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15" speaker tone...Size does matter.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Sundogue, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I've been playing out for the last decade using almost strictly 10" speaker cabs. Either I've used 210's or 410's, but always 10's. I even had a 412 cab.

    Then about a year ago, I started using a 115 along with a 210 cab. I always did the traditional thing and put the 115 on the bottom and the 210 on top. It was fine. But in an ever-evolving attempt at getting my sound the way I want it, the last two gigs I experimented and put my 210 on the floor, and put the 115 on top and angled the 115 back so the 15" speaker was pointed up at me. I even unplugged the 210, so I only played through the 115 (no tweeter...just a 15" speaker).

    What a revelation it was! Everything sounded fuller, yet still clean and punchy. Even my drummer (who, unlike most drummers is very anal about our sound, both onstage and out front...we all setup the PA sound ourselves) commented on how it was the best tone he's heard from me yet. My guitarist said the same thing. I agreed.

    It kind of dawned on me, that after years (almost 20?) of playing through 15's, switching to 10's (probably because it's the "in" thing to do) left me with this never ending quest to find my sound again. I wasn't sure why. I kept trying different amps, different configurations to my rig, but something wasn't quite right.

    I think what was missing was that full, deep bass sound that only a 15" speaker gives me.

    Right now I'm playing through a Peavey T-Max head into a Peavey 210 cab and a 115BXBW cab. With the 210 on the bottom, I'm not hearing as much of that cab, and mostly I'm hearing the 115. Ever since I put the 15 on top, I've been thrilled with my sound again. No boutique gear, just plain old Peavey head and cabs...but it's just so perfect! I'm using a Zoom B2 pedal and I get "my" sound out of any head/amp I play through, but depending on the cabs used, the only way I like it is when I'm playing through 15" speakers.

    Just for the heck of it, I played through our JBL mains (15's) and yup...still there. I played through a friend's 2-15 cab and again, there it was...my sound was right there for me. I plugged my head and Zoom through a variety of cabs (10's and 12's) at a music store, and something was just missing. But as soon as I plugged into any 15 cab, my sound was back again.

    I guess I've just rediscovered that I love my sound through 15" speakers and 10's just don't cut it for me any more. I know how all the 10 lovers will say speaker size doesn't matter and 10's will go just as low, and sound just as good. But while theory looks good on paper, in real world gigging, the 15" speaker sounds better to me.

    I love a clean sound, but I also want it to sound full and warm. 10's (regardless of how many in a cab) just sound too sterile, or too much bite, and not enough of that low end "oomph" I like to go with it. I'm planning on getting rid of my other two 210 cabs and getting another 115 (4 ohm) to go with my existing 115 (4ohm)...(and yes my head goes down to 2 ohms).

    Anyone else rediscover that they dig the good ol' 15" speaker over other sizes?
  2. Dirty_G


    Jun 15, 2005
    I personally cant stand the sound of a single 15" Cab.
  3. BillySid

    BillySid Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Weatherford, TX
    Hmmm, interesting. Always been a "10 guy and I might have to give a "15 or two a shot.
  4. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    The Peavey 115BXBW that I have is the bigger version. Peavey made two 115 cabs, and though they are loaded with the same Black Widow, the bigger cab is definitely deeper sounding, yet it is surprisingly bright enough (for me). Of course, it's Peavey, so it is ungodly heavy. Thankfully it sits in the band trailer and I never haul it anywhere by myself. Obviously weight concerns are a factor in cab choices these days (though it never seemed to matter as much years ago...I don't recall hearing near as much complaining about weight as I do now).

    Most commercial cabs are designed with speakers being put in too small of a cabinet and 15's are no different. But Peavey actually did this one right. It does sound quite different from other 15" cabs I've used (including the smaller one like this). I'm sure I'd love other manufacturer's 15" cabs. It's just been a while since I've tried any of them out.

    15's just sound fuller and deeper to me.

    Of course, I've never really loved tweeters much, and I've usually turned the attenuator for them way down (and on some 10" cabs, completely off). So I don't miss not having some hissy, "sissy" guitar-frequency-lovin' speaker do-dad in the mix. :D

    I guess I'm old school, and it's not like I haven't given 10" cabs a fair shot at pleasing me. I've tried many different 10" cabs from many manufacturers over the years.
  5. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I really like having one in the mix with other cabs, but can't stand just a single 15 at all. I do wish I'd kept my second 1-15 cab though, two always worked pretty well for me for BG. Like, for 30 years! I've only been seriously playing with other configurations for the last couple of years, and that's mainly because 15s really don't work at all for my EUB. But I'm toying with building something similar to the AccuGroove Tri115L, which I think will kill for everything I'd need it to do.
  6. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I used to play with 215's. I played through that kind of setup for almost twenty years. I don't think I even considered a 115 back then. It worked for me and that's what I stayed with mainly.

    The bigger Peavey 115BXBW sounds more like a 215 does than most other 115's I've tried out. But it's a much bigger cab than a lot of single 15" cabs. When I first got it, I thought it was like a Peavey 115 I bought years ago. I know I could just barely get that one in the back seat of my car (which is what I drove to the store), but this wouldn't fit no matter what. I had to go get my van. It's sound is as huge as the cab.

    I'm still messing around with other 115's to see what sounds good to me. There isn't a lot offered in stores around here anymore though. Everyone, including the music stores it seems, seem to prefer 10" cabs. You know, whatever the flavor of the month is. Right now 12's seem to be the next hot thing too.

    Give me a 15" cab any time.
  7. chiplexic


    Apr 21, 2004
    I've played thru that Peavey 15" cab. It had a sound like most older classic 15" cabs of the 60's-70's to me. I liked it a lot for that tone. It reminds you that you don't always have to spend mega$$ to get an appealing tone. I'm not trying to convince myself that any old cab will do as good as the next. But there's got to be a few cheaper costing cabs out there that maybe by S*** luck are actually very good at a certain sounds. A few that are actually as good as an expensive boutique.

    Yes most 15" cabs seem to be smaller than the speaker manufacturer requires for optimum performance. This became apparent to me when I was looking to replace the speaker in a 15" cab and noticed in the spec sheets how large a box all of the speakers required.
    I assume the custom made speakers for a given manufacturer must compensate for this in combination with special box engineering.
  8. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I'd have to agree with you. I don't play in a band where anything I play requires extreme subtleties. I don't play jazz and I don't back up "glitter" singers where my lines could easily be mistaken for guitar. ;)

    I'm basically a rock'n'roller and while I might play some complex lines, most of it is still "in-your-face" bass that keeps the girls shakin' it.

    No, the only compensating they do is in the marketing hype. You just can't put a speaker in a cabinet that's too small for it, and still expect it to sound the way it should. It will more than likely have a huge dropoff in dB far above an ideal "bottom end" bass frequency (like 50Hz-60Hz on down...maybe even higher), and add a huge hump higher up. They'll give you some schmooze about sensitivity rating being high, but it won't be where it counts (in the bottom end). It will probably be perceived as being louder at that higher frequency (giving the illusion that it's a loud cabinet), but lose a lot in the real bottom end.

    Take any speaker from any manufacturer's cabs and if you know the T/S of that speaker and build a cab to the size it really needs to sound the way it should, I'd bet you would have a better cab. But it would also be big and bulky. And since most bass players these days want portability, manufacturers are giving them portability at the expense of their sound.

    And I just know someone will chime in with claims about how their 210 cab handles their low B fantastic, even at high volumes. They know because the manufacturer says so, and it sounds good to their ears. Cool for them. I ain't ever heard a 210 come close. I haven't heard a "small" (that is...too small for the speaker) 115 (or any compact 210 or 410) cab that comes anywhere near my cheapo Peavey 115BXBW in volume and low end, and still not break up. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but you can go low, go loud or go small. You can't have all three.

    Yeah, my 115 is a beast to carry. But I could crank it to unbearable volumes and bang away on my "E" string (I only play 4 string now) all night if I wanted, and it never, ever breaks up...and it sounds awesome.

    But it isn't ALL about just volume and clarity, I want some warmth behind the notes too. I'm finding only 15's give me that. I have played coming only through our PA (JBL 15's and Cerwin Vega 18" subs) and my personal rig has just as much authority and tone onstage now...which is what I've been looking for. I play mostly with a technique similar to Entwistle's, where I play up closer to the neck (or over the end of it) and lightly bang the strings against the frets. I need speakers that can handle that all night, and not break up in the last set where we might get a little loud onstage. I've had 10" cabs that came close, but the tone wasn't quite there for me. I just lived with it. Now it's all there the way I want it.
  9. D.A.R.K.


    Aug 20, 2003
    after a few years of wasted money on mini rigs and hating it,
    i decided to get a good old sub cab...
    found a hartke 2x15 on craigs list for a mere 250 bucks.
    i figured what could it hurt to try out?
    bam! everything i'd been missing was there.
    big, thick tone which is actually quite articulate.
    i use an nscr5m eub and a ken smith md 7 string,
    so i require alot of definition for arco and upper ranges...
    surprisingly, the 2x15 just about cuts it. i plan on picking up a 4x10 or 2x10 to compliment it, or to use as a stand-alone in certain situations, but i really found what i was missing was a girth in the tone that i just couldn't get from dinky cabs.
    as far as weight, for me it's alot easier to move something with casters than carry 2 1x12's, for example. i'll use it like a cart for other stuff. if there's stairs there's band members to help, so that's no concern. sometimes you just have to ignore the trends, i suppose.
  10. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    The trend is going more and more towards dinky. Bass players today just don't want to schlep around big, heavy cabs anymore. I can understand that.

    But something just has to give way, in order to get that. Personally I don't want to give up tone and volume for size. 15's just have a fullness to them I just can't hear with 10's, no matter how many you stack together.

    And yeah, to be honest, even small cabs with no casters are a bigger pain to carry than a bigger cab with casters. We keep my 115 in the band trailer. I can pick it up myself, though I wouldn't want to carry it far. But when it's on wheels it's lighter than the smallest 110 that has to be carried. ;)

    I still have a 210 cab and a 210 combo. At low volumes (like practicing by myself) they seem to be alright, even tone-wise they are comparable to 15's. But once I get to stage volume (and I'm not talking ear bleeding volume, but enough feel it as much as hear it) the 10's lose it.
  11. OK I'll be the guy to chime in about my 2x10 that can handle a low B at loud volumes:bag:
    .....I have 2 Acme low B2s (and a Crown Macrotech 2400 to power them) & I have to tell you.....you have to hear it to believe it! For the record, I still have a Peavey 215 & I used to play through a 4x10 & 1x18 setup, so I do know what real low end sounds like.....
    The acmes are kind of a freak of nature though & I'll agree thet most 10's just won't cut it for the thick sound.
  12. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I'll give you that the Acme B2's can handle it. They seem to be an exception. They also are pretty inefficient cabs that need to be pushed pretty hard to get volume out of them. But to me, they still didn't have the tone I like, though they are one of the few that can handle the low end well for a small cab.
  13. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    The Acme is pretty much the exception anyway. But Andy does what I'd do if I was designing a cab: he builds it three-way. I like the better polar excursion that supplies, and if I was building a cab around a fifteen, I'd make sure I designed for better polar response above 800-1000Hz. I do like the sound of the deeper Black Widow cabs as far as they go, and they are capable of making plenty SPL. But if I'm not mistaken they were using MDF in a lot of them.

    Today I'd start with a cab constructed of baltic birch or poplar multi-ply, and use a BMS 15n630 or Eminence 3015LF Kappalite, then a midrange, and then a tweet. You'd end up with a cab that represented fully and could make a lot of SPL, and would be as compact and as light as you can have and still get that sound.
  14. rockstarbassist

    rockstarbassist Banned

    Apr 30, 2002
    The Woodlands, TX
    Endorsing Artist: HCAF
    I'm a big fan of a 2x15 or 2x12 or 1x12 + 115 setup, hence why I play what I do! (see cab below!) ;)
  15. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I guess what I'm getting at is...though I have put together all kinds of cabs made of 10's (210's, 410's, 810's) that can handle the volume and low notes well, they still just didn't give me the depth and fullness of every note. Loud and articulate, yes. But that full and warm, yet punchy and bright sound on every note and at every volume I play at? No.

    I didn't know what I was missing until I tried 15's again. It was instantly a feeling of YES! THAT'S IT! I haven't been this happy playing out in I don't know how long. The sound coming out of a 15 just feels so much more musical for bass to me.

    It's kind of funny how the band reacted. I was in a zone and had that mojo working for me all night long, both nights. The rest of the band picked up on that too because we had two of the best gigs musically that we've ever had. The whole band was jacked up about how we played and sounded. I could feel every note, I could hear every note distinctly and I was playing things I didn't even know I had in me. And it was all just from hearing my bass in a new (old) way again.

    But that's what we're all looking for right? We all want that gear that allows us to express ourselves. Every one has their own idea what that is.

    I just happened to find it again, when I didn't even know I lost it. :bassist: :hyper:
  16. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Should note that just as with tens and twelves, there is a lot of variance in how much low extension and how much excursion various drivers are capable of. As well as other attributes.
  17. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    This bad boy I have is all plywood. A lot of the covering is peeling away and you can see it's plywood. Though, just going by weight alone, it must be layers of petrified wood!!! :D

    Yeah, now that I am back into 15's, I'm thinking of what an ideal 15 cab would be. What you are thinking of sounds great. But I'd leave the tweeter off. I don't need that sissy-hissy sound. But that's me. :D
  18. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Without the tweeter you'd still have a great cab for an improved old school sound for fingerstyle. Probably enough upper clarity to satisfy some slappers as well.

    I actually like tweeters. What I don't like is the fact that there's usually a gap between the woofer and the tweeter in spite of the tweeter often being crossed over lower than I think is good.
  19. D.A.R.K.


    Aug 20, 2003
    yeah, the acmes would be the exception ime...
    great cabs! though you do need a macrotech 2400 or something along those lines to power it. so that kind of takes away from the ultra-portability issue.....
    i will agree that on these boards, the trend is toward smaller rigs...
    however, working primarily as a full-time live engineer i can comfortably say that it isn't really that way out in the trenches.
    in the rock venues/tours the most common amp i see is the good old svt.
    then 4x10 pairs and 4x10+a sub.
    for the jazz gigs it's almost always at least a 4x10. on rare occasions i'll see smaller amps like the tilt-back hartke stuff or a pair of 2x10's-
    once in a blue moon a single 2x10 or just a d.i.
    as amazing as this site is, and just chock full of info, i wouldn't base my opinion of the real world on what i read here....
    it's really quite a special group, but definitely not the majority.
    xelaalex likes this.
  20. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Here's a thought...

    I've often wondered why back in my old days any bass amphead that could put out 200 watts sounded plenty loud through a 215 cab, even when playing with heavy handed drummers and guitarists with Marshall stacks or Fender Twins.

    But now we have all these 10" cab configurations, but we're driving them with 800+ watt poweramps just to keep up.

    Anything to that?

    I mean, I noticed that I don't drive my head as hard when I'm using my 115 as when I play the same head through any of my 10" cabs.