I'm buying my First Speaker Cab for Metal: What should I know?
Impedance, wattage, speaker type, and brand
To pair a speaker cab with an amp, the two main technical concerns are impedance and wattage. In terms of getting to a metal tone and style, you should focus on the type of speaker and the brand of the cab. We'll cover all this below.
We're assuming you're on the hunt for your first guitar cabinet, and you've already got a powerful amp head. This article also assumes you're doing some metal tone chasing. Whether it's a tube amp or solid state, you'll want to make sure your cabinet is both compatible and capable of delivering heavy metal tone for recording and/or performing.
So what should you look for? There are primarily four things to consider.
Note that impedance and wattage apply to any amp and speaker cab pairing. The speaker and cabinet brand are going to have the most impact on the style of tone.
Most amp heads come with a specific range of ohms (Ω) they can handle, usually 4, 8, or 16 ohms. To ensure compatibility, your cabinet's impedance should match what your amp head can handle. If your amp head can switch between different ohm settings, you've got even more flexibility.
Here's how compatibility breaks down:
4 Ohm Speaker Out
- Single 4-ohm speaker
- Two 8-ohm speakers in parallel (for a total of 4 ohms)
8 Ohms Speaker Out
- Single 8-ohm speaker
- Two 16-ohm speakers in parallel (for a total of 8 ohms)
16 Ohms Speaker Out
- Single 16-ohm speaker
- Four 4-ohm speakers in series-parallel (for a total of 16 ohms)
The simplest arrangement is to just keep the ohm count on both the amp head and cab, the same.
In regards to power:
The power output of your amp head (in watts) is an important second consideration. Your cabinet's speakers need to handle at least as much power as your amp head puts out. The general rule is that your cabinet's power rating should be equal to or higher than your amp head's wattage.
This prevents damage to your speaker(s) and gives you some room to crank up the volume.
Speakers and Tone
In guitar cabinets, speakers make the most difference in your tone and sound quality.
For a metal tone, you'll want speakers that are designed to produce tight low-end frequencies and a lot of clarity, for dealing with high-gain settings (lots of distortion).
The Celestion Vintage 30 (V30) is a popular choice among metal players, because of how it responds to heavier distortion tones. But remember, the right speaker is a matter of personal taste, so it's a good practice to explore different options and listen to demos.
You can often trust the tone of a speaker cab to be metal-friendly, by simply looking at the brand. Here are a few brands that are focused on heavier, metal-style guitar amps:
Most cabs from these amps are going to be good fits for a metal tone.
Multiple Cabs and Fine-Tuning
If you want to fine-tune your metal sound even more, you can look into multiple speaker cabs, assuming your amp supports this. If you do set up your rig with more than one cab, here's some of the additional flexibility you'll have:
- Cabinet Blending: A blend of the distinct tonal characteristics of each cabinet
- Stereo Spread: Using multiple cab in a stereo setup for a more immersive sound. Typically you would pan one cabinet left and the other right.
- Different Speakers for Different Tones: Switch between various tones between the two speakers.
Note that if you have multiple speaker cabs, you'll need to refer back to our bullet list above on ohm load. The term would be using speakers in "parallel."
Pay attention to impedance, wattage, and speaker types. And keep in mind, the speaker type is going to have the biggest impact on how effective your metal sound is going to be, at least in regards to the cabinet. Above all, trust your ears and know there's no one-size-fits-all answer.
If you have questions, jump in the comment section below. We'll help out as much as possible.
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