Speakers-make-difference ...

Sent: Sat Oct 21 17:51:56 CDT 1995

also posted at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~mic/info/amps/speakers/Speakers-make-difference
also posted at: http://www.harpamps.com/micKspeakers/Speakers-make-difference%20.html

Observations on the role of loud-speakers.

Speakers are an essential link in the tone chain, and it has been my experience in the 35 years that I've been exploring the cutting edge of electric guitar tone that they play a role at least as important as any other single factor. Bigger than Les Paul / Tele. Bigger than transistor / tube.

This summer I played lead thru my tweed champ 3 nites a week in a duo in a small restaurant. We play mostly oldies, but I play a very modern tone most of the time, at least as modern as Cowboy Junkies. My champ is 100% stock except for a JBL 8. The only one that fits in the box is the old flat one with the all-paper cone, the gray one that looks like a scale model of a D-130.

I use a lot of old JBL's in small amps. These are very efficient speakers. Efficient means conversion of a small amount of electrical power into a lot of noise output. Like over 100dB/1watt@1meter. I also use alnico magnet Altec 12's in open back installations. They can deliver incredible breakup tones with no box at all, just set face down on the carpet.

There is a problem with this: you buy an amp like this to be able to sound good at low volume, and then you put a real speaker in it & make it loud again... what did you gain? Tone. These speakers create truly exquisite harmonics when the cones start to distort. You can't get it any other way.

The solution to controlling the output is physical amp placement. Put it against the wall. Stuff a sweater in the cabinet. Muffle it & turn up the treble to compensate for the loss.

When I'm sitting around an upright piano with a singer and a bunch of pickers who are running mandolins and a fiddle, I turn it face up, with a book under one corner, and put a cushion off the couch on top of it. By varying the cushion & the book I can get a wider range of sounds than is available with my Butler Tube Driver preamp. Like a trombone player with his mutes.

Bottom line: by messing with the speaker & how I load it, I can make a Peavey Decade or Rage, or similar modern "junk" amp, sound better than a tweed champ or a black face champ with a stock speaker.

My other relevant amps are two Fender Deluxe's, a tweed and a brown face. The tweed has a JBL E-110 (10" Ceramic magnet) the brown face has a D-130 (15" Alnico). The tweed lives in a box that works a bit like an Ampeg Portaflex. When closed (sealed) it has awesome bottom end. When open it sounds just like a guitar amp. The size of the hole is variable. I am still experimenting with the design, but it clearly shows great promise.
Over the past 27 years I have hot-rodded the brown face a bit, by installing an un-buffered effects loop (1970) and a variable bias control (1982). The bais control is a little "edgey" but hasn't burnt out the transformer yet. It's a stereo pot that allows me to "turn down" either or both of the output tubes.

I am not sure I believe there is a guitar player alive who has any business playing anything bigger than 2 6V6's will go. If you need to be louder, mic the amp or fire the drummer.

©(mostly) Joe Breskin 2000
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