Choosing Between Cab Impulses – How Much Does Cabinet Type Affect Tone?

Celestion guitar cabinets, impulse responsesOur impulse responses have captured the unique tones of Celestion’s classic guitar speaker range in digital form, and the focus is quite rightly on the tones of the different speakers. A couple of weeks ago we focused on the difference the type and position of the microphone can make to the final tone – but what about cabinet type?

Capturing a speaker’s impulse response captures not just the sound of the speaker itself, but the totality of the environment in which it is played, including the recording space and, very importantly, the cabinet in which it is housed. Which is why some guitarists pay nearly as much attention to their choice of speaker cabinet as to the speaker itself, guitar and amp.

When it came to capturing impulse responses for our speakers, with typical Celestion attention to detail, we sourced or constructed our own hand built cabinets – to ensure we had the best quality equipment available, without favouring any particular brand of cabinet.

For each of the speaker impulse responses in our range there is a choice of no fewer than 5 different cab types: a 1×12 open back, 1×12 closed back, 2×12 open back, 2×12 closed back and a 4×12 closed back, each downloadable as a separate product.  But how do you go about choosing between the different types of cabinet?

1x12 vs 2x12 vs 4x12 Cab Impulses

Of course, you can defer the decision and buy the collection of 5 cab types as a set (and get a 40% discount) but then you still have to choose between them once they are loaded into your amp simulator or convolution software. So let’s take a look at how the 5 different cab impulses are likely to vary in tone.

1×12 vs 2×12 vs 4×12 Cabs

Generally, a bigger cabinet will produce a richer, fuller and more rounded sound than a smaller cabinet, with the smaller cab producing a tone which is tighter and more focused. Which you prefer will be a very personal choice and probably related to the genre you like to play and also the frequency range you tend to inhabit (lows, mids or highs).

In terms of overall popularity, so far, around 80% of our IR downloads are for 4×12 cabinets (with the G12M Greenback or Vintage 30 being the favourite speaker choice), which perhaps reflects the number of rock and metal players amongst our customers. So if this is your genre, a 4×12 is probably a no brainer if you are choosing just one cabinet impulse response.

If you need to vary the tone for different guitars within a mix, or to suit a different genre, you can either download a different cabinet type or you can experiment with the different microphones and mixes available to you within the cabinet type – you have a choice of Balanced, Dark, Extra Dark, Bright, Fat and Thin.

Closed Back vs Open Back

Your preference here depends on the type of music you want to play most of the time.

Open back cabinets allow a proportion of the sound to escape through the rear of the cab, where it can then disperse or bounce off other nearby surfaces. The result is a more “open” and softer sounding tone.

A closed back cabinet prevents the sound wave from leaving the back of the cabinet, instead forcing all the sound through the front of the cab, resulting in more volume and punch.

Not Better, Just Different

Ultimately what matters is having access to a wide selection of tones and using them creatively to achieve a result that you personally prefer (e.g. switching between them for different parts of a song, or recording multiple guitar tracks with different cab options to help differentiate them in the mix).

You can get a sense of the different tones on different cab impulses by listening to the sound clips on our product pages – there are separate clips for each cabinet type.

Celestion IRs, impulse responses

Explore Celestion’s cab impulses here.

Further Info:

Check out this article by Celestion’s John Paice in Premier Guitar: Speaker Geeks: How a Speaker Cabinet Influences Your Tone

Additional Listening Resources:

We’re grateful to Adam Steel of Hope Pole Studios for putting together two great demo videos exploring the difference between the 3 main types of cabinet (1x, 2x and 4x) and then between Open and Closed Back. You can listen to his findings here:

4×12 vs 2×12 vs 1×12 Guitar Cab comparison:- All Zilla, all Vintage 30