Home Closed Back Headphone Reviews The Focal Celestee: Luxury or Overrated? A Comprehensive Review

The Focal Celestee: Luxury or Overrated? A Comprehensive Review

by Stuart Charles Black
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Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

Focal Celestee

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In The Box

Focal Celestee Closed-Back Headphones (Navy Blue with Copper Appointments)

Cable with 3.5mm TRS Jack

3.5mm to 1/4″ Adapter

Hardshell Carry Case

Limited 3-Year Manufacturer Warranty

Specifications

  • Headphone Type: Circumaural (Over-ear)
  • Driver Type: 40mm M-shaped dome drivers made of aluminum/magnesium
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1 kHz
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 23kHz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.1% @ 1 kHz / 100 dB SPL
  • Cable: Detachable oxygen-free copper cable with 3.5mm jack
  • Adapter: Includes a 1/4″ (6.35mm) adapter for versatility
  • Weight: Approximately 430g (without cable)
  • Accessories: Comes with a premium storage case for protection during transport and storage.

Introduction

Focal is a renowned French audio company that has consistently pushed the boundaries of sound technology since its inception in 1979.

With a relentless dedication to precision engineering and a passion for high-fidelity audio, Focal has earned a well-deserved reputation as a leading manufacturer of premium audio products.

Sort of.

From high-end loudspeakers to headphones and professional studio monitors, they have crafted a diverse range of audio solutions that cater to audiophiles, music enthusiasts, and professionals alike.

What sets them apart is their commitment to innovation and a relentless pursuit of sonic excellence.

Sort of.

In my mind, there have been some severe (and not so severe) missteps, as well as some absolutely stunning achievements.

I guess you could say this for any company, and Focal isn’t any different. They make mistakes just like the rest of them. 

Focal’s journey in the world of audio has been marked by several notable innovations, including the development of unique driver technologies, such as the renowned Beryllium tweeters, which have become a hallmark of Focal’s high-end speaker offerings.

These innovations have consistently earned Focal critical acclaim and numerous awards in the world of audio.

Deserved?

I don’t know. My opinion of this brand is a little lukewarm.

Whether you’re looking for a pair of high-performance headphones, a state-of-the-art home theater system, or professional-grade studio monitors, Focal could be the answer – but it entirely depends on the model in question.

In this review, we’ll take a closer look at one of Focal’s “top of the line” headphone offerings, the Celestee, highlighting both its exceptional qualities and potential drawbacks.

By the end, you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it isn’t, I’ll point you in the direction of something that is.

Deal? Cool. Let’s dive in.

Build Quality

The build quality of Focal headphones in general is nothing short of exceptional, and the Celestee is no different.

Materials

Focal is renowned for its meticulous attention to detail, featuring a combination of premium materials, including high-quality metals and luxurious appointments.

The use of leather and microfiber for the ear cup padding and headband cushioning not only enhances comfort but also adds to the overall sumptuous feel of the headphones.

These materials are not only durable but also provide a touch of elegance to the design.

Yes, holding a Focal headphone in your hand does feel really good, and the Celestee is certainly no slouch.

That said, the cups themselves don’t rotate much, and the design is rather stiff and rigid.

This won’t jive with certain people, but I personally don’t have that much of a problem with it.

Why?

Well, because I wouldn’t ever plan on wearing these outside unless you’re goal is to get stuffed in a trashcan by your local bully.

In other words, you’re going to look like a nerd regardless, so my advice is to stay indoors and protect ya neck. xD

Comfort

The comfort of the Celestee is another standout feature.

The headphones have a circumaural design, which means the ear cups fully encompass your ears. Not only that, but the cups are deep, open, wide, and very spacious.

This design, combined with plush padding, ensures a comfortable fit that minimizes pressure points and fatigue during extended listening sessions.

Clamping Force

The clamping force on the sides of your head is just right.

It strikes a balance between a secure fit that prevents the headphones from slipping off and avoiding excessive pressure on your temples.

This thoughtful engineering ensures that you can enjoy your music for hours on end without discomfort.

Headband

The headband design is non-intrusive, distributing the weight of the headphones evenly across the top of your head.

This means that even though the Celestee has a bit of weight to it, it doesn’t actually feel heavy when it’s sitting on your melon.

This is crucial for prolonged listening sessions, as it reduces the risk of head and neck strain.

Overall, comfort is remarkable and surely one of Focal’s strengths across the entirety of its premium line.

With that, let’s dive into the sound, shall we?

Sound Quality

  • Amps: Naim Uniti Atom, McIntosh MHA200
  • Source: Roon, FLAC’s got your back.

The Focal Celestee offers a pretty good overall sound experience and undeniably represents a significant advancement in quality when compared to its predecessors, the Focal Stellia and Focal Elegia.

One notable improvement is the the peculiar bass response and overall unevenness present in the Stellia; an issue that has been somewhat rectified in the Celestee by providing a smoother and more balanced approach while also sounding much more coherent.

So what they were going for in the Stellia (which was a fail) is improved here to a degree.

The overall sound signature of the Celestee is notably smooth and punchy, delivering an audio experience that can be quite engaging.

Still, it’s not quite where it should be.

In comparison to the Focal Clear MG, the Celestee exhibits a slight imbalance issue, particularly in its mid-bass response and lower mid-range dip.

This particular bump in the mid-bass range can introduce a subtle jaggedness or unevenness to the overall sound profile, and you can clearly hear it’s off.

While this nuance may not be a deal-breaker for the majority of listeners, and certainly it’s nowhere near as bad as the Stellia’s imbalance issues, it can be easily discerned when compared side-by-side with the much more even sound of the Clear MG.

So, Focal Clear MG > Celestee > Stellia is how I would rank them.

Considering its price point, some audiophiles might question whether the Celestee’s sound quality justifies the investment of roughly $900-$1000.

In short, it doesn’t. I can get this jagged sound for much cheaper.

For those seeking the pure Focal sound signature without having to drop $4000 Bu Koo bucks on the Utopia (which admittedly is the best in the line), the Focal Clear MG is arguably a more appealing choice.

It offers a more balanced and refined sound profile, providing an exceptional listening experience that remains true to Focal’s renowned audio quality and overall house sound.

Consensus

The Focal Celestee does deliver an enjoyable listening experience with its smooth and punchy sound, but its subtle mid-bass imbalance may not justify its price tag for some audiophiles.

It also lacks a bit in Soundstage width and depth which is, I guess understandable considering it’s a closed back.

There’s a sense that it’s lacking in immersiveness and kind of just makes you shrug your shoulders.

“This is it?”

Yeap. Thanks for your cash.

For those who want to experience the unmistakable Focal sound without breaking the bank, the Focal Clear MG emerges as the more compelling option in terms of audio fidelity and value for money.

Now, is it worth $1500?

In my mind, probably not, but if you can get it for around $900 I say that’s about right.

In other words, a Celestee at $900-$1000 doesn’t make much sense to me, but a Clear MG at the same price is heading in the right direction.

Amplification

Celestee as seen with the McIntosh MHA200.

The Focal Celestee is not demanding when it comes to amplification due to its low impedance and high sensitivity.

Users need not worry about spending a lot of money on a separate amplifier to enjoy its full potential.

While I probably wouldn’t rely on my phone, I also wouldn’t spend $2000+ on an amp. That’s just.. silly.

I tested the Celestee using high-end equipment like the Naim Uniti Atom and McIntosh MHA200, but it’s important to note that users don’t need to invest in such expensive setups to have a good time.

The Celestee performs admirably with a wide range of devices, so you shouldn’t spend that much money on premium equipment to appreciate its exceptional sound quality.

Unless, of course, you plan to whore your local street corners for cash after you’ve burned a hole in your wallet.

I’d feel perfectly comfortable using a simple ATOM setup, but your mileage may vary. Please don’t @ me about this. I don’t care. 

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

Genre

As with most of the headphones in the Focal line, the Celestee can and will theoretically work with most any genre due to its fairly smooth, punchy sound that caters to many different types of music.

It’s definitely not overly bass-heavy, but the bass thumps rather nicely and works with many genres that emphasize bass.

Your primary genres with this will be things like Hip-Hop, EDM, Pop, etc., while stuff like Jazz, Classical, Ambient, Folk/Acoustic, and Rock are secondary.

Closing Thoughts

The Focal Celestee headphones offer a unique sound signature that leans towards a warmer and more bass-emphasized audio experience.

I’m not going to say the Celestee is bad, because it isn’t. It’s a decent headphone that’s overpriced.

The price tag simply isn’t justified for what you’re getting, and this has been sort of an ongoing issue with many Focal headphones; something I alluded to in the open.

The Celestee’s bass-centric and overall uneven approach is bothersome, and the treble may lack the sparkle and detail that audiophiles crave in their music.

For instance, if they were selling this sound for $300-$400, it would be much more forgivable.

In fact, if this were $400 and the Elegia was say, $200 (which is what it’s actually worth) I wouldn’t mind it all that much.

As it stands now, it’s not a $1000 headphone in my opinion. Not even close.

Argue its true price all you want, but if you spend that much (or whatever it’s currently priced at) you’re lighting money on fire.

Also, keep in mind that the Elegia retailed at almost $1000 when it first came out and now sits at $400.

That should tell you all you need to know about how Focal initially prices its headphones.

I honestly believe the Celestee should follow that trajectory although it definitely sounds better than the Elegia trainwreck.

The Stellia at $3000 though? That’s an absolute joke and an insult to my intelligence.

For those looking for the 2nd best representation of the Focal sound outside of the wonderful Utopia, the Clear MG is what you’ll want to target.

The MG maintains Focal’s renowned build quality but takes a different sonic approach.

It effectively rectifies all of the issues in the Elegia, Stellia, Celestee, and Elear by offering better overall timbre, better resolution, a smoother and more balanced frequency response, with a tighter grip on bass frequencies and a crisper, more detailed treble.

Yes, the Clear MG is open while the Celestee is a closed back, and that’s precisely the point.

I think investing in a closed-back Focal headphone is definitely a hefty risk because, well, they sound closed and lack in the ever-so-important “engagement” department. 

If you’re looking for a closed-back that actually sounds open (and much better than the Celestee), I like the MDR-Z1R.

Heck, even an Audeze LCD-XC (closed), despite its own mid-range flaws, does a much better job of providing that open sensation than anything closed-back from Focal in my opinion. 

In any event, the MG is a more accurate representation of your music and is light years more predictable with regard to what the Focal sound is all about.

Learn More:

 

Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Focal Celestee Review and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Agree? Disagree? I would love to hear from you. Just keep it civil and you’ll get a response. Until next time..

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

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