The proper mating of a speaker to an amp, especially a tube amp,
really is like the making of a good marriage.
They’ve gotta be compatible in a number of ways. Choosing a speaker on specs alone would be
like choosing a wife based on her dimensions alone. Speakers, like people, have personalities ...
some good, and some downright ugly. Okay gang, I promised to get back on track
this week, and dad gum it, I’m gonna keep that promise! You may remember back a couple of blogs,
we were talking about speaker specs. We
talked all about the speaker personality trait (spec) known as "sensitivity". Today I want to talk about what to look for
in a gal ... uh, speaker when you are seeking the elusive "holy grail" tone. Ya ready?
Let’s dive in!
Frequency response, a spec touted a lot by hi-fi speaker
manufacturers as well as some guitar speaker makers, gives a general idea of
what frequencies a speaker can produce, from the lowest tones, to the highest.
But what does this really mean in a guitar amp?
To get on the same page, let’s dissect frequency range a little. If your hearing is more-or-less perfect, then
you can hear frequencies from as low as about 20 Hertz to as high as 20,000
Hertz (also referred to a 20 KHz, or simply 20K). However, electric guitar tone lives in a
range from around 83 Hz up to an ultimate top end of harmonics at about 5 KHz;
so there is little value in a guitar speaker producing tones above about 5 KHz
or so, or below around 80 Hz. If you are
choosing a speaker for your amp based on which one has the widest frequency
range, you are about to step in some deep do-do. Yikes.
So, what exactly should you look for then, in a speaker to
satisfy your tone quest? The simple
answer is that there ain’t no simple answer.
Let’s take one classic combo that many equate to tonal nirvana, the
tweed deluxe with a Celestion Blue (preferably a vintage model ... or better yet,
the WGS Black & Blue). This combo works so well for the following
The Tweed Deluxe is a low-power amp, and the ultra-high efficiency of the Blue gives the somewhat anemic amp a needed volume boost.
The little tweedy tends to be a bit on the dark and wooly side, and the liberal high-end of the Blue helps to smooth over yet another of the natural limitations of the Tweed Deluxe.
The Blue is a relatively delicate low-power speaker and a side effect of that is that it has a very quick and agile response, a perfect complement to the early and massive tube compression and sag of the old Deluxe.
This is a match made in heaven! Would a dainty little Blue be the right
speaker for your Brutish 100-watt Mesa Boogie MK IIC? Have mercy, no! It would be an ice-pic tonal marriage made in
hell, but only for a little while, as the Boogie would fry the Blue in no time.
What I’m saying is this, if you want to make the right
decision in pairing up your amp with a replacement speaker, you need to ask all
the right questions first? Like ...
Do I need more warmth ... or maybe more of a chimey top end?
Do I need more of a powerful extreme low-end?
What type of cabinet do I have? Open back cabinets have a completely different personality from a closed back cab. Oh, and in the world of speaker cabs, be assured that size really does matter.
Is my amp a bit on the under-powered side, or is it a real brute?
Again I say it, the mating of a speaker to an amp,
especially a tube amp, really is like making a good marriage? They’ve gotta be compatible in a number of
ways. Choosing a speaker on specs alone
would be like choosing a wife based on her dimensions alone. Speakers, like people, have personalities,
some good, and some downright ugly. So,
do your research and choose wisely and your ... I mean your amp’s ... relationship
will be a good one. If you’re having a hard time fixing your amp up
with just the right girl, just ask me, or
one of the other matchmakers here at WGS. Oh,
and if the relationship just plain doesn’t work out, WGS offers an easy
no-questions-asked annulment ... I mean return policy.