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How do I Choose the Best Amp Cabinet?

Amp heads come in a variety of wattage specifications, ranging from 50 watts on less powerful models to over 200 watts on very loud and powerful models.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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An amp cabinet can add depth and volume to the tone of your musical instrument, but it is important to choose the best type of cabinet for your application. Before you take any steps toward choosing an amp cabinet, you need to take the initial step of determining what type of amplifier you want. Amps come in many different sizes, measured in watts, and each one has a different purpose and sound.

For smaller applications, such as playing at home or in small spaces, a combo amp may be the best solution. The combo amp meshes the amplifier head--or power unit--directly to the amp cabinet. Usually the amp cabinet contains one or two twelve inch (30 cm) speakers, and can produce sound of clear quality for smaller settings. Beyond the combo amp, it becomes necessary to purchase an amp head and an amp cabinet separately.

Amp heads come in a variety of wattage specifications, ranging from 50 watts on less powerful models to over 200 watts on very loud and powerful models. If you are considering the less powerful wattage for smaller gigs and medium-sized rooms, consider an amp cabinet that contains two 12-inch (30 cm) speakers, known as a 2x12 cabinet. These are generally rare for guitar use, but they are not impossible to find and may suit your needs perfectly.

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Beyond the 2x12 cabinet, you will venture into the world of the full cabinet. This type of amp cabinet will contain four speakers, either 12-inches(30 cm) or 10 inches(25 cm). An amp cabinet of this size will work well for larger gigs, and you will generally want to use it in combination with a 100 watt amp or higher. This set-up, known as a half-stack, will produce very loud sound and will add depth and character to your sound. Unlike a smaller amp cabinet--like a 1x12 or a 2x12--a full cabinet will produce a fuller, louder wall of sound to be amplified over large areas, whereas smaller amp cabinets will produce less sound with less overall depth and clarity for large spaces.

For extremely large performance spaces, a full stack may be the best choice. A full stack combines the amp head with two 4x12 cabinets stacked on top of each other. At this level, you will want to wear ear protection, as the sound produced by a full stack can damage your ears. A full stack is a good choice for large concerts, though you can use them in smaller spaces, too; just prepare yourself for an overwhelming amount of sound.

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JimmyT
Post 4

@kentuckycat - It sounds like you are probably right. The 2x12 cabinet would work best for the types of shows you are probably playing. I used to use a 2x12 Fender amp cabinet, and I loved it.

I don't know what size your current amp is, but I can't imagine it would be that much harder to carry around that what you are already used to.

In my experience, they aren't incredibly hard to find. I ended up finding mine used in a local guitar shop, but you can buy new ones through online stores or auctions. Personally, I prefer the sound of older cabinets, so I had to spend a little more time finding mine. Depending on the type of music you play, you may want to look at Mesa Boogie cabinets, as well.

kentuckycat
Post 3

How much work is it to transport a guitar amp cabinet? So far, my band and I have played some smaller shows, and I have just used my combo amp. It is pretty big for a combo amp, but I think it may be time to upgrade to a real cabinet.

Like the article says, I think a 2x12 cabinet would be perfect. How hard are they to find, and what are the best kinds? I hear a lot of people talk about Marshall amp cabinets, but I don't know if that would be in my price range. I assume Fender amps are good, too. What do you all think?

Emilski
Post 2

@Izzy78 - You're right on the say that amps and speakers interact. In terms of adjusting sound, most of that is done before the sound signal even gets to the amp. It's that way for guitars at least. I'm not positive about other things.

If you ever read about a guitar player having pedals, what the pedals do is alter the guitar signal before it gets to the amp. Thousands of them exist and can add distortion, reverb, delay, and several other modulations.

If you want the sound in general to have it's own tone, you can also find cabinets that are designed to have a certain sound. Tweed amp cabinets used to be very popular for British rock bands.

Izzy78
Post 1

So let me make sure I understand this first. With a cabinet, you have a single amp of a certain wattage. Next, that amp is connected to between one and eight speakers.

If I remember right, the amp is what actually takes the signal from the guitar or other instrument and turns it into a sound that can be projected. Then the speakers themselves are what make the loud sounds. Is all of this right?

My question then is: since the amp is the first part of the input, is there any way to control the individual speakers to get the type of sound you want, or can you only change the sound that goes from the amplifier to the speakers? For example, if you wanted a lot of bass, but lower treble, could you make more of the speakers project bass than treble?

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