A fun week was spent hitting a Celestion Gold with a Splawn to see what would come out. Something about this speaker intrigued me since Splawn Fans Forum member Lucidawake drew my attention to it and, like him, I began to wonder how it might handle high gain and the juicy, middy Splawn tone.
As Celestion’s most expensive speaker, with an almost unthinkable MSRP of $475 each — street around $320 — you have to wonder just how good a guitar speaker can sound. Part of the cost, besides simple boutique prestige, is directly linked to materials, specifically the use of cobalt, the ‘Co’ in the speaker’s ‘AlNiCo’ magnet, which is an expensive metal. Part is due to labor; like Celestion’s pricey Heritage range, the Gold is made at its Ipswich, England plant for a little extra mojo, rather than China, where the bulk of the company’s products have been made since, best I can ascertain, 2003.
Many metal guys want as hard and raw a sound as possible, with enough chugging bass to blow the laces off their hi-tops, but that’s not where I’m at. The thought of a sweet, compressy, Voxy speaker being hit by all the lovely complex gain and harmonics of a screaming rock/metal amp was one I couldn’t get out of my head, so I had to try it. I liked what I got.
It’s an entirely different tone than the Eminence Governor/Man-O-War combination I’d been using previously, and, for that reason, really fun to explore. I love the Emi cross, but their aggressive mids and highs are punishing for a sloppy player (hello!) and their ultra revealing, edgy sound isn’t always what I’m going for. The Gold is looser, less efficient, easier for me to get good low volume tone with, and the top is way sweeter. I hear a dense, close-grained detail in the mids that I like. The Emis have mid detail too, but put it out way “forward” if that makes sense, in a stark, spotlit way. There is no discernible mid spike, such as the distinctive upper mid honk of a V30, and though detailed, the mids are pleasantly relaxed and balanced, perhaps even slightly scooped, depending where you’re coming from.
The top end of this speaker, as I hope you’ll hear in the clips below, is not just warm and sweet, it has a unique compressing characteristic when blasted with a gainy amp at good volume, most evident to me in the high notes. For some reason it always puts me in mind of burnt sugar. The notes take on an entirely pleasant ‘strangled’ tone as though they were being wrung from the speaker by hand; long, sweet and rich, like molasses drawn out between jar and spoon.
There is less low end than found in metal-focused speakers such as the Eminence I was replacing. I was typically running the bass at 9 o’clock with the Emis and with an open backed cab the fat was still leaking out and overpowering my sound at times. Not so any more. Although there’s less, what’s there isn’t slow or wooly. It’ll still hold together palm mutes very nicely, just not go CHUG CHUG BOOM.
These clips are mostly pasted together from little bits and pieces a few seconds long I was throwing at the speaker to hear how it’d react, and do not constitute music! Just the kind of aimless burbling you do when no one’s listening. That said, there are a couple of riffs and chord progressions.
And for the committed only, several minutes of sweet Gold feedback
Guitar used on all clips was an old RG550 with Seymour Duncan 59s front and back. No pedals or effects. No EQing or post-processing, besides a smidge of Garageband’s reverb.
Proof, I think, that the Celestion Gold does have a high gain application. These need not just be paired with Voxes, Dr. Zs and Bad Cats. You’re not going to be dealing out brutal spleen-crushing detuned devilry with a cabinet of these, but for the sort of metal that has notes, they provide a rich, unique signature sound unavailable from standard go-tos like the Vintage 30 and G12T-75.
The Gold mixes well with similarly sensitive speakers however, and to get back a little of that ceramic edge, grind, and vitality, they are sometimes combined in the same cabinet with the G12H30 or V30. I later spent time with these combinations, and will cover them in a future post. Probably. No, I will, I will. I have clips and everything.