Celest Gumiho Planar+BA IEM Review – New King Under $50?
Celest is the new sub-brand of the well-known brand Kinera. The first Celest IEM model Gumiho has been announced at the beginning of September. Gumiho comes with a patented Square Planar Driver (SPD) driver using a brand new low-cost-high performance-high production yield design methodology to the traditional planar concept. This SPD driver is responsible for the low and mid frequencies and an additional custom BA (balanced armature) driver comes to support the high frequencies. So the Celest Gumiho has a hybrid driver setup for a very competitive price of $49. Because of this low-budget price and a new planar driver inside, the Gumiho took lots of attention in the audio community from day one.
Gumiho is the name of the nine-tailed fox from the “Classic of Mountains and Seas: Qingqiu Mountain”. In the eyes of the world, this nine-tailed fox is charming, fairy, mysterious, and cunning, each tail here represents a kind of spiritual consciousness. Celest features an image of the Gumiho on the face plates.
Gumiho features 3D-printed ear shells. The design of the pair has been finalized after a deep study of a huge catalog of ear sample data. The IEM comes in 4 different faceplate styles, two with the Gumiho logo and the other two without any logo pure black or white. Normally I like IEMs without any logo on them but as an animal lover, I really liked this cute fox with 9 tails. As for the fit of the shells, there are zero problems, this design works very well for a comfortable and secure fit.
Celest Gumiho comes packed with a high-purity cable. It’s a silver-plated copper+pure copper alloy cable with a 4-core 124-strands configuration. It uses standard 0.78mm 2-pin connectors and a 3.5mm termination plug. This cable is extremely soft and handles very well, might be the best stock cable that comes in a $49 package.
The Gumiho is not a strictly V-shaped or overly warm earphone. It features a pretty balanced signature except for the slightly elevated lows. It has a good tonal balance and does not have any major dips or peaks (the 8K peak is because of the coupler that I use for measurement, it’s a common thing). I think Celest wanted it to be a good all-rounder IEM and tuned it that way.
To my ears, the Gumiho sounds inoffensive, relaxed, and effortless. That is not an easy task and oftentimes manufacturers boost the highs to increase perceived clarity but that is not the case here. The Gumiho has an airy presentation with effortless highs and still feels very clear for the price. This is the first element that I liked about this IEM.
Moving on to the second element, Gumiho’s presentation copes very well with a wide spectrum of genres thanks to its fairly balanced tuning and it features a great technical foundation. The imaging and layering are certainly impressive for this price range.
The Gumiho performs well starting from the bass. The bass reproduction is solid, impactful, and balanced. It does not feel boomy or bloated at all. The slight elevation helps Gumiho’s sense of rhythm and dynamism, affecting the SQ positively. The sub extension is great, the lows are clean and the bass to low-mid transition feels effortless. Overall, the Gumiho offers a smooth bass response with good texture and resolution and performs above its price tag for this section as well.
The midrange of the unit is not as recessed as you’d think. The midrange has a good amount of presence and feels energetic from top to bottom. The vocals sound coherent, clean, and articulate. The mids do not feel dry or aggressive. It also does not feel overly saturated like some of the earphones in this price range. Celest got the timbre right. The upper midrange performs similarly, but its presence is ever so slightly more prominent compared to the lower mids.
Do note that the Gumiho does not feel thin or artificial. The upper midrange feels energetic and the extension is impressive, especially for this price. The Gumiho does a good job of reproducing the extension and also there is a good amount of space between the vocal and the instruments.
The treble of the Gumiho follows the route of the upper midrange with great extension and overall spacious reproduction. There is no sharpness, no shrillness on both of the ranges. The treble feels open and shows good resolution and texture. What impressed me here is the sense of effortlessness.
No matter what genre you throw at it, including tracks with complex passages that include many instruments playing simultaneously, the Gumiho handles them easily. The treble shows great control and has no trouble reaching the top octave without sounding sharp or discomforting. I too, like many of you, have concerns when it comes to the upper mids and treble but it is certainly great to see how far the budget IEMs have come.
Soundstage – Imaging
As I mentioned before, the Gumiho is not your regular V-shaped earphone. The tonal balance is actually great and the Gumiho offers a balanced presentation with relatively realistic reproduction. It is an easy-to-drive earphone but it scales well with proper source gear.
Furthermore, I already mentioned that I liked the imaging. No matter the genre, the Gumiho performed great and it managed to realistically position the instruments.
It has a medium-sized stage with solid imaging and layering. The depth is also good. The effortless and spacious presentation really does help here. Long story short, the Gumiho offers a solid technical foundation and punches above its price tag, easily.
Celest has managed to come up with a solid set of monitors and the Gumiho features a well-tuned sound for the budget audiophile. The fact that it has a great technical foundation allows it to be a great all-rounder. I think this kind of tuning is a good choice for the first IEM from a new brand. The Gumiho brings fresh air towards a balanced sound signature which is rare in the low-budget segment. From this point, if you are a fan of this signature, then Gumiho is the new king under $50.