Posts Tagged ‘guitar speakers’

I love playing through a 2 X 12. I have an Avatar G212 Premier made of 3/4″, 13-ply baltic birch. It’s a bright cab, and has a big resonating chamber, which really gives a nice 3-D effect to my sound. I originally had it loaded with Celestion Blue and Gold speakers, and they sounded great, but I just felt the Blue didn’t have enough bottom end for my preferences. So I recently swapped the Blue out with a Jensen Jet Falcon. Yeah, that’s right. I now have one of the most expensive Celestion speakers and just about the most inexpensive Jensen speaker in my cab. And you know what? It totally works.

The one thing I like about ceramic speakers is that they have a nice, tight bottom end. The Falcon has a great bottom end that provides a real nice “oomph” to my sound. Alnico speakers – at least in my experience – are much more mid-rangy, with an emphasis on the upper-mids. The Gold has a fantastic, bright tone. It’s rich, and has a super-smooth breakup. So mixing the ballsy ceramic Falcon with the alnico Gold seemed like a good idea, as I postulated that I’d get a nice balanced sound.

I did the swap this afternoon, right before my church gig. I was a little nervous because my soldering skills are highly suspect. But I took my time, and the swap was done without incident. Then I went to test it out. The cleans were deep and lush, and the big space that the Avatar cab provides gave my tone real depth! Loved it.

Then I cranked my amp to hear the breakup. Yikes! It was pretty harsh and stiff, but I was kind of expecting that, considering I installed the Falcon right out of the box. It wasn’t too bad, but I could feel the stiffness.  But I was determined to bring it to my gig, so an hour later, I loaded it up in my car and away we went.

Luckily, the songs I chose for Mass were mostly clean, so I didn’t have to drive the speaker too hard, but I played it straight for three hours (two hours of rehearsal, then an hour for service), and by the end of the service, I could really feel the Falcon loosening up. Our last song was a rocker, and I cranked my amp. I was greeted by a fantastic, ballsy tone that had a real complex tone; exactly how I envisioned it! So now I’m a believer in mixing ceramic and alnico. It’s a great combination!

So what am I going to do with the Blue? I honestly haven’t made up my mind. That’s not a cheap speaker by any stretch of the imagination. But it is only 15 watts, so I can really only use it with a lower wattage amp. That’s maybe not a bad idea. I could use it with my ’58 Fender Champ, or as an extension cab for my VHT Special 6. We’ll see…

Read Full Post »

Jensen Jet Falcon JC12-50F

Summary: The newest member, lowest-powered, and lowest-cost speaker in Jensen’s newest “Jet” line at 50 Watts, this speaker produces tons of happening tones right out of the box!

Pros: Even before reading Jensen’s description of the Falcon, I found it to be a speaker that was built upon the substantial foundation of a rich bottom end. But make no mistake, the Falcon is not boomy in any sense, and that makes this speaker versatile. I can see using this in a bunch of different styles. I love it!

Cons: None.

Features (as tested):

  • 50 Watts / 16 ohm
  • 12″ Overall Diameter
  • 1.5″ Voice Coil
  • Ferrite Magnet
  • Steel Frame
  • Paper Cone
  • 98.7 dB Sensitivity
  • 7.2 lbs

Frequency Response Graph

Click for larger view

Price: ~$85-$90 street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ If you’re looking for a versatile speaker that can handle a bunch of different styles of music with ease, look no further. This is a keeper!

There are tons of advantages of being close friends with an amp builder; not the least of which is I often get to test everything in his shop, including components he gets from manufacturers to possibly include with his amps. The builder I’m speaking of in particular is my good friend Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps. A couple of weeks ago, during one of our numerous conversations, he mentioned that he got a new speaker from the Jensen distributor to try out, and asked if I would like to test it. Of course, as I have a very low resistance to trying out new gear, I immediately agreed. I think he asked me to test it out because he’s been so busy with building his AWESOME PRX150 attenuators and working on a couple of new amp designs that he didn’t have much time to do an evaluation himself. That’s a great problem to have!

In any case, we met a couple of days later and he handed the speaker over to me. I was excited to do a test on it! But unfortunately, life happens and I didn’t get the chance to test the speaker until just a couple of days ago. I wish I could have tested it earlier, because bottom line – and if you don’t want to read any further – I’m not giving the speaker back to Jeff. 🙂 Read on if you want to know why…

I could say a bunch of stuff about the Jensen Jet Falcon, but I’ll just say this: The Falcon sounds freakin’ fantastic right out of the box. My experience with speakers has been that you have to play them for several hours before they start breaking in to remove their harshness. The only thing Jeff did once he got the speaker was open the box. I installed the speaker in its brand-new, pristine state so I was anticipating having to play if for a few hours; not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But that’s what I was expecting.

Much to my very pleasant surprise, once I had it installed in my closed-back 1 X 12, I was immediately taken by its tone. There was absolutely ZERO harshness! And I immediately thought that if it sounds this killer right out of the box, it’s going to sound even better once I’ve gigged and recorded with it. The cleans were sparkly with a nice, substantial bottom end, and the overdrive tones with my ’59 Les Paul replica got me quickly into Rock and Roll nirvana.

I could go on with technical details, but I’d rather not bore you with those. You can read about them on the Jensen product page. But as I said, bottom line, this speaker isn’t going back to Jeff. Hopefully he uses my enthusiasm to offer this speaker in his line. I recorded some clips to show what I mean. Both clips were recorded with my Aracom VRX22 and my ’59 Les Paul replica plugged straight into the amp. I only added a touch of small room reverb in my DAW to give the tone a bit of grease:

Clean with a Dirty Lead

Dirty Lead

I also downloaded the clips from Falcon page. Frankly, I didn’t like how these were recorded, but they are just reference clips:



As a final note, I’ve been playing this in my studio for the past few days, and the more I play it, the more I love it, especially for the songs I’m working on that need a great overdrive tone. I can’t wait to gig with it!

Read Full Post »

or… Doc Brown in Back to the Future saying, “I finally invented something that works!” Speaking in reference to the Flux Capacitor. Nah, it’s nothing of the sort, but it is by no means less cool. The Flux Density Modulation Speakers are a new approach to attenuation where the attenuation happens right at the speaker! Giving you up to -9 dB attenuation, while keeping your tone, that is what I call cool, and something I must check out! You know me, I’m an attenuator fan, and something like this has me absolutely GAS-ing! From what I could tell from the videos below, the tone is really preserved. Now, mind you that -9 dB of attenuation won’t get you down to conversation levels, but it’ll sure provide enough attenuation to take the bite off the volume. If you need to go lower, hell! Get an Aracom attenuator, and get it down REAL LOW! Check out the NAMM vids!

and from GuitarWorld…

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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…

Read Full Post »