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Real talk: does neo = sonic compromise?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by lossfizzle, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. lossfizzle


    Jul 8, 2013
    Full disclosure: I'm still new to life as a gigging bassist (vs. a home-studio one) and still figuring out the crazy wide world of live gear for bass. I am fully willing to admit that my experience is incredibly limited and I may have no idea what I'm talking about. Actually, that's why I'm posting at all.

    Long story short, I have a neo-loaded 2x12 cab which is ostensibly my most professional-grade cab by a long shot. I've been gigging with this thing for a few months, have tried a LOT of different heads / preamps / EQ curves / even digitally-generated amp models going into it, but I can never get the tone as warm / forgiving / thick as I'd like. It's just too hi-fi for me.

    My junker cabs loaded with basically just any old ceramic driver(s) from ancient times are basically plug and play by comparison with any of the same rotation of gear up top.

    I'd think it was maybe just a "this driver vs. personal taste" thing, except that I keep noting a vocal minority on Parts Express raw-driver reviews that seem to really dislike all neos on arrival. The term "unmusical" is not uncommonly encountered in such reviews, and given my admittedly VERY limited experience with neo-loaded cabs so far, I think I know exactly where they're coming from.

    Yet I basically never see complaints on TB about the sound of neos vs. ceramic equivalents. Hard to know if it's a personal-taste thing, if some neo drivers behave "more ceramically" than others, and/or if the weight savings + additional expense is a "validation motivator" for those of us who have made the investment.

    So I guess I'm wondering if there's a deeper story here about neos that isn't being told - have I just not tried the right neos for bass yet, and/or if I insist on neo cabs, am I likely to always have to deal with / work around a more clinical-sounding genre of tone than I'd like... and/or am I just nuts?
  2. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Chamonix Mont-Blanc
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    Just like ceramic or Alnico or "normal" speakers I have heard neos I liked and neos I didn't.

    I am sure you will get lots of responses from people who swear by them and others from people who hate them. Personally, I love the weight savings but I do think there are some sonic compromises. This is admittedly from pretty limited experience over all.
  3. What 212 do you have?
  4. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    2 words: EQ

    Wait that's not two words... it's not one word... what in the heck is that?
  5. lossfizzle


    Jul 8, 2013
    It's a fauxcronym.
  6. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    With bass, more so than with higher range instruments in my view, the CAB has to be designed around what you are working with. I think it is a matter of the total package. My Mesa Walkabout Scout cabs have neo 15"drivers in them. But they sound warmer than most I have ever tried. I tried a couple of 4-10 cabs with neo drivers that I didn't like at all before I got the Mesa rig.

    Short version: I think it is more than the speakers alone.
  7. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
  8. First "neodymium magnets" don't have a "sound" compared to "ceramic". Neo does eliminate some bottlenecks in driver design that most designers have taken too far. Faital PRO 15PR400 is a good example of how well a neo equipped speaker can mimic a ceramic driver (so close to a JBL K140 it's not even funny).
    It's all up to the driver's engineer.
  9. lossfizzle


    Jul 8, 2013
    I'm being purposely sketchy, but it's a popular and reputable commercial cab. The drivers are Deltalites.
  10. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I love my neo wizzys... so as far as I am concerned there is no sonic compromise.
  11. Linnin

    Linnin SUSPENDED

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
  12. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    I have mainly used cabs with Neo drivers. Honestly, they have never impressed me that much, but I continue to use them because of their weight. The best sounding cabs that I have played through all used ceramic drivers. That said, some of the worst sounding cabs I've played through have used ceramic drivers, too.

    So to sum things up - it all depends :p
  13. lossfizzle


    Jul 8, 2013
    I know what you're saying - from a basic physics perspective there really shouldn't be any difference, it's a darned magnet. But somebody else alluded to the never-ending AlNiCo vs. ceramic wars that are particularly active in the guitar world (both in terms of pickups and drivers). I have a heck of a lot more experience with guitar gear than bass gear, and based on that I do believe there's a pretty serious difference for both types of magnet implementation that goes beyond other factors of the basic unit design. I also know that we guitarists are particularly averse to neo drivers in our cabs, but I'm willing to chalk that up to simple stupid conservatism (most of us still "insist" on tube gear, after all).

    Regardless, I'm willing to believe that neo drivers CAN sound exactly the same as the "equivalent" ceramic; I'm just wondering if the current offerings still sound different regardless, for one reason or another.

    The Faitals do seem to have the best rep around here of just about any make of neo driver, and I'm curious to try one whenever I can finally afford one.
  14. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I think it's more of a case of "new cabs don't sound like old cabs" just because they're not making them like they used to. New cabs are more efficient, more focused, and you hear a lot of detail that the old cabs lost regardless what they're loaded with.
  15. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    It's called "snobbery". Nothing "new" can ever be as good as the "classic" stuff, whether you're talking about speakers or anything else.
  16. lossfizzle


    Jul 8, 2013
    I can get down with / buy that, and I would then put myself in the "I guess I just like old cabs better," except that my "old cabs" aren't really that much older nor loaded with ceramic drivers that are totally ancient designs. We're mostly talking stuff that was made / designed in the mid-90s.

    I do think that I'm generally looking for a tone that is a bit more old-school. But I don't seem to have much of a problem getting there, or at least getting closer, with my not-so-old-school ceramic-based cabs. I'm still not ruling out that there could be a neo driver that would make me happy, I'm just trying to figure out if there's some kind of trend toward "guy likes modern tone, will thusly like neo," or if it's a simple matter of "try more drivers."
  17. lossfizzle


    Jul 8, 2013
    I like old crusty gear as much as the next guy, but I've got nothing against modernity when it works for me... I mean, I bought the cab fully EXPECTING it to blow my other stuff out of the water. :)
  18. The button Alnico sound guitarist love is actually a major failing in design due to constraints. It just so happens that failing makes a sound people like, not a triumph in fidelity.

    Even in the '90s I think you will find more commercial MI cabs that were: "Make the box this size, okay now put some holes here (or not), now throw some speakers in there and lets see what kind of noise it makes."
  19. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    There's no compromise on Neo Drivers.
    Go to see your favorite big name show and you'll see and not-hear Neo's.

    Given good drivers, some cab makers load them into crappy boxes. To sell the lightweight or more for looks than sound, or to push some novelty gimmick.

    Without knowing the measurements of your cabinet - you may be in the same boat.
  20. Hey, lets not forget that there are plenty of people who believe that everything "new" is, by definition, superior, just because it is new. Snobbery can stick its nose up both ways. :p

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