I know Celestion speakers seem to be the choice of just about every major guitar cabinet manufacturer, but I have never gotten an acceptable tone from them… I have tried many amps over the years with many different 12" Celestion speakers and I always go back to Eminence, my favorites being the Legend V1216. I started a new band and over the last 6 months was really doing some tone searching for myself and what would work in my studio and what I could use as backline rentals. While going through different amps, I have found that also do not like el34s, and no matter cab combination I use they just sound muddy and dull.
So ive tried all these amps with every cabinet, compared in some instances etc.
Cabinets I tried:
Orange 4x12 straight V30s
Marshall JCM 900 Lead - GT75s, then rewired with, 2 V30s in x pattern, then with 2 GT75s and 2 Greenbacks in X pattern, then 4 green backs, then 2 v30s and 2 GBs in X pattern
Bogner 4x12 with 4 GBs then Eminence Legend V1216
Carvin 4x12 with Carvin British Series
Custom 2 x12 cab with the V1216, GBs, V30s, GT75s, G12h, Blue Backs, Elite 80, Jensen, and Carvin British Series
Carvin 1x12 cab with removable back for open back or closed and tried all the speakers.
Egnater Tweaker 40
Egnater Renegade 65
Marshall JCM 800 Lead 2210
Marshall JCM 900 Dual Reverb Hi Gain 100 5881(6L6 model)'
Mesa Triple Rectifer
Jet City JCA20H
Carvin MTS3200 (with EL34s or 6L6s - I tried both you can easily swap and rebias)
Gretsch G5422TDC stock
ESP EC-1000 with EMG stock
ESP EC-1000 Deluxe with Gibson Burstbucker Pros
1969 Gibson SG with Seymour Duncan JB
1980s Gibson SG Standard stock
Musicman Reflex stock
Results for me were every amp sounded best with cabinets loaded with Eminence and the Carvin cab loaded with the Carvin speakers. The Carvin cab I bought new around 1996 and supposedly they are a Carvin branded eminence speaker and these are made in the USA, where later they were made in China and supposedly do not sound the same. some of the amps, guitars, and speakers were loaned for my little experiment. I will say that I hated the Orange cab, it had too much unusable low end and the top end was really fizzy, I am also not a fan of any orange equipment I have ever tried…
So what do I play? I play technical punk, but tried to give it a full work out. I know you guys are probably saying punk? this guy cant play and doesn’t know what sounds good, but if you have any doubts I can point you in the right direction. I do not normally use pedals, so for this test I did not, except while playing with the gretsch, I have a boss digital reverb pedal which does the surf/rockabilly thing really well.
All the amps I liked best with Bogner cabinet loaded with the Eminence, the Marshall was a close second and I think there design are almost identical, it might just be wood thing. What I kept? so what I have left is the JCM900 going to the Bogner with Eminence, the 6505 going to the Marshall with the GT75s (I liked the G12hs better, but they aren’t mine), the Carvin is currently going to the custom 2x12 loaded with the Legends. If you have never had the chance to play one of these, the clean channel is arguably the best clean channel ive ever heard, its almost too clean. The reverb is ok, but a little goes a long way, and the only reason why I put the reverb pedal on there. IT can definitely do the fender blues/jazz/ surf/ rockabilly tones with either a high output pickup, maybe a slight overdrive, or going to the lead channel and just adding a touch of gain (1-2). There is something really special about this amp, even on the lead channel when you play a full chord its like you can hear every string, and that is compared to every other amp on my list, the distortion on higher gain settings though sounds a bit compressed, but is great for newer metal and technical intricate parts that need really good definition but still high gain. I never owned a 5150 and always heard bad thing about them, but I found a 6505 for an awesome price so I decided to try it out. This amp is incredible and if i was a metal/ hardcore guy this amp does it. there is an aggression thing that no other amp I have ever used has. This amp does not do clean really well but does a great bluesy overdrive. Its almost impossible not to plug into this amp and start playing some metal riffs, even on low gain settings it still has that thing. The sound of rock is the JCM900 and Bogner combo. The tone on that with EC-1000 Deluxe is everything I ever wanted, its quiet, has a very harmonic sounding distortion that is thick but not muddy, chugs are precise and tight, it is the sound I have been chasing i think. I still have the Jet City and Eganter Tweaker but they are on my to sell list. Between the Carvin, JCM900, and 6505 I can pretty much get any tone I will ever need.
The Mesa sound sounded good but never my thing, the H&K I sold, it was a little noisy, the clean channels are great the crunch channel cranked is ACDC, but I wanted a hair more, the overdrive was kind of weird, not really for me, it sounded fizzy and compressed (dare i say metal zone pedal?). Also to really get the crunch I had to crank the power tubes and it was way too loud, it sounded good but I ended up selling it for more than I bought it for. I don’t understand the hype around the JCM800, I liked the 900 so much more, i didn’t hate it it just was more classic rock and not modern, and when i played it with the greenbacks i kept playing Foreigner and Boston, it just sounded like that… The 800 went back to the owner, and he is a big fan but he hasn’t heard/played the JCM900 yet… The Carvin originally came with the EL34s installed and had a very similar sound to the 800 (the distortion still sounded a bit compressed though) but the JCM 800 and the Carvin with EL34s just had a muddy sound to them. it was great when open strumming for like social distortion type thick guitars, but going into a chugs it was floppy, not tight and just mushy, the reason why i started using solid state amps years ago… The El34s really seemed to kill some of the top end too, i kept having to boost presence or treble with those tube types. Amp settings between guitars didn’t change that much, and the speakers had more of a drastic effect on tone than anything, also depending on what you are going for. of course the pickup selection had a difference, but it was more midrange and gain orientated with a plus minus of 2 and not a whole read adjust the amp to the speakers. Once i realized the Bogner and Eminence Legend combination was my favorite, i went back and forth with different cab/speaker combos to try to compare differences. Generally the V30s had a very fizzy top end and ear piercing midrange (2kish) that i hated, and none of these amps tone controls could really get rid of that. The GT75s had a more mellow sound in comparison to the V30, i guess it was more manageable. Surprising or not so it that a stock JCM900 cab sounded the worst with the JCM 900, and sounded the best with the 6505. I’m guessing the amount of controls on the 6505 allowed me to tame the offending frequencies. The other celestions were not for me, they all had too much of a classic rock forward mid (500-600hz) sound that in my ears was not flattering. the G12hs were definitely my favorite celestion out of the bunch, but for the prices of them ill stick with the eminence. I wasn’t expecting to do a review and was really for my own personal tone search. I had never really done one extensively but i think I’m done. I really want to try a mesa rectifier cab, as those supposedly pair really well with the 6505, but i don’t know if i should even worry about it, I’m happy…
I bought the JCM900 for $550
The 6505 for $475
the Carvin for $275 (if you can find them they are regularly under $400 and the combos come with the british series speakers)
The Jet City was $279 on sale but only 20 watts
The Egnater Tweaker i bought new, but upgraded the power tranny and outut tranny to mercury magnetics and replaced all the tubes with JJs.