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Focal Celestee Review (Headphone)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Focal Celestee closed-back headphone. It was kindly purchased new by a member and sent to me for testing. It costs US $990.

The Celestee has a luxury feel to it that fits the price:

Focal Celestee review closed back headphone.jpg


I am not fond of the spring action though. The headband spring pressure is extremely progressive, putting up a huge fight if you try to expand them after a bit of expansion. On my head they fit but were rather tight. On the positive side this provided excellent sound isolation.

Two 3.5 mm plugs terminate in the headphone cups. They are stiff enough that should not pull out. The supplied cord likewise terminates in 3.5 mm plug. It is quite short, probably 3 to 4 feet. It seems to be designed for portable use as I definitely want it longer for desktop use.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are preformed using standardized GRAS 45CA headphone measurement fixture. Headphone measurements require more interpretation than speaker tests and have more of a requirement for subjective testing as a result. In addition, comparison of measurements between different people performing it using different configurations requires fair bit of skill. So don't look for matching results. Focus on high level picture. Listening tests are performed using RME ADI-2 DAC and its headphone output.

Mounting the headphone on my test fixture was somewhat challenging. I try to match the levels but it was very hard in low frequencies. As you see in a bit, that had nothing to do with the mounting.

Focal Celestee Measurements
As usual, we start with our stereo frequency response measurements:

Focal Celestee Frequency Response Measurements.png


I was pleased with the tight matching of the low frequency response to our target curve (dashed blue). What I did not like was the droop in the green channel below 80 Hz. I tried to compensate by moving the headphone around but no matter what I did, that large discrepancy remained. Looking at a few other measurements in the field, they also show a mild version of this "kink." It is very surprising to see such mismatching from a company like Focal with its extensive driver manufacturing capabilities.

Response is more or less good until we get past 3 kHz where we have a 2 kHz valley. There is a large peak around 13 kHz but that is likely not audible by itself.

Relative frequency response shows the dip more clearly:

Focal Celestee relative Frequency Response Measurements.png


Distortion was very low:

Focal Celestee Distortion Measurements.png


Same in absolute level:

Focal Celestee Relative Distortion Measurements.png


Note that bass distortion looks worse than it is since we have good response there (so the previous graph is more representative). Really, it is all very good news on distortion front.

Impedance is somewhat variable:

Focal Celestee Impedance Measurements.png


Given its low value, it is current hungry although that term barely applies given the high efficiency of Celestee:

Most sensitive closed headphone review.png


Group delay shows well behaved response more or less:

Focal Celestee Group Delay Measurements.png


Ideal curve would exponentially roll off but we have a dip around 60 Hz. That is where the kink is in the one channel so maybe it is related.

Focal Celestee Headphone Listening Tests
Without any equalization, the sound was non-offensive and boring. The highs are muted and soundstage is mostly whacked in the middle of your head. It takes a track with a lot of channel separation to push anything close to your ears as far as separation. Some EQ helped things a lot:

Focal Celestee equalization eq.png


The addition of 5 dB to compensate for the large dip there helped a lot to open the sound and give it some much needed "zing." Pulling the other two peaks down helped with a bit of upper bass boominiess.

Something was strange though. None of my sub-bass heavy soundtracks played such using Celestee. It was not until I was getting ready to write this review that this must have been due to major shortfall in the one channel. I don't have the ability to just EQ one channel but using that, maybe you can fix that.

With EQ, the sound was fine but still nothing to get excited about. Comparing to Dan Clark RT AEON Closed, the latter was more somewhat more open sounding (both without EQ). With EQ, the AKG K371 blew the Celestee out of the water with deep thundering sub-bass and excellent separation of instrumentation and sense of detail. I was going to give the Celestee one grade higher until this comparison. I also found the K371 more comfortable to wear due to its much lighter weight.

Conclusions
This was a tough review to write and originally was supposed to come out yesterday. But I waited a bit and had my son test it as well. I thought based on measurements that the sound would be more pleasing than it was. Neither, he, nor I thought much of the tonality without EQ. With EQ, you can rescue it but it is still nothing to rave behind. At least I couldn't. Most of the time the problems with headphones are more obvious than here. So this conclusion is not without some reservations.

As is, given the high cost, I can't recommend the Focal Celestee. If you spend this kind of money, you want the headphone to put a smile on your face. The Celestee simply does not do that to me. I really don't know what their target for tonality was with this headphone.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

sweetchaos

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#2
To import this PEQ profile into 'Equalizer APO', use:
Preamp: -4.8 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 800 Hz Gain -2.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1800 Hz Gain -3.0 dB Q 4.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3800 Hz Gain 5.0 dB Q 2.5
To import into your favorite PEQ app, enter it manually.
Otherwise, see my PEQ guide.
..................................................................................................................
For those who don't have PEQ-capable app, and want to use GEQs instead.
Preamp: -4.4db
32 0.1
64 0.1
125 0.1
250 0.2
500 -0.8
1000 -1.5
2000 -2.0
4000 4.7
8000 -0.5
16000 0.3
Preamp: -5.6db
20 1.1
25 0.5
32 0.3
40 0.2
50 0.2
63 0.1
80 0.1
100 0.1
125 0.2
160 0.1
200 -0.0
250 -0.0
315 -0.1
400 -0.2
500 -0.5
630 -1.2
800 -1.5
1000 -1.2
1250 -0.4
1600 -1.9
2000 -1.9
2500 0.4
3150 2.2
4000 5.0
5000 0.8
6300 0.4
8000 0.3
10000 0.2
12500 0.3
16000 0.3
20000 0.5
If you want to import into "Wavelet" (Android App):
GraphicEQ: 20 -5.0; 21 -5.0; 22 -5.0; 23 -5.0; 24 -5.0; 26 -5.0; 27 -5.0; 29 -5.0; 30 -5.0; 32 -5.0; 34 -5.0; 36 -5.0; 38 -5.0; 40 -5.0; 43 -5.0; 45 -5.0; 48 -5.0; 50 -5.0; 53 -5.0; 56 -5.0; 59 -5.0; 63 -5.0; 66 -5.0; 70 -5.0; 74 -5.0; 78 -5.0; 83 -5.0; 87 -5.0; 92 -5.0; 97 -5.0; 103 -5.0; 109 -5.0; 115 -5.1; 121 -5.1; 128 -5.1; 136 -5.1; 143 -5.1; 151 -5.1; 160 -5.1; 169 -5.1; 178 -5.1; 188 -5.1; 199 -5.1; 210 -5.2; 222 -5.2; 235 -5.2; 248 -5.2; 262 -5.2; 277 -5.3; 292 -5.3; 309 -5.4; 326 -5.4; 345 -5.4; 364 -5.5; 385 -5.6; 406 -5.6; 429 -5.7; 453 -5.8; 479 -5.9; 506 -6.1; 534 -6.2; 565 -6.3; 596 -6.5; 630 -6.6; 665 -6.8; 703 -6.9; 743 -7.0; 784 -7.0; 829 -7.0; 875 -7.0; 924 -6.9; 977 -6.8; 1032 -6.6; 1090 -6.5; 1151 -6.4; 1216 -6.3; 1284 -6.3; 1357 -6.3; 1433 -6.3; 1514 -6.6; 1599 -7.0; 1689 -7.7; 1784 -8.2; 1885 -7.7; 1991 -6.8; 2103 -6.0; 2221 -5.5; 2347 -5.1; 2479 -4.8; 2618 -4.4; 2766 -4.0; 2921 -3.5; 3086 -2.9; 3260 -2.1; 3443 -1.2; 3637 -0.4; 3842 -0.2; 4058 -0.7; 4287 -1.5; 4528 -2.4; 4783 -3.0; 5052 -3.5; 5337 -3.8; 5637 -4.1; 5955 -4.3; 6290 -4.4; 6644 -4.5; 7018 -4.6; 7414 -4.7; 7831 -4.7; 8272 -4.8; 8738 -4.8; 9230 -4.8; 9749 -4.9; 10298 -4.9; 10878 -4.9; 11490 -4.9; 12137 -4.9; 12821 -4.9; 13543 -5.0; 14305 -5.0; 15110 -5.0; 15961 -5.0; 16860 -5.0; 17809 -5.0; 18812 -5.0; 19871 -4.9
Otherwise, see my GEQ guide.
 
Last edited:

ayane

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#3
Not bad! The low end performance is surprisingly good for a dynamic type driver. It's also cool to see a headphone get so close to the target response, even accounting for the deficiencies in the mid frequencies.

Edit: For the price, it's not much better than the K371.
 
Last edited:

Racheski

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#4
Thanks for another review! @amirm can you weight it in grams? Thx
 

Rja4000

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#6
Hi Amir
Thanks for the review

The conclusion seems a bit strange and raises question: what's not to like with this one ?
Most measurements are spot on.
Interesting. Things to learn here ?

About the dip on one channel, yoi say you can't EQ separately one channel.
But aren't you using the RME ADI-2 DAC for listening ?
The RME, if I'm not mistaken, can EQ channels separately, with "Dual EQ".
Could you maybe give it a try ?
 
Last edited:

phoenixsong

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#7
Not bad! The low end performance is surprisingly good for a dynamic type driver. It's also cool to see a headphone get so close to the target response, even accounting for the deficiencies in the mid frequencies.
Not really though, the AKG K371 has even more quantity and extension with less distortion in the bass/sub bass if we're talking about the low end performance
 

Maki

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#9
The +/- 5dB jagged response in the treble is what's concerning to me. It's what killed the Elegias for my music library.
 

VintageFlanker

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#11
Thanks for the review!

I really don't know what their target for tonality was with this headphone
Haem... The Harman Target, maybe?
Focal Celestee Frequency Response Measurements.png


This is one the closest match I've seen since HF are measured. Or perhaps I'm missing something...

Sure, channel mismatch below 80Hz is barely acceptable at this price point. Still:
It seems inferior to the AKG K371
I beg to differ: K371 mismatch post-5Khz will be much more significant and audible.

can you weight it in grams?
430g.
 
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ShiZo

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#12
Thanks for the review!



Haem... The Harman Target, maybe? View attachment 121087

This is one the closest match I've seen since HF are measured. Or perhaps I'm missing something...

Sure, channel mismatch below 80Hz is not acceptable at this price point.
The only thing that bothers me is that fat dip between 2 and 5k.
 

Music1969

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#13
The only thing that bothers me is that fat dip between 2 and 5k.
Assuming the channel mismatch is not an actual field issue (could be, need more field data), that region you mention is just about the only thing at around 4kHz to EQ, if one's preferred target is Harman.
 

ShiZo

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#14
Assuming the channel mismatch is not an actual field issue (could be, need more field data), that region you mention is just about the only thing at around 4kHz to EQ, if one's preferred target is Harman.
Unfortunately i dont eq. Probably part of the problem.
 

Racheski

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#15
Thanks for the review!



Haem... The Harman Target, maybe? View attachment 121087

This is one the closest match I've seen since HF are measured. Or perhaps I'm missing something...

Sure, channel mismatch below 80Hz is not acceptable at this price point.


430g.
Is that the weight Focal claims or did you weigh your own pair?
 

VintageFlanker

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#17
Is that the weight Focal claims or did you weigh your own pair?
I don't own a pair. This is the weight from Focal's specs. Can't imagine how this could be wrong. I've never seen anything deviating from announced with this manufacturer, BTW.
It surprise me when I saw the headphone follows the curve well and even after eq amirm don’t feel the love to it as say the akg
Perhaps the day Focal will be part of Harman Group he'll start to like it...:p
 

renaudrenaud

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#18
I don't own a pair. This is the weight from Focal's specs. Can't imagine how this could be wrong. I've never seen anything deviating from announced with this manufacturer, BTW.

Perhaps the day Focal will be part of Harman Group he'll start to like it...:p
Perhaps the day Harman will be part of the Focal group he'll start to really hate it.
 
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