Micro Dark on a 4×12″ speaker
Speaker boxes are an integral part of sound shaping. Apart from the respective speaker chassis, the construction of the cabinet is highly important for the sound deconvolution. Here we present the most important specifications of the guitar cabinet and clarify everything about the interaction of guitar, amp and cabinet..
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What are the types of guitar speakers?
Basically, guitar cabinets can be distinguished by the number of speakers they are equipped with and their impedance, the AC resistance in ohms. Common impedances are between 2 and 16 ohms and a configuration of two to four 12″ speakers.
Generally speaking, 10" speakers are rarely used in guitar cabinets and are more commonly used in combos. Its more compact design logically has the advantage of saving weight and space. 10" speakers, for example, are fairly common within practice combos.
Due to their handy dimensions, 1×12 boxes are often understood primarily as a compromise solution in favor of convenient transportation. A frivolous attitude, which underestimates the fact that this type of construction has acoustically tangible advantages over multiple cabinets. For the listener the localization of such a cabinet is clearer, details of the guitar can be perceived more precisely.
For a 1×12 can sometimes also speak just the fact that it speaks with its one speaker quieter than a 2×12
A Palmer 1×12″ speaker box
Many a colleague has made the experience: The tube amp is supposed to distort in the power amplifier, but is then too loud for the club on a large cabinet. With a 1×12 cabinet, the sound pressure goes down, it’s easier to find a working point that suits the situation.
A cleverly chosen 1×12 cabinet, on the other hand, can greatly enhance the sonority of a combo. Under the same aspect, you should always seriously consider whether you really buy a combo, or combine the amp model in question with a carefully selected 1×12 cabinet, which explicitly does not necessarily have to come from the same model series.
Basically, 2×12 speakers can be arranged horizontally (side by side) as well as vertically (one above the other). Advantage of the former design is that you can usually put the amp on it without any problems. The advantage of the second design, on the other hand, is that the speaker tends to be closer to the ear.
Basically, 2×12 cabinets are the logical middle ground for those for whom only one speaker doesn’t offer enough power, but a 4×12 seems too big and bulky.
A Waza 2×12″ speaker
A loudspeaker equipped with four 12" speakers is probably the classic speaker par excellence. It was invented by John Marshall, who we’ll let have his own say on the matter:
"After all, our first speakers were 2×12 models. But since the early Celestion Alnico speakers could only handle 25 watts each, they were always banging away. But our amplifiers had peaks of over 45 watts. In order to eliminate this grievance, I developed the 4×12 box with 100 Watt.
The funny thing is that I didn’t think anything at all about the design of this box. It should just be relatively small and very stable. I think I simply put four 12" speakers on a large piece of paper and drew a frame around them. The first boxes were then the straight version. But that looked kind of funny with the small JTM45 top. The proportions were not right.
So I slanted them in the front from the half to make the design better. The depth of the amp fit exactly on the remaining space. When Micky, the guitarist of the Tremeloes, asked me why the box was slanted, I spontaneously gave him a pseudo-scientific explanation:
Well, the speaker is built in such a way that the sound is emitted unhindered over the heads of the audience and can still be heard at the other end of the hall.’ I had only made up this explanation, but when I went to the other end of the hall, I heard that I hadn’t been talking nonsense after all! But once again: The boxes were only built slanted for optical reasons."
Very early Marshall 4×12 box, still made of chipboard (photo: Udo Pipper)
You can learn more about this dream team in our workshop: Marshall& Celestion!
Special models (8, 15, hybrid boxes)
Of course, there are various special models that deviate from the norm and are rather less common. For example, the 15-inch speaker, which is particularly appreciated by jazz guitarists because of its warm tone. Hybrid boxes with different speaker sizes exist, but are not really widespread.
What to look for when buying a speaker?
The evaluation and selection of the individually ideally suited speaker is certainly not an easy problem to master. The task is similar to the decision-making process for a pair of hifi boxes, except that everything takes place quite loudly and the hearing gets tired even faster.
It is therefore important not to be carried away by the doodling, but to compare as briefly and concisely as possible some different musical elements, always the same, concretely, z. B. clean chords, crunch chords, distorted single-note figures on the low strings, solo lines.
And indispensable: you bring your own instrument and amp to the start! It’s already hard enough to abstract acoustic conditions in a foreign room. Of course, it would be even better to try to hear and judge the speaker in use with the band.
Two more important points:
- You should make sure that you listen to and compare the test subjects close to the volume that will later be realistic for the application. Not just full blast, not too quiet either, because speakers work differently sonically over their power range. Not to mention that the human ear perceives frequencies with variable intensity depending on the sound level.
- The boxes not on the floor in the trouser legs resp. let blow on the pumps. You should be able to eyeball the diaphragm cone, have your ear more or less directly in the beam, otherwise some subtleties won’t become clear at all.
FAQ about guitar speakers
What to consider when buying used vintage speakers online?
An old Celestion Greenback G12M from the sixties or a Jensen Alnico from the fifties are already real sound legends. Rightly, the well-maintained specimens have the reputation of sounding particularly musical. They usually sound warmer and more colorful than their newer reissues.
But what does "well maintained" actually mean? Even if they still work, speakers lose their original quality over the years. The voice coil former made of paper or cardboard can deform and the surrounds and diaphragms can gradually crumble away.
The result is a sound with little dynamics and volume, too much compression and a loss of resolution. Therefore buying on the internet is always a risk. Especially since a lot of money is usually charged for these speakers.
Object of desire: Old Celestion Alnicos (picture: Udo Pipper)
Of course, these speakers sound fabulous in good condition. But this is difficult to check.
Old Oxford speakers in a Fender Vibroverb (picture: Udo Pipper)
Some sellers first give away the speakers that don’t sound good, although they still work. So it is a gamble, which often leads to frustration. It would be better to try used speakers beforehand to make sure that the sound expectations are met.
In the worst case only a repair, a so-called Reconing, can help. A new voice coil and a new diaphragm are used in the process. If this is done professionally, these speakers can sound excellent again. Of course it costs about 100€ again and destroys the collector’s value.
Fender Deluxe Reverb with Celestion Creamback (picture: Udo Pipper)
Nowadays, the range of 12-inch speakers is so diverse that you can also find current models. Bonamassa or Keith Richards play newer Celestions in their old Fender Tweed Twins, The Edge prefers a Celestion Blue Alnico Reissue in his Tweed Deluxe and Neil Young buys old Jensen Ceramics (C12N) and basically has them reconed.
If you own vintage amplifiers and want to use them live, it is generally recommended to replace the speakers, if you do not want to endanger the often age-related fragile condition of the original speakers. In case of a sale, you can reinstall the original loudspeakers with a clear conscience and thus get the full value of the good piece.
What is the difference between closed and open guitar boxes??
Closed cabinets have more power and punch, so to speak. But they radiate mainly only to the front. If one does not stand directly in the sound cone of a Marshall box, one hears oneself badly. Open cabinets radiate rather spherically, so they can be heard well almost everywhere on stage.
They have less punch and sometimes less contour in the bass range. With a JTM45 you would then have to reduce the basses a lot, which many musicians prefer with this amp anyway. At Tube Amp Doctor in Worms, for example, there are empty cabinets where the rear panel consists of three parts.
What effect does the cabinet of the guitar speaker have on the sound??
The cabinet even plays a significant role when it comes to the sound of the guitar cabinet. There are cabinets made of MDF (medium density fiber), plywood (multiplex) or solid wood. In addition, the material and thickness of the front panel play a decisive role. Finally, of course, the arrangement and number of speakers also makes itself felt.
A cabinet made of solid wood, for example, behaves like a sounding body itself and delivers a lot of resonance. The sound is more indirect, because a large part of the vibration energy of the speakers is "lost" to the cabinet. But you can also consider this effect as part of the overall sound.
Quite extremely, this phenomenon is observed in tweed combos, which are made of solid wood (solid pine) and also have a very thin baffle board (speaker front). A Tweed Deluxe vibrates so much at high volume levels that it almost travels across the floor.
Wafer-thin front baffle made of poplar wood for
a Fender Tweed-Combo (picture: Udo Pipper)
For tight heavy metal staccato riffs this would of course be totally unsuitable. For high volumes, therefore, you need a housing material that is difficult to make vibrate. Thick multiplex or MDF are in advantage here. A thin 9-millimeter front panel in a Fender Tweed combo would barely support even a heavy Electro Voice or JBL speaker.
Speakers often break out of the front wall. Thus it is an empirical fact, if you will, that every loudspeaker brings its sound characteristics in combination with the respective cabinet.
Extremely resonant: A Fender solid-pine cabinet (Photo: Udo Pipper)
It makes no sense at all to listen to loudspeakers without a cabinet. You wouldn’t hear much there either, because it’s the most important part of the sound result. No cabinet, no sound! That’s also what makes it so difficult to respond to inquiries about speaker selection.
The only things that are really clear are the expected properties of certain types of wood and mass ratios. Thick cabinet walls and damping materials "sound" less than thin walls made of solid wood. Therefore more stable constructions sound tighter and more contoured than resonating cabinets.