Speakers – The Big Difference
I’ve chased tone for years, and after spending far too much time, effort and money tweaking guitars and amps, I eventually realised that putting new speakers in my cabs made far more difference than NOS glass and capacitors – and at a fraction of the cost.
I’ve found speakers that tame edginess in some amps, and speakers that add bite to others, and today I use a range of cabinets from 4×12 to 1×12 loaded with various Celestion Greenback and Creamback speakers. Custom fitting speakers to cabs is a great way to fine-tune a rig, but there is another way that’s probably more common and quite a lot easier – try your amp plugged into a few ready-loaded cabs and just use the one that sounds best!
How Much Difference Does The Cab Make?
I can read a response curve on a website as well as most people, but I seriously couldn’t choose a speaker based on one. The response of a typical guitar speaker to a signal starts with a coil moving in a magnetic field, which pushes a cone, which pushes air to create sound. Every time that speaker cone pushes forward, the back of the cone has to pull a volume of air into the space behind it, and if that speaker is mounted in a tiny, sealed box where there’s not much air to pull, it will tend to try to suck the speaker cone back into place quite firmly.
Mount that same speaker in a huge sealed box and it has more air to play with and the cone will move more freely. Open the back of the cabinet and the speaker has the whole room behind it, so there will be very little ‘suck’ on the movement of the speaker – and at the same time, the ‘out-of-phase’ signal from the back of the cabinet will get out into the room and interact with the signal from the front.
Make the cabinet really heavy and rigid and most of the movement of the cone will translate to pulses of air from the area of the speaker; make the cabinet light and flimsy and it will vibrate more, and the actual cabinet will act like a secondary speaker which will add to the sound from the cone. Fit some clever plumbing into the cab and you can control when the low frequencies from the back of the speaker reach the front to make your small cab sound much bigger than it really is.
Great guitar cabs are created when iconic speakers are mounted into the best enclosures – and the best are far more than the sum of their parts. All of this can sound a bit complicated, but the good news is that the hard work has already been done by the designers, and when they get it REALLY right, we get cabinets that can be legendary! Some of those legendary cabs are now available as Backline Heroes Impulse Response Libraries from Celestion!
CelestionPlus Backline Heroes
Orange cabs are renowned for their solid build and tight, punchy sound. More than once, I’ve been surprised when I’ve plugged into an Orange that I’ve absolutely loved and then discovered that it’s loaded with speakers that I wouldn’t have normally chosen for the amp I’m using, or that it’s an open-back 1×12 that punches like a closed-back 2×12.
I’ve seen and heard large and small Orange cabs used with all sorts of different amps, from the heavy-distortion of extreme metal to the clean-twang of country music, and they just seem to work so well with everything. The Celestion Backline Heroes: Orange Amps IR Library includes six classic cabinets ranging from the 1×12 Closed back V30 loaded PPC112, through Open and Closed back 2×12 V30 PPC212 cabs, the PP212V Neo Creamback open 2×12 (I LOVE Neo Creambacks in a 2×12) to PPC412 4×12 Closed back variants with V30 and G12K-100 speakers.
Orange Cabs stand-out on stage; they have a distinctive thick and rich family sound that adds fat and bite to whatever you plug into them, and these IRs from CelestionPlus add that mojo to their already great collection of speaker based IRs.
The folks at Suhr have a reputation for taking attention to detail to the extreme, and they produce a range of cabinets that use different speakers in finely-tuned enclosures to complement specific amps and sounds. The Backline Heroes: Suhr Cabinets IR collection makes IRs of a few thousand pounds-worth of classic cabs from the 1×12 Bella V Type and Badger V30, to the 2×12 Hedgehog G12-65 and PT H75 Creambacks, to 4×12 cabs with V30 and Greenback speakers.
It’s easy to get caught-up in the real world with thinking that our cabs need to match our amps, but these Celestion/Suhr based IRs make it really easy (and cost-effective) to add a touch of the Suhr Quality Obsessive/Compulsion to any real amps or HW/SW sim rig that we might want to use.
Stress-Free Tone Tweaking
Speakers are a great way to fine-tune our sound and I’d happily have a massive stack of classic cabs to plug into, but sadly cost and space (and the ability to make lots of noise) tend to be limited, so I often record with real amps through a Suhr Reactive load into one or more IRs. Sometimes I might want to chase down the sound of a specific combination of speakers to see what happens (and I’ve spent many hours in the real world with a soldering iron and a screwdriver doing just this), but when it’s all about the performance, it’s generally a lot quicker and easier to just plug into a great cab and think “that’s the one”.
In the video below, I put several of the Orange and Suhr cabs from the Backline Heroes range through their paces:
Celestion’s ever-expanding Backline Heroes range showcases Celestion’s best-selling guitar speakers loaded into iconic cabs from the world’s best cabinet manufacturers, faithfully captured in digital form by their expert sound engineers in professional studios. Discover Celestion’s Backline Heroes range here.
Andi Picker can be found at The Dust Bowl Audio.