Speaker Selection, According to Zinky
In our continuing series on speaker selection, 16 ohms with an 8-ohm speaker and you’ll
we’ve talked with numerous amp builders see what I mean. There are speakers made
about how they view the role of speakers from 2 ohms to 32 ohms, and the subtle dif-within their designs. This month I spoke with ferences are audible. Otherwise, everything
Bruce Zinky of Zinky Electronics (makers of would be 8 Ohms.
Zinky, Supro and Smokey Amps) about his
amp designs and speaker selection.
How do you go about finding the right
speaker? What factors do you consider?
Do you design the amp around the speaker
or design the amp and find a speaker that
A speaker has very few moving parts and
making changes to any part affects the
sound. For example, cones are made of
paper, plastic, metal, or space-age materi-
The point is there are dozens of ways to
manipulate speaker parts to change tonality; I’ve outlined just a few. The significance
is not that the differences all these changes
make are audible, but rather, “Does this
change produce a sound I like?” or “Under
what conditions will this speaker sound
good?” In a perfect world, the speaker and
the amplifier complement each other and
best reproduce what the player does.
The speaker comes first in our designs;
we design the amp around it. In the Supro
Tremolectric, the Eminence speaker is an
improvement on the classic Jensen P-10R –
we all know how that is supposed to sound.
The amp was mated to the speaker and we
didn’t change anything when making it a
head and coupling it with our 2x12 cabinet.
Do you aspire to create a specific tone
when designing an amp?
We go for the most natural, acoustic sound
possible. The clean sound, straight off the
strings of the solidbody electric guitar is
what we want to hear from the speaker. We
use vintage guitars for testing amps and
speakers, and we’ve gone through many
good vintage speakers in establishing a
baseline. We experimented a long time
before getting the 12” speakers we use
today. They’re very custom, but similar to
other Eminence products.
What role does the speaker play in your
What’s your process for creating a new
amp? Do you try to fill a niche or try to
emulate something similar on the market?
The amp must suit the player. Size and volume are primary considerations, features are
next in line. Durability is paramount, then
first-rate sound. There are other concerns
with single channel amps lacking overall
volume controls. For clean tones, the amp
must be loud enough, but the amp can’t be
too loud for the intended usage when overdriven.
The speaker is critical to the sound – it’s the
last thing the electrical signal travels through.
After the amplifier, there’s just the speaker,
the air, the room and your ears. The speaker
changes and defines the sound while making the music audible. It is important finding
a speaker that changes the sound for the
better and best reproduces what you want
to hear. But it isn’t just frequency response;
you’ve also got dynamic response, and for
musicians, that matters just as much, if not
more. If done right, you’ve got a speaker
that performs better than a vintage speaker.
We simply make the amp respond musically
to the player’s technique, guitar, effects, etc.
Every amp responds to the player without
stamping the sound with a sonic signature.
I try to produce something I haven’t already
made before, but also produce products
that will satisfy the needs of actual musicians. Professional musicians really are a
niche, so that is what we are – a niche amp
company. Our amplifiers emulate no others
in terms of design, style or circuitry, but the
sound is very familiar. There are personal
tastes thrown in, too. I like simple controls
because they’re more intuitive on stage
and that seems to resonate with customers.
Of course, none of this matters if the amp
doesn’t work every night and sound great
doing it. That’s the real job!
Please check out Zinky Electronics’ products
at zinky.com, suprousa.com and
The electrical characteristics of the speaker
also change how the amp responds. Try
switching the amp impedance from 8 to 4 or
als (Kevlar, carbon fiber or combinations of
materials). The weight, stiffness, shape and
hardness of the cone create audible differences. There are many different varieties of
paper used – heavier cones produce less
treble, but have noticeable increases in bass
response and sonic girth. Lighter cones lend
more treble and high-end extension, but
typically produce less bass (especially at high
power levels). Bigger magnets provide more
treble and more efficiency in the treble and
midrange regions, while smaller magnets
produce less efficiency, less treble, but more
powerful bass. 16-ohm speakers are wound
with thinner, lighter wire, reducing mass and
providing a bit more treble; 8-ohm speakers
have thicker, heavier wire and produce a less
bright, smoother sound.
Anthony “Big Tony” Lucas
is a guitarist and Senior Lab Technician at Eminence
Speaker LLC, where he specializes in guitar-speaker
design and customer support. Big Tony has been with
Eminence for over 10 years and is responsible for many
well-known guitar speaker designs.