Celestion continues to push an “it’s back” theme as a distinguisher of variations on classic guitar speakers, this time with the über-powerful 150-watt G12H-150 Redback ($169 street) topping out well above the Greenbacks and Creambacks of this world. Alongside it, the G12-35XC ($169 street) is a Limited Edition that applies the company’s cumulative knowledge to a new vintage-meets-modern take on the legendary Pulsonic cone. I tested each speaker in a 1x12 StoneAge cabinet with a Les Paul and a Stratocaster into JTM45-style and AC15-style amps.
The “H”—for “heavy magnet”—rendition of Celestion’s G12 guitar speaker has been applied to several variations of the breed since the late ’60s, when it was first introduced largely as a bass speaker, but one that found favor with many heavy hitters, Jimi Hendrix among them. The new G12H-150 Redback applies the same 50-ounce ceramic magnet to a 75Hz cone and a large 2" voice coil to achieve Celestion’s highest-rated guitar speaker yet, with 150 watts of power handling, meaning it can contain the rage of a 100-watt head all on its lonesome. It’s also a sensitive speaker at 100dB (@ 1 watt measured at 1 meter), but Celestion claims that, unlike many other high-power-handling drivers, you don’t need to slam it before it starts to sound good, and that it will be equally clear, rich, and characterful with low-powered amps.
The Redback is warm, round, and full, with a muscular presentation that withstands plenty of digging in, along with good balance across the spectrum. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t sound better when pushed hard—it does, but hell, what doesn’t? This speaker also sounded surprisingly good at lower volumes, and though it was a tad dark coupled to the 15-watt amp, it also served to rein in that dual-EL84 platform’s potential spikiness, and sounded lush and rich in the process. Cranked up via the bigger head though, it roared with gusto and authority. I liked that this speaker wasn’t as barky in the upper mids as the standard 30-watt G12H can be, and found it surprisingly enjoyable all around.
KUDOS A well-balanced speaker with a more neutral take on the classic Celestion voice. Massive power-handling capability.
CONCERNS Potentially a tad dark for smaller amps, if you’re looking for chime and jangle at lower volumes.
A true Limited-Edition (as in, hurry to get one!), released to celebrate Celestion’s 90th Anniversary, the G12-35XC wraps some new thinking around classic ingredients to create a speaker that blends many of the best characteristics of golden-era British drivers. As Celestion’s John Paice puts it, “The combination of the cone we used, along with the 42 ounce magnet, the 1.75" voice coil, plus a couple of other minor tweaks, gave a sound that reminded us of the best of those old Pulsonic coned speakers.” [“Pulsonic” refers to the legendary ’60s Celestion cone that is often attributed with the beautiful balance and musicality of the early speakers.]
It’s all dialed in for a 100dB efficiency rating and a power-handling capability of 35 watts RMS. Put simply, the G12-35XC sounds classic Celestion in what I’d call a “tweaked vintage” vein. It has a smooth reediness, characterized by a certain vowel-like, vocal “oooh” at its core. Highs are detailed and textured in the semi-pushed cleans, with a sizeable midrange punch, and lows that are tight yet not overly pronounced or boomy. If you’re looking for a quickhit reference, call it part way between the G12M and G12H, but it really has its own thing going on, likely thanks to this round, woody sounding cone. It’s capable of delivering both toothsome overdrive and lively cleans in a voice that is instantly recognizable as emanating from this storied British speaker manufacturer, while not directly tied to anything they have produced before. Just a great speaker.
KUDOS A well-rounded “classic Brit” speaker that delivers lively cleans and snarling overdrive couched in an appealing roundness.