Celestion SL700 Loudspeaker System Reviewed

Celestion SL700 Loudspeaker System Reviewed

While the SL700 does play louder than its predecessor, the real meat of this product is the bass, which "conveys more weight and richness." The imaging "remained precise and accurate." Our reviewer felt it was so silky sounding, "they could have been spun by worms."

CELESTIONSL-700SE-Reviewed.gifLove-hate reponses suggest a strong personality. I detest, for

example, the mere thought of Tony Hancock; my closest friends
think he was the funniest man since Will Hay. I adore Chinese
food; other friends would rather die of starvation that dig into
some dim sum. In hi-fi, we rarely find responses to equipment
which are quite so extreme (political influences aside, of
course), but the SL-series Celestions have always elicited
polarized opinions.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to integrate with the Celestion SL-700s.

It goes back almost a decade, to the launch of the original SL6.
I thought it sounded like a speaker in search of a tweeter and
the Celestion rep at the time thought I needed serious medical
treatment. Turns out that the original did have a reticent top
end, to put it mildly, and Celestion eventually sorted it out.

By the time the SL600 appeared, with the first of the Aerolam
cabinets, consumers, retailers and press were split into camps
about as far apart as Labour and Conservative. Being neither a
bass junkie, someone who must hear gigahertz nor a glutton for
SPLs, I didn't mind sacrifices in those areas. Why? Because a
well-installed pair of SL600s could handle images like a Leica
and you could listen to 'em for hours on end. Sure, you'd turn up
the wick and it would sound like a game of ¬Robocop¬ on an IBM PC,
but what the heck. You want loud, look elsewhere. You want deep,
deep bass and the highest highs? Ditto.

This, of course, didn't help Celestion, because it limited the
potential market for the SL600 and the later SL700. Still, the
stalwart supporters, myself included, remained affectionately
predisposed toward the Nextel-clad box, while the model's
detractors remained unimpressed. And if I remember my perusal of
the US audiophile press, the SL700 was one of those speakers
which drove a top scribe to write reams about how the British
don't understand bass. (I don't wish to reopen that debate; let's
just say that TDL, KEF, B&W, Mission and the rest have nothing to
fear as far as I'm concerned.)

Anyway, Celestion decided to address the areas of criticism,
namely bass extension and power handling, with careful
re-engineering which would justify the 'Special Edition' tag.
Everything is on the inside, and I wouldn't have known that the
pair which arrived for review was an 'SE' if it hadn't been for
the rather precious certificate packed with the owner's manual,
proclaiming that the owner (name to be filled in) now possessed a
pair of Special Editions.

It's still the same handsome grey box, supplied with those
magnificent dedicated stands. The frontal aspect is the familiar
grooved, cast baffle and the back still sports those pathetic
banana-plug-only sockets, too far apart for spaced plugs. (I
can't remember who defended them with the lamest excuse I've ever
heard, but it went something along the lines of Europe or Japan
not allowing 19mm spaced sockets because they'd accept certain
mains plugs. To that I'd reply with a rather gratuitous
four-letter-word followed by ''em', but this is a family
magazine.)

The major change is a refined voice coil assembly which increases
the throw of the bass driver, in itself enough to raise the level
where the speaker would begin to shriek in pain. The crossover
has been realigned for acoustic 3rd order high and low pass
filtering. The sensitivity of the speaker is now more consistent
throughout the bandwidth, for smoother, flatter response. The
SL700 SE came supplied with individual frequency response graphs
which showed a remarkably flat response, beautifully consistent
and virtually identical for the two samples, but it still
revealed a roll-off below 80Hz which wouldn't inspire a rap fan
to dip into his pocket, while the valley at 15kHz may disappoint
someone who wants the frequency response of an EMIT tweeter. Then
again, such scraps of paper have about as much meaning in the
real world as a politician's promise, so their inclusion here is
strictly for those who live life by the numbers.

Internal ingredients on the crossover include low-loss capacitors
and solid-core cable (why, for God's sake?), the latter
oxygen-free. The crossover is hardwired and suspended in the
acoustic foam within the enclosure. Normal practice finds most
crossovers firmly attached to the cabinet wall; Celestion opted
for a floater to reduce interference from vibration. The cabinet
is the familiar Aerolam box made more rigid with a figure of
eight brace, this structure being noted for stiffness and low
energy storage. And one thing which SL700s never have suffered is
any form of mechanically-induced smearing.

One other thing's also for certain: the Special Edition is far
less amplifier-sensitive that its predecessor, and I managed to
employ the speaker with the diminutive Musical Fidelity B1 as
well as the Couterpoint SA-100 and Aragon 4004. Why this should
be of any concern I just don't know, because I can't imagine any
sane individual using speakers selling for #1399 per pair with
budget or mediocre amps. If they do, they should be shot. So
making the SL700 suitable for undistinguished amps is like
anticipating the use of recapped tyres on a 911 Turbo. Madness.

Read Much more on Page 2

CELESTIONSL-700SE-Reviewed.gif

It didn't take too much to test the claims of higher power
handling. Yes, the Celestion SL700 Special Edition will take more of a

hammering than the earlier model. No, it will not fill Wembley
Arena. Simple. You wanted a few extra dB, you got 'em. As far as
I'm concerned, it makes no difference, because I do not -- repeat
DO NOT -- bang head. Never have, never will. Anyway, people who
need decibels in the three-figure-plus arena are noise-polluting
savages with messed-up hearing who shouldn't be allowed to own
refined components. Still, another gain which some of you
demanded has been acquired.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to integrate with the Celestion SL-700s.

Now to the real meat: the bass. Again, I lived quite contentedly
with whatever poured out of the SL700, but I do accept that the
sound was too light to be truly convincing on anything other than
small-scale works. Let's face it: this is still a small speaker.
A TDL at half the price and twice the volume will embarrass this
in the lower octaves, and I wouldn't even want to place the '700
next to its far cheaper sibling, the Celestion 5. But, as far as
this speaker is concerned vis a vis its predecessor, yes, the
Special Edition conveys more weight and richness.

Fortunately, I could detect no sacrifices made to achieve these
gains. The imaging remained precise and accurate, with critical
establishment of toe-in still mandatory if such realism is
required. It's still a fine line between a wide spread and a
hole-in-the-middle.

And the SL700 is still as smooth as an Italian wine waiter.
Silky? They could have been spun by worms. Thank goodness the top
end was left alone -- deliberately or accidentally -- and there's
still plenty of detail without a trace of grain or unwanted edge.
On the other hand, these are not the speakers if you demand
heart-stopping transients. Which means that, yes, many will still
find the SL700 to sound, shall we say, polite .

Hey, I may be coarse and American, but there are times when I
revel in finesse and abhor anything brash. The SL700 Special
Edition, like its forebear, thrills me because it doesn't demand
any masochism on my part. Yes, it's polite, but that doesn't mean
you can get away with inferior components. I said it worked with
a wide variety of amplifiers. I didn't, however, suggest that you
can derive the most it has to offer by tagging it on to a budget
amp. Yes, the B1 drives it, and I'm sure that those hot Pioneer
units which have everybody running around in circles will deliver
a goodly percentage of what the speaker has to offer. But if you
want 100%, the amplifiers must be able to match the smoothness
and consistency which the Celestion is capable of expressing.

I've been enjoying SL700s, and '600s before them, for longer than
I care to remember. I don't need convincing, which may explain
why I'm not doing handstands or putting Graham Bank's name
forward for an OBE. The SL700 was already a good speaker. The
Special Edition isn't so much better as it is 'more widely
appealing'. It just irks me that Celestion felt the need to take
a classy speaker and tweak it so that it would appeal to
Philistines who want DC-to-light frequency response and the sound
pressure levels of the Dead's PA system out of what has always
been a refined small monitor. I suppose it's about as irksome to
me as would be the installation of air conditioning in an Alfa
Spider, or autofocus on an Alpa. But the customer is always
right, so I suppose that it will increase sales, now that the
shop assistants don't have to worry about blowing speakers during
demos. Ironically, these Philistines will still be buying one of
the most civilized speakers on the market. It's not unlike
allowing a regular at McDonald's to eat at L'Escargot.

It's crazy, huh? We live in a world so crass that Celestion was
forced to add a touch of the Rambos to the James Mason of
loudspeakers. You figure it out.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to integrate with the Celestion SL-700s.

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