Written by Dominic Hilton
As the folks at England’s Celestion like to point out, guitar players don’t think twice about replacing a set of pickups, but they hesitate to spend the same amount of money to upgrade a speaker, which often can make a greater improvement to their tone. And after 40 years in the business and a reputation for building the world’s best speakers, Celestion knows a thing or two about tone. The models that the company manufactures are considered industry standards and are featured in many of the best guitar amps, including those made by Marshall, Fender and Vox. Rather than rest on its laurels, Celestion has released an all-new guitar speaker, the innovative G12 Century 12-inch. While looking at the Century, we decided to round up the company’s 12-inch hall-of-famers to see what other replacement options are available from Celestion.
Our first contender is the holy grail of speakers, the Celestion Blue. Designed and first issued in the Fifties, the Blue is the first speaker designed for use with the electric guitar, and it is still painstakingly constructed using the same materials and techniques employed with the originals. Fifty years on, the Blue remains a very classy, sophisticated speaker with exceptional clarity. The steel chassis and magnet cover are blue, hence the nickname, and the magnet is made from costly Alnico, an alloy of aluminum, nickel and cobalt. Rated at a reserved 15 watts, the Blue is recommended for low power, Class-A tube amplifiers. Tonally, the Blue is big and eager, and has a great retro flavor. If you need a speaker that will capture every detail of your tone and every nuance of your playing dynamics, this is the speaker to go with.
Next up is the revered G12M-25 Greenback, a stalwart of the blues/rock scene that started kicking ass in the Seventies. The Greenback, so-called for its green magnet cover, has a 35-ounce magnet and is rated at 25 watts. It excels at overdriven guitar tones and delivers them with trademark warmth. Its deep, rounded sound carries enough edge to cut through the mix, even with lots of gain, and adds a singing vocal quality to leads. The Greenback is a must for howling blues and a perfect replacement for harsh, sterile speakers.
Our next entrant is the mighty G12-30; a.k.a., the Vintage 30. This popular rocker was designed in an effort to produce a modern, high-output speaker with vintage tone. The Vintage 30 accomplishes this with a hefty 50-ounce magnet and increased 60-watt power handling. The result is tone that hits you square on the jaw, such is the speaker’s projection and definition. With its strong midrange and sheer volume, the Vintage 30 is often considered the definitive lead speaker, one that puts its authoritative voice behind single-note lines. As such, it’s ideal for high-gain modern rock or as a remedy for a weak solo tone.
The G12T-75 is known to many as the heart of Marshall’s popular 1960 4x12 cabs. Combining a 75-watt power handling with a 35-ounce magnet, the G12T has the high sensitivity and wide frequency response to comfortably handle any guitar tone thrown its way, from the squeakiest clean sounds to the filthiest distortion, and from straight-ahead tone to multilayered effects extravaganzas. When it comes to super-high gain, the G12T simply sounds awesome, with its trademark crisp, crunchy tone and punchy attack. If you like to rock hard, rock this way.
Finally, we move on to the new kid on the block, the G12 Century. At first glance it’s clear this is something quite different. The Century is the first guitar speaker to use a neodymium alloy magnet. While the magnet is so efficient that it can be a fraction of the size of a standard magnet, it generates a lot of heat and requires a protective heat sink, in this case a streamlined and futuristic-looking finned device. The result is a superefficient speaker that is half as heavy and twice as loud as a standard driver, which translates to 80-watts handling, 121dB sensitivity and only three and a half pounds.
In use, the Century has a monstrous tone that is bold, very loud and extremely punchy, with hi-fi definition. Cleans are crystalline and snappy, while distortions are crisp, energetic and muscular. Like a G12T-75 on steroids, the Century capably handles any style, but the leagues of nu-metal detuners and seven-stringers will be especially impressed with the fast, aggressive attack and concrete low end. The Century’s light weight will make your 4x12 cabinet easier to lift, while its versatile and modern tone will energize weak sound and intensify high-gain tone.
The Bottom Line
Celestion’s vintage models have superb and distinctive tones that can add loads of character to any amp setup. As for the new Century model, with its big bad tone it’s clearly destined to become another Celestion classic.