“This Focal Celestee deliver deep audio bliss.”
- Sparkling detail
- Transparent midrange
- Deep, tuneful bass
- Highly dynamic
- Accurate transients
- Unruly headphone cable
The Focal Celestee Headphones are certainly gorgeous, but at their price point, they’re going to need a whole lot more than just good looks. The Celestee are very much an aspirational, high-end set of headphones, but relative to other high-end headphones — many of which are priced at $2,000 or more — the Focal Celestee are more attainable, coming in at around $1,000. But are they worth it?
Carrying case and accessories
The Focal Celestee come in a fairly rotund carrying case, but to be fair, the headphones themselves are sizable. Frankly, we’re glad they even came in a case, because many high-end headphones don’t come with one at all. Obviously, the case is meant to protect the headphones, but the Celestee case isn’t just functional — it looks great with its tweed-like fabric and heavy zippers.
Inside the case, you’ll find the headphones along with a screw-on 1/4-inch adapter, and the headphone cable, which attaches to each ear cup independently. The headphone cable itself is certainly high quality, but it’s also rather “robust.” And by that, we mean, “not very pliable.” The cable has a mind of its own, which often led to it just getting in the way. You have to work around the cable because it has no intention of working around you. Maybe it will break in after a bit of use, but out of the box, it’s pretty stiff and unyielding.
Design and build quality
The Focal Celestee have luxurious padding on the ear cups, and they are covered with a soft and supple leatherette material that matches the headphone’s color scheme. That same leatherette material is also found on the headband.
The build quality is excellent.
The exterior of the ear cups combines high-grade plastic and metal, and the dimpled texture is either something you’ll like or not like — it kind of reminds me of a golf ball, and anything resembling golf is good by me. The yoke is solid, the headband is solid, and the build quality is excellent.
The Celestee feel great when worn. Obviously, they are larger headphones with a bit of weight to them, but considering their size, they are relatively light, and certainly not cumbersome. The balanced clamping force and headband pressure make for a pleasantly ergonomic set of headphones.
How do they sound?
Looking nice is fine, but with a set of headphones at this price, it’s the sound that matters. Because they are high-end and costly, I tested the Focal Celestee headphones with several different devices, including straight from a phone’s headphone jack, a DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC/headphone amp with a PC, and an Antelope Audio Zodiac outboard DAC/headphone amp. I evaluated using music from several different sources like Apple Music and Spotify, as well as high-res tracks from Tidal.
The bottom line is that the Focal Celestee headphones made me feel things I haven’t felt in a long time, transporting me back to when I was able to work in actual recording studios before the pandemic. The Celestee impart a tremendous amount of nuance. I was able to hear audio gems buried into my favorite tracks that’s I’ve not heard in some time. It’s always a real treat to be able to hear details I’ve either never pick up before, or simply forgotten. I experienced that feeling constantly with the Celestee.
The Focal Celestee headphones made me feel things I haven’t felt in a long time.
While these may be closed-back headphones, you would swear they were open-back. They have a similar sonic appeal to open-back headphones, but with all the advantages of closing out sound around you. The passive noise isolation provides a dead-quiet canvas on which to musically paint.
The Celestee’s treble response has a wonderful amount of sparkle to it, but it’s very well controlled. It has a lot of detail and tonality and texture, but it’s never aggressive. The meat of the midrange is extremely well balanced — it doesn’t even flirt with being chesty or nasal. It feels like the voices of the singers are right there in your head.
The bass goes deep, with a little oomph to the presence, and while it may offer a bit more to the beat and the bass than a perfectly neutral headphone, we thought it sounded perfect. For bass testing, I went straight to Dua Lipa because I dig the punch of the kick drum and how it integrates with some killer electric bass lines.
It was a delight to hear the singer’s vocals perfectly isolated from the bass. To get that kind of clarity and bass at the same time is a real treat for the ears. And the great thing about the Focal Celestee is that they shine with all types of music, not just a specific genre.
In the end, I’m smitten by the Focal Celestee headphones. Sure, they command a premium price — but they absolutely earn it. If you’re able to get your hands on a pair of these, treat yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
Is there a better alternative?
In this price segment, there will always be alternatives, but I’m unwilling to say one is going to be distinctively better than the other. One alternative I would consider would be the Audeze LCD-2, which aren’t quite as stylish, but sound excellent and cost about $100 less.
How long with they last?
The Focal Celestee are extremely well built and should last well into the future with reasonable care.
Focal’s warranty varies by country. Contact your local retailer for further details. Retailers and distributors can be found here.
Should you buy them?
Yes, if you are looking for high-end headphones that will delight you for years to come, the Focal Celestee certainly fit that bill.