I have developed great appreciation for vintage Celestion speakers, after my experience with the top of the range model, Ditton 66; and I always wondered how small bookshelves from the same manufacturer would sound like.
To my knowledge, the smallest speakers made by Celestion during 70s were the Ditton 10. However, they rarely appear on eBay, so I decided to purchase a pair of slightly bigger, Celestion Ditton 15. These on the other hand frequently appear on eBay, and you can pick a pair in decent condition for around 100 GBP.
Just to clarify – usually before reviewing vintage speakers, I recap the crossovers to ensure that capacitors are within manufacturer’s specification. On this occasion, caps were within specs, so there was no need for a recap, so this is the review of unmodified speakers.
Celestion Ditton 15 were launched in 1966 and were one of the smallest speakers in Celestion’s offer (the smallest speaker in the offer was Ditton 10, shortly followed by County, Ditton 15, Ditton 44 Monitor, Ditton 25 and Ditton 66 Monitor).
The Ditton 15 is a two way construction with 1″ dome tweeter, 8″ bass driver and 8″ passive radiator, housed in a relatively rigid, braced enclosure. There is a first order filter feeding the bass driver and a second order filter feeding the tweeter, so a fairly simple crossover setup.
From what I gathered, back in the day, these speakers offered very good value for money and sold in thousands in the late 60s and early 70s. According to the Internet sources, Celestion Ditton 15 were eagerly sought after by the stereo conscious public, and became the biggest selling bookshelf loudspeaker of its time.
|Frequency Response:||30 – 15,000Hz|
|Sensitivity:||90dB (1W input, measured at 1m)|
|Impedance:||8Ω (4Ω min.)|
|Power Capacity:||30W (continuous program)|
|High Frequency Driver:||HF1300 25mm (1″) Dome|
|Low Frequency Driver:||200mm (8″) Paper Diaphragm and 200mm ABR (Passive Radiator)|
|Enclosure Dimensions (HxWxD):||535x235x242mm (21×9.25×9.5″)|
|Weight:||8.5kg (each speaker)|
|Price When Launched:||£60 for a pair|
|Equivalent Present Day Price:||£840 for a pair|
|Current UK Price:||£60 to £150 for a pair|
Look & Feel of Celestion Ditton 15
These Celestions, in my humble opinion, are very pretty to look at, especially with the grills on. Finishing quality of the enclosures and majority of components is very good indeed. Enclosures are made from 15mm chipboard with couple of bracings inside and veneered all the way around. To reduce enclosure vibrations, thick ‘dynamat like’ damping panels were attached to internal walls (visible on the photos). Enclosures are tightly packed with foam but not all of it is visible on the photos as large amount was removed to allow internal photographs.
The crossovers are made from basic components that were available in the early 70s, which is no surprise. The drivers on the other hand are very well made. The tweeter, is the well know driver with a built in turbine grille, used in many other legendary constructions including Spendor BC1 – you can find out more about this driver here. The bass driver is an 8in paper diaphragm coated with some sort of rubbery looking substance (most likely to dampen resonances) and driven by a medium size ferrite magnet and suspended on long lasting rubber surround. The basket is made from very rigid cast alloy. The passive radiator shares the design topology with other speakers from the Ditton range. It is a light polystyrene piston, with surrounds on both side of the piston – very different to passive radiators available nowadays.
Sound of Celestion Ditton 15
After first listening test I had to check my amplifier to ensure that the treble knob is in the level position… The first impression I got was that there was a bit too much treble in comparison to the other frequencies. People often describe this type of sound as bright. I was a little surprised to see this, as I was expecting the relatively early roll-off of the tweeter to create adverse effect (i.e. lack of treble). It shows how little musical information there is above 15kHz.
The Celestion Ditton 15 speakers appear to be fairly transparent, however, their perceived transparency is more of a result of the boosted treble than a characteristic of the actual speakers. Complicated music passages show it clearly, where little Dittons often struggle to keep up. Another bad news is that they don’t seem to have much room around the instruments – these microlevel details that create recording atmosphere are just not there. The soundstage appears deep and wide, however, the imaging is not great. These speakers are good at reproducing male vocals, and I really enjoyed listening to Frank Sinatra on them (not necessary the most realistic reproduction, yet, still enjoyable).
If you had read any of my previous reviews, you might have noticed that I often test how well speakers reproduce clapping. I found that a lot of speakers struggle to realistically reproduce it, which often sounds more like frying something on a pan than clapping. Unfortunately Celestions Ditton 15 make clapping sound more like frying. Saxophones and other instruments sound OK but are nothing to write home about. Not to mention relatively weak attack.
I had great hopes for these speakers, because of impressive sound of their bigger brothers, 44s and 66s, however, these small bookshelf speakers are a bit of a disappointment.
Celestion Ditton 15 are pretty little speakers with relatively clean and bright sound. Quite unbalanced though, with treble dominating over all other frequencies. Not very engaging to listen.
|Balance of Sound:|
|Neutrality of Tone:|