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Marshall 4x12: A Review

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by CID Vicious, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. Like MANY people over the years, I was interested in a good compromise between a guitar and bass amp.

    I was told that no guitar amp works for bass, stop trying.

    Then it's oh no, the cabinet must be designed in accordance with the oracle of Aiwass, lest he release his wrath in the form of "wasted money", which seems to be less of an issue when discussng $3000 jazz bass copies or $300 fuzz pedals or a third Stingray because you liked the color.

    So I looked into it. Actual research.

    And it seems like a classic case of "the loudest, longest speaking mouth at the forum said this, so..." mixed with Hearing With Your Eyes.

    Not to debunk every myth cherished in these halls - for instance, the "tuned cab to match the drivers" nonsense.

    Yeah, IF it's a ported cab, not merely vented or a sealed cab. Also, do you honestly believe that EVERY cab that comes out has some radically different driver? Google "greenback clone" or "evm 12l clone" or the origins of many a speaker - "customers liked Brand X's Model Y, so we cloned it and smoothed the mids or added some power handling".

    Or the similarities between most 4x10s, allowing for quite a bit of customization via speaker choice.

    Legends, ignorance, lazy research, downright prejudice. All things in the way of our goals, which tend to be a better addressing of an individual's needs.

    So, the Marshall 4x12? Classic 1960a?

    Impossible to use for bass and sound good, right?

    Not only are we dealing with a sealed cab, thus giving us far more flexibility than with ported designs, the cab itself does have a limitation: it rolls off frequncies below 100hz.

    In other words, nature has provided a crossover/HPF for us.

    Must be why bassists were getting away with G12H30s back when The Ox was destroying the expectations of what a bass could do.

    Looking at the evolution of the 1960a cab itself, it basically stopped around 1973. MDF back panel to dampen the center post. Still built the same way.

    After 50 years of competitors "offering something better", whether it be a Dual Showman or a Genz Benz G-Flex or Vader or Mesa Recto Large, even many metal players will point out that 1960a cabinets *simply sound better than the many attempts at making it obsolete*, not unlike a P Bass.

    My 1993 Nissan SE-R was revolutionary, kickstarting the "sport compact" craze in the 90's and being praised as nearly miraculous at the time. Fast, efficient, and capable of perfectly neutral handling.

    It was also a "happy accident", the chassis is unremarkable (try seeing much difference between the contemporary Corolla and the SE-R), and was literally some sway bars, shocks, and a bigger motor vs. the standard unremarkable Sentra it was based upon.

    So don't give me the "best use of a 5x5 sheet" bs. It works.

    The "problems" a 1960a cab has are similar to the "problems" an SVT 810e has.

    Which, if you play rock metal or loud blues, ain't much of a problem.

    Not everyone wants to sound like 'Seinfeld' or play dub reggae.

    Some people get the idea of an instrument fitting in the mix, instead of trying to get 3-6 other audio sources to fit a badly eq'd and leveled single SUPPORTING instrument.

    So a "lack of lows" makes for a less boomy mix, more room for the kick, etc.

    Slopsicle likes this.
  2. But, CID, you ignoramus! They had specific bass cabs for Marshalls then!

    Actually, the speakers were "special".

    The 4x12 bass cabs Marshall offered up to the late 80's ARE 1960a spec cabinets. The bass designation came from the use of H ("heavy") magnets with 444 style "bass" cones.

    But they're bass speakers, right?


    444 cones are also found on K85/K100s and Vintage 30s amongst others.

    They're part of the G12-80 or properly G12H80 speakers. These are what came in many JCM800 bass 412s, forget the 198X code but that was a warehouse code anyway, and "lead" cabinets could be had with the same speakers.

    But...wouldn't it be better to just go with a "properly designed bass cab, like the VBC412?"

    Interesting that you would ask.

    The VBC 412 is 5mm shorter, 5mm narrower, & ~14mm deeper than a 1960a.

    Aside from the "massive" depth difference...you honestly think that those tweaks are going to be massively different, sonically?

    The YUUUGE difference is that the chamber has been divided in half, 2x(2x12) the same way an 810e is 4 2x10s or a Cajun Cannon is two Thieles.

    So this...massively shaging overpriced bauble is sold to bassnozzle nitwits who don't do their own research- aka the Talkbasser "gui****" stereotypes tossed about by you oh so enlightened basstards. Ridiculous gouging both new and used, fueled by the ignorant.

    All for a scrap sized piece of MDF & a whopping inch of extra depth.

    "But those cabs sound AWESOME!"

    Probably because the 1960a has 1.77 cubic feet of interior volume, more than a S2012 Basslite requires, already.

    But the "properly designed super special bass speakers! That's the key!"

    Now, it gets fun.

    Stock speakers are Celestion "Marshall Wolverines".

    Oooh, sounds fancy and propritary! Big legend about a Marshall tester personally speccing this custom unicorn hide speaker...

    ...that is ENTIRELY a G12H80.

    Yeah. The JCM800 speaker.

    AKA the Classic Lead 80.

    AKA the "Celestion Modeling 12" found in Line 6 amps.

    So the super-coveted Lemmy 4x12 is a mildly massaged JCM800 4x12 at BEST.

    Which stands up to cranked VCA400 heads, aka a SVT with 33% MOAH POWAH.

    But allllll of these fellow talkbassers coming out of the woodwork praising stock 1960as or equivalents with GUITAR speakers aren't smoking crack. Or too tin eared to tell the difference. Or never played them live long hard and loud.

    Maybe their ears work, they know what they like, and considering the dearth of "ruined" Marshall cabs attested to, maybe these EXPERIENCED PLAYERS with TIME INVESTED and SKIN IN THE GAME should be listened to.

    I will say this: the Illiterati sure were right about one thing: seems like stuffing S2012s or Delta/Beta 12as in a Marshall cab IS a waste of time.

    Because that's not even necessary, apparently.

    Some boring, Google filled shifts saved me ~400 bucks on a S2012 into Avatar Vintage 412 experiment. It'll save me more when I realize I don't need a dedicated cab when, as a guitar(d)ist, I have two loaded and one half loaded 412s hanging around.

    My Mode Four MF400A should RULE at this application. 4" taller than a 1960A, based on the 1960TV (tall) cabs, which the Vader and Mesa Recto Oversized are also based on, and loaded with G12K100s.

    I bet I could get über fancy & add a 1" spacer ring to relocate the back panel and add cab volume, &/or baffle the interior into two chambers.

    IF it even proves necessary.

    Thinking Quilter Tone Block, MF400 & my GK ported 212 for "real" lows would kill on either bass or guitar, & the GK is an easy one hander. Or my 100w Laney AOR, 68 Lead Plexi, or VS100RH. Or combo of them.

    I'll sign off with a maxim from Car Craft:

    "Nothing's cheaper than what you already own."
    azfatboy likes this.
  3. It's good that you've found a rig that you enjoy :) . I've heard of people playing with V4 412 cabs as well.

    A bit of a point though: it's a bad idea to criticize people, flies with honey and all that. Other than that though, the "Acoustic hpf" that sealed cabs can provide is a well documented thing even on TB. Eminence makes bass drivers that specialize in sealed cabs as well. Different people want different things in their cabs, I personally love my epifani 212 because it puts out a lot of bass, and is lightweight
    azfatboy likes this.
  4. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    As a lad I played bass through 1935a & 1935b cabs actually said Bass in upper left corner and through a 1982b cab the 100w that said 100 up in the corner. They sounded great! Very responsive but no so clear. Tone but not transparent. The minute you heard a JBL D-140 in a Fender not cranked you knew what was possible. Along came the Sunn 200s & 2000s and it was "OH!"

    Then I knew I wanted both. :)
    Listen to live recordings of the Experience and you hear the mild distortion. Jump to some live recordings of the Who. Now the hifi wide frequency response of the Hiwatt head made for a different form of clarity with the added grit from the cabs. Go back to studio Experience recordings and you hear fat full clear bass. Except Crosstown Traffic where the Rotosounds roar is present.

    Listen to Ron Wood who used two Majors and four 4x12 100w cabs and you have a different take on tone. The Majors didn't compress and distort as the 100w Superbass heads. Side note the 100w SuperLead while missing the low lows was clearer mids to highs than the Superbass 100 head.

    Yes I played and owned all this stuff. Mixing and matching Marshall heads on American 2x15 cabs was another treat.

    So enjoy it all. There is no right way. Oh PS I bought and returned a Marshall HW 4x12 cab and it was an extreme disappointment. It sounded like poo, it farted where a'60s cab would handle even a Gibson EBO Humbucker, the green tolex was the wrong shade, it was poorly assembled and didn't smell like Marshalls smelled. If you know what I'm talking about then you know how nice that was.
    Enjoy it all.
  5. azfatboy


    May 11, 2016
    I'm not gonna lie, I have felt the exact frustrations so effectively and effusively shared by CID. But I have since come to the conclusion that in 99.9% of cases (esp here on TB), the "technophiles" are not only technically correct, they are just trying to help the best they know how. However, even with the cutting rhetoric, I don't see any truly "personal" attacks, and instead see an incredibly humorous and enjoyable post about one dude's continuing musical journey... :D
    pie_man_25 likes this.
  6. Fair point. People are overzealous in this neck of the forum at times, and he wasn't being personal, the rhetoric was pretty general. I'm even going from a high-tech 212 to a vintage sealed 115 cab. Don't really need the volume anymore, and it could be better used elsewhere. I'm just trying to get better at "trying to help people to get along"
  7. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    As I growed up in the UK perhaps my memory might flesh out the OP’s post a tad. There were two types of 4x12, one was a flat front “bottom” cabinet and the other the slant front “top" cabinet. There were two kinds of drivers, one rated at 20W for an 80W handling box. The other 25W for 100W. As a bass player you had the choice style you desired. I went with the 100W slant front 4x12. This did me for a few years until I sold all my gear to immigrate to Toronto in 1973.
  8. Nidan


    Oct 31, 2008
    Duluth , Ga
    I have a 4x12 Marshall I used with my all tube Sovtek Mig50 as a bass rig for a few years.. careful not to crank it too much. Always liked the sound for the James Jamerson / Duck Dunn type stuff I did . Now that my new head will handle 2 cabs I'm thinking of building a bass centric 4x12 to compliment the 2x12 Bergantino I run now .
  9. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    As this thread has popped up again I’ll add that the best sound I ever got with the 4x12 was a pre-amp I built driving and getting power from a Leak TL50+ HIFI power amp. Wonderful sound and all the depth you would want. :)
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    IMHO, some discretion and caution is appropriate. I have a 1960AX, 1960BX full stack loaded with the stock G12M-25 greenbacks. You can get a a decent vintage bass tone out of these cabs at low volume, but I would be a bit worried cranking my 100W Marshall heads through them with bass. I would probably be comfortable with two full stacks and a 100W head, but not a pushed SVT.
  11. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    Back in those days volume levels were much less as trying to get louder, for a bass player, ended up with a mess of distortion. Some of us, like Lemmy, embraced that distortion and made it part of their ‘sound.’ I never did. I wanted a clean bass sound and used my engineering student learnings to get there. Sadly my schooling was more aimed at the telephone business although we did learn about valves/tubes as they were still current technology at the time - late sixties.
    delta7fred and Wasnex like this.
  12. 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.

    Apr 10, 2021

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