Premier Guitar

KW Cabs ST-2m Cab Review

December 10, 2012

KW Cabs founder Kurt Wyberanec launched his company back in 2003 with a mission to build exceptionally powerful and smooth-sounding guitar cabs. While many of his contemporaries were building their cabinets using traditional methods, Wyberanec built his with the resonant qualities of acoustic guitars in mind. Wyberanec believes the tonal quality of the wood in a cabinet has as much impact on guitar tone as its size and speakers. And many players who have had the chance to play through one of his cabinets—such as the ST-2m and ST-2v—have become believers themselves.

KW’s ST-2 2x12 series use a combination of select hardwoods, finely tuned porting, non-braced baffles, and handpicked speakers to create a cabinet that packs a huge wallop and can easily hold its own next to larger 4x12 units. The ST-2m in particular is geared toward modern players who crave thicker tones with tight lows, and sports a pair of Warehouse Retro 30 speakers and an additional bass port for focusing low-end dispersion.

Knock on Wood
With its beautiful ribbon-striped sapele and dovetail joints, the ST-2m is certainly eye-catching. KW chose this wood (also known as African mahogany) for its warm and highly resonant qualities and very balanced frequency response. Plus, it looks drop-dead gorgeous with multiple coats of furniture-grade, pre-catalyzed lacquer. If darker-toned woods such as mahogany aren’t your cup of tea, there’s no need to fret. KW offers 32 tonewood options to choose from, ranging from brighter-sounding maple species to such exotic woods as purpleheart and Macassar ebony. The front grille is similar to older Fender cloth and the lightweight weaving is designed to filter the sound as little as possible.

Four rectangular ports open to the cab’s lower section, and these have been carefully measured and placed for optimum low-end projection. And if you want a less aggressive tone with a softer low end, the back panel is designed to be removed via eight Phillips-head screws.

The cabinet sports two Warehouse Retro 30 12" speakers (KW also offers several other choices), which are designed to deliver sweet highs, complex midrange, and clear bass response. They can be run in 16 Ω  or 4 Ω mono, 8 Ω stereo, 8 Ω to a single speaker, or in parallel with another cab.

The cab weighs in at a hefty 68 pounds, but KW notes that our review model is a little heavier than most ST-2s, which are more typically in the 55-pound range. Though it’s hefty, the KW is pretty easy to move, thanks to the comfortable all-wood handles that are recessed into its sides.

Thunder Shaker Wood
Driving the ST-2m with a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Reborn and a Gibson Les Paul Custom, the cabinet emitted pummeling high-gain rhythm tones with a wealth of harmonic content. The Retro 30s had an eerily similar sound and feel to Celestion Vintage 30s, but with less of the sharp midrange spike that’s common to those classics. The dark and warm sounds of sapele also seemed to balance out the Retros’ characteristically brighter top end—quite like a mahogany guitar body can roll off the harsh edges of brighter pickups or mahogany backs and sides impart warmth to an acoustic tone.

As I moved from forceful picking to a lighter approach, the Mesa’s high end became more detailed and open than I had ever heard. And the cab gave the amp’s thick overdrive plenty of room to breathe, allowing the tone to expand without getting congested or muddy.

Ratings

Pros:
Huge sound. Impeccable craftsmanship. Handles heavy and clean tones with ease.

Cons:
Custom models can be heavy. Bass can sometimes be overpowering.

Tones:

Versatility:

Build:

Value:

Street:
$909

KW Cabs
kwcabs.com

The ST-2m so excelled at focusing the Mesa’s lows that after a while, the bottom end became almost fatiguing and I had to drop the amp’s bass control lower than normal. Fortunately, one of this cabinet’s many sweet spots is right at a volume setting that isn’t overpowering and more than loud enough to work with a full band. But if you really want to be heard over everyone else and play at obscenely high volumes, the KW will oblige without sounding choked. Just be wary of sitting right in the speaker’s direct line of fire—the projection from this monster is intense.

The ST-2m is equally adept at delivering luscious clean tones as it is at kicking out vicious metal tones. And in some ways the cleaner sounds are even more impressive. Removing the portion of the back panel and hooking up a Fender Twin and a Stratocaster was a revealing demonstration of just how much warmth this cabinet can lend. The Twin’s lows were perceptibly richer and displayed more midrange presence, and in general, the harmonic spectrum sounded wider and more alive. Perhaps the only sacrifice was a touch of glassiness in the highs. But a Tele-wielding country player with a craving for twang could still sound fantastic with this setup, even if the slightly rounded highs and increased midrange punch tilt the rig toward blues and rock tones.

The Verdict
A cabinet can either add detail to a great tone or crush your sound under a blanket of brittleness, mud, or thin-bodied projection. But KW’s ST-2m won’t squelch the tone of your amp, and it’s almost certainly going to enhance the projection and low-end detail you’ll hear from it. If you’re used to the traditional tones of birch-ply cabs, the tonal coloration of the ST-2m will probably be a surprise—and perhaps an acquired taste. But KW has a huge selection of tonewoods and models to choose from (including bass cabinets), so there’s a good chance you’ll find a KW cabinet recipe that complements and enhances your amp and playing style.