As in the past, the influence of the speakers on the guitar sound is severely underestimated. While you carefully select amps, tubes, cables, effects, strings and pickups, it is often forgotten how much influence speakers and cabinets have on the sound. Using a selection of 1×12″ cabinets from Palmer, all equipped with different speakers, we have tested for you not only the characteristics of these speakers, but also their influence on the sound. There are exclusive samples on our YouTube channel so that you can form your own impression. And yes: it was loud!
As much as we like to experiment with various set-ups and drive our partners insane (“honey, why another new guitar?”), often we ignore how strongly a speaker impacts on the sound. Let us not forget that the speaker ultimately transforms the signal provided by the dream-amp sound… It is the main intersection. If a poor speaker is used here – or a speaker, which quite simply does not fit the sound of the amp, we get less than optimal results.
Depending on the construction, materials and performance, various cabinets provide different sound results. If you like to go to small clubs to listen to warm bluesy sounds, then maybe a 4×12″ cabinet and all high performance speakers are wrong for you, while an open 2×10″ box with vintage-oriented speakers might not be the best choice for fat metal sounds at high volume. The number of speakers modifies the dispersion surface and volume – but the speakers also interact with each other and with the cabinet.
The first important factor to consider is the power for which a speaker is designed. If you use, for example, a 75 watts speaker (e.g., in a 4×12″ box with 300 watts of power handling), in conjunction with a 25 watt amp turned up just to 2, the results are not likely to be very convincing – the speakers are not optimally charged,”they don’t work”, because too little power will be delivered to them. On the other side of the spectrum, of course, a speaker with a lower performance runs the risk of being destroyed by a 100 watt amp at full power.
So be careful with those specs; the same applies to the impedance of the speaker. Just to be sure: if the amplifier is designed for an impedance of 8 ohms, you should ideally connect a speaker with 8 ohms impedance, never less, otherwise the amplifier could sustain heavy damage! It can also be dangerous for a 16 ohms speaker, at least if you use a tube amp. If a semiconductor amplifier, however, is not optimally exploited, there is at least no danger of damage to the amp. So: Same impedance on the speaker and amp: perfect. Higher impedance on the speaker: bad for amps, not optimal for semiconductor power amplifiers, but harmless. Lower impedance on the speaker: Never ever!
A word about the wattage on speakers: The load specification (for example, 60 watts) means that this speaker can handle the full 60 watts for up to 15 minutes. The risk of permanent damage to the speaker lies in prolonged use. So those of you with such a speaker used with a 120 watt amp operating at high volumes, can therefore expect, that the speaker will soon fail. Please always consider impedance and power handling.
Now to our test cabinets. Palmer offers a wide range of different cabinets, which vary in size, features and of course in terms of the speakers used. Here, every wish is fulfilled, no matter whether it is classic Rock and Blues sounds or the power of full Metal. No matter how large the setup and what sound you are looking for: here, one is guaranteed to find the right cabinet for their dream sound. In order to make a realistic sound comparison, Palmer is offering eight 1×12″ cabinets with the same design, each with different speakers.
The cabinet model is PCAB112. These semi open cabs were developed in cooperation with Eminence and are solidly built. They have a removable cloth cover – a handy feature, since it is often useful, when recording, to take off the cover and to bring the microphone closer to the speaker.
The cabinet is made of chipboard, the baffle of MDF, the speakers are front mounted. They are bombproof and tension-mounted and connected using short cables. It is recommended that you attach these wires using cable ties or similar devices, since they can otherwise cause unwanted noise if they come too close to the inside of the chassis. On top of that, the PCAB112 cab features a sturdy handle and is aesthetically pleasing. Overall, we have very good value for money.
The comparison setup
In the video, you hear each cabinet miked exactly the same way with a Shure SM57: The microphone is always at the same distance from each speaker. We did not look for the sweet spot of each speaker individually, but instead always aligned the microphone the same way to allow for a true comparison. The reference interface was a MoTu UltraLite MK 3. Three sound samples have been included in the run-up: one for clean sounds (with a single coil guitar), one for Crunch and one for solos with higher Gain-Settings. The latter two were recorded with Humbuckers.
Specifically for this feature, Sebastian Kulik provided a re-amping box from Exodus Amps, used to send the three sound samples repeatedly over the same amp with the same settings. The re-amper was designed to work in a linear way, so as not to distort the sound: the recorded output signal of the guitar from the DAW software is sent from the recording interface to the re-amping box and from there into the input of the amp, with the same volume level as if coming directly from a guitar. So, we were able to guarantee that the sound examples you hear are always the same recording – the only change is the connected speaker in identical Palmer cabs. The first candidate was the famous Celestion V30 speaker, and it served as a reference.
But first: the sound of a speaker changes over time. A brand new speaker should first be played over a longer period of time. This happens automatically, the longer you play. The edge of the membrane becomes softer which causes the speaker to sound more natural and less stiff. This extensive “running in” was of course not possible in the context of our comparison – but you can definitely hear the different characteristics of the speakers in new condition, especially since we miked them exactly the same way. Also, the recording level of the microphone was not modified, so you can hear which speaker pushes stronger or which one is more reserved. The result? There were no artificial rooms, compressors, EQs, or any other plugins added, nothing glossed over or bent – you only hear what the microphone recorded!
So, www.guitar.de, where you can see photos of the test setup and hear every cab and every speaker each with clean, crunchy and HiGain sounds. The sequence? The first speaker clean, then with Crunch, then HiGain, then the same thing with the next speaker. Put your headphones on and just listen!
Celestion Vintage 30 60 W
Eminence Texas Heat 150 W
Eminence Legend 1258 75 W
Eminence Cannabis Rex 50 W
Eminence Maverick 75 W
Eminence Eric Johnson Signature 50 W
Eminence Wizard 75 W
Celestion G12M Greenback 25 W
All cabs were fitted with the 8 ohm versions of the speaker.
Palmer PCAB 112 V30
We decided on a comparison with one of the most popular speakers, the Celestion Vintage 30. It is virtually impossible to include a representative list of the most prominent users, because the V30 is represented in virtually every category. It impresses through extremely accurate sound reproduction, without ever sounding clinical or cold, and its voicing with a healthy dose of mids, ensures good assertiveness within the band structure. Whether clean, Crunch or HiGain: the V30 delivers warmth without a smash.
It can even easily handle aggressive sounds and lower tunings, although it by no means has an ultra modern voicing. Nevertheless, you notice how clean and precisely this speaker works, and also mixes in its very own, pleasant singing voice. No wonder, then, that it is popular for so many styles, and therefore serves as our starting point. The recommended retail price (RRP) for the cabinet with the V30 used in the test: € 219.
Palmer PCAB 112 TXH
With the Eminence Texas Heat, the name contains the program. The speaker can handle more power and also offers a greater headroom than the V30, but sounds quite a bit more bluesy. The highs are more pronounced, the overall sound is however more compressed and even warmer, without any conspicuous peaks in certain frequency ranges.
Ultramodern HiGain is not really for this speaker. Instead, the Texas Heat produces flawless warm and bluesy sounds, ideal for crunchy Blues or harder Rock, especially for sounds between Stevie Ray and Reverend Billy G. The Texas Heat is no Swiss Army knife, but neither does it want to be. A great choice for fat singing Blues sounds (RRP: € 198).
Palmer PCAB 112 LEG
The Eminence Legend 1258 focuses on softer mids with greater emphasis on higher mids and treble. This makes for a slightly less powerful sound with less thrust in the bass – the sound is subjectively “closer”, more compressed. But especially with Gain, the result is reminiscent of fat 80s Rock… Satchel surely would have enjoyed this.
Also quite handy: with such a voicing, this speaker will assert itself very well within the band structure, especially if there are several guitarists at work, such as in the “late” iron maiden. So anyone who indulges in the NWoBHM or the Sleaze Rock may have found the ideal speaker for making your presence felt at a stadium gig with two guitarists and three keyboards (RRP: € 169).
Palmer PCAB 112 REX
What a name! – Eminence Cannabis Rex! Truthfully, the membrane consists of hemp. The product description recommends this speaker for Country, Jazz, and classical music, but in the test, it quickly becomes clear that the sound of this speaker is a real surprise. It is definitely likely to prove itself in other styles as well.
The Cannabis Rex sounds tremendously warm and full, without however smashing or “buffing”. It pushes and sounds very articulated, with just the right mixture of bass, mids and highs. With the proper amp setting, single notes in the high range are almost reminiscent of a violin: the speaker reacts in a warm, creamy and cultivated way. Therefore, it is suitable not only for Jazz or clean sounds, but cuts an excellent figure, even with downtunings, because in spite of the distortion, the sound is not muddled.
When changing from another speaker to the Cannabis Rex, you may have to change the EQ settings on the amp to achieve the same amount of bite. The speaker inspires by its balanced, bold and warm sound, whether clean or highly distorted. The price for such a speaker in the Palmer cab is € 198. Be careful – this can be expensive, if the bass player at the end of the rehearsal is trying to turn the membrane into a joint… Slap him on the wrist!
Palmer PCAB 112 MAV
Arrgh, what is this protruding thing on the back of the magnet, what is the scale doing, for crying out loud? In fact, on the back of the speaker you will find a large, bulky controller used to adjust the responsiveness in conjunction with the amp on the output of the speaker. What for? Well, so you can safely drive your ultra loud vintage amp (volume up!) into saturation, for example; however you can limit the output on the speaker a bit, which of course affects the sound – an ideal solution for those who are rather reluctant to use a power soak or similar features.
Of course a (semi) open cabinet is recommended for technical reasons when using the Eminence Maverick. It also makes a good figure in the Palmer cab. By the way, in the video sound files, you hear it fully turned up. Even with this setting, it is slightly quieter than the other tested speakers. The sound is focused rather on the high mids and highs, the lows are somewhat moderate. The sound is quite “compressed”. Due to its reduced frequency response, this speaker should also prevail within the band structure against other guitars and keyboards. The limitation of the output works perfectly, which makes this speaker a good choice for home recording. But also on stage, the sometimes strenuous sound pressure can be kept under control.
Palmer PCAB 112 EJ
If the signature of Eric Johnson with his big bat ears appears on a speaker, the expectations rise sharply. The cooperation of the $$tone ranger$$$ with Eminence and George Allesandro has paid off, because this 50 watts speaker delivers the finest vintage sound. The design is well thought out: it did away with any coating on the edge of the membrane, which usually serves to concentrate the performance and hence somewhat the sound of a speaker making it “tighter”. Therefore, the membrane in this speaker vibrates more freely, and this is noticeable in the sound.
It has a nicely drawn, midrange-heavy British touch that specifically rejoices at Crunch sounds – here, on the right amp, the result is reminiscent of Eric Clapton from the days of Cream or of the live sounds of Mr. Johnson. The character is somewhere between traditional British and American – the EJ thrills us through an optimal resolution, and works somewhat more finely and concisely than a V30; it also slightly more mid-weighted and less full. Future owners may look forward to the maturing of the speakers after several weeks and months of playtime, because it is already noticeable in the brand new material that the speaker will become yet finer, more singing and especially warmer with age. The price for this speaker in the 1×12″ Palmer cab is € 558.
Palmer PCAB 112 WIZ
The Eminence Wizard from the Red Coat series is touted by the manufacturer as “ideal for the sounds of the 60s and 70s”, but shows in practice that this speaker has much more to offer. The first impression of the sound is smoky, with brilliant, but never annoying or too sharp highs and a very accurate reproduction. The bass sounds in the Crunch area come much more into play; here, the Wizard moves a lot of pressure (“Tubulus Volumus?” – or how would you describe this sound in Hogwarts terms?). An easier scoop with a focus on bass and treble is noticeable, which makes the speaker ideal for a strongly distorted, modern sound. Impressive, how precise and tight it sounds.
If you need more mids, you can get help from the amp, of course, whereby you might want to curb the bass a little, depending on the circumstances, because the Wizard already delivers those in merciless abundance. When it comes to the official metal distortion, the speaker is crisping up wonderfully, with well defined bass and a beautiful articulation in the high range. The Wizard should also be suitable for Downtunings, and here the sound comes across as the younger, cheekier and somewhat unbridled brother of the classic Greenback.
Palmer PCAB 112 GBK
The Celestion Greenback concludes our special test and returns us to the more sophisticated parts of town – for this reason, the Greenback is a classic and immensely popular choice. Here, the focus is to a lesser extent on the highs. Instead, the mids rule. The bass sounds become precise, thin and wiry, but also more finely drawn than, for example, in the Wizard. However, more Gains bring out more mids – great, because the solo performance is very good.
The Greenback is also a very versatile speaker. Its strengths lie between Blues, Classic Rock, Pop and Metal… for Downtunings and ultra nasty sounds, more precise bass could be desirable. However, this arena is not the target of the developers, because the Greenback delivers simply tasty Vintage sounds for Rhythm and Lead, both clean and distorted.
So, who is the winner? Well, all of them! After all, this is not the same as a shoot-out with the motto “let’s see who is left standing at the end of the day”. No, it is about the fact that each of the featured speakers has its strengths and is better for one direction or another. Those who like it extra vintage, are perfectly well served with the Greenback, Eric Johnson and the V30. Those who like something more modern, should try the Cannabis Rex (the surprise in the test), or the Wizard. The Maverick opens new doors for home recording and reaching the amplifier saturation, while the Legend makes you relive the hairspray-soaked 80s.
Once again it is clear why V30 and Greenbacks are so popular, but it is also obvious what other possibilities are offered with speakers such as the Cannabis Rex or the Maverick and how much you can refine the character of your amps, if you take the time to look for the right speaker – use your ears, try out as many as possible and do not rely solely on the gear lists of your heroes – there is so much to discover in speakers!
Of course, there is even more scope for variety, when it comes to comparing 1×12″, 2×12″, and 4×12″, or closed, semi-open or completely open cabinets. Palmer offers all these options, so that you can pretty much realise any dream sound imaginable. The 112 cabs offer very good value for money leaving you free to concentrate on the desired speaker sound.
We hope that the sound files have shown you, in combination with the text, how big the differences can be. A fat thank you to Sebastian Kulik for the handmade re-amping box. Now, it’s up to you to make your choice!
Source: guitar Magazin, Germany, February 2013
Author: Eric Vandenberg