In this post, I decided to do a down-to-earth rap on a handful of cool guitar amp speakers that I have used lately. It is difficult to sift through the technical data on speaker websites. And the descriptions, in general, are not necessarily easy to evaluate when doing comparative shopping. I know we have all heard words like, “bell-like cleans” and “full bass response” and “tight low end response” and “mid” scoop, etc.

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So I will attempt to use terms that simplify the descriptions in ways that more clearly define what the speaker does with respect to our proverbial Quest for Tone. So here are some guitar amp speakers I have been working with lately. I have tried them in different cabinets and have some thoughts that might interest some of you out there in tone land.

Electro-Voice EVM12L

The mighty EVM12L is one of the most accurate and unforgiving guitar amp speakers. Although most folks seem to claim that it sounds flat at low volumes, in high volume situations, the EVM12L seems to cut through better than other speakers without adding any coloring to your tones. If you have an amp that sounds great at loud volumes, this speaker will surely deliver. At low volumes it lacks the usual warmth and coloration that other speakers have on the tone.

Remember, you are hearing what your amp really sounds like. A quality amp will sound consistently good through this speaker. It is a heavy one though, so make sure your back is in good shape. A good match of a cab for this speaker is a pine Forte Cab. This cab makes the EV sound very, very friendly and adds the warmth that is normally lacking at low volumes for this speaker. You really cannot go wrong with this, but think of it as a Porsche that won’t show you its full potential until you are in the triple-digit speed zone.

Austin Guitar House KTS-70

If you are looking for the ultimate speaker, which has some of the qualities of the EV at higher volumes but not at the expense of warmth at lower volumes, the KTS-70 is the speaker of choice. The KTS-70 tops off as my favorite speaker to date. It will give you all of the honesty and clarity at low volumes and does not start to color the tone until your amp is way up on 11.

Very open tones and it projects nicely, while delivering the OD channel of the amp with absolute smoothness and no gnarliness whatsoever! I use this speaker in a Two Rock 112 cabinet and with my Dumble-Style amp, it projects with the fury of the EV but with the warmth of the G12-65. Really one of the most amazing finds for me in a long long time. Five stars on this speaker. Thanks, Austin Guitar House!

Austin Guitar House Elegante

I use one of these in a Forte 112 Pine Cabinet. Great guitar amp speaker and it will sound great with an amp such as a Vox AC30, or similar sounding amp, say with Tremolo. It delivers the goods for you if you are backing up a singer/songwriter with a Tele. It’s just a really nice sounding speaker. I like it more for clean to moderate crunch chords. But the high gain, D-Style amps like the KTS-70 more for delivering the smoother OD. These guys really know how to make a top notch speaker. I recommend buying all of their products. Mix and match according to the gig.

Celestion G12-65

Well, here is the classic. Everyone swears by these and I do too. I find, however at higher gain and OD settings, the G12-65 starts to color the tone and has a tendency to get very thin and a little buzzy/compressed. However, before that happens, the range of tones available to you are expansive and sweet, clear, and pretty. A good call for a lower wattage D-Style amp, but for higher wattages and volumes, go with the KTS-70 since it has qualities of the G-12-65 but handles some of the higher volume with EV-like clarity. The G12-65 is like a solid Chevy that keeps running and delivering everything from classic crunch to contemporary and fusion tones.

Celestion G12T-75

This speaker I have in my Allston Amps. Very, very nice and often neglected and written off as a cheaper G-12-65, but honestly, some amps sound better with this than with its younger sister. I am surprised that most folks don’t rave more about this speaker. Modestly priced too, it has what might be considered a less spongy tone than the G12-65 and a little more “integrity” on the upper mids: Less twang, so to speak. A good call for an all-around speaker. In the right cab, you might be hard pressed to see much of a difference between the G12-65 for a smaller price tag.

G12 Century Vintage (Neo)

These speakers are quite interesting. I worked with a couple of these to try to lower the amount of weight I was carrying around. Not bad. Accurate, but less pretty than its other family members (G12-65, T-75). Is it worth it for having a light cab? It depends on the cab in which it is installed. I don’t recommend it for a combo amp. I have observed an interesting phenomenon each time: Since the speaker has less magnet mass/weight than other speakers, the sound waves delivered through it seem to cause other things attached around it to vibrate sympathetically.

In the three cases of my combos with this speaker installed, internal components such as circuit boards and reverb tanks started rattling on certain notes. I put the ceramic speakers back in the combos and everything turned back to normal. No more vibrations. Neos seem to work fine in a separate cab, just a little bit of a harsher sound. I almost want to use the word “digital” sounding. But that is a bad word, I think. Right?

Jensen C12N

I’ve gotta say, I use this one in a Limited Edition Hot Rod Deluxe and I get compliments all the time, followed by a surprised look when I tell folks it is just the good ol’ Jensen doing its thing: Stock with the amp. Truly affordable and a solid staple. Delivers all the goods necessary for a working musician to stay working. Nothing flashy but almost surprising how it keeps up with its much more costly competitors.

Jensen C12K

Big Brother to the C12N. Again, I don’t think I will ever sell one of these that I have handy. In a pinch, it will work and deliver with anything you have with tubes and a tone control. Very affordable and I still like it, though I like the C12N for the OD sounds since it works a little harder than this higher wattage speaker and adds a nice quality.

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