fbpx
 

Guitar & Bass Article: Soundcheck Marshall 4×12 cabinets

19 Jan Guitar & Bass Article: Soundcheck Marshall 4×12 cabinets

Hello Guys,

below you will find an interesting article about comparing Marshall cabinets from several ages I found in the German “Gitarre&Bass” (“Guitar&Bass”) magazine, Issue Feb. 2011. Of course it’s not written by me, I simply did the translation of this great article, because I think it’s interesting for us all. I personally don’t have much of a clue when it comes to vintage speakers and vintage cabinets. I’m missing experience here. This article however, is from a professional musician and it’s almost scientific. And its a good basis for a discussion about this topic. I wrote some additional notes in cursive text. Have a nice time reading.

Guitar&Bass 02/2011 article: Soundcheck Marshall 4×12 cabinets

This article deals with the comparison of vintage Marshall cabinets. Reference cabinet however, is a modern 4×12″ handwired cabinet with 4×12″ Heritage G12H Greenbacks.

At first, I carried together several older Marshall cabinets, as much as possible, preferably the ones that are known for their “legendary” tone. Still, the hearing experiences were surprising.

First one was a cabinet from 1966, loaded with G12M Celestions. The box itself seems to be a bit heavier than the new “handwired” one, eventually they used heavier plywood (birch plywood) in the sixties.

All measurements on the new “handwired” box matched exactly the older one. Anyhow, the older box weights some extra kilos.  Both cabinets are slanted cabinets, with a half slanted front. Jim Marshall told me (Yes, the author is telling here he spoke personally to Jim Marshall. Franz) that this construction was just for optical reasons. “It just looked better”, the Amp legend says. He did not concern that this construction might affect the phase-layers of the sonic waves emitted from the box.

The straight, non-slanted boxes have a fuller, fatter sound, while the slanted boxes sound thinner, but also more three-dimensional. The emission of the sound waves of the slanted cabinet are less bundled, causing less phase-extermination than the straight, non-slanted cabinet. The bigger angle of sound-wave emitting causes more reflection of sound waves in the room, creating more sound wave reflections, resulting in a more diffuse sound impression.

Mostly, I did not have a choice between the slanted or non-slanted version of a vintage cabinet, especially for the older cabinets, here I was only able to borrow slanted versions. Then I got a Basketweave box from circa 1968 with Celestion G12M 25 Watt speakers, known as the “Holy Grail” for the Marshall adepts. This box was even a bit more heavier than the 1966 box and is equipped with the much sought-after natural mesh. Additionally, I borrowed the same box from circa 1970 with four G12H/55 Hertz speakers with red Tolex.  The last box is a very rare 4×12″ from 1963 with G12T Alnico loudspeakers. That should be enough to play around for the beginning.

Now I’m confronted with the hard task to tell you about all that different colours of sound with words. Actual, this is impossible, but I will try so.

Let’s start with the oldest exemplar, the 1963 cabinet with the legendary T652 Alnicos. This box has a very open and almost linear sound. The responsiveness was incredible fast, but less stable that with the ceramic models. To get an overall picture of the tone spectrum I also listed to a CD over all cabinets mentioned here. And this worked best with the Alnico box. Yes, it seems to be made for this. The Alnicos almost sounded like broadband speakers, bringing all frequencies together in a harmonic arrangement, it’s really a joy. With a guitar and my old JTM45 the clean tone was just “to die for”. A real sweet, open tone, exposing even the smallest nuances of your playing technique. No other box transferred the specific tone of different guitars, tubes and pickups so clearly and vehement like this one. A tone like through a microscope. The proverbial “hollow honk” tone, for which a Marshall box is well-known for, is rarely found here. The mids are very low-key, if not to say underexposed. To be correct, this speakers dont put the mids in the foreground, like the latter ceramic models from Celestion. For distorted sounds or fully cranked amps this box is less qualified. But in the clean and crunch sound range this speakers are one-of-a-kind. In spite of the wide opened Highs, the tone was always soft and warm, the English would say “smooth”.

1963cab4x12CelestionAlnico1963CelestionAlnicoT652

In contrast, the 1966 box offered a totally different tone. The mid spectrum is ruling here. Few bass, few highs, but yet amazingly greasy pure unadulterated “Bluesbreaker-Tone”. Again, the tone is still soft and warm, but represents the mid spectrum so colourful like no other.  With a stratocaster, one will get a wooden tone like a violin case. With a Booster or Tubescreamer this box will provide probably the best Lead sound. With higher volumes, things will getting critical, dynamic and attack are missing. In other words: it’s goind muddy. Important to mention: the beautiful pinstripe front cloth is made from some sort of rubber coating, letting the soundwaves only through a small perforation, damping highs and width. So the tone cannot be considered as “open”. In exchange, distorted tone will be cut just where it interferes. The early pinstripe boxes can be heard on all recordings from Eric Clapton with Cream. A real classic.

Even a tad better is the 1968 Basketweave box, which emphasized its legendary reputation right with the first tones. It has all the benefits of the pinstripe model while having a bit more volume, a more open high frequency spectrum and improved dynamic, apparently because of the upgraded 25 watt speakers. (Seems like the Pinstripe cab has 20 Watt speakers? Franz) The Basketweave front also seems to absorb less than the Pinstripe cloth, making the tone fuller and wider. In a combination with a 1969 JMP50 top this box has an absolute perfect tone. It’s barely imagineable that one could create a better Marshall sound. Jeff Beck used excactly this combination in his early days. And Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer on the famous “Johnny Winter Live And” Album. Just listen to the intro chords of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. Derringer sounded never as good as there. His solo on “It’s my own fault” is like a sort of Avatar of the good Marshall or Celestion tone for me.

Again a totally different tone has the 1969 4×12″ box with the G12H speakers supposedly loved by Jimi Hendrix (with 55 Hertz and 014 Bass cone). This box is considerably louder, more powerful and more woodenly. It just screams out the chords. It’s a bit like the birth of the “heavy” tone. Even though you didn’t change the amp settings the soft and mid-balanced JMP tone becomes sort of a Godzilla scream. (You’ll duck down to avoid getting hit by that noise). To be honest, with my Les Paul the tone wasn’t attractive but rather brutal. But with a Stratocaster it was a totally different thing. Here you really are in a Hendrix areal with howling and smacking Fuzz-Face sounds, which no other box like this can deliever. If one loves the pedals of the seventies (Fuzz Face or Big Muff), he should watch out for such one box. Only in this combination that legendary pedals seems to come to their full effort.

1968BasketWeave4x12JMP50

The current “handwired” box (I think the author means the Marshall MR1960BHW and MR1960AHW here, Franz) was at first like a counterpole to all these legends. It should act like a mirror, releasing all these sounds in a warped and blurred way. Which it did actually, at the first tones, I think. Not bad, but maybe without that distinctive character of the other subjects. So I was astonished that I used this one more and more during the long test period, just for having fun at playing. This box has not the attractive mid spectrum of the Pinstripe box or the compact dynamic of the 1969 g12H box. Also, the enormous clearness is missing, compared to the very old Alnico box. But at the same time, it misses the weakness of the vintage boxes. It just works, and after a long lasting break in phase it works so good, that all of its strengths coming out in a sort of “best of all worlds” manner. The tone is wide, smooth, crisp, fresh and sweet all together. Maybe not as extreme as described for the vintage boxes, but the heritage speakers have an essential advantage: They are new, not old. Some older speakers become exhausted and saggy.

HWReissueCab1969BasketWeaveCab

So I could give back all the vintage boxes without sorrow. I am, to be honest, very impressed by the Heritage speakers in the matching Marshall cabinets. You have to give them their time until they are well-rehearsed, but then there is no reason anymore for me to search for some original speakers or fancy serial numbers. My compliment!

avatar
Franz Farklas
banane@exception.at

I'm born 1970, a big AC/DC fan since 1982, when I got the "Back in Black" cassette tape together with a little cassette player from my grandpa. Fully classic rock addicted, don't like "modern" music styles like HipHop. 2009 I got a Gibson SG standard ebony, learning to play AC/DC songs from tabs and videos since then. Beside that, I'm a totally computer addicted guy and Linux Server specialist. Working as internet server and network admin and part-time IT consultant. So, when I'm not behind my guitar, I'm behind the keyboard :-) Feel free to contact me at ICQ 71095781 or MSN banane@exception.at or skype ffarklas@exception.at.

38 Comments
  • avatar
    Anchor2
    Posted at 17:49h, 08 April

    Anchor2…

    […]Guitar & Bass Article: Soundcheck Marshall 4×12 cabinets[…]…

  • avatar
    OliverKing
    Posted at 01:56h, 02 March

    I´m sorry that i dig out this thread, but i have to write some words.

    On one photo you can see the hw cab and the vintage red cab. I was there at Udo´s place and he told me to listen to the sound of both cabs.
    I can not remember which amp he used. It was a 65 jtm 45 or a Laney Supergroup. In my opinion the sound difference between both cabs is so huge. It was unbelievable !!! As it is always a matter of taste, Udo did not agree.
    The hw cab´s sound was, hard to describe, moving to all corners in the room, the red cab hit me right in my face, this damn cab had an ubelievable punch, was very rough, crunchy.
    The hw cab was more mild, smooth, totally different.
    As i did not wanted to spend so much money on a cab i looked out for some equal cabs and i found some cool stuff.

  • avatar
    Kinglance
    Posted at 19:58h, 20 January

    I have now a Marshall 1960A cab. Would there be a lot of difference in sound with a Marshall 1960BX?? Would the difference be hearable??

    • avatar
      SGACE
      Posted at 20:11h, 20 January

      yes there is a difference how the sound, 1960A has G12 75watt speakers total 300 watt , BX has g12m25 watt speakers total 100 watt, the grill cloth is different, other than these the construction is the same

      • avatar
        banane
        Posted at 20:27h, 20 January

        I’m sure, yes. I have a 1960A too, and with preamp and bass at higer values it really sounds like metal.

        • avatar
          SGACE
          Posted at 20:32h, 20 January

          g12 75 speakers were introduced in early to mid 80’s for a more modern sound (heavy metal etc) for that time period

          • avatar
            banane
            Posted at 20:46h, 20 January

            Yes, my cab is labled “JCM900 Lead”, and as far as I know the JCM900 is a high distortion amp, is this right?

            • avatar
              SGACE
              Posted at 22:18h, 20 January

              yes it is high gain..I recently bought one extremely cheap..

              • avatar
                banane
                Posted at 23:44h, 20 January

                Ah ok, I see. Do you collect vintage gear?

                • avatar
                  SGACE
                  Posted at 00:02h, 21 January

                  not exactly.. i buy things that probably will make me happy,.. especially if you buy something cheap is easier to test it and if you dont like it to sell again with no or small loss.
                  JCM900 is not a vintage item anyway and a few of my favorite bands were playing with it. (pixies for example)

                  • avatar
                    banane
                    Posted at 00:20h, 21 January

                    Thats also nice. I would like to do that too but not enough space here 🙂

  • avatar
    ar2619Rob
    Posted at 12:39h, 20 January

    Franz, thanks for the effort in translating this article for us.
    I’ve spent the last few days reading reviews about cabs and I’m rapidly disappearing up my own butt.
    I’m still thinking greenbacks but then people say don’t get Chinese made, such as in the 1960AX. So I’ve been reading about this and again opinion is completely divided as to whether there is any discernable difference. Celestion insist the more recent Chinese made are of excellent quality and better than an original that’s tired out. Incidently the Celestion ‘classic’ series is Chinese made since 2002, the Heritage series is made here in the U.K.
    Then what about the G12H30? and if so 55Hz or 75Hz. Perhaps 55Hz for a single coil and 75Hz for humbucker? I know for a nearly new 1960A-HW but don’t know now whether to press the guy in to letting it go. I know he doesn’t use it so I’m thinking perhaps he doesn’t like it.
    Also I wonder if for a player of my ability is it like saying ‘you don’t wanna get a Ferrari mate, a Bugati is much better’, lol.
    Anyway can those here who have experience of these cabs share their views with regards to an early AC/DC tone please as a 1960AX or A-HW seems to be the most available type cab.

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 14:02h, 20 January

      Hehe, the translation was almost like a little english course for me 🙂
      Yeah, I’m confused too, online shop is saying the box has this specs, test review says the box has other specs and at the end, one still don’t have any clue.

      I chew a lot about that thing and came to the following opinion:
      I trust the author with the 55 Hz thing (55 Hz is only ok for single coil) because George said similar things in the ebay watch post. So the bass boxes are off the race.

      Then today I read a (german) test review of both the handwired 1959 and the 1960AHW together (in the same magazine from the same author of the above article) where the specs saying “Celestion G12H Custom speakers”, so kjellgibson’s 2nd statement from below seems to be also true.

      I personally don’t care if a speaker comes from China or the UK. UK has the better reputation but I’ve also read that the current Chinese Celestions are excellent.

      So, what remains then? For me, it’s the price, optical things and the argument that Marshall had a goal with the handwired series: to recreate a specific sound.

      The “handwired” review article says the G12H in the 1960AHW are “pre-aged” and have a warmer sound than new standard Celestions, the bass range does have a sharper contour and the highs are sharper and unpleasant. He assumed then, that vintage cabinets sounds the same back in the 60s/70s when they were new.
      And “In spite of their Chinese origin these speakers are very great ones, especially when it goes loud, they outperform the Greenbacks.”

      Maybe it’s just that what is so special with this speakers.

      Rob, are you able to test the “1960A-HW” you mentioned?

      • avatar
        ar2619Rob
        Posted at 15:36h, 20 January

        I should think I would be able to test it Franz as it’s not far from me. It’s not even up forsale but I’m thinking about putting ideas in his head should it be the right one for the JMP. I could take my amp but then I haven’t tried it with G12M’s to know the difference. It appears (as several author’s have commented) that the G12H30’s were intended for live playing with plenty of volume to keep the heavier magnet excited. Nearly all my playing (if not all) will be at home, I am able to go pretty damn loud as I don’t have close neighbours but still I think I would probably get a better tone at lower volumes with the 25w medium magnet greenbacks. I’m thinking perhaps the easiest option is a second hand AX/BX as the originals seem to be hard come by.

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 16:50h, 20 January

          Yes, it seems that they are made for the bigger noise 🙂
          The 1959 seems to be a very loud beast, even the tester said so. It’s really made for stadiums.

          The cabinet situation seems to be generally a bit stupid for now, there are a lot of cabinets with G12T75 out there but rarely other ones.

          And congrats for your location. Its nice being able to play at loud volumes 🙂

          • avatar
            SGACE
            Posted at 19:03h, 20 January

            The A or B Handwired series of 4×12’s are equipped with british made heritage G12H30 55hz, so it is a bass cone type.. the 2×12 HW is equipped with chinese made G12H30 75hz, so it is a lead cone type.. I had the 2×12 cab and the sound was ok but I preferred the g12 65 that I have. I dont think that there is a general rule that says that 55hz are better with single coils and 75hz with humbuckers. As I always said the speakers are a matter of trial and error. Buy – try and decide.. Yes it takes time and maybe money but the result will overpass all these.
            I would like also to comment that there is a opinion where the HW series is just a marketing thing so Marshall could link the old with the new, if you know what I mean and also to take a piece of the vintage market.. From the construction point of view the HW have some characteristics from the 68-71 period (metal handles, plywood rear, etc.).
            If someone is more experienced with old cabinets against new ones or even the HW, I really would like to hear his opinion..

            • avatar
              banane
              Posted at 20:29h, 20 January

              Alright, lets forget about my single coil and 55Hz statement 🙂
              It really seems that this is a try and error story.

  • avatar
    Thundersnook
    Posted at 10:49h, 20 January

    Franz! A terriffic article! I read it with much enthusiasm! And your translation was stunning! Very well done! I really enjoyed reading it! =)

    Thanks you! 😉

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 11:04h, 20 January

      Danke, Felix 🙂
      The original article is very great, I’ve read it maybe 5 times or more. It’s really worth buying that magazine, this guy writes articles like this one in every issue, about old amps, old guitars and such things. I got an abonnement as a birthday gift from my wife 🙂

  • avatar
    Problem Child
    Posted at 05:40h, 20 January

    Great article! Thanks, banane! Pleasantly surprised to see some complimentary comments about the 1960AHW, which is the exact cabinet that I have.

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 11:22h, 20 January

      Thank you! Yes, after reading this article so many times, I’m very curious about the HW cabinets and how they sound together with a JMP and a Gibson SG.
      Actually, I’ve planned replacing the G12T75 in my 1960A with Greenbacks, but I like the grey/brown basketweave cloth very much. However, 4 used Greenbacks would cost less than a 1960BHW, so I’m still thinking about what to do.

  • avatar
    Dobos Ádám
    Posted at 23:33h, 19 January

    Good article! I know it wasn’t you who has written it, but thank you for the translation! 🙂

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 23:47h, 19 January

      Thank you, Adam! Yeah, the translation was funny, I felt a bit like back in school in the english class 🙂

      • avatar
        Dobos Ádám
        Posted at 00:11h, 20 January

        There’s a slanted Marshall 4×12 cab for sale near me. I wanted to buy it, untill now. It’s a 1972 cab with G12M greenbacks. The price is about the same as non-vintage, used one. So I think I will go with the newer one, because it sounds the same, but maybe the old one will fail after a while (because it had been in use since 1972, and that’s a long time). 🙂

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 00:26h, 20 January

          Well, I think its the same risk as buying vintage amps. Most times its fine, but it could go wrong too. Problem here is that hi-res photos from speakers doesn’t say anything.
          In my opinion it’s important how much and how hard the speakers were used. It’s surely not good if they have been beaten off for a long time. But they could be fine anyway. only solution to find this out is to hear them. Maybe the seller can provide some sound samples?

          • avatar
            Dobos Ádám
            Posted at 00:47h, 20 January

            I haven’t asked for it yet. Maybe I can test it out before buying it. That would be nice.
            I have a Marshall 1959 100W clone. It was built by a famous, and well-skilled amp maker, who builds amps. It doesn’t look anything like a Marshall, but the circuit is an exact clone, so it sounds exactly like that. I love it! The only problem is that I don’t have an appropriate cabinet to use with. I only have a 2×12 with greenbacks (So I have to use a PPI master volume on the amp, not to blow those greenbacks, since the cab is rated at only 50W). I would love to have a 4×12 with G12Ms 🙂 It would be a perfect match with my plexi clone.

  • avatar
    Kinglance
    Posted at 23:16h, 19 January

    I always had this question: what’s the best cab to play AC/DC-music with? A Marshall 1960 BX ??
    And Banane… I hope I may say Franz… U have a Shure SM57 mic too?? U recorded our video (Highway to Hell) with a Shure mic?? And what did u used from audio interface?? I have an Eleven Rack where I put my Shure mic on… J-L

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 23:29h, 19 January

      Of course you can say Franz, Jean-Luc! Yes, I have a Shure SM57 mic and used it for the audio recording in that video.
      the mic is connected to a M-Audio Fast Track external audio interface connected via USB to a PC. Recording is done with Guitar Rig without any modification (no equalizing, no effects, only one virtual tape).

      For mic placement, please view this photos out of my blog:
      http://www.banane.at/blog/archives/686-Die-letzten-Aufnahmen.html
      The text is german, but the important thing are the photos there.
      Amp settings were: Presence 8, Bass 6, Middles 8, Treble 8, Volume 7, Preamp a tad more than 5. Also, an attenuator is used to get the amp volume down to the level of a loud TV.

      • avatar
        Kinglance
        Posted at 23:53h, 19 January

        Thans for the info. I use more of less the same mic-placement… One more question: what’s the best cab for playing AC/DC-music?? Maybe can Fil say something about this (all the rest can ofcourse also)… Fil has experience with different cabs I think, with differenet speakers… Is the Marshall 1960 BX the best??

        • avatar
          Dries
          Posted at 01:30h, 20 January

          There’s no “best”.. A new marshall 1960BX has just 25W greenback speakers, but chinese made. If you can score a old 1960 with greenbacks, or a 1960TV ( before 2002 ) it will sound much better than a normal 1960 cab ( with 75W speakers ). The blackbacks are also good ones, but there are not much of them online..

        • avatar
          LeroyKincaid
          Posted at 03:28h, 20 January

          The BX is probably your best bet. The reissue Greenbacks are very cool.

          I have a 1960BX and I’m looking at buying another one and loading it with G12H30’s or just Vintage 30’s.

          They look freaking cool as well.

          • avatar
            kjellgibson
            Posted at 10:08h, 20 January

            Get the EVH 4X12 if you want G12Ms reissues -Made in England. 1960BX is chinese…
            Also the 1960BHW are really NOT the Celestion G12H Heritage speakers -Marshall staff says these are “kind of” and “special made for the handwired 1959 reissue head” , but they look the same though…

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 23:53h, 19 January

      Ah, and to your question: SGACE had or still has one of the above mentioned handwired cabinets and will get soon a real vintage cabinet. I’m looking forward for his experiences.

      I personally cannot say anything competent to the topic, I have only a Marshall 1960A cab with G12T75 speakers in it…thats pure metal speakers with a lot of bass, nice for lots of distortion but not nice for playing AC/DC. I have to use less bass and preamp volume than I would like to use, but it doesn’t sound that bad after all.

  • avatar
    SGACE
    Posted at 21:39h, 19 January

    thank you, informative at least.. the musician used a les paul, a fender stratocaster, a jtm45 and a jmp.. so he covered alot of ground there.. wish he had a audio for that…

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 21:43h, 19 January

      Hehe, yeah, that would be really nice. And even more nice would be testing out all that gear on ourself. I’m really courious how big the differences are. As the author says, it’s nearly impossible to tell it by words.

      But well, you said, you had such a “handwired” cab, whats the difference for you, George?

      • avatar
        SGACE
        Posted at 21:51h, 19 January

        in a week hopefully i will receive the 4×12 and after the test i will tell you

  • avatar
    banane
    Posted at 20:44h, 19 January

    Ok, it’s done. This almost felt like I’m back in the school doing homework for the english class 🙂

Post A Comment