The Black Volt White Papers...
By: Giovanni Loria on April 27th, 2015
A new speaker upgrade can be like a sonic epiphany in your old amp. Some older or cheaper speakers can sound pretty flat, but when replaced, the amp’s volume and tonal spectrum can increase dramatically.
As you read through this article keep in mind that speaker re-coning can also be an option - see the note at the end of this page.
1. Make your amp sound better and improve the existing tone. Regain attack and clarity.
Old speakers get fatigued… What does that mean? The particular element of the speaker we will be focusing on here is the cone ( see diagram to the right ). Speaker cones are predominantly made of paper. Old Worn paper loses its structure & rigidity. When it loses it's structure, it loses the ability to deliver certain tonal characteristics. This loss of structure or "speaker fatigue" is actually a bit of a double edged sword. Depending on what kind of sound you are trying to achieve might determine which side of the sword you end up on! Here are a few of the Pros and Cons of fatigued speakers.
A. Fatigued speakers break up earlier and can make for some very classic sounding distortion and overdrive only found in older worn amps / speakers etc. This is fine if you are wanting early break up and more distortion out of your amp.
B. Loss of high end frequencies. The lack of structure in the paper makes for a bit of a "softer" or "rounder" sound, This is great for that brown sound or a vintage tone. No one likes to listen to ultra high frequencies that are often associated with new amps.
A. Fatigued speakers break up earlier. This is a problem if you are wanting more clean headroom, clarity, punch and attack. This a common problem with smaller amps that just can't get any clarity because of the little old worn speaker.
B. Loss of high end frequencies. This is a problem if you are wanting more upper end harmonics, bite, clarity, punch and attack.
A speaker upgrade can sound like lifting a thick blanket off of your amp.
2. Make your amp louder and get more volume.
Make your amp louder by using a more efficient speaker. Use a higher db rated speaker for more volume and headroom.
3. It is easy to do.
There is usually no soldering involved and takes very little time to actually change out a speaker. You will probably spend more time researching, and hopefully listening to, speakers than the time it takes to change them out.
4. Some newer speakers now have built in attenuators on them.
Save money by not having to buy a separate attenuator. Eminence has new speakers out called Flux Density Modulation technology that basically puts a big old dial on the back of the speaker allowing you to crank your amp but keep the volume reasonable by dialing back the volume at the speaker itself. It takes it down up to 9DB, so it's like a 50 Watt amp going to 6 Watts. See it here. Hear it here
5. You will learn more about speakers and tone, as well as learn more about how to get the sound you want out of your amps.
You don’t always have to buy a new amp in order to get the sound you’re looking for. Putting the right speaker in your amp can drastically change the sound coming out of your amp. By having more knowledge about the relationship between speakers and amps you will have greater control of the tones you are able to get out of multiple amps in the future.
6. Get the tone you want out of your amp.
7. You will have spare speakers ifneed them or want to have a separate cabinet as an optional sound.
Having back up speakers is always a good idea just incase you blow one and need a replacement. Also, having extra speakers around tends to inspire mixing other speakers in other amps. i.e. 1 Jensen and 1 Celestion and the combinations are unlimited. mixing speaker types tends to give a more complex tone and add to that mystery quality many players get. Most great players are not trying to recreate the exact tone of their favorite guitar hero, they are trying to create their own unique tone.
8. It’s fun.
Researching different speakers, manufacturers, voicings etc. is interesting and fun. There are dozens of speaker manufacturers out there to dig into and explore.
9. Size matters.
The difference you will hear in sound and tone between a 1 x 15” , 2 x10” or 4 x10” speaker set up is striking. If the size of your speaker cabinet will allow, you can put a different size or different number of speakers into it. This can be achieved by installing the speakers into a new baffle that will accommodate the size of the new speaker(s). Of course, as in all situations you must match up the resistance of the amps speaker output to the specified resistance in ohms on the speaker etc.
This is one of those jobs that you may want to have a qualified technician perform as it is a bit more difficult than just swapping out 1 speaker. Also with multiple speakers you have to know how to wire them to get the total resistance. If this done wrong, you could burn up your output transformer or other parts of your amp. Of course feel free to ask Black Volt Amplification for advice on this one. We are happy to assist you on any speaker upgrades or modifications.
10. Match the tone of your amp to the style of music you play.
If you play rock, dropped tunings / metal, country, blues or jazz they all have their own inherent tone qualities that help you define that playing style. Using the correct tools will help you to get the job done correctly. This is especially important if you are doing a lot of studio recording or trying to get specific types of gigs. Here are a couple examples: A composer is doing a film score and needs a few pieces of music to sound a lot like his currently "temped" music which happens to be Wes Montgomery.
If you have read this far you must be a tone fanatic. Here is a great article from Dave Hunter at Guitarplayer.com that goes into way more detail and history:
*General note* Speakers can also be re-coned as opposed to being replaced, and that is a whole other discussion. Should you decide to replace your speakers, keep in mind that, for the future resale value of your amp you can always safely set aside the original speakers to be offered with the amp should you ever want to put them back in or include them in a sale.