Blind Speaker Shootout!!! Celestion Blue, G12H30, & Scumback Scumnico

(Those are speakers lying there. Mostly new Fender’s.)

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.

The Players

–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.

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 Shootout

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.

Chapter Listing:

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

The Results

–Celestion G12H30

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.

–Scumback Scumnico

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.

The Conclusion

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.


39 thoughts on “Blind Speaker Shootout!!! Celestion Blue, G12H30, & Scumback Scumnico

  1. I tried Alnico Blues in a 2×12 with my Marshall Superbass for a few weeks and it was disastrous! Totally the wrong speakers for the amp. I switched to Scumback ceramic speakers (I think I have 1 H75 and 1 M75) and it fit much better. I’m glad to see some scumback love on your blog! I’ve always wondered what the scumnico speakers sounded like.

  2. Oh ya, I can imagine the Blues not liking that Marshall. Isn’t the Superbass like 100 watts? Or are you running power scaling?

    But ya, speakers are definitely tools, and some work better with different amps than others. And I am really liking the Scumnico. It’s just been a while since I’ve gotten around to actually trying them out. Stoked that you dig ’em too…if I end up getting a D13 again or something, I may move to their ceramic versions too. :)

  3. I don’t know if my last comment made it in, so here it is again.

    Fascinating! I have to admit my favorite was the G12H30 first, then the Scumback, and finally the Alnico Blue. Until the heavy distortion section, which is when the Alnico Blue jumped to #1, then the G12H30, and finally the Scumback. I don’t know if it was the difference in volume, but the Scumback just didn’t have as much of… something. I don’t know what.
    Now I’m curious how you would describe my Celestion Vintage 30 (G12, 8 ohms) in comparison to these? It is in an open back, pine 1×12 cabinet I made.
    I won’t even try to compare this to my jury rigged, closed back 2×12 cabinet with the 16 ohms Ampeg drivers wired in parallel.

  4. Hey Karl! It’s been awhile since I posted, but I’m reading this blog all the time. Thanks for the shootout. Which speaker do you think would fit the best in a valve junior? I’ve got the head and cab version, and I know you’ve got the combo. Thanks for the help bro!

  5. Wow, great great speaker shootout (also because I guessed all 3 right ;D).
    Alnicos are the best, have two red fangs in an open cap I play with my AD30. Some nice sag and high end shimmer and not as much high mid harshness as the V30 I had + they also sound good at low volumes. That said, I like the new Jensen Ceramics in Fenderamps best. Put the C12N back in the Deluxe Reverb after testing a lot of other speakers (mostly Neo, but also some red fang and v30). The C12Q actually sounded better, but the N gives more volume ;D.
    And then there is the old EV12L wich sounds great with the Boogie Mk2 (but with no other amp).
    BTW, I just ordered Road to Perdition cause I hadn’t seen it ;D

  6. Gtr1ab–ya, the Blue and the G12 did sound good. I did like the Scumback too though, but the lower output made it difficult to tell a little bit.

    Personally, I think the V30’s are great and underrated speakers. They sound more like the G12H30 with a little more umph and a little less clarity, if I remember correctly.

    Bryan–for something with that low of wattage, I’d definitely consider the Blue. That might take the Valve Junior to a whole new level!

    Ben–great job, bro! And I also like the new Jensen’s. I had the P12N (P12Q maybe?) in a cab a couple years ago and loved it!

    Oh, and Road to Perdition is spectacularly crafted, in my humble opinion. :) You’re gonna love it, methinks!

  7. Gotta love those Blues! I remember being surprised the first time I heard my friend install one in his amp, and then being just as surprised when I first installed one in mine. haha Wonderful.

  8. i have not tried any of these speakers so i really have nothing else to say but agree that Road to Perdition is a pretty good film 😉

    seriously, Blue and G12H30 sounds good with the H30. Sounds like the scumback will be a better fit for a slightly brighter sounding amp … like a friend use to say, “Fendery”! haha

  9. Rhoy–lol Great film for sure…almost as great as the word ‘Fendery’! 😉 haha And I’m still not sure which two I’m gonna keep…

    Naal–lol Mmm-hmmm.

  10. You might scope out the Hellatones (from Avatar Speakers) for another round. They are basically G12H30’s and V30’s that Avatar “modified”.

    And your ending line just made my day ” … 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.”

    Splendid, indeed.

  11. +1 on the Hellatones. I put one of each in my Lonestar Special 2×12 and they really opened up the sound compared to the Mesa Shadow, which I’ve heard is equivalent to a 90 watt Vintage 30.
    Of course, any lower watt speaker will bloom and then breakup at lower volume than its high watt counterpart, so that has to be considered.
    Karl, I’m curious–what were the Vol and Master Vol settings on the HC-30 for this test? Did you turn down a little for the Blues, since they are lower wattage speakers?

  12. TimH–haha I’m glad somebody appreciated that. :) And I will definitely out Hellatones in the next shootout!

    JayDub–right on! And all settings, including volumes, were exactly the same for each speaker recording. Of course the lower watt speaker will be pushed harder, but…something’s gotta give when testing different speakers, and I figured I’d be safest by keeping settings the same. :)

  13. I’ve been working on upgrading my amps and I think the Alnico Blue might be just the right speaker for my Blues Jr!

    Thanks so much for doing something like this, Karl. I’ve always wondered about speaker upgrades but outside of buying a lot of speakers and swapping them out, I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

  14. No problem, bro. I’m just glad it was useful to someone. Speaker swapping is a lot more time consuming than just testing two pedals next to each other, and speakers (although way more important) just aren’t as cool as pedals. haha So I wasn’t sure what the interest level would be. Stoked for your new Alnico Blue! :)

  15. why wouldn’t you just up the volume for the scumback in post? the reason the recording industry has changed their mastering style through the decades to maximum volume on compression is because it’s been proven the ear is drawn to higher volume as better sound. for an a/b/c shootout, volume should be equal. other than that i really love your youtube shootout. leaving them anonymous to start was a nice touch

  16. “pairing two mismatched wattages on alnico speakers results in lower output from the higher rated speaker”

    That’s not right… it’s the impedance that determines which speaker receives more signal from the amp. If the speakers were all 8 ohm they will have been getting equal output from the amp. Otherwise the lower impedance speaker will be getting more juice.

    • …on the other hand the ‘sensitivity’ or ‘efficiency’ rating of the speaker will also be a factor. It measures how much sound a speaker produces for a given amount of input signal… so the more efficient speaker in the pair will be louder even though it’s getting an equal share of the amplifier power.

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