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Instead of the typical Q&A format, I like to occasionally expand on certain guitar-related thoughts and perceptions that are shared with me by guitarists. I often receive phone calls from artists beating themselves up over speaker descriptions and technical specs while trying to decide which speaker holds the “Holy Grail” of tone. I enjoy helping with their quest, but I am often concerned when they lose site of the forest for the trees.
I know that finding the “Holy Grail” of tone is a lifelong commitment (and there’s nothing wrong with that). There will always be another speaker that you would like to try. The point is if you make it an obsession, you might actually ruin the enjoyment of plugging in and playing. That’s what it is all about! There will be descriptions and specs that you don’t understand; I don’t understand everything either. I learn something new every day.
Remember, you can’t always rely on other people to help you find what’s best for your application (I’m speaking of internet forums, your buddy, or even me). Take everything you hear and read with a grain of salt, as everyone’s ears and tastes are different. It’s all very subjective and not so much technical with guitar. Speaker tone is relative to the other gear you are using. Honestly, when you choose a speaker, there are probably at least three other choices that would sound really good in your application. There may even be one that you would like even better than one you have selected.
It’s not very cost effective for most players to try a multitude of speakers. Most people have to try to get it right the first time. With a lot of these choices, it’s not that one is better than another for a given application, but just different. “Different” is what we are all looking for, right? If everybody wanted the same thing, there would be one magic speaker, and it all would become so much easier! The fact is, with so much gear available, this is by far the best time ever to be a player. Enjoy it! Just choose the speaker that best appeals to you in spec and description. Make sure it compliments your setup, then plug in and play.
Remember that it’s supposed to be fun! If you spend too much time checking how every note of your guitar sounds through your amp and speaker, clean and dirty, at every volume and gain level, and at every possible tone setting, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Guitar tone is built on controlling a speaker that is out of control. No single speaker will ever pass such a test to your complete satisfaction. The best test is to just plug in and play!
Don’t Fear the Neo
There is a lot of fear on the streets about using neodymium magnet speakers. The rumor is that neodymium magnets lose their strength when they are pushed hard and get hot. I can’t really dispel the rumor, but I think I can relieve the fear. At certain temperatures, neodymium magnets will in fact demagnetize. We design our speakers using grade 38SH, which we’ve tested good up to 150 degrees Cº [ed. this is equivalent to 302 Fº]. Before this temperature is reached, you’re going to reach the thermal limits of the voice coil and the adhesives that hold the structure together (even if it’s ceramic). So have no fear!
Winter NAMM ‘07
As a reminder, the Winter NAMM show is coming up, January 18-21, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. This is the biggest show of the year in the U.S. for musical instruments and related equipment. It’s a really good place to see all the new gear for 2007. It is also a great place to stop on your quest for tone. Every major guitar speaker manufacturer will be there and you’ll certainly want to check out what’s new and maybe even give it a test drive. Here is where you can find some of them:
Celestion - Booth 4674
Eminence - Booth 4334
EV - Booth 6690
JBL - Booth 7800
Peavey - Booth 5740
Tone Tubby - Booth 1280
I’ll be in our Tone Center in booth 4334 and would welcome the opportunity to meet you!
You are welcome to submit your speaker related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Lucas is a senior lab technician at Eminence Speaker LLC, where he specializes in guitar-speaker design and customer support. He has been with the company for more than a decade.