Speakers are one of the most important parts of your sound, as they turn the signal into moving air again. And I hear (and say) and types of conjecture about them, but very rarely have I run across actual back to back comparisons. So I decided to make one.
–Celestion Alnico Blue (alnico magnet)
–Celestion G12H30 (ceramic magnet)
–Scumback Scumnico 30 watt (alnico magnet)
All 3 speakers are 12 inch, 8 ohm, and run in a 2×12 cab wired in series at 16 ohms. They are mic’d individually, and recorded separately. Meaning, I recorded each speaker in a separate pass. Which does lead to some possible biases.
–The Blue was recorded while paired with the higher-powered G12H30, meaning the Blue was pushed harder than the other two speakers when they were recorded.
Possible Personal Biases
–I’m lazy, so since the Scumback was the new speaker and the one I removed the G12H30 for, I really want the G12H30 to be the worst so that I don’t have to solder anything again.
–On the other hand, it’d be pretty cool if the non-boutique speakers won. And cheaper.
Other Interesting Information
–The Scumback is from when they were being built by Weber, as per the label on the Scumnico itself.
The Base Tone
I’m playing the G&L fat strat, into the Matchless HC30 on the EF86 channel, with the exact same settings for all 3 speaker passes. Each speaker is in a 65 Amps birch cab 2×12. At various times, you also hear the Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire overdrive, the Boss OD1 distortion, and the Strymon Timeline. These are all used to test each speaker’s handling of big loaded signals such as washy delays that don’t let the speaker rest, and drive that pushes the speaker.
The first half of the shootout is a blind shootout so that you can see which you think is which. About halfway through, I reveal the speakers and then continue with the shootout. Chapter listing is below.
0:00 Blind Speaker Shootout (no speaker names)
0:02 Simple Ringing Chords on Single Coils
0:51 Picked Notes
1:28 Clean Riffs
3:27 Simple Ringing Chords on Humbucker
4:07 Speaker Reveal (Speaker Names Listed)
4:08 Delayed Riffs
5:03 Heavily Delayed Riffs
7:14 Ambient Washes
9:28 Light Overdrive
10:07 Heavy Distortion
Was very surprised to hear how good this speaker actually sounds. It was the only ceramic magnet speaker in the shootout, so it makes sense that it seemed to have the broadest eq range, and the most stalwart of sounds out of the speakers. However, that can also tend to make it slightly harsh and a little less sweet when pushed, especially on the delayed stuff, or in the high register of the eq.
–Celestion Alnico Blue
Always surprised to remember how good this speaker actually is. Very focused mids, cuts through the mix very well, and still maintains tight bass while giving sweet highs. Breaks up very nicely too, and I prefer this one to the G12H30 when pushed by drive or delay.
This one was a little difficult to hear correctly, as pairing two mismatched wattages on alnico speakers results in lower output from the higher rated speaker. But when you listen to the shootout, if you can force your brain not to immediately hear the lower volume one as sounding worse, this speaker might have had the sweetest overall tone out of all of them.
I think I like alnico magnets. Both alnico speakers had a sag to them which I really liked. It’d be interesting to hear two Blue’s paired against two Scumnico’s. So that may happen sometime in the future. So it looks like those two will stay in the cab for now. However, for certain applications, I really really like the broad range and slightly straighter tone of the G12H30′s ceramic magnet. So the real conclusion here is probably that once again we are blurring the line between ‘good’ tone and ‘bad’ tone, and showing that after a certain fairly low level point of good tone, what really matters is what tool fits for the job.
Which admittedly bums me out a little bit, as that is far less exciting than two speakers left lying in the rain as Tom Hanks (we’ll call him Scumnico) confronts Paul Newman. Which, incidentally, you put Paul Newman and rain in a movie together? Instant great movie right there.
Moral of the speaker shootout then…choose whatever speaker makes your tone sound like melancholy resolve fired as a lone bullet through a distant rain while Paul Newman’s aching blue eyes stare backwards into his, and in turn your, longing soul. I have a new motto.