In terms of sheer product output, Focal has won the start of the year in the audiophile headphone world. It’s only March, and we’ve had the Clear MG and the Clear MG Professional making their way onto the market and meet with much-expected praise. The Celestee was actually the first headphone to be announced in this slate, following up the Elegia in their closed-back selection. Last year, Focal also released the Radiance, another closed-back as part of a partnership between the French manufacturer and Bently. Being a limited-time model, the Celestee is their long-term closed-back selection, and it comes at the cost of $990. An over-ear headphone from Focal that’s less than a thousand is pretty rare, so I’m interested to find out what kind of headphone the Celestee really is.
What You Get
If you’re familiar with the standard Focal fare, then the packaging of the Celestee will come as no surprise to you. With the Celestee you’ll receive a spiffy-looking carrying case and a selection of cables. Inside the case, if your standard 4ft 3.5mm cable with quarter-inch adapter, which is strangely the only option provided. Focal usually includes at least one more option, whether that be another quarter-inch or XLR, but as it stands the 4ft cable is too short to be the only choice provided.
Look and Feel
Although the Celestee features the same basic construction as all of their other models, this specific style hasn’t let me down yet. It’s like an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” deal. With that being said, the colors here make this one of the nicest looking headphones in their arsenal. The navy blue coloring made the headphone look classy and dignified. It’s quite the upgrade from the Elegia, and even the more highly-priced Stelia. The stainless steel grille has become another Focal staple at this point too, adding to the longevity of the headphones’ future. The earpads are significantly distinct from other Focal headphones though, as they do not feature a perforated design. Instead, the pads are made from semi-aniline leather, with the headband featuring a similar material, but with microfiber inside. Altogether, this makes the Celestee extremely comfortable to wear, as the headphones secure themselves without any added pressure. The cushions are soft and supported well by the housing suspended by Focals standard aluminum yokes.
One of Focals biggest claims to fame is their well-constructed speaker drivers. The Celestee continues the style of Focals interior systems with a 40mm aluminum/magnesium driver. These systems offer unique dynamics and unmatched clarity, with a frequency response that extends to 23kHz.
With most Focal headphones, it’s always best to drive them with some form of DAC/amp, even though the impedance isn’t very high. I mainly used the iFi Zen Can without using the XBass or 3D options, and the amplification was more than sufficient. Most smartphones and laptops with 3.5mm connectors should provide ample signal as well, but might not do these headphones justice with detail retrieval.
Even though closed-back Focal headphones have a grander soundstage than most other brands, I feel like the Celestee only teases its width rather than executes it. While the Celestee offers some decent width and depth, there isn’t a lot of height to the image, making for a more linear experience. There’s a potential for some spaciousness, but the Celestee never properly arrive there even when offering some respectable separation between sound elements. This headphone has no problem making sense of even the most chaotic tracks. On Green Day’s “Insomniac” the guitars, drums, bass, and vocals are simply placed accordingly to their most accurate positions, never bleeding into each other, and coming off incredibly consistent. IT doesn’t have the complexity of other Focal headphones, but being what they are, the Celestee still provides a greater sense of depth and layering than most closed-back headphones can.
Focal headphones have never featured the most bass-centric sound signatures, and while the tonal balance of past models works to its advantage, the Celestee welcomes a meatier low-end response. While the bass isn’t this big, booming tonality, but still delivers enough punch to lift the sound signature considerably. Sub-bass frequencies subtlety resonate, adding some much-needed flavor to the timbre. The low-mids are possibly the most highlighted by the Celestee, as their thicker textures both bring a fair amount of color and balance to the lows altogether, separating themselves from the rest of the response enough to showcase their excellent clarity.
The midrange is just as evenly balanced as the bass. The timbre definitely emphasizes the upper-mids but doesn’t sacrifice any fidelity in the rest of the response in the process. Instruments appear full and deliver some warmer textures with certain intimate performances. Vocals are where the upper-mids really get to work, offering a crisp response that showcases so much detail in the performances. If the stage just had a little more height, this aspect would have made a much more significant impact, but the frequencies are still handled carefully.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of a smooth treble, but on the Celestee it really works. The tonality is laid back and easily digestible. With the type of sound signature the Celestee is going for it fits perfectly. However, the frequencies aren’t at all recessed, and still, exhibit a natural level of detail. It fills out the sound signature while not featuring any key treble coloration that you usually hear.
I’m really happy with what Focal has done here with the Celestee. They offer one of their most consumer-friendly headphones and deliver the sound signature with the high standard you should be used to with the French manufacturer. It holds a unique place in the headphone market, with one of the most significant closed-back models currently available.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Bass, Depth, Build, Fit
Cons, Short cable, More height
The Focal Celestee is available at Audio 46.
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