When Hi-Fi audio equipment is talked about, only a few brands would resonate as strongly as the Celestion. With a legacy dating back almost a century, Celestion has firmly established itself as a premier manufacturer of speakers, catering to audiophiles around the world.
However, questions have been emerging during the past few years over the location of manufacture of Celestion speakers: Are they still being handcrafted in the UK? Are Chinese-made Celestion speakers of poor quality? Are they fake?
To wipe away the cobwebs, it is necessary that we dive into the historical manufacturing locations of Celestion speakers and explore how they gradually expanded to China.
Where are Celestion Speakers Made?
Celestion speakers are either made in China or in the United Kingdom, depending on the series. They were originally manufactured wholly in Ipswich, England, before setting up a factory close to Hong Kong in China.
It is worth noting that, until today, all Celestion speakers have their research, design, and engineering done in the UK. Also, some series of Celestion speakers are still indigenously made in the UK, while those made in their China factory use exactly the same machines as in Ipswich.
In all, depending on the speaker series you’re getting and your store of purchase, your Celestion speaker may be made in China or in the UK.
The Birth of Celestion Speakers
The story of Celestion Speakers begins in the mid-20th century. They were founded in 1924 by Cyril French with the assistance of Eric Mackintosh in the picturesque Thameside village of Hampton Wick, a town in England. It was amidst great excitement that French and Mackintosh perfected their cone loudspeaker design, which was one of the earliest of its kind.
The Celestion loudspeaker was launched early in 1925 at a retail price of six pounds ten shillings, featuring an option between cabinets made from oak, walnut, or mahogany. Throughout the late 1920’s, Celestion enjoyed blossoming demand, so much so that in 1929, manufacturing was moved to larger scale space at 145 London Road, Kingston-upon-Thames.
Celestion was severely impacted by the global recession of 1935. It was during this period that Cyril French and Eric Mackintosh left their positions – they retired.
Celestion’s Ultimate Move to Ipswich
In April 1947, British Rola acquired Celestion Ltd. Production was soon halted at Kingston-upon-Thames, and moved to Thames Ditton. The company’s name was changed to Rola Celestion Ltd, and ‘Celestion’ was chosen as the official trademark for their products.
Again, in 1949, Rola Celestion was acquired by Truvox, a Wembley-based company. Demand for Celestion loudspeakers continued to grow. In fact, production varied from 30,000 to 35,000 units per week. The 1960s was much about the launching of new speaker series named “Ditton” as a tribute to their birthplace.
With the rising need for Ditton loudspeakers in 1968, the Thames Ditton factory faced challenges in meeting production demands. As a solution, it was decided that an expanded location along Foxhall Road, Ipswich was very necessary. Not long after, buildings and facilities were constructed there in Ipswich, and by December 1968, production had already begun.
In the early 1970s, additional expansion occurred through the adoption of a modern assembly facility situated on the Hadleigh Road Trading Estate, located across Ipswich. It was later shut down in the early 1980s, while productions were concentrated at Foxhall Road.
Global Expansion: Celestion International Manufacturing
Embracing the opportunities presented by globalization, the brand expanded its operations to multiple countries. In 1979, Celestion changed its name to Celestion International Plc to identify as a parent company and to represent its subsidiaries in France, West Germany, and the U.S.A.
In 1992, Kinergetics Holdings (UK) Ltd. – a holding company primarily owned by the Gold Peak Industries of Hong Kong – acquired Celestion International Ltd.
In 2003, the Celestion and KEF manufacturing activities were brought together under the name KH Manufacturing Ltd. From that point onwards, Celestion continued to push forward the legacy left by Cyril French and Eric Mackintosh.
Celestion Speakers Made in the UK
Though they often come at an extra list price, some versions of the Celestion speakers are still exclusively built in Ipswich, England; all others are The remainder are manufactured in their factory in China. We’ve listed some UK-made Celestion speakers below:
- G12H Heritage
- G12M Heritage
- G12-65 Heritage
- Celestion Blue Alnico
- Celestion Alnico Gold.
- Celestion Speakers built for certain OEM e.g. the 12″ Celestion Custom 90 (Made especially for MESA).
Is your Celestion Speaker Chinese-made?
Celestion speakers made in China can be easily detected: some of them will have a “Made in China” sticker on the side of the bell or a “Made in PRC” on the box.
To confirm whether it’s UK-made, you should look out for the following inscriptions: “Made in England”, “Thames Ditton Surrey”, “Ipswich” and “Celestion LTD”. All others are Chinese.
Effect of Location on Celestion’s Speaker Sound
Despite growing user concerns over Celestion’s manufacturing locations, the company has specifically stated that all of its speakers are researched and developed in the UK.
However, while some premium Celestion speakers are still made in the UK, most of them are built in their China facility with exactly the same machines as in the UK by their well-trained staff.
Quality is hence not a question; as there is only a slight difference (if at all noticeable) between the China-made and the UK-made models. Little wonder that many top guitar and bass amp producers still view Celestion speakers as a crucial element of their tone.
For a long-standing brand like Celestion, there have definitely been some necessary compromises since their inception in 1924; one of which is their move to China – “the World’s Factory”. However, this move has helped the brand withstand the pace of demand, and reduce cost so as to strike a balance between quality Hi-Fi and affordable price points.
Whether made in UK or China, it’s totally up to us to recognize and trust Celestion’s efforts to uphold quality regardless of the manufacturing location.