Celestion 3000 Ribbon Loudspeakers Reviewed

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Out came Old Faithful, my Radford SA25 Mk IV. Talk about a

transition. The spit and sizzle disappeared, without taking away

any of the top end information. But I was still in a quandary.

How valid is a review of an affordable new speaker with an

out-of-production amplifier with a circa #1000 price tag? Relief

came in the form of Antony Michaelson, who dropped by with the

Musical Fidelity B1 (#199) and A100 (#499) integrated amplifiers,

products which you can buy and which you shouldn't have too hard

a time finding in shops which also sell Celestion. The results

were absolute bliss, so -- for those of you who crave the 3000 --

you can drive 'em with a #199 integrated amp and still get almost

all they can deliver bar the absolute dynamics. As for the A100,

well, why spend more?

Before launching into a description of the performance, let me

put you into the right frame of mind. I have this crazy image of

polyester suited sales reps in countries like the USA running

around hyping the new Celestion hybrids with lines like 'They

blow away Apogees/Mangenpans/etc'. Let me tell you from the outset

that these speakers cannot be compared to full-range ribbons or

any other dipoles because there are certain things which the

3000s cannot do. For starters, they are nowhere near as

'open-sounding' or transparent as dipoles. Furthermore, the bass

has a distinctly cone-like speed and control which dipoles (or

affordable ones, at least) can't emulate. It is unfair to compare

the Celestion to dipoles -- ribbon tweeter or not -- because

they can't compete. They should be compared to other boxes...in

which case they'll clean up. I suggest that Celestion sacks any

rep who employs the above practice, because he or she obviously

doesn't understand the product, the market, hi-fi or


What the Celestion does to boxes in its price class is elevate

the standards by a frightening degree. Given that the speakers

will compete with like-priced, like-dimensioned boxes, I expect

that Celestion shares are the ones to buy for those of you with

stock portfolios. Talk about high-end for the poor...

I've settled on one track which tells me more about a product

under review than any dozen can. It's my crash course in hi-fi

assessment; anything I listen to afterwards is simply for

confirmation. The track is the CD single version of Willy De

Ville's 'Assassin of Love', which even Antony -- a classical-only

type who thinks that Fleetwood Mac is a village in Berkshire --

found to be revealing in excelsis. It tests, with great

authority, the following: bass extension; bass control; transient

attack, decay and recovery; stage width, depth and height; vocal

textures; sibilance; scale; image specificity; 'layering' and a

whole lot more. The 3000 sailed through with flying colors.

It was through the use of this disc that I learned how the 3000s

could convert power and scale without compression, and do a damned

fine 'disappearing act' of near-dipole invisibility. Another test

disc, supplied by Antony, yielded a second opinion. The recording

in a church of some classical bit to do with Daniel and the lions

proved the 3000s capable of replicating the sound of a massive,

echo-y venue, the procession starting far behind the back wall

and ending in front of the line of the speakers. So far so good.

In absolute terms, the Celestion's staging capabilities were of

an order so far beyond what is expected at this price point that

I wanted only to listen to other 3-D extravaganzas. More telling,

though, was the utter independence which the listener has, with

seating three abreast not resulting in a fight for centre

position. This, my friends, is the perfect speaker for those of

you who eschew onanistic listening practices and prefer to share

the music with others. And it's one area where price doesn't

enter into the equation, because in this respect I reckon that

the 3000 beats all comers.

The other feat performed by Celestion which makes the 3000 so

special is its seamlessness. This speaker is the first hybrid

I've used which shows no joins, the bass driver having been

tailored to the ribbon (or vice versa) with such overwhelming

synergy that you're forgiven for thinking that it's a full-range

system. The result is an 'of a whole' sonic spectrum, with

consistent speed, clarity and low coloration throughout.

The sound is drier than that of, say, the Apogee Diva, less rich

and a shade cooler, but it only sounds clinical or hygienic when

paired with too dry an amplifier. The two Musical Fidelity amps

and the Radford were perfectly capable of keeping the 3000 from

sounding too much like hi-fi rather than music, so I'd suggest

that you audition the Celestions with amps in that vein. Lord

knows what these would sound like with -- no, I'd better not name


So what do you get by spending more? At #699 per pair (or #858

including the mandatory stands), the 3000 has revised the

expectations of a purchaser with under #1000 to spend. What you

get from the floor-standing model 7000 is greater bass, dynamics

and power handling. What you get from other speakers, like the

Quad ESLs, Apogees, Martin-Logans et al is more transparency.

True, the Celestion has a finely-grained texture all of its own,

but it's euphonic and -- sighs of relief from Ipswich -- utterly

consistent from top to bottom. In other words, you'll have to pay

at least the same amount again to remove one or two rather

diaphanous veils.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the best speaker money can buy

for under #1k, provided that the purchaser understands the

critical nature of matching this to a sonically sympathetic

amplifier. In basic terms, driving these is no great challenge, so

you don't have to spend your readies on sheer power. With a

beauty like the B1, the combination is a bargain for would-be

high-enders. So don't think of these as a poor man's Apogees.

Regard them instead as Everyman's ribbon.

Additional Resources

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HTR Product Rating for Celestion 3000 Ribbon Loudspeakers

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