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Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

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Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby tomdot » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:07 pm

Helloooo

Could someone explain to me what makes one speaker cabinet sound different from another (different speaker combinations aside).

For example, I use an open back Bogner Alchemist 2x12. It has a G12M and G12H in it, but what makes this sound any different from say a DIY cab with those same speakers? Do manufacturers voice the speakers differently much like pedal manufacturers voice their TS clones differently? Is it based on cabinet structure? Surely, like most things, manufacturers gravitate to certain types of wood? Can you even gauge the suitability of a cabinet based purely on the speakers it holds?

I think, really, I'm trying to angle on where my cabinet ranks compared to it's Marshall and Orange equivalents - being unable to try these cabs out side by side currently it's tough. The cab is cheaper for a reason, but does this price difference have an effect on sound quality? I could see how it both could and couldn't.

Also, thinking ahead to live use (which I haven't had a chance to do yet). The speakers are not similar and they are diagonal to each other (so it's an irregular speaker set up). I'm not sure which is going to be best to mic up for my live sound. The engineer will not mic both up, and I'm not trusting enough to let them decide with an unfamiliar cab, so what to do and which to pick? How can I test this? Just record with a 57 at home and tell the engineer at sound check?

Sorry for the potential idiocy!
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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby Daniel Davis » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:19 pm

To start with there are the drivers themselves - a celestian greenback retails at well over £100 each. Then cabinet construction is at least as important as the drivers in it. In fact a driver which is not in an enclosure make a surprisingly terrible sound.
Of course there are the general principals of a sealed cabinet, an open-backed cabinet, or a ported cabinet. Then there are construction methods and materials - yes MDF will be very different to marine-ply, internal bracing, damping etc.

The only real way to compare is to put them side by side.

If neither you nor the sound engineer can hear that one speaker is better than the other then there probably isn't much in it. If it is obvious to you, then tell him to use that one.
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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby tomdot » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:32 pm

So with regards to live stuff it is just a case of picking a speaker and getting on with it? I suppose I am worried about half my sound escaping, but didn't know whether there is a different way of dealing with live sound compared to recorded sound.

So, when it comes to cabinet manufacture does anyone know any standard rules or conventions that they follow in order to at least get an adequate sound - I suppose I mean 'the basics'? Some examples of good and bad cabinets that I may recognise would be helpful.
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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby 4TrackMadman » Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:08 pm

The setup that you have is usually done for a fuller sound, that's why the speakers are placed diagonally. A lot of people are doing this with Celestion greenbacks and the cheaper (G12H's?) to vary the sound as the greenbacks are considered "retro" in some circles and the cabs allegedly need more bite.

Personally I'd go with a Marshall 1960 4x12 enclosure as that is as close to the industry standard as they come.


Live you can also request dual mic setup, considering you're the only guitarist in the band. If you're not it could pose problems as some of the smaller venues might not have the ability to mix more than one guitar channel per player. In that case I would find an engineer that can be trusted to pick the speaker to be used or you can run mic tests on each. I doubt that there will be that much difference between speakers, considering you'd have a lot of other factors influencing sound: difference in sound systems from venue to venue, mic brands and mic positioning.

Live sound is oftentimes plug and pray, especially when you rely on the venue's system and engineers.
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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby tomdot » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:14 pm

4TrackMadman wrote:The setup that you have is usually done for a fuller sound, that's why the speakers are placed diagonally....

...Personally I'd go with a Marshall 1960 4x12 enclosure as that is as close to the industry standard as they come.

What difference does it make if the speakers are diagonal compared to horizontal/vertical?

Unfortunately, I can't afford the Marshall cab so what I have is what I have. After basically spending all of my savings of last year I finally have equipment that can stand up, and my sound is nearer to the ideal right now than it has ever been. Im incredibly happy with the lot of it.

Saying that, the only thing I would change right now if given an opportunity is switching to a Marshall 4x12 cab through the Dark Terror. I used a Tiny Terror to record with a couple of years ago and I preferred the way it sounded through the Marshall rather than the Orange cab at the time.

I've also played my fair share of live gigs so I know the ins and outs. Just never had a 2x12 before so wonder if I should approach the live sound differently. Seems not!
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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby zenguitar » Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:55 am

The only Marshall 4x12 that comes close to an old Orange 4x12 is the tall, vintage, Marshall. But that's just my opinion

But in broader terms, it really is worth experimenting with cabs and drivers. But be warned, while there are reasonable 'rules of thumb', there are plenty of exceptions to catch you out. Until if fell to pieces due to damp an old Sound City 4x12 with mismatched drivers was one of my favourite cabs. It really shouldn't have worked, but it sounded great.

It is really difficult to pin down what makes a great sounding guitar speaker cab. But one thing is for certain, they aren't 'hi-fi' by any stretch of the imagination The one cab I genuinely regret selling is an old Session 4x10 loaded with Celestions, it sounded amazing and I haven't seen another in real life or online since I sold it. If I had the cash and I saw another, I would buy it like a shot.

The best way really is to try as many as possible. And pick the one(s) you like.

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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby ef37a » Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:14 am

Zenguitar sums it up with "But that's just my opinion" !

Guitar ("lead") cabs are not rocket science in fact they could be described as "anti-fi"! For instance the prefered material is ply, an excellent choice from a cost/weight/strength view but a ppoor one from a "classical" hi fi one. Ply will flex, especially a sealed 4x12 under the cosh of a 100watter. That flexing will be non-linear and produce a haphazard, distorted radiation pattern, but we love 'em! A very dense, rigid MDF cab would not sound nearly as good to most guitarists.

But probably 80% of the sound character is governed by the drive unit and a large proportion of THAT is governed by how the amplifier is "voiced".

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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby tomdot » Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:15 am

ef37a wrote:Guitar ("lead") cabs are not rocket science in fact they could be described as "anti-fi"!

But probably 80% of the sound character is governed by the drive unit and a large proportion of THAT is governed by how the amplifier is "voiced".

I'm amazed that so much of the music industry is so 'Anti-Fi' yet can still produce such an array of soundscapes and textures that we never grow tired of hearing. We all still recognise that an 80 year old guitar design, through a 100 year old amplifier design, through a 35 year old pedal circuit, into a 45 year old microphone is the holy grail of tone and sound.

It does somewhat make a mockery of achieving a pristine and perfect piece of music, and sometimes you realise that turning the tone knob in micro-increments or worrying about speaker voicing may not have any more merit than just turning up and getting on with it!

Thanks for the advice everyone!
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Re: Speaker Cabinets - The Lowdown (Please)

Postby ef37a » Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:35 am

Much of what we like in terms of sound quality is "conditioned" IMV.

Take the classical violin. It was developed to its highest art in central europe and constructed using those wood available that gave the best, subjectitive tone. But if the violin had come from China or the Amazon very different woods will have be used and we might now only accept as genuine a violin made from bamboo or "kicheerta" wood!

I was very interested to see, some weeks ago on TV the process of making Carbon Fibre cellos. No doubt the old guard are steaming from ears but they are said to be much louder than wooden instruments. ('stodo with Young's Modulus or sommat?).

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