Several years ago, Focal, the well-known speaker manufacturer, entered the headphone market and had an instant impression on the market. Its collection of open- and closed-back headphones quickly rose to the top of the list of the most highly recommended headphones for audio fans.
Earlier this year, Focal went back to its closed-back offering and phased out the Elegia favoring the Celestee, which we’ll be examining today. The Celestee from Focal has a new color scheme as well as a revised driver and tuning for its closed-back design and spoiler alert: it’s fantastic.
As with the rest of the Focal headphone range, there are no significant changes to Celestee’s classic design elements. With navy blue and gold embellishments, the Celestee has a fresh look on the outside. I think it’s a far more controversial color choice than the silver and black of the earlier Elegia headphones.
The earcups have a novel “honeycomb” design that replicates the shape of the open back Focal Clear Mg, but the holes are filled rather than covered with debris to retain that closed back look.
The Celestee has some of the most incredible build quality you’ll find at any price. Semi-aniline leather is used to hide the headset’s 430g weight, yet the headband distributes the weight and provides just the appropriate amount of clamping force to ensure that the headphone doesn’t feel too heavy.
A well-built protective case and a 4-foot long cable with a 3.5mm connector and a 6.35mm adaptor are included in the box. Because Focal is advertising the Celestee as a portable headphone, it seems that Focal dropped the balanced XLR wire from its other headphones.
The 40mm ‘M’-shaped aluminum-magnesium dome driver in the Focal Celestee is light and robust at the same time. This driver provides excellent sound quality, which we’ll discuss in detail in the next section.
With the ported Focal logo, air can travel behind the driver to help with bass control and impact. Closed-back headphones need to be able to block out ambient noise, and these achieve just that. The Celestee is an excellent noise-isolation device, eliminating most outside noise while allowing music to get through. Using them in an open workplace atmosphere will not be a problem at all.
It is simple to drive the Focal Celestee headphones with a 35-ohm impedance and 105dB SPL/mW at 1 kHz. A DAC and amp may significantly improve the sound quality of a smartphone’s speakers. Unlike other high-end headphones, headphones with such high sensitivity may be amplified using a low-cost DAC/amp.
The Focal Celestee closed-back headphones are among the best-sounding on the market. Incredibly accurate images and a wealth of detail make these headphones ideal for listening to music. Imaging is so excellent that equipment may be detected behind you.
The Celestee has a good soundstage, although it’s tiny compared to open-back headphones. Music is presented by the Celestee in a forward-facing way, which some may find appealing. This isn’t the best option for those seeking a wide-ranging and relaxing sound.
The Focal Celestee has a warm tonal balance with a significant bump in the bass and sub-bass ranges. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s just a little too much for us. The Focal Clear Mg’s more neutral tone balance is ideal, but the Celestee’s more powerful bass presence and impact are unquestionably exciting. Bass guitars are known for their richness, clarity, and power. Celeste’s ability to generate realistic-sounding kick drums pleased us much.
The boosted bass never overshadows the mids. Natural-sounding vocalists convey a wide range of emotions. We were pleased by the Celestee’s ability to layer instruments effectively, something that would have been impossible with cheaper headphones, resulting in a muddy mess. There are several layers of fast-moving sounds in the soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises, which may sound “fuzzy” on headphones that don’t decay notes rapidly enough.
With its aluminum and magnesium driver, the Celestee performs an excellent job of separating and controlling the many layers of the sound. The highs are fantastic, delivering a shine that doesn’t wear out the ears. While the Celestee’s bass is undeniably impressive, it doesn’t detract from its overall sound quality.