If you have a problem with your current speakers, or if you just need a change, Celestion Speakers have been tried and true. Today we take a look at the best models for changing up your tone.
Celestion Speakers: A Little History…
Lately, we have been talking about how easy it is to replace your speakers. Not only is this a very inexpensive upgrade, it can also drastically change the way your whole rig sounds. Besides pickups, I would say your choice of speakers is a good portion of your overall tone. Seriously, speakers are the most overlooked feature in most guitarist’s rigs. A good speaker can make a “decent” amp sound next level. Probably the most talked about company when it comes to speakers, is Celestion. Guitar players talk about Celestion speakers all the time, and I am sure you’ve heard the name.
But Celestion speakers actually have a pretty lengthy history that goes back over a hundred years. The British company was founded in the 1920’s and has been going fairly strong ever since. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) started daily radio programming in the 1920’s and this caused people all over to start buying radio equipment. Radio was the new form of family entertainment, and it would reman popular even after the invention of the television.
So Celestion Speakers created the first housed speakers for your home radios. You see, you would have to hook up an earphone, or gramophone horn to actually hear the radio back then! These first speaker housings featured different wood choices that would match your household style, which was a popular trend in the Roaring 20’s. Celestion continued this practice all through the later decades, making speakers for home equipment.
By the 1950’s guitar amps started to get louder, and they needed a speaker that could handle the higher wattage. This was the beginning of Celestion Speakers as we know the company today. The first big pro audio speaker Celestion released was the G12 guitar amp speaker. This became the sound of rock throughout the 60’s and Celestion continues to make fantastic speakers for guitar and bass amps. Celestion Speakers continue to keep up with trends, and release new models all of the time!
Which brings us to today! These days Celestion is the most popular brand for aftermarket speakers. Today we will be breaking down the ones that are perfect certain, specific tones, so you can hopefully find a speaker that will be good for your own sound. There were a bunch of models to choose from, so it was hard to pick just a few to highlight. Some parameters that we set for this test:
- 12 Inch models only, since most guitar cabs are made for 12.
- We used a single 12” cabinet to try these out. Made by Blackstar.
- We used two amps: BOSS Katana 100 Head and a Blackstar HT40
- The Celestion Vintage 30 was removed from the options.
- All speakers were tested clean and distorted.
- These will all work great for 1×12 combo Amps.
It only takes a few minutes to switch the speakers out, so it was easy with a 1×12 cab. I took the Vintage 30 out of the lineup because it has been used entirely too much these days, especially in metal/rock. We chose a tube amp with the Blackstar HT40, and we thought a BOSS solid state modeling amp would be good too for comparison. But it is important to note that these speakers will sound different with every amp, so we will just describe the basic characteristics.
With all of that said, let’s get started!
Celestion Rocket 50: The Budget Option
The Celestion Speakers Rocket 50 is the probably the cheapest speaker that the company makes, but that doesn’t mean that its bad by any stretch. In fact, if you open up most generic 4×12 stack cabinets, you will probably find a Rocket speaker. These are used in all kinds of cabinets, for a good reason. Celestion Speakers Official even mention this on the site, but fail to talk about the quality.
This is a 50 watt, 8Ω speaker, that works well alone, or in multiples. The thing about the Rocket 50, is this speaker is a very clear, but even sounding choice. While most Celestion Speakers have some kind of EQ dialed in, the Rocket can be pretty flat in that department. This doesn’t make it bad, or bland sounding at all. I like to think of it as a “jack of all trades” kind of speaker. This is probably why you find it in so many budget cabinets.
When I tried it out with the Boss Katana, the Rocket 50 sounds pretty good. I feel like the clean tones shine a little better than the stock BOSS speakers that come with the Katana amps. The distorted tones from the Katana sounded great too, but I feel like the bass response had a little too much “woof” in it. High gain tones might not be the Rocket’s forte, but the clean tones work fantastic.
Through the Blackstar, the clean tones again sound great. But the distorted tones again start to choke out as you add gain. The midrange is pretty surprising though, and the Rocket really shines when it comes to clarity. So if you have a cheaper amplifier that sounds a bit muffled, I think the Rocket 50 would definitely make it sound brighter. This speaker does not like bass from high gain, though. So keep that in mind.
Overall, the Rocket 50 would be a fantastic choice for guitarists on a budget, that want to clean up their tone. If you have a “no name” speaker in your amp, then the Rocket 50 would be a big step up for sure. If you are looking for a big tonal change, then the other speakers on the list are going to be more your speed. The Rocket is a budget option that works as an introduction to aftermarket speakers.
Celestion Midnight 60
The Celestion Speakers Midnight 60 is an absolute beast and was new at NAMM in 2020. This is technically another affordable speaker, but it certainly doesn’t react like a cheaper option. Most of the Celestion speakers are going to be over $100, but the Midnight 60 comes in at right under a hundred bucks. Marshall has started using these in some of the Origin amps, and this is where the Midnight 60 shines.
The Midnight 60 does the classic “British Tone” really well, and this is a budget option to something like the more expensive Neo-Cream Back. The difference is going to be in the magnets, as the Midnight uses a ceramic magnet. But the speaker is voiced to be more like the V-Type speakers, and other more expensive offerings from Celestion. This may be a cheaper option to the classic Celestion sound, but it was hard to tell when we were testing it!
I feel like this was designed to be used with classic crunch tones, and clean tones. So I was a little apprehensive when it came to the Blackstar. The Blackstar can be a darker sounding amp sometimes, depending on the speaker. I also thought that the Midnight 60 wasn’t going to respond well to high gain, from the description. The description makes it sound like a “classic” style speaker for people on a budget.
The Midnight 60 really shines in a couple of places. The bass response is super tight, even under high gain applications. By that, I mean it chugs just fine. But with the great bass response, you also get plenty of midrange response as well. This speaker will be ideal for inside a 1×12 combo amp, and it works surprisingly well with distortion tones. The different Blackstar gain stages all sounded fantastic with the Midnight, and you get a throaty, full sounding tone. I wasn’t expecting it to sound this good, but it is an improvement over the stock speaker.
Unfortunately, it didn’t do so well with the BOSS Katana for some reason. It sounded great when it was on the clean channels, but the Midnight didn’t seem to like the solid state distortion at all. The result was kind of a fizzy mess when the gain was turned up, which really confused me. But this might just be a case of the BOSS speaker being better for the Katana’s Lead channel tones. Solid state amps can definitely sound fizzy, and the speaker is going to be the biggest factor in getting rid of the fizz.
But this is exactly why we do the test with two totally different types of amps. This is also a good example of why a speaker can change your entire sound! With the Blackstar, it made everything tighter, and made the midrange frequency really stick out. It didn’t work well at all with the Katana. So maybe the Midnight 60 likes tube amps, and is made to work better in that situation. So just something to keep in mind!
Whatever the genre, the Midnight 60 provides an exhilarating sound in the classic Celestion style. Cleans are well balanced with just enough top end to make the high frequencies sparkle. Overdriven, this speaker brings searing rock tones with plenty of low-end warmth and mid-band character.
Celestion Hempback 50
The Celestion Hempback is a totally unique take on the classic speaker design, with an actual hemp cone! Celestion Speakers recommend this speaker for “brighter” sounding amplifiers. The Hempback has a load of bass response and is designed to really push the low end coming from your amp. This speaker is a great way to “fix” certain amps. Let me explain:
Some Fender and VOX tube amps can be really umm…piercing. These amps have a lot of high frequencies, and that is by design. You can always take the high amounts of treble out, but it is much harder to add more treble to an amp. So if you run a Fender with the mid/treble all the way up on the clean channel, you might be a little put off with how harsh it is. Some people like these amps, but want to dial out that “twang”.
Celestion Speakers designed the Hempback 50 to take that treble and move the frequency closer to the midrange. Now this doesn’t make the amp sound “dark” at all. It just has a taming effect on the high end that can be bothersome, especially at high volumes. The amps that I am using for testing today are not bright at all, and if anything I find it hard to eek out enough treble in the Blackstar sometimes. So this should be interesting to test out!
Through the Blackstar HT40, the Hempback actually sounds great. I honestly thought that it would make the amp sound too dark, but it works really well. The clean tone is fat and full, but there is no loss of midrange. The cleans just sound bigger and fatter, and I expected the sound to be dull. The high gain channel also responds well, keeping in the important midrange and amplifying the bass response. If you crank it up, the Hempback absolutely slays, and it shakes the walls.
In the BOSS Katana, there was no difference to me from the Katana combo amp. I had to do a side by side comparison with a Katana 100 combo amp. The stock BOSS speaker doesn’t handle bass very well in the combo, while the Hempback keeps the bass really tight. But when it comes to the treble and midrange I couldn’t really hear much difference at all. I suppose that says something about the quality of the stock BOSS speaker! Don’t get me wrong, it sounds great. Just not a significant enough change in my opinion.
I looked at a couple of reviews for the Celestion Hempback, and on top of taming some of the high end in amps the Hempback is supposed to handle low tunings really well. Apparently lots of guitarists pair these speakers with Orange amps for Doom. So I tried the Blackstar with a 7 string guitar, and it definitely can handle the bass response of down tuned guitars. With low tunings, you need a lot of mids to come through in the mix, and the Hempback delivers without getting muddy.
For metal, the Hempback might be a great option. The frequency response keeps the midrange front and center, exactly what you need for heavy tunings. The bass response is super tight, and I had to dial out quite a bit of bass on the Blackstar. But overall? This is the best option to replace a Vintage 30 in a metal rig. At the same time, it will work great for any genre and just smooth out your tone. If I had to describe the Hempback in one word, I think I would choose “Smooth“.
Combining a hemp cone specifically chosen for its tonal character and a medium-weight ceramic magnet, the G12M-50 Hempback takes Celestion tone in an exciting direction. Well-defined and able to deliver plenty of heft, the Hempback delivers a thump in the low end, a finely balanced midrange (with just a little Celestion crunch thrown in) and smooth, singing highs.
Celestion Speakers Gold 50
We saved The Best For Last!
The Celestion Gold is definitely NOT a budget option when it comes to Celestion speakers. But while the other speakers that we have tried so far have been slight changes to the overall sound, the Celestion Gold can totally change your sound for the better. The idea here, is to really “open up” the sound of your amp. Well, it definitely makes a huge difference!
What we have here, is an Alnico version of the Celestion Blue on steroids. I have tried a lot of Celestion speakers over the years, and this is probably the best I have ever heard. I am really familiar with the Blackstar HT40 amp, and I used it to gig for almost a whole decade. But I have never heard the Blackstar sound like this before, and I wish I would’ve changed the speaker in that amp now. Because this is one of the best that Celestion Speakers has to offer.
With the Blackstar, the Celestion Gold has an amazing tone that I am having a hard time even describing. The clean channel on both variations was warmer, and fatter without losing any of the important treble or midrange. Clean chords sounded huge, and with a little bit of gain, the notes just bloomed. The digital reverb in the Blackstar usually sounds dull to my ears, but with the Celestion Gold the reverb trails sound massive. In fact, everything just sounds huge.
The Blackstar has two different types of high gain, and one I never use because it just sounds muddy to me. Well the Celestion Gold changed the entire character of BOTH gain variations. The high gain tones have tight but heavy bass response. The surprise here was the midrange and treble response. The Blackstar has always been a little dark to me, but this made me turn down the treble a good bit. The sound is pummeling, and every chord rings out perfectly. This would cut through any mix, particularly in a live setting.
With the BOSS Katana, I got a similar result. The Katana already sounds great on the clean channel, and the Celestion Gold just opened it up even more. The cleans have more bass, and more…everything. With crunch tones the midrange stays super focused, and the high end never gets anywhere close to fizzy. High gain tones also sound amazing, and the bass response is tight, and again there’s no fizz anywhere. I honestly didn’t think the Katana could sound any better than it already does, but I was wrong. This is the closest I have ever heard the Katana get to sounding like a tube amp.
Both amps seem to just really open up, and sound bigger. Both amps also seemed to be a little louder, but that could just be because the frequency response is so incredible. Literally everything in the frequency range is amped up, and this would be a huge upgrade for any amp. Its like the difference between regular TV and 4K picture quality. This is high definition for your guitar rig. The problem may be the price…
For example, this thing costs almost as much my BOSS Katana, which sounds crazy. Would I put this speaker in a cheap amp? Maybe! The entire character of the BOSS amp was changed, and if you use the Katana live then this might be the upgrade you need for shows. The Katana has honestly never sounded this good to me. This takes a pretty good amp, and makes it absolutely stunning. I wasn’t expecting this result at all!
But Celestion speakers make some amazing stuff, and the Celestion Gold is a fantastic example. If you not only want to upgrade your rig, but take it to the next level, then this is where your journey ends. The Celestion Gold seems like the answer to any amp’s issues. If you want PRO quality tone for the stage and studio, this is it! This is a rare example of the price being ‘worth it”. I never thought I would be considering such an expensive speaker, but here I am with this speaker in my cart.
Note: The Ohm rating says 15, but it will work just fine with an 8 ohm setup, like a combo amp.
Many other manufacturers have tried to recreate the Celestion Blue sound in a higher powered driver, and some have come close. But only Celestion has the experience and know-how to emulate the tone and response of its own Alnico classic in a modern driver that's perfect for single or multiple applications in cabinets or combos
Celestion Speakers: What Have We Learned Today?
I know you guys probably get tired of me harping on you about getting better speakers, but if anything, these tests today have proven how important speakers are. They are just as important as your pickups, your amp, or your guitar itself. Celestion Speakers is just one of many companies, but remain the “standard” when it comes to aftermarket speakers. These work well with all kinds of different amps, and cabinet setups.
That’s the point I’m trying to get across to everyone. I see people go through amp after amp because it just doesn’t do the tones that they want. We are guitarists, and can be really fickle when it comes to tones. But your guitar tone relies on more than just your amp and pedals. The speaker is just as important, if not more important than the amp. The Celestion Gold that I tried, for example, changed the sound of both rigs dramatically.
I left the Celestion Speakers Vintage 30 models off the list, because that seems to be the industry “go-to”. This is especially true when it comes to metal music. Sure, the Vintage 30 sounds great, and gets a lot of attention because it does sound good. But it has been used entirely too often these days. It has made everyone sound the same on recordings, and frankly, there are better options out there. Personally I think the Midnight speaker sounds more diverse than a Vintage 30, but I digress.
The main takeaway here, is that speakers are super important when you are putting together your rig. Never get too comfortable with your sound, or become complacent. There is so much gear out there that can help you create that tone you have in your head. New speakers is always a good start!
Are Celestion Speakers worth it?
Celestion Speakers are probably the most popular aftermarket speakers for guitarists. Speakers are a huge part of your tone, so if you are chasing a new sound…Celestion makes a huge array of options for every budget.
Will Celestion speakers work with my amp?
You need to check out two things when replacing your speakers. Make sure the replacement is the same ohm, and the same size as the speaker you’re replacing. We have a great guide if you need help, that walks you through the basics.
Are Celestion Speakers expensive?
Celestion Speakers has all kinds of options for just about every budget. There are certainly some expensive options, but there are great budget options as well.