Hi-diddly-ho fair neighbors! I’ll
just bet that you all have noticed that WGS is now offering the 10" & 12"
American speakers with "smooth cones". Here
is a pic of a young naked smooooth WGS gal wearing nothing but her pretty lil
Pretty, no? So, anyway, if you have
been wondering if a smooth-cone may be the right gal for you and your amp,READ ON!
First, the history: If this were 1949,
we would not be having this discussion, because up until about that time all
speaker cones were smooth. Why the
change? Electric instruments! Those darn new-fangled electric guitars and
basses being put out by folks like Leo Fender were really a game-changer. Unlike the console and table-top radios of
the day, folks were seriously cranking up their new guitar amps, and in so
doing they were seriously challenging the existing speaker technology. Then, as today, players were beginning to
revel in the sonic bliss of a fender tube amp with every one of its
chicken-head knobs turned to their farthest position. The result was both loud ... and ... get this,
rich in harmonic distortion. That last
little gem kinda took the speaker engineers by surprise. Who woulda thought that folks would purposely drive
their audio equipment to the point of overload distortion?
So a scramble of sorts began. All through
the 1950’s, speaker designers were working on new designs that could stand up
to the beating the Fenders were dishing out. This was truly the golden era of musical
instrument speaker design, and it was during this period that many of the
design elements that we now take for granted came to be. For instance:
Better, higher power voice coil designs
More robust spiders
More consistant voice coil gaps
More durable, robust cone designs
It’s that last feature that we are discussing right now! Innovations included:
The "accordion" cone surround
Treated (doped, gooped) cone surround edges
Thicker and/or stiffer cones
Today, musical instrument speakers generally utilize a mix of several or
even all of these features, but we’re talking specifically about ribbed cones,
right? Okay, so let’s get back to it!
It turned out that putting ribs on the speaker cones did an excellent job of
keeping the cones from warping and "farting out" at higher SPLs, and, generally
speaking, didn’t as adversely affect the tone as simply going to a thicker,
stiffer material. The end result: within
no time virtually all guitar and bass speakers sported those fancy new ribbed
cones. That continues to be the case
right up until today; but that is beginning to change. So, why the renaissance? Personally, I think it’s a bit like the renaissance
of tube amps themselves. Every once in a
while someone gets ahold of an old tube amp from the 40’s or early 50’s that
has a smooth cone speaker in it and they are mesmerized by the smoky, woody,
organic tones it produces; shoot, even that cone breakup that folks fought so
hard to stamp out in the 1950’s can be very desirable in the right musical
setting. Deja-vu all over again ...
imagine, folks actually preferring the sound of a cone distorting!
Okay, now it’s down to the brass tacks! If you are trying to decide between a ribbed
or smooth cone WGS American speaker, I’ll try to break down the differences here:
Assuming all things to be equal, the smooth cone speaker will break-up
The smoothie will sound more vintage, woodsy, smoky ... organic. Think old Chicago blues from the 1940’s, that’s the
sound of an old American smooth-cone!
The ribbed-cone speaker will sound a little brighter, will have more clean
headroom, and will have a cleaner, more defined sound.
There you have it. Balls in your court;
make a good, informed decision! Oh, but
then there are the JBL D120F/130F speakers. These critters used an entirely different
rule-book, and took a very different path! How, different? Well, let’s put it this way, they retained
their smooth cones and AlNiCo magnets all the way up to the end of their
production around 1980. These gals are
so unique that I think they deserve a blog of there own ... next week! Till then, y’all be good :)