Celestion broadened its color-themed lineup of Alnico speakers by introducing the new 12-inch Ruby at the 2019 Winter NAMM show. In doing so, the company created what might be the sweet spot for fans of these vintage-toned drivers. Previous offerings in this range have inevitably been discussed in general terms as an Alnico Blue that handles more power, but each variation has also brought its own voice and response characteristics, in addition to the ability to withstand increased amp output.
The first addition, the 50-watt Gold, is known for its chimey, firm and somewhat barky delivery, while the 90-watt Cream is full, rich and smooth, but has plenty of snarl when pushed. As such, neither quite replicated the jangly, detailed, yet softened clean response and ragged aggression of the original 15-watt Blue, although each could have been considered in the ballpark for broad sonic characteristics, pick attack and playing feel.
So it goes for the 35-watt Ruby, too, but this one arguably comes closer to what fans of the Blue love in that legendary Alnico speaker while improving upon it in several ways. Color aside, the appearance and construction are the same as for all speakers in the series. The Ruby has a 100dB sensitivity rating, a 1.75-inch voice-coil diameter, a resonant frequency of 75Hz and a total weight of 9.3 pounds. It’s available in both eight- and 16-ohm versions (eight-ohm tested here). In use, though, it reveals its own personality, and what a personality it is!
I tested the Celestion Ruby in a 5E3 tweed Deluxe-style combo and with a Friedman Small Box head into both a StoneAge 1x12 cab (used both open- and closed-back) and a Port City 2x12 cab (in which it was paired with a Celestion Creamback Neo). My guitars included a Gibson Les Paul 1958 reissue and a Fender Stratocaster. The speaker was impressive in all scenarios. I’d say the Ruby captures the easy attack, lively multidimensionality and overall richness of a good Alnico speaker but couples it with a firm, rock-enabled performance that you don’t often get from this category of speaker. It even held its own in a closed-back 1x12 with the Friedman dialed up for cranked-Plexi tones. That’s not something you expect from this type of speaker (with the master volume reined in accordingly to stay within the Ruby’s power limits).
While I was impressed with the Gold and the Cream upon their respective releases, the Ruby is the Celestion Alnico that really grabs me. It has a superb sweetness and depth, along with excellent balance throughout the spectrum. The low end is musical and appealing, if not overly bountiful or tight (something you wouldn’t expect from a lower-wattage Alnico anyway), while the midrange sits in that just-right zone where it punches through with some edge and character without swamping the rest of the spectrum. The upper-mids and highs are arguably the most appealing aspect of all. Where the Blue and Gold can be shrill in some amps, especially before a good playing-in - each displaying an extended peak of sorts in the 3kHz-to-5kHz band - the Ruby tapers off in that range and is therefore utterly devoid of harshness, with a silky treble response that never stabs you in the eardrum. Ultimately, it’s just a great new Celestion Alnico speaker and deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award.
PRICE $289 street
FREQUENCY RANGE 75Hz-5kHz
POWER HANDLING 35 watts
IMPEDANCE 8Ω and 16Ω
WEIGHT 9.3 lbs
KUDOS A great new Alnico speaker, with more power handling than the legendary Blue and a sweeter, more balanced, yet robust and rocky voice
CONCERNS It’s pricey. Check your amp’s power output to avoid exceeding the 35-watt rating