The Focal Celestee is the latest creation from the French high-fidelity audio staple. It's a pair of circum-aural, closed-back headphones that comes with remarkable sound and build quality that outdoes even the best over-ear headphones. What’s even more astounding is the price, which, at $990, is actually inexpensive compared to other truly high-end headphones.
Colors: Navy Blue/Copper
Size: 9.8 x 9.4 x 4.7 inches (carrying case)
Weight: 15.2 ounces
Driver size: 'M'-shaped Aluminium/Magnesium dome full-range speaker
Accessories included: 1 x 4-foot OFC 24 AWG cable with 1/8-inch unbalanced TRS Jack connector, 1 x jack adapter, 1/8-inch point socket 1/4-inch point plug, carrying case
That’s right. The Celestee runs for nearly a grand, placing it below luxe heavy hitters such as the Meze Audio Empyrean, but also above market favorites like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and even sibling models like the Focal Elegia, which shares similar specs. Some will say that the design and technology totally warrant its MSRP, while others will complain that certain omissions (physical controls and intelligible features) make it a questionable splurge. To that, I say read our Focal Celestee review and see which side of the argument these wired cans fall under.
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Focal Celestee review: Price and availability
As crazy as it sounds, this pair of headphones are relatively affordable compared to some of Focal’s other models, falling right in between the $890 Elegia and $1,490 Clear, and listed much lower than the $3,990 Utopia. At the same time, it's steeper than many of the market’s best headphones, including the Sony WH-1000XM4, a Tom’s Guide favorite that offers stellar sound and functionality for almost a third of the price.
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Focal Celestee review: Design
The materials, accessories, color scheme and even the silhouette — everything about the Celestee looks and feels opulent. It all comes together in one sleek package, and when paired with a headphone stand, can be a nice decorative piece for any study or man-cave.
Like the Elegia, these are closed-back headphones that completely seal around the back to block out external sounds, so you can enjoy audio at its fullest. This type of design makes the Celestee a suitable option if you want a model that can eliminate ambient noise in a more natural way than active noise cancellation; not everyone’s ears can handle the compression or hissing produced by ANC technology.
The ear cups are what stand out most on these cans. On the outside, you’re looking at durable plastic casing with some unique detailing. This includes a dimple texture, rose gold bolts, and an engraved logo that exposes a vent (more on this later). The inside has a honeycomb speaker grille and supple leatherette that wrap around the cups and headband. Then you have the thin and sturdy aluminum yokes that have some stretchability to them, though I wouldn’t test your strength to see if you can bend them.
Nowadays, it’s odd to see any pair of headphones without some sort of controls. The Celestee doesn’t have any. Nor are there any mics built into the design, meaning you can’t use the Celestee to make calls, video conference with co-workers or fire up your device’s native digital assistant. Sorry, Siri.
Focal Celestee review: Comfort and fit
All of these fancy components come at a cost, and I’m not just talking price. The Celestee is a hefty beauty at 15.2 ounces. That puts it in the same weight class as the Elegia and Clear, but it is still heavier than flashy, well-built models like the V-Moda M-200 ANC (11.3 ounces). These headphones are cumbersome to carry around, even when rested on your shoulders, and the tight clamp force produced by the headband affects comfort the longer you wear them.
Those who use the Celestee for short stretches will enjoy decent comfort. The plush padding on the ear cups is gentle on the skin and doesn’t apply too much pressure on the side of the head. The cutouts are really wide too, giving your ears more room to breathe. Also, the speaker grille won’t pierce your ears like some other over-ear headphones do.
The yokes are lengthy and accommodate all head sizes. I suggest figuring out the proper setting for your skull because the looser the fit, the more likely they will slip off due to all of that extra weight. You don’t want these bad boys hitting the ground.
Focal Celestee review: Accessories
I truly believe that any pair of headphones priced over $500 should come loaded with accessories. Still, knowing already what Focal bundles with their headphones, I tempered my expectations. The Celestee’s main add-on is a hefty zippered carrying case that boasts a tweed fabric design inspired by the headphone’s colorway. Yes, it’s incredibly bulky, but notable inclusions like the leather handle grant some portability, even if the entire package weighs you down. More importantly, it’s solid as hell and protects the headphones.
You can also store the accompanying aux cable and gold-plated 3.5mm adapter in there, along with other mobile accessories. Both of these are built to survive the daily abuse you’ll likely put them through, be it at your desk or on commutes. If is there one complaint, it’s that the cable has very little pliability and gets in the way a lot, especially when wearing the headphones outside.
Focal Celestee review: Drivers
The driving force behind the Celestee’s sound is the same hardware stuffed inside the Elegia. I’m referring to the company’s 40mm dynamic full-range driver with aluminum/magnesium “M” shape dome. However, Focal did tune its driver differently to give the Celestee its own unique sound profile.
Remember the vent I mentioned before? It also serves great purpose. By employing it into the design of each ear cup, this allows for controlled frequency response, tighter bass especially. The results definitely show, as listeners are given an incredibly well-balanced soundstage with high resolution and zero distortion, even when blasting music at high volume.
Focal Celestee review: Audio quality
When looking at the price, anything less than exceptional sound would be a gyp. I’m happy to report that the Celestee won’t rob you of an excellent listening experience. You can expect refined audio output with an emphasis on clarity and bass.
While I wasn’t able to test these headphones with a high-end sound system or DAC, the Celestee still performed at an elite level. It delivered every bit of detail and nuance from my favorite recordings. For comparison, I did put it up against an industry favorite: the WH-1000xM4.
Despite the closed-back design, the Celestee’s sound profile has some airiness to it that you would hear on elite open-back headphones. The vocal presence on Fleet Foxes’ “Fool’s Errand” was magnificent, as the headphones gave layered harmonies more expression and distinction. It was amazing to hear how sharply focused the guitar strums sounded, as well as background instruments like the tambourine.
Something that really grabbed my attention was the Celestee’s acoustic quality. The bass guitar on Jazz classics like Joe Pass “Ain’t Misbehavin’” had such striking realism to it, as if the musician was giving a masterclass in the comfort of my living room. I found just as much joy on upbeat tracks like The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize.” The monstrous bassline was impactful, while Diddy’s adlibs, a detail I barely ever noticed when listening on other headphones, were clear and pronounced.
The Celestee’s low end was stable, not too aggressive, nor too tamed, but producing just enough kick to complement overall sound. Although, if heavy bass is what you crave, then the WH-1000XM4 will satiate your thirst. On the flip side, mids, highs, and vocal range perform better on the Celestee.
Focal Celestee review: Noise isolation
Despite the Celestee being made for at-home listening, I took it outside to see how it would perform in noisier backgrounds, and was surprised by how well it minimized external sounds. Common distractions like Amazon delivery trucks, gusty winds, and passing cars went silent for the most part.
You don’t need the best noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy music peacefully. All it takes is a good closed-ear design to do the trick, which the Celestee demonstrates superbly. This pair of headphones served me well when sharing office space with my wife and newborn. I was able to block out the missus’ Zoom calls and any incessant whimpering that took place after naptime.
As for leakage, let’s just say you’ll want to play it cool with volume levels because blasting music will bleed a high amount of sound. My wife had to pull my collar a few times, requesting that I lower the music to keep the baby from waking up. Dropping volume down one or two levels wasn’t enough because she could still hear exactly what I was streaming. My advice is to set the volume around 50 percent.
Focal Celestee review: Portability
You need to be a serious audiophile to move around with these headphones tethered to your iPhone. Size and weight alone make the Celestee one of the least portable-friendly headphones out there. But if you’re willing to compromise to enjoy hi-fi sound on your mobile devices, who’s to stop you?
The great news is that sound remains untouched when transitioning from a laptop to a smartphone. And, the Celestee will adapt to any changes you implement, which may consist of tweaking the EQ in Spotify or selecting one of the numerous presets available in the iPhone settings. As tempting as it may be, don’t feel persuaded to do either because Focal’s sound profile is far superior to any of those options.
For those who loving binging YouTube on the go, you’ll be happy to know that there isn’t any latency when watching videos. All audio is synchronized and crisp.
Focal Celestee review: Verdict
Not everyone has $990 to drop on a pair of headphones, but the Focal Celestee's performance and craftsmanship might make you think about breaking the bank. This set of cans will have you unearthing different elements in recordings that you’ve likely never heard before. The isolation is provides is surprisingly effective, so you don’t have to worry about the lack of ANC. Build quality is top notch, too.
However, with the Celestee designed mainly for at-home listening, you’re stripped of several novelties that would normally come with less expensive wired and wireless headphones. These include onboard controls, the ability to make calls, and Siri or Google Assistant use. And though the Celestee does neutralize external sounds very well when worn outside, commuting with it isn’t practical when factoring in size, weight, and minor nuisances like the unpliable cable.
If none of that matters and you have room in the budget, then the Celestee makes for a rewarding purchase. If your budget is shot, then a model like the Sony WH-1000XM4 can be just as valuable, and for a whole lot less.
- More: Our picks of the best noise-cancelling earbuds