the midrange and make all tones pleasantly full-bodied and palpable in space. That said, higher frequencies are presented in a calm and laid-back fashion. If you want your highs to sound like a firework, you would have to look elsewhere because Crtion 1TD-X is all about being informative but smooth and laid back. This makes them a good partner for long listening sessions.
The soundstage is not particularly wide but there’s that rare sensation of a deep and completely dark background that you don’t encounter every day. Now imagine clean, well-focused, and palpable tones emerging from that darkness and being layered and pinpointed in a very orderly fashion. Musicians occupy not only the space between the speakers but also behind them, creating a great depth perception.
To sum it up, CSS Crtion 1TD-X sounds bold, full-bodied, punchy, clean, and laid back in highs, with a deep soundstage and dark background. Now let’s see how it fares against the competition.
KEF LS50 is one of the most famous speakers ever, winning numerous awards, and for a good reason. It sounds quick, it’s very resolving, and very informative in the midrange. In a direct comparison, LS50 sounds brighter and brings that upper-frequency information to the front much more. Criton 1TD-X sounds darker and more laid back, however, it offers even cleaner tones and more background darkness. In the lowest registers, CSS sounds noticeably bolder and more full-range – it goes as deep and kicks as hard on its own as my KEF LS50 and REL T/5x sub setup did together. On top of that, CSS Criton creates a deeper soundstage and pinpoints instruments inside of it even better. This is the area where LS50 is considered to be the champion, and it probably still is if we only count factory-built, big-brand products distributed through the old-school distribution channels.
To cut a long story short, I find Criton 1TD-X to be a more capable and more full-range product.
Spirit Wind is a DIY project designed by Jeff Bagy and this kit was sold on the Meniscus Audio that is now closed unfortunately. This is a more advanced build that doesn’t include a flat pack, drivers are double the price, and cabinets are more difficult to build. If you endure all of that you will get a speaker with an equally bold and punchy bassline, higher dynamic headroom, and more open top-end with better dispersion. The last one helps Spirit Wind create a wider and more airy soundstage. So yes, the pricier build that requires more skill is better sounding, but that doesn’t take away anything from the readily available and beginner-friendly CSS Criton 1TD-X kit.
Note: My video states a $2000 price for my Spirit Wind build, but inflation and price hikes took place in the meantime. If you were to replicate it at the time of writing this review, it would probably be more like 2500-3000 USD. This probably makes this comparison unfair.
CSS Criton 1TD-X is a beginner-level build with advanced-level sound fidelity. If you’re willing to put some time and effort into it, you’ll be treated with a dynamic, clean, and full-bodied sound that easily surpasses traditional brand offerings at the same price.
|CSS CRITON 1TD-X – CHARACTERISTICS
Crossover Point: 1600 Hz
Recommended Power: 20-100 watts
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohm
+/- 2 dB from 45 Hz to 14 kHz anechoic
Fb: 39 Hz
F3: 41 Hz
External Dimensions: 14″H x 8.5″W x 12″D