electric bass

Photo 1: Despite the ornamental look of this golden Celestion speaker from 1924, its main components are essentially the same as today's.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

A rumination on the history of bass speakers and how they compare to their guitar-amplifying kin.

Musicians rarely see the huge effect a speaker or cabinet has on their sound, as our relationship to our instrument is way more emotional and intense than with what comes after the output jack. In 1915, Peter Jensen perplexed those who attended his Magnavox speaker demonstration with the amplification of a human voice. The construction of that speaker—a conical membrane and a voice coil in a magnetic field—is principally the same as what we use today, although the Celestion speaker from 1924 looks quite different to what we are used to seeing (Photo 1). The tonal goals in the world of hi-fi speakers are pretty clear: a wide frequency range and high linearity, which is far from what our rigs require.

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