The Cabinet - Speaker Relationship

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by LSchefman, May 25, 2018.

  1. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Relationships can be complicated, right?

    I see lots of threads on forums about what speaker sounds “best” with a particular amp, and I kind of wince, because you can take the very same make and model of speaker, put it in a different cabinet, and it will sound different!

    Cabinet type (open, closed, ported, etc.) matters; dimensions matter; materials and construction matter; hell, even the covering and grille cloth matter.

    Here’s an example: I’ve got Celestion V30s in both the birch ply, closed-back 212 PRS cab I use with the HXDA, and the 212 pine, ported-back PRS DG cab I use with the DG30. They sound completely different with the same amp. And they sounded completely different in the 212 closed-back Mesa cab I previously had. Also, a speaker in a 212 cab of similar construction will sound different from a 112. Or a 412.

    Not only does the cabinet make the speaker do different things physically to make that different sound, it also makes the amplifier behave differently, because the speaker interacts in several ways with the transformer in a tube amp.

    Context is everything! So I’ll take it a step further: the room affects the sound; what the band (or recorded instruments) are doing affects our perception of the sound due to things like masking; the volume at which we’re playing affects the sound of the amp, speaker and room. Etc. Etc.

    Last step: The way we play the instrument affects the sound. Whether we tweak the guitar controls as we play affects the sound. The effects we use operate in different frequencies. Etc., Etc.

    “I dislike Speaker X. What speaker will be better with my Whiz-Bang 12000?”

    Well, in what cab, at what volume, in what room, located where in the room, on the floor or on a stand, with what effects, at what volume, with what other instruments, with what tubes, how do you play, what do you play, what’s your personal taste like, and what do you want to hear that you’re not getting?

    And even if you can answer every one of those questions in detail, you still won’t get a satisfactory answer until you play through that amp, that cab, and the speaker you’re interested in trying, in your context, in order to know if it’s for you.

    So, yes. Kind of a daunting, expensive, blood-sweat-tears-tear-the-rig-apart-put-it-back-together-rinse/repeat challenge to try every speaker on the market in your context, and I doubt that more than a very few of us have done so (though Doug Sewell told me Grissom did when they were developing the DG30 cab when I met him at the PRS 30th event).

    When you get advice from some complete stranger on a forum, who’s waxing lyrical about some speaker and telling you that it’s the holy grail, realize that he/she knows absolutely nothing about your context, and that the advice is relatively useless because he/she is not you.

    Suggest a speaker to check out? Sure, why not. Take the advice literally, and actually buy the thing without trying it first? You might as well buy the speaker because it’s a pretty color. Because it’s that random a chance that you’ll discover your best option that way.
     
  2. toothace

    toothace At least I'm good at dentistry

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    So what you're saying Les, is I have to actually try it? Just buying SpeakerV2000 won't make me sound awesome all by itself?;)
     
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  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Part Two

    For quite a few years, I’ve held the opinion that I won’t buy a cab I don’t love when I try it, on the wishful thinking that it’s almost great, and it’ll be seriously awesome if only I swap out the speakers.

    Usually that’s not what happens. Oh, it’ll be different, that’s for sure. Better? Possibly, but no guarantee. For me, too often it winds up being an exercise in buying, trying, eBay-ing. I’ve had a bit too much of that, thanks.

    I want to hear the damn cab, with the damn speakers, with the damn amp, in the damn context. It’s the only way I know.

    For the most part - not always, of course - a higher-end manufacturer has tried a variety of speakers with a cab design. So often, I find that their call is a pretty good one. I’ll stress here, “not always.” Because YMMV, and all that.

    Granted, a maker that uses an MDF cabinet, builds overseas, and sticks whatever’s cheap and on-hand in the cab, could give a rat’s ass. But I don’t buy that garbage, anyway.

    Do I really want to spend a grand or more on a cab, then spend another $300-500 on another set of speakers that maybe, possibly, i’ll like a little more, and more likely, I’ll like less, plus monkey around with a screwdriver and a soldering iron several times to find out? And keep doing it until I hit on a winner?

    I dunno, man. Not the way I roll these days...

    I’ll plug into the cab, and if I don’t love it, I’ll try a different cab. If your hobby is buying/trying speakers in your cabs, geez, I take my hat off to you! You are a better man/woman than I.
     
    #3 LSchefman, May 25, 2018
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
    jxe, Herr Squid, Tucson Thump and 3 others like this.
  4. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    To add to the disaster, I bought a bunch of cabs and speakers a couple years ago. Literally stacks of them. Tried various combos of amps, speakers, cabs. Learned a ton. Chose my fave.

    Now my taste in tone has changed. Sold the amp and cab. More experimentation.

    Rinse and repeat...
     
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    If you’ve done it, and are going to do it all over again, you are definitely, 100%, a better man than I!

    I take my hat off to you, sir!
     
    elvis likes this.
  6. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    I actually went a bit different way.

    After the cab/speaker trials, I took what I learned from the comparisons, added my experience with gigging the various cabs, and chose the cab/speaker I think is best for me.

    Step 2: I trialed a pile of amps into that cab. Bought and sold quite a few.

    Found a couple of tones on one amp that really nailed it and that I think will work well live.

    Step 3: Worked to tune the other amps to that same tone. Some would, others wouldn't. Really worked the controls, learned about the amps. Made a lot of recordings. Critically listened to a lot of recordings to give me a target for tone, dynamics, etc.

    Found that 3 amps really do it for me, each with its own personality, but all in the range of tone/dynamics I wanted. All into the same cab.
     
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  7. Alnus Rubra

    Alnus Rubra Loving nature’s wonders

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    It’s funny to hear you guys using Celestion speakers that are made about 20 miles away from where my folks live, in Suffolk!

    I guess they have to be made somewhere, it just tickles my sense of how small this world really is.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Here’s something cool I just stumbled on; a quick-change speaker cabinet! No more screwing around with soldering irons and screwdriver/bit guns if you use this.

    Whether it sounds like a cabinet with a regular baffle, who knows? It’s going to sound like itself, no doubt, especially because of the added mass behind that baffle that holds speakers in place.

    Whether it’s got its own good thing going, or bad thing going, who knows? Haven’t heard it in person. Not touting it for anything. But it seems it’s easy to putz around with different speakers using this cab.

    I say again, “seems.” I don’t know. Haven’t seen it in person.

    But if you find a few speakers that sound good with this cabinet, and if they do what you need them to do, well, it seems like it would make testing and swapping out speakers a little simpler.



    If I had a store that sold speakers, I’d put one of these in it so people could test speakers for themselves (with the caveat that the speakers would most likely sound different in their own cabs). If I had a studio open to other artists, it might be a nice thing to have as well.
     
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  9. Alnus Rubra

    Alnus Rubra Loving nature’s wonders

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    Yeah there’s some clever thought gone into that! No tools needed!
     
    LSchefman likes this.
  10. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    Cool!

    In the end, I find that I'm more happy with a more mediocre speaker that is predictable and flexible than a super-whiz-bang one-trick overtuned pony.

    My tone at home is pointless because I'm not a big recording guy, and my tone on the gig is dominated by "can you hear me at all?" I'm probably a lot more in tune with dynamics than tone. And I need to cover a lot of ground as I play covers.
     
    LSchefman likes this.
  11. django49

    django49 New Member

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    I have my own biases. Bought and sold a ton of cabinets. Still have way too many of them. Everything from 1 x 8" to Dual Showman 2 x 15" JBLs. Pretty much everything in between. Lots of love for 4 x 10s and 2 x 12s. Even a handful of the little known Mesa "4812s".

    A few years ago, I started building my own. Some Fuch/Dumble types. Then I stumbled onto some hype for Forte 3d cabinets. Long since outta business, but there are replicas being built......I reverse-engineered some in different configurations. My preference may well change next year, but.......

    A "simple" 1 x 12 (with the right speaker!) can combine the very best of an open back and closed back cabinet... The best way I can describe it is that it ( 1 x 12) sounds like it is 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Even better is a vertical 2 x 12 with an Alnico Cream up, EVM-12L down.......As an oversized 2 x 12, it is still bulky and probably pushing 100 pounds. But I have not heard better,

    Now, having said that, I played out a while ago experimenting with a solid state (!!) amp, a single preamp pedal and a shop built 1 x 8" (rated at 100 watts). It kept up with (and surpassed) everything in the room (one half stack, multiple vintage or boutique combos) not only in volume but also tone. Pretty sure it was not just my opinion, as that is what I was told when I left the stage......("WTF IS that thing?!!")

    If anyone happens to get this far off the beaten track, they are welcome to give that "Forte thing" a try.
     
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  12. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    The Forte design truly looks interesting! I recall seeing their website a while back, but never got a chance to hear one.

    I’ve had a Two-Rock cab (Dumble style), and dug it. I only ever tried it with Two-Rock amps, since that’s what I was playing at the time.

    The Pine Grissom cab, with dual rear ports of a similar shape to the Dumble ports, is a beautiful sounding cab. It combines size, warmth, and the sweet tone of pine. Very nice, and a little bit unexpected: it’s definitely tuned for the DG amps, but sounds good with other vintage style amps as well.
     

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