What are the best guitar amplifier speakers to use in a 4x12 sealed speaker cabinet?
What type of sound do I want from my guitar amp?
Most guitar amplifiers that require a 4X12 cabinet (a closed speaker cabinet using four 12-inch speakers) such as Marshall, Laney, Hi-Watt, Blackstar, Peavey, Mesa Boogie, etc. use different types of speakers to produce a distinct sound and handle specific wattages of the amplifier.
The differences you want to understand are the materials and power ratings, which greatly affect the tone.
Most speakers use paper or a polymer-plastic material for their cones which vibrate to produce sound. Some even use hemp!
If you want a high powered, beast of an amp with massive power, big bass response and heavy distortion, you probably want high powered speakers.
On the other hand, if you play smaller venues and play in classic rock or blues bands, a lower powered speaker would probably be better suited to you.
Without getting too technical-in laymans terms-the higher the wattage of the speaker, the "stiffer" the speaker's cone is. That is because a speaker flexes to produce sound as it operates. High wattage to a speaker when the amp is turned up loud makes the speaker flex more than when it is a lower volume setting. If the speaker is too flexible, the high power will make it flex past it's maximum ability and essential blow the speaker (tear the cone) or rupture the voice coil.
While a stiff speaker is a good thing for high powered amps, it requires that enormous amounts of wattage be pumped to it in order to produce some harmonic distortion, which occurs when speakers start to produce signals near their wattage limit. That distortion is a very musical and desirable by-product that most guitarists tend to like and actually desire.
However, with high powered speakers that makes the amplifier too loud for most club venues in most cases.
One solution most guitarists will adopt is to get a lower powered amplifier AND lower wattage speakers.Lower powered speakers will flex with less power, and produce harmonic distortion at lower wattage levels.
When the amplifier is turned up, the speaker volume won't be as extreme, and since the lower powered speakers "break up" or distort at lower volumes, you won't get thrown out of the club for being too loud!
Surprizingly enough, even 15-25 watt amps will have enough volume for small clubs, but most amplifier heads with 4X12 cabinets are usually in the 50-150 watt range. 50 watts are generally reasonably easy to tame, where the 100+ watt amps can be somewhat harder to find the "sweet spot" of volume & harmonic overload.
Another solution would be to replace the high powered speakers in the cabinet with lower wattage speakers and add a second cabinet with the lower powered speakers to share the power load. However, that usually ends up being pretty loud, so I don't recommend that solution if volume is a concern.
If you are in a metal band, you would probably want high wattage speakers like a Celestion G-75 or higher because most metal bands tend to play fairly loud and in lowered tunings which produce more bass frequencies-lower frequencies produce more cone flexing which can damage a low powered speaker.
If you are in a classic rock or blues band, the lower powered speakers like the Celestion G-30 or my favorite, the "greenback " G-25 speakers are the ideal solution. The number in the speaker model is the RMS power rating (RMS is the average power rating of the speaker- it can usually handle up to twice that rating for short periods of time)
So generally lower powered speakers are great for small venues and most non-metal bands or high volume bands.
Also, using something other than a 4x12 cabinet gives you more possibilities- like Alnico speakers which have generally much lower power ratings (12-15 wattsRMS typically -like theJensen, Eminence or Celestion Alnico speakers) and sound great in single or dual speaker cabinets.
(Most single or dual cabinets come in open or ported cabinets, which affects the sound mostly in the mid and bass frequencies, so that is atopic for another HUB!)
Since different manufacturers use slightly different materials and production techniques, an ideal soulution is to try out your amp head with a 4X12 cab you may be interested in- then compare it another similar cab from another company and you'll notice slight differences in the overall frequency response and response.
Judge those according to your musical tastes and desires.
Don't be afraid to try lower powered amps-they may surprise you with their volume!
© 2013 jjcane