5 Reasons Impulse Responses Will Never Replace Speakers

Celestion impulse response speakers

When we launched Celestion impulse responses in January the most overwhelming reaction was just how well they replicate the tones of the speakers they are modelled on (the G12M-65 Creamback, the Vintage 30 and so on). And it wasn’t long before some people began to ask the question: If you can make IRs this accurate, will they someday replace physical speakers?

Our short answer? No!

The longer answer involves a lot of engineering and a measure of psychology. So here are our top 5 reasons for making this claim…

  1. Every Copy Must Have an Original

Impulse responses are a copy, an image, of an original, physical speaker. The copy only has value because of the original.

We currently have more than 30 models in our guitar speaker range, designed to deliver different tonal flavours. Each model has its adherents – players who simply love a particular type of sound for the style of music they are playing or the amplifier they are using. We are constantly working on new variants, to provide customers with cool new tones. And we can’t make an IR for a speaker that hasn’t been created yet! 

  1. We Thrive on Innovation and Improvement

One of the reasons that Celestion has retained its position as the “go to” name for guitar speakers is our continual effort to develop and improve upon our existing range to ensure that the guitar tone of the future remains as formidable as ever.

We pay great attention to every aspect of guitar speaker development, seeking out new materials and manufacturing techniques to bring the best out of each and every new speaker. To find bold new tones by varying aspects like magnet type and size, cone recipe or voice coil or optimising the way they’re pieced together, is our stock-in-trade and something that can only ever be done in the physical realm.

There’s an enormous amount of scope to experiment blending IRs in exciting new ways: it’s fast, easy and convenient to create cocktails of new sounds. But the creation of tone begins and ends with the physical guitar speaker itself.

  1. No Computer Required

Our speakers originated before the age of computers. And, while many musicians, especially professionals, have happily embraced computer technology to enhance their ability to create and record, there will always be those who can’t – or don’t wish to – get their head around a lot of technology just so they can play guitar.

A simple guitar and speaker cabinet setup is a great way for kids (of all ages) to get started, without having to grapple with complex integration of different pieces of kit and software.

And not requiring a computer also keeps down costs. A Celestion speaker costs more than an impulse response download – but it costs much, much less than a computer and associated DAW software.

  1. Digital and Analogue in Harmony

Anyone with an internet connection can pull up an image of the Mona Lisa in seconds – and yet 6 million people travel to The Louvre in Paris every year to see the original masterpiece.

Digital photography hasn’t replaced painting. 3D printing won’t replace sculpture. And – perhaps more relevantly to the issue of music making – music streaming and CDs haven’t replaced the desire to attend live music performances.

If anything, our experience of digital versus analogue so far is that having something in digital form makes the analogue form even more sought after. However convenient a digital product is, what we see is that people value what’s real and what’s original. With this in mind, we expect our impulse responses to become a cost-effective way for musicians to try out the tones of different physical speakers, as part of a purchase decision; or to get Celestion tone in places they couldn’t before (e.g. at a live gig or practicing through headphones). But the benchmark – and the desire – will still be for the original, physical speaker

  1. Speaker Envy

Owning a Celestion speaker is not just a functional thing – something to play your guitar though – any more than your choice of guitar is a purely practical decision. Just as guitar players can spend months dreaming about the guitar they’d love to buy, so they can also feel about owning a particular speaker. The pleasure of owning an original item – whether it be a 1959 Stratocaster or a Celestion Blue, provides owners with warm fuzzy feelings that go way beyond actually using them. As proud as we are of our range of impulse responses we know, deep down, that our customers are simply not going to get the same emotional hit from owning them as they did from buying their first Celestion speaker.

Impulse responses are here to stay – because they sound great and because they are a really useful aid to recreating tone in a reliable way, during recordings, performances and home practice sessions. But we believe they will never replace the physical speaker. Instead we predict a form of peaceful and highly creative coexistence between analogue and digital.

Check out our range of impulse responses here.