Celestion SL700 loudspeaker Sam Tellig 1992
Brass Ear put me on to the Celestion SL700SE. "The imaging is great, almost comparable to Wilson WATTs," he raved, as his own pair of Celestion SL700SEs went out the door. Appropriately, he sold them to a musician.
Two things attract me to the 700s. First, instrumental and vocal timbres seem to be just right. Few speakers get it so right. The Spendor S100 does. So does the Thiel CS2.2. And the Quad ESL-63. You can add the Celestion 700SE to this list.
Second, the imaging is fabulous, like the Brass Ear said. Maybe Brass should have kept these—but he wanted more bass. And these are relatively small, stand-situated speakers.
Tonally, the top end of the Celestion is forgiving. This is not one of those hyperdetailed audiophile speakers whose top end is merciless (there are plenty of such speakers). If anything, the top end seemed slightly rolled off, in my system.
What was my system when I had the Celestions? Gad—I forget. This was several months back. The amps were the Krell KSA-150 and the B&K ST-140 balanced monos. For a while, I had the Quicksilver Silver Monos. All these amps were up to driving the speakers. But in retrospect, I think that all of them may have sounded a bit soft in and of themselves—perhaps not the ideal match for these speakers, which might like an amp such as the Electrocompaniet AW 100—something with a little more punch and zip.
Punch and zip is what these speakers lack. Dynamically, they don't open up. The sound hasn't enough bark, enough bite—even when the music demands it.
Soundstaging was excellent—a big improvement over the wide-box Spendors. And imaging—the placement of soloists and their instruments within this soundstage—was first-rate. Midrange instrumental timbres—and that's where most of the music is—had a seductive sweetness. Still, I ultimately found the speakers boring.
You may disagree. Go listen to these speakers. They're on Stereophile's "Recommended Components" list, and they should be. With the right amp in the right system, in the right room (preferably a small room, I think), they might be capable of magic. At $3299/pair, including mandatory, dedicated stands, they're not cheap. On the other hand, looking at speakers such as the Monitor Audio Studio 20s, I could hardly call them overpriced.
Howie Hyperfy came by as I finished listening to the 700s.
"Can I borrow them?" he asked. "I'm thinking about buying a pair."
"Go ahead. Be careful. The metal cabinets are easily damaged: the paint is easy to chip off."
"I'll wrap them in a blanket," said Howie.
Of course, the Celestions were not for Howie, as I knew from the start. They don't throw detail at you, and Howie loves detail—they don't call him "hyperfy" for nothing. And the Celestions didn't dig deep enough for Howie. He likes "tons of bass, tons of bass, bass all over the place."
Howie went through several pairs of speakers after borrowing the Celestions, and now he has Wilson WATT/Puppies. I think it's because he's been spending time chez Lars.
I know how to get to Howie.
"The speakers are great, Howie. But you should hear the sound over at Lars's."