A tale of two sound envelopes from a single set of speakers from Care Orchestra. Settle back children as Mr Rigby carefully plugs in his Celestial speakers and narrates a new episode of Jackanory*
Before we get to the nitty gritty techie chatter for these speakers, let’s quickly address aesthetics and designation.
The name of these speakers – especially when twinned with the name of the company – sounds exactly like a New Age CD issued around 1996. You know the type, they used to be sold from those tall, card-mounted racks, dominated by Roger Eno, sitting cheek by jowl with boxes of tarot cards, incense and tie-die T-shirts.
Which is odd because, to look at the Celestial speakers themselves, in isolation, they actually appear to be hulking great bruisers. The type of speakers owned by brick layers and hod carriers, sporting even larger mugs for their builder’s tea and unsightly cracks just move the belts of their grubby jeans.
Which goes to show. You can never judge a book by its cover.
To confuse things even further, these speakers are from Italy. A place of style, flair and panache. And not unsightly jeans cracks.
Spanning a more than generous 247 x 351 x 325mm or 9.5 x 14 x 13in (approx.) the Celestials weigh in at a healthy 22kg for the pair or just over 48lb, these 2-way speakers utilise off-the-shelf Scanspeak drivers with a rather curvy wave guide surrounding the tweeter plus a rear-firing bass port. The rear shows some of the largest binding posts I’ve ever seen in my life. They wouldn’t look out of place riveted to the back of the Bismark, while inside the cabling has been supplied by van den Hul.
For a pair of stand-mounted speakers, these designs are remarkably sensitive in operation at 91.5db. Unusual for stand-mounted speakers. The other specification of note is that the Celestials are rated at 4 Ohms. This is a nominal figure so the actual rating should vary over a typical musical performance.
A 4 Ohm figure will trigger alarm bells in some heads. Some of you might be concerned that these speakers will be so hard to drive and your amplifiers may be at risk. Now, I’m not an expert in these matters so I welcome more knowledgable thoughts on this matter but, from what I understand, because of the high sensitivity figure from these speakers, that will off-set any potential power concerns. I certainly had no problems driving these speakers and didn’t experience any strain around my amplifier at all. During my review period, the Celestials performed without any problems at all and didn’t even need gain adjustment when compared to typical 8 Ohm speaker performance.
Even so, for other reasons entirely, that 4 Ohm rating will be a factor, later in this review. So take note.
In terms of driver positioning, the treble units are off-set so you can, if you wish, position them on the inside or outside of the listening position. I preferred the treble units to be placed on the outside. When placed inside, I felt the treble beamed a little, giving the sound a slight edge.
There’s a variety of finishes available for the Celestials including glossy, leather inserts, fabrics, precious woods. You can discuss your needs with the company, direct.
I’ve recently been sound testing a digital transport via Silent Angel and so my copy of Republic from New Order was still in my CD player. I decided to run with that one again. This CD offers a range of frequencies to challenge any set of high-end speakers. Especially when combined by an open and spacious master.
Listening to the Celestial speakers via this track was certainly an experience. Where to start? First impression was one of sonic onslaught. The Celestials look big and they sound it too. The bass was large and bold and massy and imposing. Bass dominated the music and took control. The cabinets hint that the lower frequencies will hunt towards the bottom end of the bass frequency and that was certainly the case here. If you like your bass cavernous and enjoy a grumbling, brooding bass response then the Celestials will certainly give you that. Those who like hard rock, metal and techno will certainly enjoy a window-shaking performance from the Celestials.
Bass wasn’t particularly controlled, though. In fact, bass moved around my listening room like a bull in a china shop. There was no focus or precision here. No organic response. Little in the way of tonal realism and little appreciation of where it needed to sit in the mix. It careered around the soundstage, knocking precious ornaments off carefully positioned shelving, breaking chairs and spilling potted plants all over the floor. I spent half of the sound quality tests chasing these speakers with a brush. Discipline wasn’t a highlight of bass, despite its all-out, energetic and massy delivery.
One specific example of the bass control – or lack of it – was New Order band member, Peter Hook’s bass guitar. Hook was and is one of the most charismatic bass guitarists in music and his bass style is unique. On this track, his work offered a grunt with a growling edge. Via the Celestial speakers though, that growl was there but too veiled to provide the impact I looked for. The best speakers give you growl but they also work with the lower mids to provide a slight bite that takes you back a little. The Celestial speakers gave you a measure of growl but the effect was masked somewhat.
AS FOR TREBLE?
In treble terms? Well, it’s there. Acoustic guitar string plucks registered as did the sweeping of a series of delicate bells during the middle eight. There was a loss of space around the soundstage though, mainly because of the bold and rather intrusive bass response so, while treble did its best, there was a loss of fragility and delicacy. Hence, treble sounded a little forced. As if it was determined to do a job and stamp itself on the music but it tried too hard. It never felt relaxed. Treble never really flowed.
Midrange was good. The central frequency was almost an oasis amongst the frequency chaos. Detail was plentiful. Vocals offered an impressive emotional delivery, guitars were informative, synths provided a certain strength because they were bolstered by a bass power and percussion offered slam.
Moving to the stripped, minimal synth outfit from France, Deux and the track Game and Performance, the response here from this simplified arrangements was better received than the more complex New Order track. Bass was powerful and striking. Treble was rather unstable and a little clinical but the midrange performance under-pinned that adding a sense of support and a measure of quality that did lift the overall song. So again, the midrange tended to drag this song along by sheer force of will.
The effect of all of this conflict was a bit like watching a harried mother, let’s call her Mrs Midrange, walking to the shops with two screaming kids called Master Treble and Little Miss Bass stomping down the road, screaming and acting a little bratty. That’s the effect I got from this track. Mrs Midrange managed to control the situation but with effort.
I thought I’d choose a track that throttled back on the bass to see how the Celestials reacted and so played The Peanut Vendor from The Kings Singers. A song that’s more about harmony vocals than anything else. There’s an upright bass and percussion but not much more.
It’s at this point that I want to focus a little more on the 4 Ohm specification I mentioned earlier. This is where things became…interesting.
4 OHM OPERATION
So far, I had been listening to all of this music in a basic, default 8 Ohm amplifier configuration. Saying that, I’m in the fortunate position of having a second set of speaker outputs on the rear of my monoblock power amplifiers. So, in addition to 8 Ohm outputs, I also have a suite of 4 Ohm outputs. Ideal to connect to 4 Ohm speakers, you might say. So I did, just to see what happened with the Celestials.
The change was dramatic and in a good way. Outputting sound from an amplifier at 4 Ohms changed the personality of the Celestials. Suddenly, the bass was far more polite and well mannered, treble had room to breath and midrange didn’t have to fall around in a semi panic. Performance from all of the music sources improved across the board. OK, bass could have been a little more focused and organic while treble could have offered a touch more delicacy and elegance but still, the improvements were obvious.
The sound might not have been wholly transformed but it certainly was enhanced and for the better. The was far more discipline across the soundstage and detail had a better chance of expressing itself. More air was able to wander across the soundstage which meant that the performers sounded like they had more time, giving the music a much more relaxed attitude.
I have heard some suggestions that the 4 Ohm output from my own monoblocks provides a slightly more linear sound so my own amplifiers might be taming these speakers to some respect but I would certainly test any possible 4 Ohm speaker output that you might be able to access to see what results you get. The results might be well worth the effort.
Most amplifiers will perform in 8 Ohm mode or they will make a best guess across a musical performance around a 4 Ohms to 16 Ohm range and so you may be stuck with your own output mode and hence these speakers, from such a set up, may sound a little chaotic and undisciplined. They still have their good points, that’s true, but the frequency range is rather confused for comfort.
If you are able to switch your amplifier into 4 Ohm mode in some way then give these speakers a demo. In 4 Ohm mode, at least from my system, the Celestial Deep Breath Evo speakers changed their entire outlook. Even here, I wouldn’t call them neutral. There’s slight solid state effect to the sound but it’s a presentation that I’m sure will find plenty of like-minded fans. It’s a sound that offers plenty of focused slam and much more precision in the upper mids.
So, if you can output sound at 4 Ohm, I highly recommend a demo. You may be surprised.
In short then? I would call the Celestial Deep Breath Evos specialist speakers for a specialist audience.
CELESTIAL DEEP BREATH EVO SPEAKERS
GOOD: 4 Ohm mode (solid state presentation, bass slam, precise treble)
BAD: 8 Ohm mode, large footprint
8 Ohm play – 6
4 Ohm play – 7
*Jackanory was an institution. A BBC TV children’s programme, originally broadcast between 1965 and 1996. It was designed to stimulate children’s imaginations and an interest in reading. A low-key, rather calming programme, it featured an actor reading from a children’s novel or folk tale.
[Don’t forget to check out my Patreon Page at www.patreon.com/audiophileman, for exclusive editorial!]
Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Quad ESL-57 Speakers with One Thing mod