The problem with discussing cabs is that it's a lot like Dancing about Architecture.
Without doubt there are plenty of people around who have experimented with loads
of cabs, drivers, and amps to 'calibrate' their ears and who can draw reasonably reliable
conclusions. But the underlying problem is that there are no hard and fast answers. In
many ways it's analogous to luthiery, whilst an experienced luthier has a good
understanding of how different types of wood should sound, there are always exceptions. If
there weren't the Chinese factories would be knocking out great guitars consistently at
£150, and whilst they do well, they aren't that good and never will be.
best, there are some loose guidelines we can apply, but there are more than enough
exceptions to ensure that we can't have hard rules.
However, that doesn't mean
we can't give some good general advice to help you make up your mind. And top of the
list... Don't even consider buying anything you can't demo first, and don't make your
choice based on 'what you've heard'. You really do need to be able to audition anything
before you hand over your cash, and you make up your mind based on how it sounds, not the
Next, Mesa Boogie have been making some great gear for a long time,
but it is grossly overpriced in the UK. As Jack has mentioned, Orange cabs are just as
well built and far better value (I won't mention how little I paid for my 70's Orange
4x12, it really does make people sick with envy), and you won't find better anywhere on
the planet. Modern Marshalls are a little wishy washy, but there are stacks (pardon the
pun) of them around from the 70's and early 80's. But don't look on ebay for them, get out
to car boot sales and start reading the local small ads. With a little smart shopping you
can pick up a full stack or half stack within your budget, keep a cab, and sell the head
with or without the other cab for what you paid. Same goes for Marshall 2x12 combo's with
the 2x12 extension cab, you can buy the pair and re-sell the combo for what you paid.
The slant cabs and bottom cabs do sound different, and a lot of people prefer the
sound of the bottom cab above the slanted top cab. And remember, a lot of those specialist
boutique manufacturers in the high gain market are trying to replicate sounds made with
Marshall JCM800 series gear originally. But watch out for the vintage Marshall 4x12's, the
tall ones (or re-issues), they sound great.
And then there are the secret
weapons, quality but underrated brands like Laney. Laney gear is exceptionally well made
and is top notch. Session made some fantastic cabs in the 80's, I've always regretted
selling my Session 4x10 guitar cab and regularly check on ebay to see if I can find
another, it was that good. And then there are those battered old dogs that shouldn't be
any good, but just seem to have that magic.. I used to have an old 70's Sound City 4x12
that sounded great with any amp; it was battered to bits, it had had two replacement
drivers (both completely different), one of the two remaining matched drivers had a ripped
cone, the cabinet was made from lightweight MDF. It was completely WRONG, but was
wonderful. It finally had to go when the damp got to it and it fell to pieces.
Finally, old drivers can be re-coned for far less than the cost of a replacement. So
don't let one dud speaker put you off a decent sounding old cab, it can usually be
With some careful shopping, selling on heads and second cabs,
and listening you really could get a couple of good old 4x12's and a 2x12 for your budget.
Seriously, good cabs are like good acoustic guitars, it doesn't matter what they cost or
what they look like, what matters is how they perform when you put a mic or 2 on them.
When the going gets weird, the Weird turn Pro.