Celestion SL700 loudspeaker Page 3
Unusually, but a good thing too at the price, the SL700s are supplied complete with matching stands, also finished in gray Nextel. A single-pillar design, these are made from aluminum and are supplied packed flat and have to be assembled by the owner. The instructions are very clear, and once assembled, the extruded pillar is filled with sand and lead shot (supplied) to give a total weight with speaker of 55¼ lbs. The base has four adjustable spikes, to enable the stand to be leveled on any surface and to provide a good mechanical ground for the speaker, while the top plate has an array of three upward-pointing cones which make contact with matching recesses in the speaker's base to provide the maximum coupling. Two bolts then lock the speaker to the stand.
The well-written booklet supplied with the SL700 gives excellent, unambiguous advice on siting the speakers for the best performance, as well as instructions for bi-wiring and bi-amping. Unlike the SL600s, the '700s need to be relatively close to the room boundaries: I found that 18" out from the rear wall was optimum. Celestion recommends that the side walls need to be between 2' and 4' away from the speakers. This wasn't possible in my room, and I settled on 5' as giving the best balance between stage width and LF-response uniformity.
I started off using conventional wiring with Monster M1 with both the Krell KSA-50 and VTL 100W monos, then switched to bi-wiring with two runs of M1. The difference is subtle but important. A slight propensity for treble hardness and too much "grain," particularly with the VTL amps, completely disappeared in the bi-wired set-up. The degree of bass control with the VTL when bi-wired approached that of the single-wired Krell. The bi-wired Krell went subjectively deeper than the single-wired. All my serious listening was done in bi-wired mode, which I regard as mandatory if you are to obtain all the performance you have paid for with this speaker.
So, the sound: Coming so soon after the Acoustic Energy AE1, it was a shock to hear how similar these two speakers are. Both project a holographic stereo stage. Both give a superbly natural string tone—even on vintage recordings like the Bruno Walter Mahler 1! Both reproduce human voice par excellence. But I found the SL700 edging ahead in the straightaways: the sense of depth with the Celestions was—well, you could consistently hear the recording venue just that little bit more clearly. Instruments were presented with—here's that phrase again—palpable presence, but it was just that little bit more palp...real.
In the session that produced the E-major Chopin Waltz for the HFN/RR Test CD, I also recorded Anna-Maria Stanczyk performing Chopin's Op.81 Scherzo. This heroic work starts with a double run in the bass up to the dominant F—buddle-up buddle-up. Anna plays with more of a staccato feel than, say, Ashkenazy, and in the abrupt silence following each "buddle-up," you hear the walls, way beyond and behind the speaker positions.
The low frequencies, however, were where the SL700s gained a commanding lead. Still depressed in level compared with models having true 20Hz extension (and the real thing, of course), there was nevertheless sufficient low bass to support the music's infrastructure. In Mahler's Symphony 4, for example, the third movement features some of the most suspenseful string writing ever, with long cadences that are almost painfully sweet in their partial or full resolution. There is one passage where the music hinges on a pedal G to plunge down to the double bass's open 32Hz C, doubled an octave higher. Live, you shudder; I conjecture that via the Infinity IRS Betas you would shudder; via the SL700s, you almost shudder, astonishing bass performance for a 12-liter enclosure. And in the Chopin Scherzo recording, the left hand of the piano almost gets full measure when it thunders out low B-flats.
The difference between ordinary box loudspeakers and high-resolution models like the SL600 and SL700 can be characterized in the different ways in which they reproduce my own instrument, bass guitar. A conventional speaker allows the listener to appreciate what is going on, but the slight nuances of detail, particularly concerning the leading edge of the sound with its rich and complex spectrum, the detail which distinguishes different players and different instruments, can easily be overlooked. One ends up with a generic bass-guitar sound. But with the '700, even more so than the '600, one can effectively rejoice in the differences revealed: from the plucked and hammered roar of Marcus Miller; to the subterranean 16' purr of Anthony Jackson; to the bloated power of Phil Lesh; to the Rickenbacker twang of Chris Squire; to the bubbling funk of Willie Weeks's Fender Precision; to the steely, all-thumbs staccato of Larry Graham's Fender Jazz; to the combination of legato fluidity and hard harmonics produced by Jaco Pastorius's fretless Jazz; to the wiry electronic sound of Stanley Clarke's Alembic; even to the less inspirational sounds of my own 1964 Precision—all stand revealed by the '700, even though by the standards of many it doesn't have a sufficient measure of low bass.