A Closer Look at Celestion Speakers: The Voice of Rock 'n' Roll

For electric guitar tones, two key components are an amplifier and a speaker. The amp takes the electrical signal from the guitar’s pickups and gives it power, and the speaker then takes that power and converts it into sound waves that can be heard by the listener.

A key player in the history of guitar speakers is the British brand Celestion, featured in classic amplifiers from Vox to Marshall to Orange to Selmer.

From Radio Sets to Early Televisions

The story of Celestion begins in 1924, in the thick of a radio industry boom. At the time, many manufacturers were looking to improve the quality of their equipment, and using Celestion speakers proved to be a popular way of doing so. This popularity grew even more in 1932, when the company introduced permanent magnet technology, making their speakers easier to assemble and use.

The production line in 1933

In 1948, after Celestion was purchased by Rola, the focus of the company switched to supplying speakers for more “luxury” items such as stereo audio systems and an emerging new technology called television. It was also at this time that Celestion began working on a new model of speaker, one that would reshape the sound of music.

Celestion Blue

Celestion Blue Alnico

Production for this new model, the T0530, began in the late ‘50s, and was based on a high-end speaker originally made in 1936. It would come to be known as the “Celestion Blue,” so named because of the bluish tint it had after blue paint was added to the black chassis in 1960. This 12-inch diameter speaker was equipped with an Alnico magnet, specially designed to meet the demands of the early electric guitar players.

The Celestion Blue proved to be immediately popular. When combined with high-volume valve amps, the speaker offered a uniquely warm and easily distortable sound, producing a tone that earned it worldwide fame after it was adopted by the Beatles in their ubiquitous Vox amps. The creamy tones produced by the combination of Celestion and Vox came to be one of the defining characteristics of 1960s British rock.

With their new found popularity in the rock world, Celestion speakers soon became adopted by another brand that would come to dominate rock and roll—Marshall.

More Power

When rock bands began to outgrow theatres and instead started performing in larger venues, amplifier manufacturers started to develop evermore powerful amps. With these new spaces in mind, Celestion started work on the G12, a model designed to deliver more power and different impedance options to satisfy the demands of stadium rockers and festival stages.

These new powerhouse amplifiers, equipped with Celestion speakers, became the go-to for some of the most legendary musicians of the time, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and Van Halen.

Legacy and Modernity

From 1968 on, the company utilised an array of modern materials that enabled them to develop speakers capable of handling more powerful amplifiers, such as the G12-65 and G12T-75 models.

Starting in the early 2000s, Celestion has reissued classics such as the Blue Alnico, Gold Alnico, and the entire Heritage series, and while many of their newer models are produced in China, these legacy speakers are still manufactured in the Celestion factory in Ipswich in the UK.

The company continues to innovate, regularly introducing new loudspeaker models such as the Neo Cream, which features a Neodymium magnet offering incredible performance for a reduced weight or the G12H-150 that offers a classic sound but with 150-watt handling.

Princess Margaret visiting Celestion in 1977
The current production line

The brand has also started to offer impulse responses (a digitally modelled version) of their speakers to users who forgo traditional amplifiers entirely and use software to generate their guitar sound.

With so many legendary manufacturers and groundbreaking artists choosing Celestion speakers, you have to wonder: What would rock and roll sound like without this company from Ipswich?

Thanks to Celestion's John Paice for helping with the writing of this article. All photos are from Celestion's archives.

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