The Role of Loudspeaker Diameter in the Relentless Pursuit of Tone
These days, guitar speakers are available in a range of sizes from two or three inches, right up to 15". Smaller speakers are great for bedroom blasters and practice amps, where reduced output at low frequencies can minimize sound spillage between rooms and keep the neighbors sweet. If you’re like most, though, chances are you’ll be using 12" speakers for much of your recording and live work. But with an ever-increasing range of quality 10" speakers, and even some interesting 15" speakers available, one has to ask the question, “What role does speaker size play in the ‘relentless pursuit of tone?”
Inside the Mind of the Speaker Designer
Practically all of a guitar speaker’s constituent parts contribute in some way to its sonic signature. Chief among them are voice coil, magnet assembly and cone [but also influential are the suspension, surround, dustcap, cone treatments, etc.]. Each of these factors interacts with the others, together contributing to overall tone. These interactions, though in some cases very complex, are governed by certain principles of physics, in particular:
Output level [a.k.a. sensitivity] is determined by how efficiently the speaker converts electrical energy into movement of air.
Sound dispersion is controlled by the directional nature of high frequency sound and the tendency of certain cone shapes to focus the output signal in different ways.
This laser doppler image indicates vibration modes within the body of the cone.
For guitar speakers in particular, vibration “modes” within the body of the cone add much of the harmonic complexity and coloration that significantly contributes to great tone.
The speaker designer uses their expertise to find the right mix of all of these factors to hit a given “tone target.” Now, imagine we want to use a small speaker with a thin and light cone. There would be more intense vibration modes within this type of cone [compared to a cone of greater thickness, which would be more resistant to these vibrations], resulting in a richer, more harmonically complex tonality. However, use the same cone thickness with a larger diameter speaker and that cone might lack sufficient stiffness to withstand the proposed power handling, and could buckle under the force of the moving voice coil.
In this situation there would need to be some “trade-off” between tonality and power handling, requiring the designer to make both musical and technical choices to reach a desirable and workable solution. An experienced speaker designer will have the capability to identify the “right” choices to make in these situations, and use the opportunity to create a completely new sounding speaker.
What This Means For Tone
So, we see that attributes like size, harmonic complexity, power handling and high-note dispersion are clearly linked in the design process. Over time, the 12" speaker has come to be regarded as having the best balance of these attributes. However, 10" and 15" speakers can offer some alternative, interesting and even exotic flavors!
Good sounding 10" speakers can deliver a fast, punchy sound at wider listening angles with reduced “boom” on small stages. They can offer increased portability, reduced cost and the ability to push your amp into overdrive at reasonable levels without having drumsticks aimed at the back of your head. A well-designed 15" speaker can move more air so you can gig those wonderful little valve amps. The vocal range can be creamier, with extended low end and lots of detail and harmonic complexity, giving surprising richness to some otherwise scratchy-sounding guitar and amp combinations.
Which Size is For You?
It’s becoming more widely understood that changing speakers has a greater impact on tone than swapping guitar, pickup, or even amplifier. So ask yourself, why just one size of speaker? As players, all we need to do is select the right one according to situation, application … and desire.
For the recording or practice session, why not try a small amp through a sweet, wellbalanced 10"?
At your big break support gig on the city hall stage, how about a wall of 4x12s?
Need to add some beef to your retro “plasticaster”? Break out a 1x15 cabinet.
What’s more, just as boutique amp makers have mixed different models to increase harmonic detail, you might even try and take this a step further by mixing 10", 12" and even 15" speakers to create that unique signature sound. But that’s another column.
Dr. Decibel is the “public face” of the Celestion Loudspeaker development team. Collectively, the team has decades of experience, and are responsible for the creation of some of the most iconic guitar speakers in history. For any technical questions, contact email@example.com.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Recreating the preamp in Silvertone’ssignature ’60s amp results in a surprisingly multifaceted overdrive.
Great drive sounds, ranging from characterful boost to low-gain overdrive. Unique personality. Powerful, flexible EQ.
Arguably a bit expensive for what it does.
Jackson Audio Silvertone 1484 Twin Twelve
Once harvested for peanuts at garage sales and pawn shops—or free for lucky dumpster divers—the Silvertone Model 1484 Twin Twelve amplifier of 1963-’67 graduated to legend status over the past couple decades. Like a lot of ’60s gear with department store catalog origins, Silvertone amps and guitars provided great bang for the buck when they were new. But perhaps no Silvertone product—apart from the company’s Danelectro-built guitars—is as revered as the Twin Twelve. Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner discovered their charms early in their career, and Twin Twelves and their siblings remained backline fixtures for punks, garage rockers, and indie kids. But once the likes of Jack White and Dan Auerbach got on board, the market heated up considerably.
Now a collaboration between the revived Silvertone Guitars and Jackson Audio brings us the Twin Twelve pedal, an overdrive/EQ/booster designed to replicate the tone of the original 1484 piggyback tube amp. To accomplish this, Jackson essentially recreated the topology of the 1484’s preamp, effectively replacing vacuum tubes with JFETs. This method is common for many amp-in-a-box-style pedals. But the result here is a drive of many personalities.
Listen to the demo: https://soundcloud.com/premierguitar/sets/twin-twelve-review
The 1484 pedal does a beautiful job of evoking the look of the original 1484 amplifier, including the silver control panel, simple and elegant black lettering, black knobs with silver insets and red indicator lines, red amp-style jewel light, and even the humorous “Foot Switch” legend over the footswitch. What’s more, this pedal seems built to fend off home invaders and stage divers. It’s notably hefty in its heavy-duty folded-steel chassis, which measures 5" x 4" x 2".
Controls include treble, bass, volume, and gain—the latter of which never appeared on the original amp. A look inside the enclosure reveals a lot of space and few components. Juice comes from 9V DC that hits an internal voltage-doubler to improve headroom.
I tested the Twin Twelve pedal with a Fender Princeton combo and a 65amps London head and 2x12 cab as well as a Gibson Les Paul with humbuckers and a ’50s-style Fender Telecaster, and the first impressions were surprising. Expecting a characterfully sludgy mud machine and grungy pawnshop sonics, I experienced instead a toothsome and impressively versatile overdrive that works in a broad range of genres and playing styles. Fundamentally speaking, the Twin Twelve adds lots of character via a combination of thickness and edgy harmonic content. There’s a barky midrange bite that calls to mind the voice of many catalog amps. But it also has a lot in common with low-gain overdrives, like the Klon and Tube Screamer. Those similarities aside, it has a flavor and sound all its own.
Expecting a characterfully sludgy mud machine and grungy pawnshop sonics, I experienced instead a toothsome and impressively versatile overdrive that works in a broad range of genres and playing styles.
Silvertone may talk a lot about the 1484 as an exact recreation of the Twin Twelve circuit. But in some ways that might sell this pedal short. It’s a great-sounding overdrive by any measure. And, interestingly, it is better at generating American-toned twang, bite, crunch, and lead tones than just about any pedal I’ve played in a while. Clarity and articulation are good, and it makes a great clean boost at lower drive settings while retaining amp-like personality and sensitivity. The pedal is made even more flexible thanks to the 2-band EQ, which provides a lot of room for cutting and boosting the low- and high-frequency bands to taste. It means you have a very flexible boost before you even push your amp into overdrive. It pays similar dividends in overdriven settings, enabling players to explore both the dirtier, thicker side of the American amp tone spectrum or more sparkling variations.
The 1484 Twin Twelve is a great overdrive pedal. And the fact that it doesn’t simply clone one of the already popular drive circuits is a major bonus. The EQ is a great asset, too. But while the 1484 excels at capturing the spirit of the amp that inspired it, I’d argue that with most decent tube amps it sounds better than many real Twin Twelves I’ve played. Certainly, it’s more versatile. And that combination of tone and flexibility make it a very appealing overdrive alternative.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.