CSS Speaker Kits: A DIY Audiophile Dream

Do you have a passion for DIY projects and high-quality sound? Look no further than Creative Sound Solutions (CSS) and their range of amazing speaker kits. With their top-of-the-line drivers, custom crossovers, and carefully designed cabinets, CSS allows you to create your own perfect speakers. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at one of their popular kits, the Criton 1TD version 2.

Component Overview:

Tweeter:

CSS offers a tweeter that is perfect for the high end of the audio spectrum. With a 22mm dome, slightly larger than the standard 1 inch, this tweeter provides excellent performance at an affordable price of $65. The unique design, featuring neodymium rings and a specially designed rear chamber, sets it apart from other tweeters on the market.

Woofer:

The woofer is the star of the show, showcasing CSS’s expertise in driver production. Crafted with a combination of paper products, rubber compounds, cast aluminum, copper, and magnets, this woofer delivers exceptional low distortion and a smooth, linear bass response. With a low FS of 30Hz and an efficiency of 89dB, it offers incredible control and clarity.

Crossover:

The crossover in the CSS Criton 1TD kit is truly high-end. It features top-of-the-line components such as Jantzen Z-Superior Caps, precision resistors from Mills, and a Dayton air core inductor. This level of attention to detail ensures the best possible sound reproduction.

Cabinet:

The cabinet provided with the kit is glossy, sturdy, and well-built. CSS offers both a flat box version and a rounded Dayton cabinet option. For those looking to save some money or add a personal touch, CSS also offers an unfinished MDF knockdown kit for $115.

Port:

The kit includes a port with a tube, which is most likely tuned to around 50-55Hz. Although there are no flares on the port, there is no audible chuffing or leakage.

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Terminals:

The nickel-colored terminals included with the kit are functional and visually appealing. The only minor drawback is that they stick out slightly.

Grills:

Although grills are provided, they were not used during testing. However, they appear to be transparent and without any noticeable acoustic issues.

Desktop Listening Notes:

The CSS Criton 1TD Kit delivers a smooth, clear sound throughout the midrange without any cone breakup or comb filtering issues. It’s worth mentioning that there is absolutely no cone breakup whatsoever. This is a breath of fresh air for those of us with sensitive ears. The clarity of these speakers surpasses that of off-the-shelf options, though there might be a slight rise in the treble response. This can be attributed to diffraction or higher order mode related to horn loading. Furthermore, the lower midrange and transition to bass are exceptional, with a slight bump that adds to the overall performance. However, to achieve a “full range” sound, a subwoofer or DSP bass boost will be necessary.

Living Room Listening Notes:

When used with a phone and an SMSL SA50 amplifier, the CSS Criton 1TD Kit delivers more than enough power for most situations. Similar to the desktop experience, the speakers excel in performance but might sound slightly brighter than desired due to the lack of deep bass.

Measurements:

The frequency response of the CSS Criton 1TD Kit is astonishingly flat, with a variation of only +-1dB. Despite this impressive accuracy, slight coloration can still be observed in off-axis situations. The off-axis response reveals a small dip around 1.5kHz, resulting from the mismatch between the small tweeter and the large midwoofer. While this is an inherent characteristic of the design, using a thick felt ring or another absorber around the tweeter can help alleviate this issue. Overall, the off-axis behavior is well-behaved, with only a 3dB reduction at 60 degrees off-axis. It’s worth noting that this dispersion mismatch might contribute to the perceived increase in detail and a slight loudness button effect.

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DSP Correction:

Although attempts were made to EQ the dispersion mismatch, no sonic improvement was achieved. The speakers are already inherently flat, requiring no correction. However, there is some room for bass extension enhancement, which can be easily accomplished with a 6dB bass boost. This modification is not excessive and works well in most medium-sized living rooms. After the DSP correction, the speakers exhibit impressive bass extension, eliminating any concerns about rising treble. This improved bass performance also contributes to a balanced tonal experience.

Final Thoughts:

Creative Sound Solutions has truly created a masterpiece with their CSS Criton 1TD Kit. While the tweeter is good, there are better options available at higher price points. However, the woofer is truly exceptional and easily competes with more expensive alternatives. The high-end crossover components are a little overkill, but they cater to the demands of the boutique DIY community. If we had to pick from CSS’s range of kits, we would recommend either the larger ported version of the Criton 1TD, hoping for slightly deeper bass, or the sealed version paired with a subwoofer for full low-end coverage. The bare bones kit is priced at $425, while the full kit with a flat pack costs $590. Alternatively, you can opt for ready-to-go speakers with professionally built cabinets for $850. Regardless of your choice, CSS guarantees that you get what you pay for when it comes to DIY audio. For those interested, CSS also offers subwoofers that seamlessly integrate with their speakers. The possibilities for creating a customized, high-end audio setup are endless!

Review Scores:

  • Build Quality: Tweeter – 7, Woofer – 9, Cabinet – 7, Features – 4, Crossover – 8, Amp Subwoofer – Score: 7.0
  • Sound Quality: Neutrality – 9, Bass – 7, Extension – 4, Treble – 6, Midrange – 8, Headroom – 8, Dispersion – 4, Detail – 8, Imaging – 6, Score: 6.7
  • DSP Sound Quality: Neutrality – 9, Bass – 8, Extension – 6, Treble – 7, Midrange – 8, Headroom – 7, Dispersion – 4, Detail – 8, Imaging – 6, Score: 7.0
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Click here to buy a Creative Sound Solutions Criton 1TD Bookshelf Speaker Kit.

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