Ampeg B 15 Speaker Shootout - Altec 421, JBL D140, CTS Square Magnet

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by vitalelectric, Feb 17, 2020.


  1. vitalelectric

    vitalelectric

    Nov 10, 2019
    I've been a long time reader of Talkbass, and I figured it was time to give back.

    I've had a B-15N from the early 70's (not sure the exact year) for a few years now, and for a while I've had an Altec 421 in it. I've since gotten a square magnet CTS speaker, and most recently a JBL D140, and figured I'd do a shootout.

    I played a few bass lines on different basses to try and give a little tonal variety -

    1967 Guild Starfire - Pick, Thomasik Infeld Flatwounds - "Paper Tiger" by Beck (my small, small token of appreciation to JMJ for his generosity & engagement to questions on these forums)
    1976 Fender P Bass - Fingers, La Bella Flatwounds "Money" by Pink Floyd
    200? Mexican Fender J Bass - Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Roundwounds - "Roundabout" by Yes

    IMG_3702.JPG

    Signal chain: Bass -> B15 -> Lauten Atlantis (Cardioid, Neutral Setting) -> Aurora Audio Stinger (no eq) -> Universal Audio Apollo -> Pro Tools. No additional processing (eq/compressing/etc.) was used, though all of these tones could benefit from being brightened up a bit. B15 tone controls set at roughly at noon (see photos), with the ultra high rocker engaged, and all basses volume and tone knobs turned all the way up.

    All the clips of these performances are unique - that is, it isn't a loop I recorded and re-amped. There are certainly small differences in each clip as a result of this. They're just bass lines that I dig, and seemed like decent examples of a variety of tones - nothing too too scientific, but you can still certainly hear differences in each speaker.

    I played each bassline three times - once for each speaker - but I kept the bass line on the same bass.

    I'd like to withhold which speaker is which for the moment - feel free to guess, I'll post the answers here after a bit.

    Very interested to hear what y'all think - it was certainly a learning experience for me. Thanks for being contributors to an excellent community and helping spread knowledge about bass gear.
     

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  2. OldogNewTrick

    OldogNewTrick

    Dec 28, 2004
    Germany, EU
    Thanks for your effort - I'll still need to listen to the clips through headphones.
    :bassist:
     
    vitalelectric likes this.
  3. OldogNewTrick

    OldogNewTrick

    Dec 28, 2004
    Germany, EU
    as usual I'll be totally wrong, but here goes....

    Track A - Altec 421
    Track B - CTS Square
    Track C - Altec 421
    Track D - JBL D140
    Track E - JBL D140
    Track F - JBL D140
    Track G- CTS Square
    Track H - Altec 421
    Track I- CTS Square

    Since nobody else wants to play, just PM me the correct answers ! :thumbsup:
     
    chupacerveza likes this.
  4. OldogNewTrick

    OldogNewTrick

    Dec 28, 2004
    Germany, EU
    Nice playing btw. :thumbsup: :bassist:
     
  5. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    My own experimentation were an Altec, don't remember the model, a JBL 2205 fitted with a JBL 2225 cone kit and the original square magnet driver. The people I bought the amp from said that original had been re-coned. Of all three I liked the original a touch better and it lives in there now.
     
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  6. OldogNewTrick

    OldogNewTrick

    Dec 28, 2004
    Germany, EU
    now if we had current replacement speakers as (Em Delta 15 / Beta 15) additional comparison that would be very cool...
     
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  7. e-flat

    e-flat

    Jun 15, 2009
    Washington State
    I can’t wait to find out what the speaker is in Clip A. Sounds glorious! :thumbsup:
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Dude, how did I miss this thread??? Ya, going to dig in deep on this one! This will satisfy a lot of questions I had when I had a 77 B-15N with an early 70's CTS. I tried a more modern Delta 15a in it and thought it sounded mid scooped, but the Delta works great in a double or single baffle cab. Ended up selling it before I tried any other speakers but I really loved its unique dark vibe with the CTS.

    EDIT: Looked at your pics, and you just made this a LOT more interesting. Your CTS is an Ampeg badged made in 66, which is the same year speaker I have in my 64 double baffle cab. The CTS's made for B-15N's in the 70's were darker sounding than these, and to my ears my 66 CTS is a dead ringer for the Delta 15a. Will be interesting to see if I can pick it out.

    It's on.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    OK, first, let me say that your tracks are all brilliantly played, all were recorded extremely well, and anyone would and should be deliriously happy with any of these sounds. I am going to assume these tracks are grouped in threes with A-C, D-F, and G-I all using the same speaker? Sounded like it to me.

    I think A-C is the Altec, D-F is the CTS, and G-I is the JBL. Been 12 years since I heard the Delta in my 77 B-15N, but D-F sure reminds me of the sound I got with it, so that's why I think it's the CTS. Most people who have these Thiele cab B-15's say that the 421a is tops for it, as it gets a good solid mid response with some brightness, and that's what A-C sounded like to me. Overall I thought it performed the best. However, G-I did have a darker quality to it that reminded me of the early 70's CTS that came with my old 77, and I loved that, too.

    Nothing about any of those tracks sounded the least bit bad, but if I stuck with one speaker, it would be whatever you used for A-C.
     
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  10. JIO

    JIO Be seeing you. Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    As someone who owns a '76 B15N with a late '60s JBL D140R - Ill guess the last 3 are that combo. They just sound more like what I hear from mine.
     
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  11. ahc

    ahc

    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    Wow! Nice work. I'll have to wait till later to give this a "proper" listen.
     
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  12. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Great job on the recordings! I'm not enough of a B15 expert to even participate in the game. But the playing and tone of all these tracks are awesome.

    Question: Are all of these speakers, or modern reproductions of them, available today?
     
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  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I see Altecs and JBL's for sale pretty often, but you'll pay. Ampeg CTS's from the 60's come up now and then but the Delta 15a sounds just like it and is cheaper.
     
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  14. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Is the Delta 15a currently made?
     
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Yep.
     
    two fingers likes this.
  16. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast

    Aug 7, 2008
    Thanks for all the hard work. I'm wondering if you normallized the outputs in Pro Tools when printing the tracks. The speakers will have different efficiencies, some with be louder or quieter for a given setup. Louder often sounds better. Normalization will even that out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
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  17. vitalelectric

    vitalelectric

    Nov 10, 2019
    As @JimmyM said, they're all out of production. BUT, you can find some deals if you look - recently got the 140 for $100, and I got the square magnet CTS on ebay for a little more than that years ago. Altec came with the B15 when I bought it. I'm unfortunately not super familiar with modern speakers, though an Eminence Kappalite or two are on the horizon for a Sunn 2x15 cab I'm currently rehabbing...

    Thanks for the kind words. No audio was normalized in any way - no compression, limiting - nothing. The only differences in level you're hearing can be directly attributed to my playing inconsistencies and the efficiencies of the speakers themselves.

    Results coming soon! Glad you guys are digging this as much as I am.
     
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  18. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast

    Aug 7, 2008
    Thanks. Different efficiencies can be compensated for with amp volume adjustments. My point was, normalizing would have been a good thing as it matches the track volume levels and would help in judging the different setups. It doesn’t compress or limit, it adjusts the volume.
     
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  19. 600 Ohms

    600 Ohms Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Ooh, gonna hit this later tonight.
     
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  20. 600 Ohms

    600 Ohms Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I have the least experience, and haven’t heard the Altec or JBL speakers. Yours is also a Thiele cabinet, and mine’s a double baffle. I think the A-C group sounds most like my CTS. All I could reasonably offer.
     
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  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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