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REVIEW: Celestion Ditton 66

My Story
   It was a cold winter day, during the times when I was not really into vintage HiFi. I was new in town and decided to visit local CD shop to see what was there. I discovered that apart from CDs they also had Celestion Ditton 66 - Pair Of Speakers (Thumbnail) massive basement full of vinyl records. What a view! I went for a browse and fallen in love with the music that was playing in the background - one of the soulful tracks by Eric Bibb was playing from the rotating black disc... Sound was coming from a set of old looking speakers, powered by really strange (it was to me at the time) looking amplifier. Despite the fact that an old power cable was used as a speaker cable and secured with a piece of chewing gum, the sound quality was mind blowing - so much warmth and emotion. Without hesitating, I have ask the shop keeper about the music and the equipment. The speakers turned out to be Celestion Ditton 44 powered via vintage Sugden Class A amp (don't remember exact model). This was the time when I realised that sometimes vintage equipment can deliver things that modern can't (there may be different reasons for it, including nostalgia, but it works).
   I've done a lot of research about Celestion, and concluded that higher model, Ditton 66, will be able to deliver same character of the sound as Ditton 44 but with superior clarity. I wasn't in rush to get these speakers but one day, universe reviled to me an opportunity and I became a lucky owner of these beautiful speakers. Ok, I had to spend 4 hours in the car to get them, and the enclosures were in rather bad condition, but they were mine! I was informed that they belonged to a HiFi shop in Cumbria (area in UK) and were used for many years as their reference speakers (this explained tatty enclosures and handle marks on the sides). Well, at least I didn't have to worry about running them in...
   Speakers were upgraded (more on it here) adhering to the factory specifications. Due to this, my views on performance of these speakers' are based on listening to them after the upgrade. One may say that this is not right, but, most of the original caps in the crossovers were nearly 20% out of specs, and therefore, speakers in the original condition did not sound how the manufacturers intended them to do. This basically means that my subjective views below refer to the sound that could be achieved with these speakers with a bit of work. You will not get the same sound if you buy them and leave them in 'original' out of spec condition.

 

Speakers Info
   Instead of trying to write something myself, I have decided that this description from the sales brochure gives a good indication of what we are dealing with here:
"The Ditton 66 is designed to true professional standards of sound accuracy. Its smooth, exceptionally broad frequency response extends well beyond the audible range, its dispersion is wide, and distortion extremely low - less than 0.7% in bass and mid-range at normal listening levels. Its high efficiency (only 4.8 watts input required for 90 dB with pink noise signal) and high power handling capacity result in extremely wide dynamic range. The speaker can accept programme inputs of 80 watts, for 102 dB S.P.L. output - even more on transients. Even the cabinet's distinctive visual design contributes to your listening enjoyment. Its tall, slender silhouette permits maximum enclosure volume in minimum floor space (only 1.2 square feet), while aligning the upper frequency drivers more directly with the usual listening level. Within the cabinet are a superbly matched set of drivers and the Auxiliary Bass Radiator, all aligned on a single vertical axis to minimize diffraction effects. High frequencies are handled by the HF2000 tweeter (specified by the BBC. for monitor use). The mid-range driver is the pressure-dome MD500. And for the bass, a combination of the FC12 bass unit and 12 inch ABR (Auxiliary Bass Radiator) together with the carefully damped enclosure form an acoustic circuit that operates smoothly to frequencies well below 40 Hz. The crossover has resulted from considerable research and crossover points are at 500 Hz and 5000 Hz, 80 watts maximum. 4 - 8 ohm. This monitor loudspeaker system has an exceptionally wide and flat, frequency response."

Factory Specifications:
Frequency Response:
Sensitivity:
Impedance:
Recommended Amplifier:
Drivers:



Crossover Frequencies:
Enclosure Type:
Enclosure Dimensions (HxWxD):
Weight:

Additional Information
Production Year:
Price When Launched:
Equivalent Present Day Price:
Current UK Price:

18 - 40,000Hz
90dB (1W input, measured at 1m)
8Ω (4Ω min.)
10 - 160W
HF - HF2000 25mm (1") Dome
MF - MD500 51mm (2") Dome
LF - FC12 300mm (12") Paper Diaphragm
     300mm (12") ABR (Passive Radiator)
500Hz & 5,000Hz
Closed
1000x380x290mm (40x15x11.5")
26kg (each speaker)


1976
£330 (please get in touch if you have any info about this)
£2,150
£600 to £1,500*
*For a pair.



Look & Feel
   By modern standards these speakers are quite large. Each speaker contains 12" passive radiator, 12" bass driver, 2" dome midrange driver and 1" dome tweeter. The finishing quality of the drivers isn't great. Unevenly spread glue, partially covering driver surrounds; not the best paint finish and all the other little imperfections common in many British speakers from 1970s. All drivers use standard ferrite magnets but the size of the magnets on the midrange drivers is incredible - never seen such a small dome powered by a such a large magnet! Baskets of the bass drivers are made from a nice die cast alloy. Surrounds  of the passive radiators and bass drivers are made from rubber, which survived past 38 years and does not look like it is going to give up any time soon. The tweeter domes are covered with protective metal mesh that often comes off. Luckily, both of mine were in place.
   The original crossovers are hardwired and they are made from components that were available in the 70s, which means - out of specs electrolytic capacitors (with an exception of the tweeter section). But it is not all bad. We have four air core inductors which indicates that manufacturers did not look for savings there.
   Cabinets are made from veneered chipboard, with three internal reinforcements - fairly rigid but we can do much better nowadays. The grilles are made from thin metal (not something that you see very often!) and wrapped with acoustically transparent black material. Not the best solution, but I never listen with the grills on anyway.
   In my opinion, despite some flaws, very good looking speakers, especially versions with veneered fronts. Photos below present the speakers and crossovers after the upgrade.


Sound
   When I plugged in these speakers for the first time, I've had certain expectations in terms of how they are going to sound, mainly from reading multiple comments on forums, however, these speakers sounded way better than I was anticipating. First thing that came to my mind was how balanced these speakers were. After giving them some more time, I've started noticing other things. Deep soundstage and ability of instruments sounding from behind the speakers is only one of them. Another thing is transparency of the sound - it is very good indeed, but not overwhelming. Not an easy thing to achieve. There are many speakers with greater transparency than 66s, but not many that are equally transparent and still not fatiguing to listen.
   The amount of bass generated by 66s is an interesting subject. I was never expecting them to go as low as my Tannoy MG15 in 210 litres BR enclosures. However, on 95% of tracks that I listened, they generated more bass than Tannoys MG15. Intrigued by this, I've plugged in signal generator and started playing. It turned out that between 40 and 80Hz Dittons sounded louder than MG15s, but they dropped rapidly below 40Hz, whereas MG15s continued to generate the sound. As a result of this, MG15s were still generating fairly loud noise at 30Hz where as 66s were nearly silent. The conclusion is that very few recordings feature deep bass as we understand it (i.e. 18-30Hz), so getting excited about 18Hz in a sales brochure isn't always a good idea. For example fabulous looking specs of 66s - 18Hz-40kHz - perhaps manufacturer forgotten to mention +/-30dB...
Enough about the technical specs though. The bass generated by these speakers is actually quite good and got some punch, which became clear when I played No Excuses by Alice In Chains from the MTV Unplugged album.
   Midrange and treble are very natural with a bit of warmth to it. This pays of when listening to more atmospheric tracks like Lost and Lookin' by Sam Cooke, where that little bit of warmth plays an important role in engagement with the track. On the other hand, the same thing that makes Celestions engaging in quiet tracks, makes them less engaging on busier tracks. That is not to say that they will sound flat on busy tracks. Far from that! They will still sound better than most of speakers within this price range, however, there there many speakers out there that will play the busy passages with greater level of separation/transparency.
   What these speakers do best is natural presentation of vocals, clapping and pianos, not to mention the balanced sound across the whole frequency range. Where they could potentially improve is separation and depth of the sound stage.



Conclusion
   Extremely good speakers, really good value for money. Clear and full bodied sound with plenty of dynamics and well controlled deep bass. Good all-rounders.
 

Balance of Sound:  
Neutrality of Tone:  
Transparency:  
Soundstage:  
Attack:  
Engagement:  
TOTAL:  

Please note - if you want to know what I mean be the descriptions above, hover you mouse over them. More detailed information will be available in separate section of this website.

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