SPEAKER TONE CENTER
Speakers: 40% of your tone
Power in watts Volume in dB
Jack-Hammer, Rock Concert
Car Stereo, Band Practice
Dance Clubs, Headphones
Greetings, I am very excited to be here at
Premier Guitar and I hope to bring a different point of view through my articles. For
the past 15 years I have held management
positions at top instrument manufacturers,
where my responsibilities were to design
products for musicians. I’m a musician, and
that’s what I brought to the products: What
are the fit, the form, and the function to
the musician? Does the feature set justify
the price? I’ll lay out the facts, so you can
make more educated purchases.
So Let’s Get Started
There are tons of great speakers in the
market today, and they all fit a function,
but how do you know which one is the
right one for you? Speakers are one of
the most overlooked elements about your
guitar tone. Most of us spend an agonizing
amount of time tweaking and fine-tuning
our gear—we fuss with our amp’s EQ, add
multi-effects, buy pedals, swap out pickups.
All these things you can do to help shape
your guitar tone, but it always comes down
to one thing: how is that signal being represented through the speaker?
The thing you want to consider is that
what you like or dislike about your guitar
tone could very well be the speaker—it is
after all 40 percent of your tone. Picture
your amplifier as a sports car. Now picture your speakers as the tires. The wrong
speaker in an amp is like having bicycle
wheels on your sports car. That’s how
important the speakers are.
Wattage vs. Volume
This is a huge misconception among musicians. These two ratings are not the same. 50
watts isn’t half as loud as 100 watts. Wattage
really comes into play when you start considering your function—how many watts is going
to produce the level of volume you need for
band practice, or playing a club?
Chart 1 answers this question. As you can
see, lower wattage amplifiers can produce
quite a bit of volume. The biggest thing
the chart points out is that 60 watts is only
3dB less in actual volume than 120 watts.
Amplifiers by nature distort the louder they
go, which brings you back to how clean you
need to be at a certain volume—and how
loud is 108dB, anyway?
Chart 2 shows how decibel levels translate
to everyday life. Remember, if you have a
120-watt head and a 4x12 cab with four
30-watt speakers, you have to turn up
pretty loud to use your speakers correctly.
If you’re playing in an average-sized bar,
then maybe you have too much power for
your function. You’ll have to turn down
your amp and sacrifice tone, and we all
know how that blows.
This is a little food for thought. Now that
we’ve opened this Pandora’s Box, we’ll look
next time at how speakers distort, and the
difference between good distortion and
bad distortion. Knowing what to listen for
can make all the difference in the world
when picking out the right speaker.
For more than 15 years Tony has been a music industry
professional, conducting clinics and in-store training seminars world-wide for Peavey, Washburn, Eden Amps and
Parker Guitars, as well as involvement in product development. He’s also an experienced performing musician.