Archive for the ‘speakers’ Category

You’ve probably figured out by now – if you’ve read this blog with any regularity – that I’m a huge fan of the Jensen Jet series of speakers. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Fender has just released the George Benson Twin Reverb, and he chose the Jensen Jet Tornado 12″ for his speakers. Wow! What an endorsement by such an icon of guitar! Here’s the press release that I just received:


NEWS RELEASE February 2016

Jensen® Tornado is George Benson’s Speaker Choice for the Fender® GB Signature Twin Reverb® Amplifier

Inspired by one of the world’s foremost jazz guitarists, George Benson, Fender’s GB Signature Twin Reverb amplifier is an all-tube amp that produces rich, punchy tone with smooth attack and singing sustain. The GB Twin Reverb is an updated version of the venerable classic amplifier tweaked to satisfy Benson’s discerning ears.

Features include an 85-watt all-tube two-channel guitar combo amplifier, a pair of 12- inch, 100 watt, 8-ohm Jensen Jet Tornado speakers with neodymium magnets, two channels, — normal and tremolo; re-voiced low-gain normal channel — a solid pine cabinet construction, gray vinyl cover, silver sparkle grille cloth, a George Benson badge on the lower right of the front panel and a protective amp cover.

The tonal character of the Jensen Tornado is perfectly designed to give the clean, articulate tone many jazz guitarists favor with a classic full-bodied sound. The neodymium magnet design and characteristics resemble Alnico magnets, contributing to its distinct behavior and quality of tone. The frequency response is noticeably extended in the upper range, generating a sense of airy openness and definition, essential to deliver all the details and the harmonic complexity of jazz chord play, and all the dynamic nuances in the fastest single note runs.

The high headroom from the two Jensen Tornado 12-inch speakers (each at 100 watts), allows every bit of the 85-watt GB Twin Reverb to flow through clearly and dynamically.

The Jensen Tornado speaker weighs only 4.45 pounds – less than half an average comparable 12” ceramic speaker. Combined with the solid pine cabinet, the GB Twin Reverb is 13 pounds lighter than a standard Twin Reverb amp.

Jensen is proud of its contribution to the tonal delight all jazz players will experience when playing the new Fender GB Twin Reverb.

Jensen remains dedicated to working with all musicians in pursuit of their perfect tone!



Here’s the great George Benson talking about the construction of his signature amp:

To me, this is absolutely exciting! In the video GB talks about the headroom of the amp, and how he can play with the volume sweep a lot more than with his previous amp (which was a custom Fender Hot Rod Deluxe). One thing that has frustrated me about Fender amps is that they go from very low to very high volume in very little sweep. Mr. Benson mentioned that he’d have to play with the volume control and keep it between 2 and 3 to dial in the proper volume. I smiled when I heard this because that’s exactly my experience with my Hot Rod Deluxe, and it was the driving factor in me experimenting with attenuators so I could drive the amp more. So it looks like Fender has created a much more forgiving volume sweep with this version of the amp. I definitely will have to check this one out!

As far as the Jet Tornado speakers are concerned. Damn! What a sound! At 100 Watts, they are certainly all about clean headroom. And the sonic content in that video recording just affirmed my belief that Jensen was definitely onto something with the Jet Series of speakers. Originally, I thought that this was Jensen’s answer to lower-cost, entry-level speakers, since they were known for their superb vintage Alnico and Ceramic speakers.

But time and time again, I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the performance of all the Jet Series speakers I’ve tried. Whichever one I’ve gotten, they’ve stayed in the cabs I’ve placed them in, and they aren’t coming out any time soon. They are that good.

So to have such a great player such as George Benson use a pair of Jet Tornados in his signature amp is a HUGE endorsement for this wonderful line of speakers. With the features this amp has, and the sound that it produces, I’m getting that old familiar feeling of GAS.

For more information on this amp, check out the Fender web site! And lest I am remiss about the crux of this latest entry, check out the Jensen Jet Tornado 12″ spec site!

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When I first reviewed the Fane Medusa 150, though I gave it a pretty good rating at 4.5 Tone Bones, I wasn’t really blown away by its tone because of its big bottom end, and recommended that the speaker be put into a 2 X 12 balanced out by a speaker with more top-end sparkle. What I didn’t consider was how it could be used to balance out the tone of a naturally bright amp.

Take, for instance, my review on the Aracom PLX18 BB Trem. One of the nits I had with the combo was that the Eminence Red Coat Red Fang was way too bright for the already naturally bright amp, causing me to bleed off highs when I was mixing the song. FYI, EQ’ing my guitars in my recordings is usually a real no-no with me because I like the pure sound of my guitars and amps on a recording. The only things I’ll add in production are reverb or a touch of delay if necessary. I love the tone of the PLX18, but that speaker just didn’t work for me.

Enter the Fane Medusa 150. That speaker is actually on loan from Tonic Amps. I’ve actually had it for a few months now, and I keep on forgetting to drop it off at Darin’s new place. Well, it looks like I’m probably going to buy it off him after all because I swapped out the Red Fang for the Medusa 150 in the PLX18, and suddenly the seas parted and a way was made clear! The PLX18 tone was completely transformed! Instead of being a purely bright amp, the PLX18’s tone became much more balanced. The highs and high-mids were still present but were much more tame. This resulted in a much richer tone.

As you may know, I’ve been working on a new song called “Strutter.” I actually had the song completely recorded, but I hadn’t finished it because I just haven’t been completely satisfied with the lead guitar tone. When I got the PLX18, I knew it would be the amp I’d use to record the song. But with the stock speaker, and even with my Jensen P12N, it still wasn’t cutting it for me. I even mentioned that the amp loves the Red Coat “The Governor,” and it does, but I still wasn’t completely satisfied. Now, with the Medusa 150 in the cabinet, I’ll be completing the song. Let’s compare, shall we?

Here’s the original, recorded with the PLX18 BB with the stock Red Coat. I’m playing my LP copy, Prestige Guitars Heritage Elite:

Now, here’s a clip of the song with the Fane Medusa 150. I’m playing Goldie in her bridge pickup:

Sorry for the differences in volume levels. But where the Red Fang has much more presence, and an in-your-face presentation, the Medusa’s tone is so much more three-dimensional and more refined. The mids and highs are still present and incredibly articulate, but they’re so much less piercing! And one thing that I noticed immediately with the Medusa is the clarity of the notes through the entire EQ spectrum, whereas the Red Fang seemed to lose a bit of clarity at high-gain settings – especially when I play those transition chords. Note that the amp and mix settings stayed completely the same between the two recordings, and both guitars were played through the Trem channel which was completely dimed. I also removed the wah from the second clip because I didn’t feel the need to mix it up. For that part, I did stack my KASHA Overdrive and Geek Driver overdrive pedals, but set to unity gain, and to add just a touch of compression and sustain. Not much, but just a touch.

So what’s the moral of the story? Simple: Amp and speaker combinations are critical to good tone. Some speakers, like my P12N work with a bunch of different amps. But some speakers, like the Medusa, work much better at balancing out certain amp characteristics. I’ve learned a good lesson here: You have to try out gear in different configurations and situations. Had I not tried to experiment with the Medusa, I probably would’ve just passed it off as a good speaker that belongs in a 2 X 12 cabinet with a bright speaker.

For more information on Fane speakers, talk to Darin at Tonic Amps! Tonic is the North American distributor for Fane speakers.

For more information about the incredible Aracom PLX18 BB Trem, please go to Aracom Amplifiers.

By the way, both clips were recorded at conversation levels using the fantastic Aracom PRX150-Pro attenuator, by far the best attenuator on the planet, from my perspective. I just couldn’t live without this device!

Now, both amp and speaker get:

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4.5 Tone Bones - Very solid performer, and has almost everything but just missing a couple of thingsFane Medusa 150 Fane Medusa 150 12″ Speaker Summary: If you’re looking for a speaker with a big bottom end, while retaining the clarity of your mids and highs, this is the speaker for you.

Pros: Huge bottom end on this little beasty. Played clean, it’s very acoustic-sounding and quite pleasing. With a sensitivity rating of 103, this speaker puts out some volume!

Cons: With the prevalence of the lows, this speaker really belongs in a 2 X 12 cab, balanced out by a more mid-rangy speaker.


Nominal Chassis Diameter 12″
Impedance 4 /8 /16 Ω
Power Rating (AES) 150 w
Sensitivity 1w – 1m 103 dB
Chassis Type Pressed Steel
Voice Coil Diameter 2” / 50.8mm
Coil Material Copper
Magnet Type Ferrite
Magnet Weight 50 oz
Usable Frequency Range 80 Hz – 6.2 kHz
Resonance FS Hz 84
RE Ohms 6.3 Ω

Price: $209 direct from Tonic Amps

Tone Bone Score: 4.5. I really dig the sound of this speaker, but as I mentioned above, it really belongs in a 2 X 12. Granted, I say that within the context of the type of music I play, which leans towards classic rock and blues.

Fane has been around awhile, providing the classic British tone of the Hiwatt and Orange amps of the 60’s and 70’s, and their speakers have helped define the sound of rock and roll, having at one time provided up to 75% of all loudspeakers in England. They’ve been around since 1958, so they know their speaker technology.

The Medusa 150 is one of their most popular models. With its ferrite magnet, it pumps out HUGE bottom end, but amazingly retains the overall clarity of sound throughout the entire EQ range.

How it sounds

Played clean, the Medusa 150 has a very acoustic-like response. This has a lot to do with the big bottom end that helps to give the clean tone a much bigger sound. Here’s an example:

I played this clip in the neck pickup of Goldie, my Saint Guitars Goldtop Messenger, which is a Duncan Custom Custom, which is usually put in the bridge position because it’s a pretty hot pickup. Despite that, I still got a real acoustic response that was VERY pleasing.

Turning up the gain on my amp, and getting lots of power tube distortion really brings out the true character of the Medusa 150. In this next clip, I’m able to cop a pretty close Neil Young:

That’s a fairly simple progression, but I chose it because it’s a good test of how clear the speaker would be in a high-gain situation playing low on the fretboard, which almost always has the potential of muddying your tone when you use speakers that aren’t well-defined. A lot of speakers wouldn’t be up to the task, and would definitely “flab” out. Not the Medusa 150.

Overall Impressions

For my style of playing, which leans toward the classic rock and blues, this is a speaker that I’d pop into a 2 X 12 with a brighter, more mid-rangy speaker, like my Jensen P12N, or if I was to use a Fane, I’d mix it with an Axiom Studio 12L or an Axiom AXA-12 Alnico. But for much heavier metal, this speaker would be ideal, especially for detuned songs.

I actually gigged with the speaker tonight. The only beef I had was that the bottom-end made the general tone a bit too close to the bass, so I was getting a little lost in the mix and had to crank up my amp a bit more, much to the chagrin of my other guitarist. 🙂 But overall, the speaker performed quite well.

For more information on how to obtain Fane speakers here in the US, go to the Tonic Amps web site.

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Fender Hot Rod DeluxeAfter having my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe for a few years now, I finally decided to swap the stock speaker for an Eminence Red Coat “The Governor,” which is a moderately-priced ceramic speaker. What’s difference now? The Hot Rod Deluxe is a very mid-rangy amp in the first place, but at higher gain, the tone became a little flabby. In fact, when I knew I was going to play at gig volumes I had to dial down the bass to about 9 or 10 o’clock, and set the mid and high around 3pm to get a more crisp sound. I was able to alleviate a bit of that flabbiness with better tubes than the stock Groove Tubes, but I always suspected that the speaker had a lot to do with the flabby bottom end. I don’t know why I waited to do this simple, simple modification. It literally took 10 minutes to swap it out.

So why the Eminence Governor? Mainly because I wanted a nice mid-range focused speaker that had a smooth bottom end, and slightly sparkly highs. I had also played the Governor in a couple of different amps, and was really impressed with its brighter voicing. Here’s a frequency response chart for the Governor:

The Governor Frequency Response Chart

As you can see from the chart, the bottom end portion of the curve is a nice, smooth line. In the mid-range, the frequency response is fairly complex, then in the highs, you get some nice peaks in the 2-3 kHz range, finished off with some subtle motes above 10 kHz. The tone in the amp reflects this well. The bottom end is there, and very tame, and the mid- and high-freq response creates a gorgeous, and spacious tone. I’ll probably have some clips in the next few days, but here are clips directly off the Eminence site:


Heavy Distortion


All in all, this has got to be the most significant improvement to my Hot Rod’s tone!

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It seems like the answer to that question should be obvious, right? It’s important. But let’s take a step back for a moment, shall we and ask, “Why is a speaker important?” Again, on the surface there is an obvious answer: The speaker is what produces and projects your tone. But there’s so much more than that!

After I wrote my review of the Jensen P12N, I asked myself why I had never really written any speaker reviews, or why you don’t actually find that many speaker reviews out there relative to other sorts of gear. I alluded to that in my review – I’d suspect that the reason you don’t see too many reviews on speakers is because a speaker is considered a “part.” Let’s be honest, a speaker is just a noise-making device without a cabinet to provide some resonance. And that’s really the root of the problem in reviewing speakers.

You see, you can do all sorts of tests and analysis on speakers, as Ted Weber has. If you click this link, you’ll be taken to a directory listing of various HTML pages named after speaker models like, “c10q.htm.” Open up a few and you’ll see EQ charts for different kinds of speakers. It’s actually a pretty cool thing that could point you in a particular tonal direction. And if that’s not enough, here’s a great review from 10 years ago by GuitarPlayer mag that does a faceoff of 15 vintage speakers. Both of these have been especially helpful in pointing me in a direction of choosing a speaker – but they’re still not enough!

Until you drop that speaker into a cabinet, you’ll really never know how good -or- bad it sounds, and the cabinet you use plays a HUGE role in the speaker you choose. For instance, the Reason SM25 sports an Eminence Red Coat “The Governor,” which is a nice, midrange-priced ceramic speaker, that has a nice, bright presentation. In the SM25’s cabinet, it sounds absolutely sweet: Bright, but with a full midrange that really bolsters what could be a tinny tone. But I had a Governor put in a smaller cabinet that I was testing, ran the SM25 into the smaller cab to test the difference, and it sounded like shit!!! All the tonal complexity that the SM25’s taller and wider cabinet provided was completely lost in the smaller cabinet. And mind you, it wasn’t the cabinet. I had a Jensen P10R mounted in that same cabinet, and it was so musical and pleasing to the ears that I almost cried!

So you see what the crux of the problem in evaluating speakers is? That’s right: It’s the combination of speaker and cabinet that counts, not just the speaker alone. You can pore over schematics and graphs and various analyses, but in the end, until you put that speaker in a cabinet and listen to the combination, you really will never know how it truly performs. To put it another way, a great speaker in a cabinet that it’s not suited for will just sound bad.

So here are some words of advice if you’re speaker shopping:

  1. Find EQ graphs of the speaker you’re interested in, and look at its patterns. Do you want more midrange? Do you want a more scooped tone? Do you want a real even EQ response? This is step 1, and it’s important because it’ll point you in a tonal direction.
  2. Next, think about the cabinet you’re dropping the speaker into. One thing I’ve learned is that speakers need some room to breathe. Drop a 12″ speaker into a cabinet that’s more well-suited for a 10″ speaker, and chances are that you won’t like the sound. A big speaker in a small cabinet simply projects sound and doesn’t resonate to provide more tonal richness.
  3. The thickness of the wood in cabinet plays an important role as well. I like 1/2″ ply or board myself because it resonates well. 3/4″ works as long as the cabinet it big enough to allow for some vibration. I recently tried out a prototype cabinet with a 12″ speaker that was constructed of 3/4″ board. I forget what the dimensions were, but the enclosure was not much bigger than the speaker itself. So not only did the speaker not have much room to breathe, but the thickness of the wood prevented much resonance. The resultant tone was dry – very dry.
  4. Finally, try out a bunch of speakers. But make sure they’re in cabinets! If the place you’re evaluating speakers at doesn’t have this capability, you’re only at step 1.

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Jensen P12N 50 Watt Alnico Speaker

Jensen P12N 50 Watt Alnico Speaker

Wow! I can’t believe that in all this time, I haven’t reviewed a speaker! I’ve focused so much on amps and guitars, and pedals, and other kinds of gear, yet I haven’t even touched upon this particular subject. I suppose it’s because a speaker isn’t something you actually see – it’s a part. Now I’ve made mention of how much I like particular speakers in a combo or a cab, but never a speaker itself. I’m going to remedy that now.

The cool thing about testing gear for someone, namely Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps is that in order to effectively give feedback on the gear you’re testing, you have to play it in different configurations. I’ve played a lot of Jeff’s amps through various combos and cabinets to get a feel of how his amps sound.

When I was testing the Aracom VRX22 prior to its release, Jeff installed a Jensen P12N in a cabinet for me to try out. In short, it was love at first strum! The P12N has to be one of the most musical speakers I’ve ever played through. It has a real punchy midrange that is balanced by a real smooth low-end response. The highs are present, but not overdone. The tone is – for lack of a better word – versatile.

To me, that versatility is its strength. The cleans are pure and chimey, whether you’re playing single coils or humbuckers, and the overdrive tone, again, at least to my ears, is to die for.

The P12N is actually a re-issue of the famed P12N from back in the ’60’s. Some claim that it’s shadow of the original with respect to tone, but tone is such a subjective thing. For instance, there are those that rave about the Celestong Blue. I’ve played through that speaker, and frankly wasn’t all that impressed by it. It could’ve been the amp/cabinet/speaker combination just didn’t work very well. In spite of that, it was nice, but just not all that special to me.

On the other hand, the P12N in the custom cabinet I got from Aracom sounds so incredibly smooth and lustrous. Granted, it helps that before Jeff installed it in my cabinet, it had already seen many hours of use: About two weeks straight from me alone, and several test runs from a variety of guitarists playing everything from blues to modern alternative rock. In short, the speaker cone was already somewhat broken in. As an aside, I hate breaking in new speakers. To me they’re all harsh-sounding out of the box. But I can tell that with my P12N, if it sounds sweet now, in a few months to a year, it’s going to sound even better!

How It Sounds

In a closed back cabinet, the bass response really shines, but never overpowers. And with an overdriven amp through a closed back cabinet, the distortion is tight and ballsy, yet not so thick that you lose clarity. In my custom Aracom 1 X 12 cabinet, when it’s closed, sometimes I think I’m playing through a much bigger amp. The tone is just so tight and well-defined. And for rockin’ songs, the P12N in a closed cab well, rocks!

With an open back cabinet, the P12N brings on the chime, especially with single coils. It’s 11:15 right now, and I actually started writing this article around 10pm. But I kind of got carried away jamming on my Strat with the back opened on my cabinet. The tone was so voluminous; much more open, and it was like each note just kind of hung in the air. The overall tone also brightens up significantly, with a definite emphasis on the midrange, which I love.

So which do I prefer? Closed back or open back? Actually, neither. Each brings its own unique qualities to the table, which now obviates the need for me to get a second cabinet from Jeff so I can play both simultaneously, which would sound totally awesome. 🙂

But, be aware that this speaker is not cheap. At retail, the lowest I’ve seen it is $220. But I do have to say that it is worth every single penny! Mind you, that is with the bell cover. I’m not sure about the tonal differences between having a bell cover versus not having one. All I know is that the P12N with the bell cover sounds absolutely dynamite!

Here’s a clip that I recorded to demonstrate the VRX22, but the P12N was used in all guitar parts. The rhythm parts were played through an open-back 1 X 12 cabinet, while the lead was played with the back of the cabinet closed:

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

For how awesome this speaker sounds, it gets a 5 Tone Bones! For more information, visit the Jensen site.

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Celestion GreenbackMy good friend Phil of Phil ‘N The Blanks has been bugging me to write about speakers for the last couple of weeks. I’d talk about this speaker or that in some amp or cab, and he’d say, “There’s your next article, dude. You gotta write about speakers.” Admittedly, I’ve been a bit reticent about the subject because of all guitar parts, what makes a speaker sound good is purely a subjective thing; that is, someone’s assessment of a speaker’s tonal quality is entirely personal.

Oh yeah, you can argue the case of alnico vs. ceramic. You can argue vintage vs. modern voicing. You can argue about the materials used in a particular speaker. But in the end, none of that matters unless it sounds good to… well… you.

Phil has been trying to get me to write about certain speakers, but that’s something I just won’t do because again, it’s personal preference. For instance, Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps came over to my house today and we talked at length about his RoxBox 18 Watt Combo. I love the amp, but really wasn’t moved by the Eminence Red Coat Red Fang, which uses an alnico driver. On the other hand, I love the RoxBox head plugged into the Reason SM25 speaker cabinet that sports a Red Coat “The Governor,” which uses a ceramic driver. To me, it has a deeper sound. I kind of lean towards the “woman tone,” and “The Governor” is voiced a lot like a Celestion Greenback, which is known for its rich tones. Combined with my Strat I can get that tone. It just wasn’t happening for me with the Red Fang, though for really heavy rock stuff, the Red Fang really shines when it’s pumped up, as it compresses very nicely at high gain output. But that’s not the style I play, so it was hard for me to truly appreciate its virtues.

That said, Jeff mentioned another guitarist who just loves that setup. He’s more of a pure rock player, and loves the warmth and brightness that the Red Fang produces. See what I mean? To talk about this speaker or that is akin to starting a holy war. And you can’t tell anyone a particular speaker is bad or good because that’s just an opinion.

So here’s my advice if you want to switch to a different speaker: Go to a place where you can try speakers out and pick the one YOU like. Use reviews and sound bites as guides only. They’ll generally get you into the ballpark of the tone you want to achieve. And don’t be surprised if you get a speaker for cheap. Remember, as far as gear is concerned, something that costs more a lot of times just costs more – it may not sound any better to you. A good comparison to make is with the speakers I mentioned above. The Red Fang costs about $129, while The Governor costs $89. But I like the sound The Governor produces. If the prices were switched, I’d still go with The Governor.

So don’t be fooled by any marketing mumbo-jumbo. Go out and test for yourself! 🙂

There Phil, I wrote an article about speakers…

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