Celestion 100 loudspeaker Page 2

The speaker also lacked definition in the lower midrange, which was generally rather warm-sounding once the speaker had broken in. This was somewhat recording-specific; I noticed it only when playing John Gorka's Jack's Crows (High Street 72902 10309-2). Gorka has both a delightful way with lyrics—"There are girls from New Jersey / Who have that great big hair (foonote 2) / They're found in shopping malls / I will take you there."—and a rich baritone voice that reminds me of the late, great Stan Rogers. Some notes acquired a slight lower-midrange cloud that obscured the voice's distinctive tone color. Exploring this with other simple recordings rich in energy in this region confirmed this observation. Though not really noticeable with the sound of massed cellos, where it presumably just thickened the texture a little, such well-recorded solo instruments as Nathaniel Rosen's superb new double album of romantic music for cello and piano (North Star NS 0027) sounded rather too woody for comfort. In its higher registers, however, solo cello just soared on the Celestions; Stephen Isserlis's instrument on the Tavener recording sounded less vivid but significantly sweeter than on the Monitor Audios.

As might be expected from its narrow baffle, the 100's lateral imaging precision was excellent, the speakers throwing a stable, precisely defined soundstage. This was also apparent with the LEDR test tracks on the Chesky jazz sampler CD (JD37): though the image height on the "Over" track was not as pronounced as it was on the Monitor Audios, it was considerably more stable. Image depth was also good, though individual images seemed to widen as they receded from the listener.

This was noticeable on the soundstage map track on Stereophile's Test CD 2: the further away from the listener Larry Archibald's voice and handclaps were, the more diffuse they sounded. There was also some ambiguity in position for offstage images: when Larry's image was supposed to lie outside the loudspeaker positions (as it does with such speakers as the Thiel CS5s and the Wilson WATTs), the Celestions reproduced it as being behind the speakers and somewhat vague. But when Larry walks past the microphone position on this track (footnote 3), the Celestions did enable me to unambiguously trace the circular track his image takes. (This is because, in a two-channel recording made with crossed, coincident figure-eight mikes, as this was, the mikes' rear-facing lobes produce images that are coincident in stereo space with those from their front lobes, resulting in an image path that approaches the front center position from the rear, moves to the left speaker position, then to the right, then recedes from the center.)

Celestion's Model 100 lived up to its pedigree. The fact that I had some criticisms about its sound—the sometimes grainy low treble at high playback levels; the occasional congestion in the lower midrange; plus the fact that it didn't go that loud—must be set against its competitive price, lack of coloration, excellent imaging, articulate low frequencies, clean high frequencies, and the fact that a pair of 100s on stands will be visually unobtrusive even well away from the walls in a small room. This beautifully finished miniature is recommended, therefore, but it does come under strong competition in the US from the Apogee Centaur Minor and the latest version of the bestselling Vandersteen 2, the 2ce, as well as from its own countryman, the Epos ES11.

Final thoughts
I started this review thinking that, if the listener is prepared to go without low bass and ultimate dynamic range, a small speaker can be as good as a big one. Toward the end of this review period, however, I had the opportunity to listen to the humongous (and ugly) B&W 800s in Larry Archibald's listening room, driven by Krell MDA-500 monoblocks via Krell LF equalizers. (Source was the Proceed CD transport driving the Mark Levinson No.30 and a No.26S preamplifier.)

As well as convincingly reinforcing Lewis Lipnick's Class A rating for this loudspeaker, this experience threw this review's philosophical trade-off into sharp relief. The B&W 800s went loud without even a hint of strain, offering all the low bass typical of the real thing and rendering the sounds produced by the Celestion and Monitor Audio akin to miniatures. This was particularly noticeable on naturally miked recordings with a wide dynamic range, such as the Robert Harley–engineered drum track on Stereophile's Test CD 2. Small speakers may give their owners exquisitely modeled sound, but it is nonetheless a toy version of the real thing.

But if it takes $18,000 of loudspeaker in a large room to reproduce music with its full quota of low frequencies and dynamic range, then I guess a miniature representation is all those of us with regular-size rooms and budgets can or should expect.

Footnote 2: It was David Letterman, I believe, who first explained that "Bon Jovi" was New Jersey French for "big hair," although my Brooklyn-born wife tells me that Long Island is the place to find girls with really big hair.

Footnote 3: See Vol.15 No.5, May 1992, p.97.

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