All your tone is in the cabinet!

All your tone is in the cabinet!

Guitar cabinets and your tone

In past blog articles, we talked about how your bedroom sound can be bad for your live tone, and also how to think your guitar frequencies when mixing a musical project in your studio.

How much does your guitar tone owe to your choice of cabinets?

A lot. But in full honesty, in the real world (the physical world) how much time have you spent choosing your cabinet? If you are playing with a combo the answer is very quick: none. You bought the amp because you loved the global tone, the preamp, the eq, and the cabinet sound. How would your 1x12 combo sound if it was going through a 2x12? And how many of us can choose between cabinets when they are playing at home? Not many indeed.

But the cabinets you use have a major impact on your mixes (live or studio). You can be looking for edgy riff tracks, while with the same amp, needing very low-end sound for your rhythm parts. Reamping the same amp while changing cabinets will help you in getting the right sound for your mix.

Does size matter?

Yes. But not in a « the bigger the better » way.Decades of recordings have shown the value of very small cabinets on lead tone, while huge 4x12 in the right room with the right mics give an unsurpassed low end to a guitar track for your ultimate live sound.

Here are some guidelines to start with:

  • big cabinets have lower and more bass response. Obviously, a 4x12 has much more low end than a 1x12. But an oversized 1x12 has more low end than a compact 1x12 enclosure.
  • small cabinets like 1x10 and 1x6 have plenty of edge, ideal for lead tones or very tight rhythm tracks in a very crowded band mix. And these small speakers have shown their worth on many legendary records.
  • 2x12s usually are best-of-both-worlds cabinets compared to 1x12 and 4x12. They have the low end that is often missing on 1x12, but they have more grit and presence than a 4x12 cabinet. When practicing on your own, at home, they have the right balance of low end and treble for your clean licks, and with a nice crunch they become riff machines.

And the speaker in it?

Some will say « I only swear about Vintage 30s ». Ok, great. But, if you compare 2 same size cabinets from different brands, with the same speaker, you would be surprised at the difference. Having witnessed this between an Orange PPC112 and a Victory Amp V112 (both are loaded with Vintage 30 speakers), the amount of tonal difference, bass response,etc. Overcame the simple similarity of the speaker.

You can do the same experiment with Wall of Sound or through Torpedo Remote with for example the Orange PPC112 and the MESA/Boogie 1x12 Recto. Even if you do not own the cabinet, the preview of the cabinets will be enough to showcase how the construction, the dimensions are as important as the speaker in itself.

With this being said, speakers clearly have a massive impact. A Celestion Creamback is mellower than a Vintage 30. Depending of the playing, a speaker will also be an integral part of the global tone : boosting the low-end, rubbing off some screechy top-end frequencies,etc.

Open or Closed

This is another very important characteristic of a cabinet. Looking for tightness and punch, go for a closed back cabinet. Also they are more directional, so mic selection and placement will have more impact.

With an open back, you will have more air to your sound. The open back is also an asset for mic placement at the back of the cabinet. You can get richer tones, with a warmth of low end that cannot be found at the front.

All in all, with the large library of Two notes virtual cabinets (more than 300 at the time of writing), you can drastically improve your existing rig.