Celestion Ditton 15 Review

My Story

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.

Please note – usually before reviewing vintage speakers, I recap the crossovers to ensure that capacitors are within manufacturer’s specification. On this occasion, caps were within the specs, so there was no need to replace them. Also, bear in mind that purchasing vintage speakers is always a gamble. 30 and often 50 years it’s a long time, and one can never be sure how this time affected driver suspension compliance, ferrofluid cooling is some tweeters, etc. Consequently, it is possible that the Celestion Ditton 15 that you have purchased will sound different than the pair I reviewed.

Speaker Info

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.
 
 

Celestion Ditton 15 Specs
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 (8″) ABR (Passive Radiator)
Crossover Frequencies: 3,000Hz
Enclosure Type: Closed
Enclosure Dimensions (HxWxD): 535x235x242mm (21×9.25×9.5″)
Weight: 8.5kg (each speaker)
Production Year: 1971
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 Speakers

These Celestion Ditton 15, 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 in the Celestion Ditton 15, 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 of the Celestion Ditton 15 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.

If you, like myself, want your music to sound realistic, you will immediately notice lack of bottom end from these Celestion Ditton 15 speakers. This feeling is further emphasised by the hot treble. There are number of small bookshelf speakers (e.g. Audiomaster MLS1) that can fool you into thinking that you are hearing full frequency spectrum, but Ditton 15s are not one of them. The quality of the low end they produce is good, however, there is just not enough of it. Even on bass-rich songs such us This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads they just don’t produce enough oomph and bass extension in relation to all other frequencies. This is also very noticeable on pianos and bass guitars, where they sound rather lean.

In terms of midrange and treble, the Celestion Ditton 15 speakers appear to be fairly transparent, and on relatively simple songs such as Sweet by Dave Matthews Band they can sound very good. However, their perceived transparency is more of a result of the boosted treble, rather 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 micro-details that create recording atmosphere are just not there.
If you had read any of my previous reviews, you might have noticed that I often test how well the 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. 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).
The soundstage appears deep and wide which is great, however, the imaging and placement within that soundstage is somewhat fuzzy and not precise.

I had great hopes for these speakers, because of impressive sound of their bigger brothers, 44s and 66s, however, these small bookshelves are a bit of a disappointment. If you are looking for a small vintage speakers and your don’t mind paying more, perhaps consider Celestion SL6 which are far superiors to these. On the other had, there are number of happy Celestion Ditton 15 users, so I wonder if perhaps the reviewed pair did not age as well as theirs.


 

Conclusion

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: 2 grey stars
Neutrality of Tone: 3 grey stars
Transparency: 3 grey stars
Soundstage: 3 grey stars
Attack: 2.5 grey stars
Engagement: 1.5 grey stars
Total Score: 2.5 red stars

 

Songs Mentioned In This Review

Dave Matthews Band – Sweet
Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
 

Reviewed: March 2016 | Published: June 2016

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