So, we design, make, and sell speakers, which makes you think we'd be biased, right? Wrong. Truth is, we're players just like y'all; we balance budgets and try to figure out if we can afford new gear or need to fix the car instead just like you! I've been amazingly blessed and fortunate to have made tone and guitar gear my life's pursuit for nearly four decades now, I've swapped more speakers in more amps than any other human who has or will ever live. I am the worlds preeminent authority on speaker swaps. Okay ... maybe I need to stop listening to pro wrestlers speeches, or President Trump, for that matter; but hey, if ya don't toot your own horn, who's going to? But it IS true that I have a lot of experience in this, and I'd love to pass this experience on to you. It's what I do, I'm here for you! Let's dig in.
I think I'm going to start with absolute deal-breakers, here are some times when you need to dissolve your relationship and get that amp out of your life asap. There is no speaker that can fix THESE irreconcilable differences.
The Amp is too darn BIG for you to move, the very THOUGHT of moving it makes you determined to never play a gig outside the house: Dude, unless you are totally happy with never playing out with this amp, it's time to kick big Bertha to the curb!
The amp is an unreliable maintenance hog: if you've spent twice as much money on keeping an amp running as it is worth, don't even THINK about a new speaker, just donate that sucker to a local landfill and MOVE ON.
The amp is TOTALLY wrong for you: let's say you are a metal player and your amp is a Fender Deluxe Reverb. Will a speaker make that Deluxe a rockin' metal amp? Ummm, no. Time to Craigslist that little gal to some country guy and get a face melting high-gain amp with scooped midrange tendencies.
And last, the one you already knew: your amp just plain sucks. So you got a starter pack for Christmas last year; it came with a guitar, a strap, a pick, a tuner, a "play guitar in 60-seconds" book, and ... an amp. Cheap guitars are often quite acceptable these days; amps not so much! It doesn't take you long to recognize that you are suffering from the worst of all guitar related afflictions: your tone SUCKS! New speaker? No, NEW AMP!
Okay, now ... on to when you really SHOULD replace your speaker(s)!
You have a valuable vintage amp and you actually use it. In every case, you should replace the speaker. Collectors are a downright freakishly picky bunch. For an collectable amp to retain it;s value, it needs to be as original as possible, and one item that REALLY needs to be original is the speaker, and decades old speakers tend to be tired and can be easily blown. So, don't take the chance, just replace the speaker and put the original(s) safely in the box the new speaker came in.
You are frickin' in LOVE with your amp, but, it needs a bit of tweaking. This is where a speaker swap really makes all the difference.Say you just bought that Deluxe Reverb re-issue and it rocks your world, but when you take it to a club you really wish it had a little more tighter bottom end and a little more clean headroom. Or, maybe your new combo has just a tad bit more of the dreaded 2k ice-pick than is appropriate for your style. THESE are the times when a speaker can take an amp from "I really like it" to "it's freeking PERFECT".
You bought a great amp with a not so great speaker. This happens ALL THE TIME! For some reason, many manufactures still haven't figgured out that a speaker is the single most critical part in an amp ... the one and only part that actually PRODUCES the actual sound! Say you have a Fender Super Sonic Amp with the factory speaker, yes, replace it. Or maybe a vintage Lab Series L7, L5, or L9, chances are the cheap original speakers blew years ago, and if not, they are TIRED; replace those suckers! You will find you have a inexpensive amp that sounds really, really good!
Your amp can over power the speaker(s). You lay on the volume and your speakers fart out. Ugg. Time for new speakers? You betcha!
Your amp doesn't sound great, butwhen you plug it into a friends cabinet ... like magic, it DOES sound flat-out great! Yep, that's the difference between mediocre speakers and great speakers, replace away!
So, there ya have it, my decades of experience summed up in 9 bullet-points. I'm sure there are some I forgot, so y'all feel free to chime in with your own feelings. Next week I'll be looking at when to change pickups and when not to, so y'all be sure to pop in for that one. So long till then.