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Celestion Sidewinders


Article from International Musician & Recording World, May 1986

The Armoury Show's Russell Webb lends an ear to Celestion's new computer-aided Sidewinders, cheap speakers with a high-class sound

Celestion have been in existence longer than any other speaker manufacturer in the known world today. But have they grown old and senile? No, they certainly haven't. In fact their production facility remains one of the most sophisticated and well equipped on either side of the Atlantic.

Sophistication has not always been their trademark, however. Though justifiably proud of their product, the senior members of the Celestion board would be the first to tell you that it all started 62 years ago with a rather happy burst of good fortune. The first Celestions sounded wonderful – a gutsy, warm, full response that totally captured the imagination of guitarists worldwide... but nobody quite knew why they sounded that way.

Since that time, computer assisted analysis techniques exclusive to the Celestion R&D department have allowed them to understand exactly why a speaker acts and sounds the way it does. Through this new understanding they've entered a new era of conscious design and a new breed of purpose-built speaker. The Sidewinder is the first of this new breed aimed to provide the guitarist, bass or lead, with a unique combination of clarity and linearity plus the much loved Celestion warmth and character. That's what they're meant to do. Russell Webb put them to the test.

The Armoury Show's Russell Webb gets down to some serious DIY.

If you want to get the very best out of your current equipment, get the best speakers you can afford. And if you can't afford them, get Celestion Sidewinders – they are quite simply "Vorsprung durch technik," no matter where you come from.

It used to be the case that your speakers lived in anonymity beneath the cloth cover of your speaker cabinet. If it said Marshall or Vox then that was enough to put you to sleep by 10.30 pm, safe in the knowledge that you were producing as near the sound you heard on the last Who album as was humanely possible.

And even though there is much more basic knowledge of the things with which these cabinets are loaded nowadays, people still send their underpants to the launderette at the sight of a Trace Elliot or a Boogie. Personally speaking, Trace Elliot speaker cabinets are not all they are cracked up to be, but that's only my findings. After spending close on £1000 on the damn stuff, I was heartily pissed-off to find that they fluttered and farted when I got excited enough to give them some real stick in the course of a few gigs. My accountant was pissed-off too when I eventually had to let them go at a fraction of what they cost me. I took the monumental decision to build my own enclosures.

Out came the Stanley Yankee screwdriver, 300 1½" wood screws, a lot of resin W and £85 worth of ¾" Marine Ply. If you dropped the resultant boxes out of Concorde, they would cause our early warning system to self destruct, as well as allowing said winged beast to fly a few thousand feet higher and reach New York half an hour earlier.

Cabinets complete, stage two: load the mothers with something equally meaty of the 12" variety. And since there were no Celestion Sidewinders on the market at the time, I bought JBL MI 12s, four of. It was a 4x12" you know, and as it happens I would swear by those JBLs – they are excellent. But they cost about twice as much as guess what?

It turns out that both these speakers (JBLs and Sidewinders) give out about as much music power as anyone might want. The Sidewinders just do it for half the price, starting at £59.20 plus VAT.

Each speaker handles willingly 150 watts, so in a home grown 4x12" that's... you guessed... equivalent to three Trace Elliot 4X10s, at least one third of the price. And we haven't begun to talk quality.

Let's talk quality – the Sidewinders are stunning. I wanted to be smart and talk dirty to you, you know, Thiele-Small Parameters, Flux Density etc. But I won't, because I don't know anything about it. So I'll keep it clean and practical. Suffice it to say that singed (read burned) trouser pockets have taught me that all that glitters is not gold, and all that is gold does not necessarily glitter. Sidewinders are black, but they are definitely G.O.L.D. – 24 carat. Thick but so smooth goes the bottom end. Taut, crisp goes the middle end. Tight, crystalline goes the top end. Add all that together and you get one thing, bullshit. No the word I was looking for is FIERCE. Turn up your amp and the Sidewinders go MORE.

By the way, I use a Yamaha PC2002 750W stereo power amp and it tells you straightaway when you've got good speakers, but any amp will just adore these ones. As the hi-fi buff said: "Speakers are always the weakest link in the chain." These ones are a kryptonite padlock.

When the time came to actually do the test, I reluctantly removed my faithful JBLs from my trusty 4x12" and wired in the Celestions, which takes longer than it should because they have to be soldered on. They really should have press connectors – my only grump. Anyway, I must admit that I expected the papery Trace Elliot sound that I had come to hate so much, especially as Trace Elliot fit Celestion speakers to some of their cabinets. But I was wrong – I got a hot blooded gutsy roar. A shedful of that big bottom. A ruck of that tasty top. The bassplayer's dream. My Aria H Noble was positively crooning with delight. Even at low volume the speakers were squirming pleasurably. As was I, since the resultant sound was cutting nicely through the rest of the band without shaking the whole building down. Which, incidentally, I could have done without much trouble. The A-Team? Who needs them.

The final test was to record the little beauties. Result? The business. As raucous as any bass sound Jean Jaques Burnell ever saw. As rich and clear as any fretless wanted. Sold to the man with his hankie knotted around his neck. I'll take them lock stock and barrel.

As one last telling point, the ones I had were of the cambric edge variety. A bit more expensive at £67.25 plus VAT, but they do give that little bit more bottom end.

Result: Celestion Sidewinders, 4; Rest of World, Shaking in its boots.

RRP: See copy

Previous Article in this issue

Pearl World Series WX-22D-5D

Next article in this issue

Trace Elliot AH 350X Amp & 1818X Cab

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - May 1986

Review by Russell Webb

Previous article in this issue:

> Pearl World Series WX-22D-5D...

Next article in this issue:

> Trace Elliot AH 350X Amp & 1...

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