A lot of guitar players out there don’t always think about how each and every piece of their gear creates their amplified sound. Everything from the pick you hold to the mic you put in front of your amp is part of what you sound like and are each pretty important. One of the most important parts of your rig is the speaker or speakers in your cabinet. Everything before the speaker is colored by the speaker you choose and changing your speakers can drastically alter the sound of a combo amp or speaker cab.
In this article, we are going to take a look at some popular choices of replacement guitar amp speakers that you might like the sound of better than what you now have. We will focus on 12-inch speakers, as those are the most common for guitarists to use. It’s important to understand a few basics about speakers before we start shopping, however.
First, impedance matters. Run an 8 Ohm head into an 8 Ohm cabinet. Some people like mismatching impedances but this can lead to disaster for your output transformer. Learn about Ohm’s Law to get all the gory details. This graphic will help, too:
It is also good to have an idea how much speaker distortion you’re after when buying new ones. Old school Marshall cabs had 4 25-watt 12-inch speakers, which made for a lot of speaker breakup. Some people like that, some don’t. Use higher-wattage speakers with a lower-powered amp to get a tighter and more focused sound, especially in low registers. Pipe a fifty-watt head into a 75-watt speaker and that speaker will take all that power and beg for more. Beyond this info, it all becomes a matter of personal choice and application. In other words, you’re on your own!
Here Are Our Picks for the Best Guitar Amp Replacement Speakers
1. Celestion Vintage 30 60W, 12″ Guitar Speaker
Celestion is the first speaker company many guitarists think of and various Celestion speakers have become part of the sound of rock guitar. The Vintage 30 is one of the most popular the company makes and you have probably played through one someplace.
They’re everywhere, and with good reason. It is similar to a Celestion Blue but can handle more power. It has a ceramic magnet and a round copper voice coil. Vintage 30s create a sound that is thick and focused in the lows and smooth in the mids and highs. If you’re looking for an easy and global improvement to your tone, it’s hard to go wrong with Vintage 30s.
2. EMINENCE EJ1250 12-Inch Signature Guitar Speakers
Texas guitar slinger Eric Johnson is a true legend when it comes to playing and tone and is famously particular about the gear he uses. When he endorse a product, people notice. The Eminence EJ1250 is his signature speaker and is everything you’d expect a speaker bearing the EJ name to be. Johnson, amp guru George Alessandro, and Eminence teamed up to create this one. It features an Alnico magnet and reproduces true vintage tones with a mix of British and American characteristics. It handles 50 watts of power and provides deep-toned lows and crisp and articulate mids and highs. It works well in combos as well as closed-back cabinets.
CHECK PRICES: AMAZON
3. Jensen C12N 50W 12″ Replacement Speaker
Jensen is the king when it comes to all things Fender, 60’s, and blues-related. Many iconic Fender Blackface amps of the 1960s came stock with Jensens and those speakers helped to define the sound of that era. Heck, Jensen speakers even came in the Silvertone amps that were sold in Sears-Roebuck department stores back then that are now very collectible. The Jensen sound is heavy in the mid frequencies, which makes it THE choice for many blues and jazz players. Rock and metal players tend not to dig these but, if you have a cool old Fender or another vintage amp that needs new speakers, these are the natural pick.
4. Eminence Texas Heat 12″ Guitar Speaker
The Eminence Texas Heat is another popular speaker aimed at roots music players in styles ranging from country to blues to Southern rock. It handles 150 watts of power, which means all you country pickers and Teleblasters out there can get as loud as you want to be and keep everything crisp and clean. Its tone is punchy and aggressive in the low and mid ranges and a bit more moderate than some other speakers here in the high range. Perfect for a maple-neck Tele!
5. Celestion Hot 100 Guitar Speaker
The Celestion Hot 100 is the firm’s latest effort to remain on the cutting edge of speaker design and technology. It’s meant to be a sort of ‘jack of all trades’ speaker that works as well in an old tweed combo as it does with a modern full-range modeler. It’s rated to handle 100 watts at 95 dB and has a frequency response of 80-5000 Hz. It has a ceramic magnet. The Hot 100 has come to be known as Celestion’s most under-appreciated speaker due to the Celestion vintage reputation and famous models like Greenbacks and Vintage 30s. Forward-thinking players will dig the 100’s clear and articulate nature and the sheer volume it can put out. If you’re looking for something different yet still British and familiar, the Hot 100 might be your hot ticket.
So who makes the best guitar cabinet replacement speakers for you? You have to decide for self. Do as much online research as you can, watch demos, and try to find a way to play the speakers you are considering before you buy. This may involve leaving the house, but it will be all right. Listen closely and buy the sound you like, not just a name you’ve heard, and dig how every part of your rig suddenly sounds better.
Below is a great video that compares 18 different speakers (including some of those we listed above):