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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Amp/Cab Speaker Size discussion

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I have noticed that 15" speakers seem to be very popular here. I have never had the opportunity to play through one so I thought it would be interesting to discuss how different speaker sizes and number of speakers impact tone. Obviously, the speaker make and model make a big difference, but I am interested in, if all else being equal, how size matters.
I have played through 4 X 12 (though usually for distorted sounds) 2 X 12 (mostly Twin Reverbs) and 4 X 10 Bassman reissues. Obviously larger speakers move more air, as do multiple speakers. IME 10" speakers have a little more punch than 12"- what in the Hi-Fi world would be described as more speed, as the smaller speaker can react faster to transients to give more snap. 4 X 10s also move a decent amount of air, and I like that combination a lot but I have noticed that 12" and 15" seems to be more popular in favorite amp discussions here.
Are 15" speaker cabs popular mainly to provide volume for live shows, or is there something else that makes them great for surf? I would be interested to hear peoples experience on how the different speaker configurations influence their tone.

Last edited: Nov 11, 2023 13:44:18

I think it's partly a tradition thing. That's what came with a Showman. Personally I'm more into 2x10's but I'd like to try a 2x15 some time.

- "The Mysterious" Tqi.

It probably comes down to personal preference. I like 12” speakers, and have had a couple of amps with 15” speakers. 10” speakers don’t do it for me, but I attribute that to nothing more than my own tastes. I’ve noticed that 15s give a very strong midrange feel, and that can come in handy, especially if the guitar sounds a bit shrill. IMO, there are no hard and fast rules, if it sounds good, that’s all that matters.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.

I may be entirely wrong but would not 10" & 12" be more suited for 2x and 4x cabs, and the 15" be more for 1x cab/combo amp?
So the sound from 1 speaker vs multiple is a huge factor to consider.

I expect it was originally about volume and power handling, and these days that's not so much an issue unless you can't mike your amp through the PA system.

edwardsand wrote:

I expect it was originally about volume and power handling, and these days that's not so much an issue unless you can't mike your amp through the PA system.


I love the sound of a big amp, cranked up to the point of breaking a sweat, but it’s not really needed if you have a PA. A small amp with a single 10” speaker can sound massive through a PA. If you are working through a fixed, house PA with large speaker bins, you can get sounds that are amazing, from even a tiny amp. One side benefit is that you can dial-in your sound, once, on a living room amp, bring it to a gig, and let the PA system (and the Sound Man) do the heavy lifting.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.

My favorite is 15" speakers for clean guitar, 10" speakers for bass. I think 12" sound fine for a distorted guitar tone. I don't know why! I've heard there's more headroom with more cone area. The bass is much tighter, not as "muddy."

Daniel Deathtide

I think the 15” speaker (JBL 15”, really) is to some degree popular because it is the defacto surf music speaker, or certainly the aspirational one. That said, they do have just a little extra on tap. Low end? Fullness? I played through 12” JBLs in a closed back cab for most of the Ghastly Ones stuff, and that set up had a lot of oomph, but playing through a close backed 15” cab has more grunt that I can feel in my core.

I love playing through my 1x15 cab. It has great low end, and pushes air into your chest when cranked. I would highly recommend the Quilter/Eminence speaker with the aluminum dust cap. It sounds amazing, and is super light weight. It is also rated at 300 watts.

Working hard to become a Dick Dale tribute artist.

Over the last 30 years of playing guitar, I've had the opportunity to play through nearly every configuration I could imagine. My first "real" speaker cabs came from an old massive Traynor 2x15" that I cut in half (yes, yes I did!) and converted each half to 2x12". That gave me the 4x12" I wanted, but was a lot easier to carry and transport, and at the time I was running a stereo rig so it made sense. My bass player at the time had the same 2x15" cab, so when we set up on stage it looked pretty cool.

I later had a Peavey Classic 1x15" cab, but I traded it for a 4x10" which at the time I liked better. That started my penchant for 4x10" guitar cabs, and now one of my go-to cabinets is a Marshall 1965A from the 1980s with its stock complement of speakers. The matching 1965B I converted to 2x12" to have the ability to use both or either depending on the gig.

I also have a 1x15" cabinet and a Supro 1x15" combo, so 15" speakers get a good workout at my house. I find when using them with another guitarist, they help separate us in the mix a bit, especially since the other guitarist I usually play with has a 1x12" combo. Lately I've been leaning heavily on a small, light 1x12" cabinet though, and it sounds pretty good for most applications. I'd like to add a 2x10" to have that flexibility as well, but I think I've got enough stuff Smile

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