Posts Tagged ‘speakers’

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!

Jensen Jet Nighthawk (P-A-C12-75NH)

Summary: As described by Jensen, the Nighthawk features fat lows, firm mids, smooth highs, and smooth overdrive. My experience in a band setting is fairly similar, but I would characterize the lows as more “full” rather than “fat,” which seems to imply almost overbearing; and the lows are not at all overbearing. Played with an American Strat Deluxe with Kinman HX pickups and a ’59 Les Paul replica with Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups, through a DV Mark Little 40, this “new” Jet series speaker creates super-rich tones with a wide frequency-range of lows that provide a gorgeous texture without sounding boomy.

Pros: This baby pushes air! My little Aracom custom 1 X 12 cab hooked up to my DV Mark Little 40 completely stomped the rest of the band, and I had to really be aware of my volume. Loved playing my Strat through this speaker as it provided a nice bottom-end that gave incredible texture to the single coil sound. With my Les Paul, which has a real high-mid tone, the added bottom-end help balanced out its tone as well.

Cons: My band mates would probably complain that I’m too loud. 🙂 But from my perspective, that’s a good problem to have!

Price: ~ $109 Street


  • Rated Power ~ 75W
  • Sensitivity (@ 1W,1m) ~ 98.8 dB
  • Impedance (as tested) ~ 8 Ohm
  • Magnet ~ Ferrite
  • Voice Coil Winding ~ Aluminum
  • Voice Coil Former ~ Fiberglass
  • Cone Material ~ Paper
  • Surround Material ~ Integrated Paper
  • Dust Dome Material ~ Non-treated Cloth
  • Basket Material ~ Pressed Sheet Steel


Tone Bone Rating: 5.00 ~ Every time I try a new Jensen Jet speaker, I fall in love yet again! There hasn’t yet been a Jensen Jet I haven’t absolutely loved, and I will freely admit that all my cabs now sport some form of Jensen Jet speaker.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know… This speaker came out in July 2015 and I’m only now getting around to writing a review. But if you’ve followed this blog for awhile, most of my writing about gear has been within the context of being in a band or recording. I haven’t been recording at all in the last year, and it wasn’t until recently that I was in a band. But with joining a new band, I have new inspiration, so I’ll probably be more active here in the months to come. Okay… now on to the review!

Don’t be fooled by the demos…

When I wrote my original announcement of the speaker, I included the sound clips that Jensen provides. I’ll just say it: While the playing was good, the sound was not at all representative of what this speaker is capable, especially with the Jazz clip. Jensen bills this speaker as a “warm” speaker, but that Jazz clip sounded like someone threw a thick, wool blanked over it. I will emphatically state that this was NOT my experience with this speaker.

A lot of factors go into dialing in a sound. Who knows how they set up the chain for the Jensen demos. As for me, I used my DV Mark Little 40 set up in a slightly “scooped” EQ and from the first chord I hit, I was in love with tones this speaker produces. It just goes to show that recorded demos don’t necessarily give you a good picture of a device’s capabilities, and can sometimes be detrimental if you don’t do ’em right.

Since I had no other reference to go on with the speaker other than Jensen’s demos, I didn’t go into rehearsal with my expectations. But that all changed once I started playing.

How it sounds

Even though the speaker is billed as “warm,” I found that using a scooped EQ configuration on my amp produced the best sound. The most apt description I can give for the speaker is that it has balls. Even clean, the tone was rich and full, and with its sensitivity and power rating, I had no problem cutting through the sound of the band, and in no way did it sound muddy. I think this may be due to the pronounced high-mid to high hump in the frequency response chart. This makes me think that setting my amp to a scooped tone probably served to emphasize the frequency response of the speaker. And playing clean lines up and down the neck, well, the sound was inspiring. So subtly complex, like a vintage fine wine.

As far as overdrive sounds were concerned… Wow! Smooth as silk! Whether I was overdriving from my amp, or using my EWS Little Brute Drive distortion pedal, there was absolutely nothing harsh about the overdrive of this speaker. Admittedly, I was little concerned with using the LBD with the speaker as it emphasizes the bottom-end. But used with my Strat, the sound was absolutely heavenly, and I didn’t lose the highs as I originally suspected might happen. With my Les Paul and using only amp overdrive, the tone was nice and crunchy for rhythm, and pushed into full overdrive, I just experienced simply heavenly tones. With a warm speaker, I was expecting a little less note separation, but that was not at all an issue with this speaker, and I didn’t have to adjust my EQ on either my guitar or amp unless I wanted to do it for effect. For instance, I like to do “woman tone” leads for some songs (turning the EQ all the way down on my neck pickup), and the speaker didn’t muddy up at all.

Now all that said, a comment our front man said after a song was that my sound was a bit too metal – as I said, this speaker has BALLS. And that became apparent as I experimented with pushing the speaker to see what it would be like at band volume and a lot of drive. For sure, it really wasn’t appropriate for the song, but it sure did RAWK! We all laughed at the comment, and I said that this speaker has a pretty full bottom end, so I backed off on the overdrive and all was well. After that exchange, our bassist asked me how I liked the speaker, and I replied, “I’m smooth as silk today, baby. It’s a keeper!”

Overall Impression

I have a tough decision ahead of me. I absolutely adore the Jensen Jet Falcon, which is great to cover a wide variety of styles. But the Nighthawk is simply so kick-ass that I don’t think I’ll be taking it out of my cab any time soon. It can rock and it can also play some very deep, clean tones.

A big test for me about how good some gear might be is its ability to get me into what I call the “inspiration zone.” And the sound that comes out of this speaker gets me there – and quickly. It certainly is worth checking out!

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Like I have been doing practically every morning for the last few years, I peruse my favorite gear forums and came across this thread discussing whether or not 4 X 12 cabinets are a dying breed. There were lots of responses both pro and con, but a sidebar discussion ensued about loudness; specifically SPL (sound pressure level) and perceived loudness. So that got me thinking about the mechanics behind loudness and that led me to the title of this article. So how can a 1 X 12 be louder than a 4 X 12? Well it has to do with a combination of several things, but at least from what I understand, you can boil it down to two things: Speaker efficiency and frequency response. In any case, I found a great article that discusses this subject in detail here. It has some good technical information while maintaining a chatty, conversational tone. It’s a good read, and actually explains how a 1 X 12, given the right combination of amp, speaker sensitivity and frequency response can be louder than a 4 X 12. Pretty cool.

But all this ruminating on loudness also got me thinking of how I got pissed at one of the guitarists in my church band who kept on stepping on everyone this past weekend with the volume of his amp. It got to the point where I finally said, “Look! I’ve had it with your volume; either turn it down or I’ll turn it off.” Thinking back on that situation and the information that I read this morning, I realized that the frequency response of the speaker of his amp – a California Blonde – is probably heavy in an area where he can’t hear it, so he cranks it up so he can. Plus, its spread is really narrow and as he has the amp right in front of him, he probably can only hear only a slight portion of the volume that amp can produce (I have one as well, and that amp really projects). The point to bringing this up is that perceived volume also has to do with where you are in relation to the front of the speaker, and that frequency response plays a huge role. If your speaker produces lots of sound in an area that’s not or less perceptible by the human ear as compared to other frequencies, you’ll perceive it to be not as loud.

For myself, I’m pretty sensitive about the frequency response of my speakers because as the lead guitarist, I need to cut through the mix. The interesting thing about this is that I don’t have to be loud to hear myself as my tone tends to be on the bright side – though I will admit that I like to be loud just because there’s nothing like SPLs. 🙂 However, that said, as of late, I’ve been much more sensitive to my stage volume, so I’ve reined in the volume a bit. My thinking is that as long as I can hear myself through the mix, it’s all good.

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How to Pick a Speaker

Unless you’re a dealer or a distributor of speakers, there are only a couple of ways to pick out a speaker:

  1. Go down to a dealer or distributor of speakers and listen to a bunch, then go and buy the one you like -or-
  2. Buy some speakers, listen to them, and pick the one you like. Oh wait! There’s a third way of choosing a speaker!
  3. Go on the forums, ask people what speaker they’d recommend, buy all the recommendations, listen to them, then pick the one you like.

I know, I know… It all sounds flip. But think about it. How the hell do you choose a speaker? The plain fact of the matter is that you have to listen to it to determine if it works for you. Descriptions, conversations, and recommendations are helpful indeed, but in the end, it’s the sound that the speaker produces that vibrates your eardrums that will be the ultimate deciding factor.

Of all the parts of the signal chain, I’ve found that in comparison with other parts of my signal chain, I’ve probably spent the most research time on speakers; much of it anguishing over having purchased a speaker I thought might work, only to find that it sucked! Let’s face it: A speaker is the endpoint of your signal chain, and produces the sound from everything in the chain before it. If it doesn’t sound good to you, it doesn’t matter how good everything else is in front of it.

There’s no “pat” advice I can give. You just have to listen to a lot of speakers, or take a chance on buying one and hope you get lucky. I’ve been lucky so far with my Fane Medusa 150 and with an evaluation Jensen Jet Electric Lightning that I got from Jensen that I decided to buy because it sounded so good. But there are lots of speakers that I’ve tried that I’ve never written about because they just didn’t work with my rig.

There is sort of a fourth way, and that is to listen to the recommendations from someone who knows your tone. My friend and amp builder Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps is that guy for me. Since he personally built and customized to my specs most of the amps I play, he knows what I like, so when he has recommends speakers, I listen. It was that way with the Jensen Jet Falcon 12″ speakers I have in three of my cabinets. He got one to try out from a distributor, and called me up, asking if I’d test it since he didn’t time. We met a few days later for me to get the speaker from him, and once I installed it in my cab, I loved it so much, I kept it, then bought two more since then to go into other cabinets. Mind you, this replaced a Celestion Blue – which is a GREAT speaker – that costs three times as much!

Oops… got a bit side-tracked. So while it ultimately takes listening to speakers to see if they will work, there are some preparatory things you can do to at least narrow your search:

  1. Go to the manufacturer’s site and look at the frequency response charts. For instance, check out this chart for the Jensen Jet Falcon 12″:
    This told me to expect a bit of a scooped tone as the lows and mids had peaks. Or check out this one for the Celestion Gold:

    This shows a more moderate low- and midrange response, with slight emphasis on higher freqs.
  2. Once you see a pattern that you’d like to explore, start listening to clips, taking note of the gear used.
  3. Finally, see how you can try one out or hear one in person.

As I mentioned, there is no “pat” way of deciding on what speaker to buy. But with a bit of research, you can narrow the field down significantly.

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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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