The current state of bass guitar speakers

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by sonic 7, Jun 13, 2021.

  1. sonic 7

    sonic 7 Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2011
    Queens, N.Y.C.
    I’m just contemplating on where we are right now in the state of speaker cabinets. As the development of small, lightweight class D amplifiers has pretty much eclipsed the the previous generation of solid state amps, speaker configuration has remained the same. 1x 12, 2 x 12 , 4x10.
    Why haven’t manufacturers attempted full range multi size speaker configurations , such as the Greenboy designs, or something like the Accugroove designs? And with the availability of lightweight efficient power , and an almost limitless assortment of pedal format pre amps, why doesn’t any of the popular manufacturers produce powered cabinets ? I guess what I’m really asking for is for POWERED cabinets. They are the next step in the evolution of bass amplification. Why haven’t they caught on ?
    FenderB and DJ Bebop like this.
  2. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    They will likely be the norm at some point.

    The problem is standardization. In other words, every manufacturer will have to agree on signal path and input sensitivity. That will be hard to pull off.

    GK has already made a proprietary system. In other words, you can't use anyone else's preamp into their powered cabs.

    What usually happens is that each manufacturer that wants to get into a new game makes its own version. One or two eventually rise to the top. Then everyone adopts one of those systems. That takes time.

    As for "full range", it doesn't require multiple driver sizes. Physics is crazy. There may be a small dip in the frequency response of a single driver. But that hardly makes them no longer full range. Define "full range" in your world. My primary cab is a Mesa Subway 115. It doesn't lack in any frequency range that I can hear. You don't need big speakers for low notes and smaller speakers for higher notes. That's a misconception.

    Perhaps @agedhorse can say what I'm trying to say in a more technical, and more concise, way.
  3. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Powered bass cabinets have been around for decades, since the 80s at least that I am aware of.
    I think there's something for everyone. If you trust the preference of the cabinet maker there is nothing wrong with it. The challenge to manufacture is that everyone has different expectations regarding scale, headroom, etc. So maybe someone could build large scale combos? It's a wide open market.
  4. musicman556

    musicman556 Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    Smyrna, TN
    This is called a "combo amp" with the EQ set flat.

    That's a little tongue-in-cheek, but really I think this is why there aren't a lot of "powered bass cabs" out there.

    Personally, I would never buy a powered bass cab because then I'd just have ANOTHER thing that needed a power source besides my amp and/or pedals.
  5. mmbongo

    mmbongo Regular Human Bartender Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    As far as the Greenboy cabs, many modern designs have surpassed their performance, cost less, and weigh half as much. See Mesa Subway, Barefaced, AudioKinesis, Bergantino.

    As far as powered full range cabs go...just get a PA speaker if that's what you want. There's probably not much of a market for bass cabs that are limited to only the built in amp. Someone like me who uses 3 cabs sometimes also does not want to run 3 power cables just for an amp. Plus, if the amp dies then you're done.
  6. Old Fart

    Old Fart

    Mar 11, 2011
    If it's not broken, then don't fix it. Today's cabs are amazing and so are today's heads. Together, they weigh from 40 to 65 lbs. Full range.
  7. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    I've thought about powered cabinets many times, but I just don't see the demand being there for a real production product (including the costs of safety and EMC certifications).
    Rip Van Dan, Zbysek, GregC and 25 others like this.
  8. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2011
    Eastern Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    Pretty much everyone who ever had an idea about anything thinks, "Man, these would sell like hotcakes!" It turns out that most of the time, we're projecting our tastes and desires onto a public that does not share them. I know I've been guilty of that.
    GregC, mikewalker, kentiki and 17 others like this.
  9. _Some Dude

    _Some Dude

    Sep 14, 2016
    Run a cable from your pedalboard to the PA?
  10. brisonic


    Jan 1, 2006
    san diego
    Thinking of this, in cases where bands use IEMs and there is an adequate PA, will there still be a need for these aside from practice?
    BBassBassington and DJ Bebop like this.
  11. madmaskbass


    Apr 29, 2008
    For me if i am going light weight/easy i am thinking of a Quad Cortex and a powered cab. If I want the big rig i will schlep the 8x10 and all the rest. I really wish there was a few more options around but at this stage I am enquiring about the Wayne Jones Powered cab. I know that you can get a decent mini amp but it just doesn't appeal to me as much as a all in one solution would be. There are mixed messages about the quality of running something like a QSC k12.2 and I like the idea of it's flexibility but I just cant see it carrying extended range bass. I also own a crazy light composite 2x12 that is like a fearful build but the midrange crossover is dead. Maybe I fix that and chuck a small amp on it.
    juggahnaught and DJ Bebop like this.
  12. Prana Ferox

    Prana Ferox

    Dec 4, 2015
    You need multiple driver sizes if you care about dispersion. And generally even wide-range drivers for bass reproduction are trailing off by ~5khz on axis. Some people like that, call it more vintage, break-uppy tone, some people want a clearer top end end. Also, I'm pretty sure your Subway 115 has an HF horn.

    I'd point out to the OP the Genzler Bass Arrays as recent commercial departures from 'big woofers and an HF horn', although Genzler sticks to the standard '2x10, 1x12 etx' sizing, it's hard to argue it doesn't make sense.

    The advantage of powered speakers in the hifi world comes from multi-amping and DSP to eliminate the analog crossover, and internally apply varying degrees of speaker and room frequency response corrections. Those don't really seem to translate to bass cabs.
  13. I think that for now, the demand for 3- or even 4-way bass guitar bins for the majority of players, has passed. The speaker drivers themselves are better now, and the usual layout with an added tweeter or high-end driver coupled to most modern amps with lots of EQ seems to be the norm for now. There will always be a market for Greenboy-type bins, but for now it's a minority. In my day back in the 80's, we played rack rigs through PA bins because the difference between them and bass rigs of the day was palpable. Not really the case these days.

    Powered bins make a lot more sense in large PA rigs, where a lightweight power amp embedded in the individual bins simplifies digital control, and eliminates the old racks and racks of power amps and thousands of pounds of copper speaker wire that large traveling rigs demanded. Bag End and a few others offer bass guitar bins with an optional power amp built in, but for now, these seem to be specialist pieces.
  14. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    The dispersion of a driver depends on more factors than simply the diameter of the driver. It’s possible to extend the off axis response by an octave or so by using a combination of cone geometry and dust cap properties (material, shape/spherical radius, position relative to the VC).
    Rip Van Dan, Zbysek, GregC and 9 others like this.
  15. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    Will this fact make a 12 inch cab on the floor aimed at your socks make it sound better at your ears?

    I think that is always the problem on small stages. For that reason I have been using a kick back type bass cab. Not many of those available. Why aren't they more popular? Is it because the players think they are too fancy? Or is there some reason that the manufacturers don't want to make them?
  16. spatters


    Mar 25, 2002
    There was an argument for powered cabinets in the years of lead sleds. Even then, they never caught on. Standels never made much of a mark. Acoustic abandoned theirs and went back to a standard powered head/passive cabinet. KMD made them in the 1980s and no one bought those, either.

    However, now that Class D is cheap and ubiquitous, a preamp-only box isn't meaningfully smaller or lighter than a preamp + power amp...and you're adding another power cord to a situation where you're likely already short on outlets. At that point you just build the preamp into the box and make a combo. The Fender Rumble combos don't weigh any more than the passive cabinets!

    Think about it: you can buy pedals today that push more power than a typical 1970s lead sled, thanks to Class D.

    So the answer to "Why haven't powered cabinets caught on?" is "Because, in 2021, they literally make things more complicated for zero tangible improvement."

    (This isn't true for PA systems, or any other situation where speakers might otherwise have to be placed a long way from the amplifiers...primarily because of the loss of damping factor resulting from longer power cable runs.)
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  17. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    1. Price. Not many buyers want to buy super expensive gear.

    2. People buy what they know.
  18. marchone

    marchone Since 1951 Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2009
    The boutique Wayne Jones Audio WJ 2x10 has gotten rave reviews but I'm curious if a Sadowsky preamp will work with it.

    Does anyone here know?
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  19. baxter_x


    Nov 27, 2013
    I don't think neither there is a real market for this. Also, IMO, it's less convenient than passive cabs as it requires more plugs.

    When I read this i remember the time when I was used to thinking a cab is "more or less just a box with speakers"
    Rip Van Dan, DJ Bebop and agedhorse like this.
  20. Interesting thread...

    GBX did this decades ago and promptly went out of business. Probably lots of reasons outside the ethos of the system.


    It could be a lot more viable these days now that the cabs can be lighter and pedal preamps are abundant.

    It also brings up the question that given that some of the manufactures have been making the cabs more and more portable both in size and weight, I wonder why they haven't explored the added cone area that different speaker shapes could allow. Car / home audio has done it for years more for marketing but if Eminence was tasked with making a decent square pro audio bass speaker, manufacturers could put in their rectangular bass enclosures. One might think they could get the cabs even smaller or louder given the same front area. Would dispersion be wacky with a square or triangle speaker?

    kicker.jpg xtant.jpg

    Picture something like this with an amp and ported out the back...


    Maybe even a coaxial design with a tweeter under the dust cap.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
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