Buying Guitar Cab Replacement Speakers
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If you want to have a massive influence over your guitar tone, consider changing out the stock speakers in your cabinet/combo. You would be surprised as to just how much the speaker can completely change your sound (for better or worse). Even if you already have high-end expensive speakers, you still may want to think about trying some others out. After all, tone is super subjective, and all it takes is one listen to a speaker comparison shootout to know that their range of tonal influence is massive. Having the wrong speaker can make you hate your favorite amp and having the right one can change your mind about one you disliked. It really can be that drastic.
In this article I am going to go over the little bit of information you should know before buying replacement speakers. And I will also follow that up with covering some specific speakers on the market.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are three main factors that should always be addressed before you head out and buy your new cab speaker(s). Some of these are a little involved but are important both for your resulting tone and the safety of yourself along with your speakers.
This one is pretty simple. The speaker size is simply the measured size of the diameter of the speaker. For guitars sizes can range from 8” all the way up to 15” on rare occasions. By far the most common sizes are 10” and 12”. The reason for this is that 10” or 12” has been found to be the sweet spot for guitars. You see as you get bigger and bigger more bass is introduced. This is also why there are bass cabs that feature up to 18” speakers, although 4x10s or 1x15s are more common configurations. As far as picking the right number and size of speakers for you, it all comes down to your situation. For replacing speakers, it is always best to stick to whatever configuration your cabinet already has. If you are building your or have yet to buy your cabinet, take some time to play and listen to some 4x10s, 2x12s, 1x12s, etc. and decide what you like the best.
Wattage is very important to consider when buying your new speaker(s). Luckily, this concept is a very easy one to understand. You just have to always make sure that your speakers have enough wattage capacity to handle whatever amp your plan to use with them. Sometimes you will just be matching exactly the wattage of your speakers to the wattage of the amp. So, for a 50-watt amp you could have a 2x12 cab that each speaker is rated at 25-watts. However, it is also completely fine to have headroom in this instance. Say you have a 4x12 cab where each of the speakers is rated for 75-watts, this cab can handle anything under 300-watts. If you wanted to pair a 10, 100 or 300-watt amp with this, you would be good to go. The important thing here is to remember to NEVER use speakers that don’t support the watts of the amp being used.
Impedance is just as, if not more important than wattage when it comes to guitar cab speakers. When you look at your amps speaker or the ones you will be buying, this figure will be represented in ohms (Ω). We don’t need to get into what ohms represent here, the important thing is you know what number you need. Guitar speakers are going to be 4, 8 or 16 ohms. Ohms are similar to watts in that you never want to have less than needed.
While you can get away with having a higher ohm rating on your speaker if you have a single speaker cab, if you have more things are different depending on the wiring. Basically, if your multiple speakers are in series then the ohms work the same as a single speaker. However, if the speakers are wired in parallel then you have to divide the ohm of a single speaker by the number of speakers. An example of this would be two 8Ω speakers in parallel would be able to power a 4Ω amp. Best practice with ohms is to simply match them exactly for single speakers, and for multiple speakers do you research on how your cab is wired.
Great Replacement Speakers
Celestion Vintage 30s – 12”, 60-watts, 8Ω or 16Ω
This is one of the most common upgrades for combos with generic stock speakers. Vintage 30s have a really nice, tight mid-range that lends itself to nearly any guitar tone out there. That’s just what makes this guitar speaker so popular, it pretty much will sound great to most people’s ears.
Celestion Greenbacks – (pretty much any spec you need)
Greenbacks are also a very popular speaker to use as an upgrade and they are in plenty of amps stock too. Greenbacks are little more characteristic than the Vintage 30s. A lot of people like to describe these are being crunchy (British) and the Vintage 30s as being smoother. Don’t let that description scare you away though, this “crunch” is a sound that is super desirable to most people. And in the grand scheme of things, this speaker is still seen as relatively smooth too.
Eminence Texas Heat Patriot – 12”, 150-watts, 4Ω, 8Ω, or 16Ω
Unlike Greenbacks, Texas Heat Patriots are much more geared towards the American side of things. And while this is obviously supposed to be great for Texas blues, it really is a great all-around sound for any genre. In general, it is not the best idea to think of speakers as being specific to any one genre. The standout sound quality of this is the high-end. Being nice and tame but still defined, the upper frequency plays really nice with the balanced lows and mids.
That sums up what you need to know along with a few recommendations for great speaker replacement options. You can go plenty deeper into this topic if you would prefer, things like wiring and speaker construction where hardly mentioned above. But, you really don’t need to dig much deeper if you are just a player looking for a better tone. As far as installing your new speaker(s), it is usually pretty easy and safe to do yourself, but there is no shame in getting some help from someone with a little experience.