Some amp cabs are designed not to be heard—at least by anyone in the immediate vicinity. Such sealed “speaker coffins” have an internal mic clamped to a gooseneck to allow for precise positioning. Accessed through a hinged trap door, the mic connects to a recording console or front-of-house mixer via an external XLR jack. Notice how the Celestion Greenback in this Demeter Silent Speaker Chamber is front-loaded to facilitate quick speaker swaps. Photo by Andy Ellis

Visual vibe. Some players swear the cab’s covering material—or even its color—and grille cloth have an effect on tone. In my experience, I haven’t noticed any evidence of this. Certain grille cloth materials, such as cane, are more rigid than others, and this could potentially influence the sound, but essentially grille cloth choice is cosmetic and if it has any effect at all on tone, it’s very slight.

By the time the drums get pounding and you’ve cranked up your amp in response, it’s the speakers you’ll be hearing, not the grille cloth. And if you think a cab wrapped in red or green vinyl sounds better than black Tolex, who’s going to dispute that? After all, you might actually play better because you love the way your amp looks.

By the time the drums get pounding and you’ve cranked up your amp in response, it’s the speakers you’ll be hearing, not the grille cloth.

Eyes on the prize. When it comes to gear, my motto has long been “if it sounds right, it is right.” Once you understand the basics—wood, construction details, and how speakers are mounted—it’s then a matter of putting in the hours with different types of rigs and amp cabs.

In the process, you’ll develop an instinct for what sounds best with your guitars, technique, and musical style. And this is where the fun begins. My advice? Don’t stress over little things like what type of corner joints you have. Just get out there and play!

While some players agonize over the thickness of the grille cloth or cabinet covering material, there’s little evidence these cosmetic details have any significant effect on tone. Photo by Michael Silva

If you’re not miking your speakers, and the sound from the cabinet is the sound the audience will hear, it gets a bit trickier. You have to position the amp so you can hear it while you’re playing, yet the audience also gets a good mix. If your cabinet has wheels, you might find that popping them off or setting the cab on its side increases low-end resonance through greater contact with the floor. But this stage coupling might introduce muddiness into the band’s sound—exactly what you want to avoid. It depends on the stage and room, and each venue is different. The way to tame unwanted rumble is to reduce contact with the floor, perhaps by using an amp stand, or keeping the wheels attached to your cab, or placing it on the rolling bottom of a road case. Wheels offer another advantage: They make it easier to move your cab around during soundcheck until you find the sweet spot where you, the band, and the listeners can all enjoy your cosmic licks.