Guitar cabinets may be very basic devices to those who are unfamiliar with them, or for people who are not involved with musical instruments in general. After all, these are just speakers mounted inside boxes right? Well, there is a lot more to these boxes than just that.
The speakers used inside these cabinets are no ordinary speakers, and their frequency response as well as impedance rating varies from most conventional bookshelf or home theater speakers that you have in your bedroom.
Guitar cabinets – What to look for?
Firstly, the speakers that are used inside a guitar cabinet tend to have a much narrower frequency response than most conventional home-grade standalone speakers. For example, the typical 12” guitar cabinet speaker has a frequency range of just about 40 Hz to 8000 Hz. That is because most of the major tones and bass-heavy tunes that are prioritized in metal or rock, lie between the 40-5000 Hz ranges. This is where you find all the lows, mids, and you definitely don’t want your guitar cabinet to sound too bright or shimmery.
That is precisely why these carry no tweeters. Some 2×12 guitar cabinets will have symmetrically matched speakers, while some will have asymmetrically matched speakers in order to deliver a much more dynamic and fuller soundstage. That is also the reason why some of these have ports in the rear. The open back guitar cabinets tend to sound slightly looser than their closed counterparts, with a touch of freedom in the extreme low end. The closed-enclosure speakers feature much tighter midranges, along with a slightly punchy low end. Open back speakers also require slightly more driving power in order to deliver the same level of audio clarity as closed speakers.
Look for speakers with properly designed enclosures, made from audio-grade MDF or wood. The best ones will have metal grills and leather wrapped boxes. Isolated and shielded circuitry is preferred, to reduce distortion and noise signatures in the sound. Neodymium magnets are the best, although ceramic magnets are the cheapest and are commonly found in lower end cabinets. Look for wider voice coils in order to get better response, and the impedance should match that of your amplifier, else you risk burning the voice coils of your speakers.
Below, you can take a look at some of the best 2×12 guitar cabinets currently available. These have been chosen after considerable research and analysis of customer reviews as well as specifications.
Seismic Audio – Empty 212Pro: Compact form factor, metal front grills
Con: No speakers included, no carry handle on top
If you’re looking for a barebone 2×12 guitar cabinet chassis that is both lightweight and sturdy, then the Seismic Audio Empty 212 will serve your needs. Yes, there are no speakers in there, but everything else is included such as the enclosure, the metal grill, a couple of carry handles on the side, and properly shielded internal circuitry. If you put a pair of Celestion Vintage 30’s in there, this good old empty cabinet will be transformed into beast of a guitar playback station. The MDF audiophile grade enclosure is perfect for containing and preventing any unwanted resonance inside the speaker box, and even though this is a closed back design, you will get a pretty wide soundstage thanks to the way the recessed side metal handles are designed, they allow a fair amount of air into and outside the speaker box.
Laney Amps CUB All TUBE SeriesPro: Dual carry handles on the top, powerful Celestion 12” HH drivers
Con: Some units may include Laney speakers of an inferior type
This is a pretty versatile and relatively compact 2×12 guitar cabinet from Laney. You can use it in landscape or portrait mode, so space constraints are now a thing of the past. The dual Celestine HH 12” speakers output plenty of bass and growl had when you pair them up with a decent amp. The mids are pretty warm and the lows are slightly dark, with a nice solid feel to them at all volumes, both low and high. This is a closed back cabinet, so you’ll get highly focused sound at all times, and the soundstage should be good enough despite the sealed enclosure. However, we would like to mention that some units may not come with the stated Celestion speakers, and might include an inferior Laney speaker instead. Don’t get us wrong, we are not Laney speakers are bad, but every manufacturer has both good as well as bad models. The advertised Celestion speakers are definitely better than any low-end Laney model, and they cost more as well.
Marshall MX Series MX212Pro: Premium leather wrapped MDF enclosure, black metal front grill, Celestion speakers
Con: 8 ohm resistance rating means it is pretty power hungry
Marshall cabinets have been around for quite some time, and these guys are known to make some of the most enthusiast grade models out there. When it comes to professional grade audio solutions such as amps, speakers, and cabinets, Marshall never disappoints. Their MX212 is a mid-range offering in the 2×12 guitar cabinet market, and it is designed with an extremely nice, audiophile grade MDF enclosure that has been wrapped in premium leather, and has steel corner plates for added durability. The RMS of these speakers is 160W (yep, RMS), and they feature a resistance of 8 ohms. This means that you will require a slightly powerful amp to drive this pair of 12” beasts, else you do run the risk of damaging the coils.
Jet City Amplification JCA24S+Pro: Switchable mono/stereo input jacks, convertible closed/open back
Con: Pretty large and heavy
Jet City Amplification is a much more recent name compared to Marshall, but they are quickly making a name for themselves by releasing premium grade amps and guitar cabinets. Their JCA24S+ is unlike anything that we have previously seen. It is capable of operating as both a closed back speaker and an open back speaker, thanks to the convertible back plate. There is switchable mono/stereo input jacks, so you can either run this as a simulated 1 x 12 cabinet, or a full 2×12 cabinet. The large woofers deliver plenty of treble and bass on the low as well as midranges, with enough room for clear high-end frequencies. The powerful neodymium magnets allow the speakers to have a snappy response and a much wider soundstage than the typical 12” speaker.
Yamaha THRC212Pro: Extremely balanced sound output with plenty of bass, treble, and warmth in low-midranges, switchable mono/stereo modes
Con: Soundstage could have been slightly better
While not noticeable from farther away, this cabinet does indeed sport a smooth black leather wrapped exterior that both looks and feels like true executive class material. Not that it is meant to be carried around as an exec briefcase, but the looks, top carry handle, and compact form factor could definitely make something like a that a possibility if the speakers were to be removed. Talking of speakers, you can switch between mono and stereo modes, thanks to the switchable input system. The secret to the incredibly balanced soundstage and full, deep bass is the use of an asymmetrical speaker setup. That’s right, this cabinet uses two different speaker models in one box- an Eminence Legend 1218, and a Tonker 12”. The total RMS output power is 150 W + 150 W = 300W of raw, uncut power. Bass is awesome, and the treble feels balanced and under control.
Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 212Pro: Dual Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, compact form factor
Con: Sound might seem a little too bright near the absolute top frequency point of this speaker
Thanks to the dual Celestion Vintage 30 12” speakers, this cabinet sounds incredibly well-balanced with strong bass and darker middle tones. For playing rock or metal, there are few 2×12 cabinets on the market that offer better price-performance than the Hughes & Kettner TubeMesiter. It is called the TubeMeister on the basis of the completely tube circuitry that lies within the box. This tube circuitry results in warmer, much more natural sound, with no signs of coloration or artificial enhancement. The speakers feature an RMS of 120 W and an impedance of 16 ohms.
Orange PPC212Pro: 120W RMS handling, dual Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, beefy lows with wide soundstage
Con: Could have been slightly more compact
With an output of 120W RMS per speaker, you’ll notice that there are absolutely no issues while playing even the most bass-intensive rock and metal music since there is always plenty of headroom for the speakers to keep going forward, even when the external tube amp is on full overdrive. Don’t worry, these hardcore speakers are capable of handling the heat, and come with premium copper windings, as well as extra wide voice coils and neodymium magnets. This results in extremely snappy speaker cone response and the soundstage is much wider than most 2×12 guitar cabinets out there. The MDF case is wrapped with premium grade leather to enhance the overall feel as well as looks, while a leather carry handle and steel corner plates complete the exterior of this somewhat large 2×12 guitar cabinet.