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Which speaker size best reproduces the frequency response of an unamped DB?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by thrash_jazz, Apr 8, 2003.


  1. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Hi all,

    Just curious as to your opinions on this. I realize that the preamp itself and the cabinet design go a long way towards how the final product sounds, but I was wondering which speaker size sounded most like an unamplified DB.

    At a guess, a 12" maybe? Those seem to have the good balance between "boom" and "punch"...?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Might be a personal preference, and it definitely depends on the particular cabinet, but so far everyone that I've liked really well has been a 8" or 10". Conversely, almost every one I've hated has been a 12" or 15".

    I'm sure a 12" in a REALLY well designed cab would be great, but I haven't encountered one yet, and it would weigh a ton. The 8" powered speaker I use weighs 44 lbs. for a reason. It also handled the bass response a lot better than the Mackie powered speaker, which is larger and more powerful. Ditto for the JBL 12" powered.

    Monte
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    In my experience, I'd say that 8" speakers do the best job of natural sound production. I own three cabinets which use 8's primarily: two tiny 1x8 cabs (made locally), and an EA VL208. The VL208 goes with me to all straight ahead jazz gigs with a drummer, and sounds incredibly natural. One of the little 1x8 cabs go to any drummerless gigs I might have - together with the Clarus head, the whole rig fits inside of one of those carry-on rolling bags like stewardesses always seem to have with them.

    I've A/B'd the EA VL208 against some pretty stiff competition, and for transparency, it always comes out on top. Just yesterday I tried it up against my Bergantino HT112, and even my students agreed that the 8" speakers do a more uncolored job. My theory is that larger speakers always add some amount of "flab" or "fatness" to the sound, especially on the E string. While this may be desirable in certain situations, it certainly isn't "accurate". The cleanest 12" cabinet I've heard is the EA CXL112. It sounds great, but when you really push it, it sounds a bit more aggressive and can even go into "steroidal" territory if you want. I use the 12's for doubling gigs, and the 8's for DB only gigs.
     
  4. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks for the responses!

    I asked this question because I was basically noticing the same thing - I rented an Aria EUB a couple of months ago (alas, I decided I had had enough of hauling the REALBASS by bus in sub-zero weather :( ) and I have found that it sounded much better through my crappy Trace Elliott practice amp (with one 8") than my Ampeg combo (one 15"). I had incorrectly assumed that the 15 would sound more "acoustic" as it had more lows, but it just lacked the punch.

    Would this apply to arco as well? The frequency response is different, so...
     
  5. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    About the "flab" in some speakers: An engineer would call that damping, or rather lack thereof. A cone, once moving, wants to keep moving. The amp attempts to control this, but the bigger the cone, the more inertia you have to deal with. It's easier to control a small speaker, as the voice coil is proportionally larger than on larger speakers and the cone is proportionally stiffer as well. So yeah, the flab theory has a lot going for it. HiFi speaker builders often use a number of small woofers for this reason.

    It's still possible to build a large speaker with high damping. It's just that the HiFi-type musical cabinet makers have been concentrating on the smaller sizes. But the real reason the EA 10" and 12" and the various good Raezers, Epifani etc small speakers sound so good isn't that they use small drivers. It's that they're engineered like HiFi speakers, whereas for years music instrument speaker engineering was more a matter of "let's build a big box and stick some speakers in it!"
     
  6. scott reed

    scott reed Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2002
    Memphis
    Chris, could you give us some details about those
    1x8 cabs you mentioned?
    Thanks!
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    They're made by Gary Falk, a local engineer and studio owner - he also designs preamps, mixing boards, and small P.A. systems called the "Tiny Mite" series. As the name implies, these systems are all about portability. Along with the power amps, three different speaker sizes are available: 8", 10", and 12". Each uses Eminence speakers in a small black ported enclosure that weighs about 8-12 lbs, depending on the size of the speaker.

    I first tried them for DB when I was on a gig that called for higher volumes than my amp at the time (an SWR Baby Blue II) could produce. The keyboard player had a couple of Gary's cabs in his van, and on the first break he asked if I wanted to use one as an extension speaker. I did, and it sounded great. I've known Gary for years from doing recording sessions at his studio, so I called him up and asked if I could demo one of each size. After the initial A/B/C tests, it was obvious that the 8" were the most accurate, so I bought two, and also bought a 10" model for louder stuff. Now that I have the VL208, I doubt I'll ever use the 10" and the extra 8", but that single 1x8 cab is great for small drummerless gigs...it basically sounds like a loud bass.

    The downside to 8" speakers is that alone, a single 8 doesn't move much air, so I save these cabs for the small "just barely need an amp if at all" gigs. But for those, they're great. A couple of years ago at the camps, Rich Armandi came up after my group had played on the faculty concert (where I was using two of 8" cabinets) and asked to try them. After about two minutes, he was sold, and he looked Gary up and bought one before heading back to Chicago.

    I'm not sure I understand the physics behind the whole "what size speaker moves X amount of air" (and perhaps some of the more technical/mathematical-minded folks like TIMOTHY LEARY, SHOELESS MOE, or GERBIL SANDWICH could chime in here to clear this up?)
    thing, but I think Gary told me once that one 10" speaker has as much surface area as two 8" speakers....or something like that. At any rate, what they might lack in volume, they make up for in crispness and clarity. They seem to "speak" faster than larger speakers, and as I mentioned before, they don't add any FLAB to the sound.

    If anybody wants contact info for Gary's shop, I'll be happy to dig it up and provide it. I don't know what those cabs are going for now, but I think they were about $125 apiece when I bought them.
     
  8. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    It's not so much a matter of surface area, but diameter... or rather diameter relative to wavelength. And there's a tradeoff between efficiency and directionality.

    The amount of air displaced is a function of the area of the piston (cone) and how far it moves, but the efficiency in coupling the cone to the surrounding air is a function of how many wavelengths (or fractions thereof) in diameter a cone is. A 44Hz wave in air is 22 feet long- any speaker is going to radiate somewhat omnirectionally at the fundmental. But the sound you hear is comosed of the fundamental and multiple halmonics.

    Your G string is what, around 100-120Hz? Something in that neighborhood. The fundamental is 10 feet long. But you have harmonics at 200, 300, 400, 500Hz, etc., with wavelengths of 5', 2.5', 1.25'... and at those higher frequencies the diameter of the speaker becomes important for a second reason. As the speaker cone gets larger, efficiency goes up, but the speaker tends to become more directional. As long as the speaker is smaller than half a wavelength, the sound radiates omnidirectionally.

    That's why a 15" speaker on the floor often doesn't sound very good to the player. You can hear the lows all right, but the highs are focused in a narrow pattern that the player isn't in.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    e=mje2,

    Right. I knew that. That's what I meant to say....


    Regards,

    DUMB DURRL
     
  10. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    It's like this - the lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength, so the farther away the harmonics are going to be.

    mje - I recall reading somewhere that lower frequencies did tend to be more omnidirectional... but what you are saying is that the fundamental is but NOT the higher harmonics, due to their spacing... right?

    Could we then look at them as spherical harmonics in terms of distance from the cone?

    I think I have the specs on general harmonic response of a DB somewhere - I'll look them up and see...

    GEEK_JAZZ
     
  11. Another vote for the 8" speakers.
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think it's just a case of the EA VL208 being the best cabinet there is for reprducing anything!! ;)

    It sounds great for for BG, EUB and if I put my CD walkman or MD though it!! :)

    A true Hi-Fi cab!
     
  13. Someone tried the Reazer-edge 2-8" cabinet?
     
  14. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    what he said.
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've got a Hartke 1 X 15 cab and the EA VL208 sounds much better - even for notes on the B string of my EUB.

    A low D played on the B string of my NSCR5 through the VL208 sounds earth-shaking and is really felt through the floor. But using the same amp with my 1 X 15 and it's nothing special.
     
  16. Steve Azola

    Steve Azola Azola Basses

    Jan 23, 2002
    San Diego, CA
    www.azola.com
    I have to agree with Ken Smith, a properly tuned 15" or 18" can be a superb URB cabinet, in the right band situation. I think the cabinet size and design matter more than the actual speaker size. I've been experimenting with a lot of different speakers and cabinet designs lately, and have really come to the conclusion that, generally speaking, a big heavily ported cabinet is the worst thing for upright bass.

    A smaller cabinet, (no matter what the speaker size) not overly tuned for low end, is best. For example, I have a small 2'x2' cabinet with an EV 18" that sounds incredible for URB. I have small 1x15" Bag Ends, EA 1x12" coax, my own design 2x8", 4x8", 2x10", 1x12", 1x15" and more. The common denominator, once again, is not too big a cabinet for a specific speaker.

    The upright bass produces such massive low end fundamental and harmonics it doesn't need any added cabinet help in boosting those frequencies. You'll just be boosting the boominess and feedback issues. I have found in all my testing so far, the higher quality the speaker (driver) used, the better the sound.

    I've been testing some of the Pro-audio level drivers and the difference is incredible, no matter what the size.
    I find the quality of sound, construction and power handling worth the extra cost of the driver. For example, I have a 2x10 cabinet loaded with a pair of pro level drivers, and it's louder, tighter, has a stronger fundamental, and will handle twice the power, when compared to an industry standard 4x10. This demonstrates that the use of the best components, along with proper cabinet design, will produce the best sound, regardless of the actual speaker size. That's why some Glockenklang and EA cabs have become the standards by which others are judged... they use the best design, parts and construction methods.

    I should mention, most all of my speaker cabinet testing is done with acoustic upright basses, the hardest instrument to properly amplify. Then I move on to the EUBs and electric basses. I've always wanted to offer a line of my own speaker cabinets specifically designed for upright bass use, and to complement my EUBs. I think the time may be coming soon.

    Steve
    www.azola.com
     
  17. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    The kinds of cabinets Ken and Steve are talking about are essentially large speakers in what would be, using today's models, a much too small cabinet. The classic example is the Ampeg B-15 (to an extent, the B-18). The drivers used in those cabinets would deliver optimum efficiency and low end in a much larger cabinet. The effect of the small cabinet is to greatly overdamp the speaker. It's like adding a much heavier magnet or a stiffer suspension. The result is a very "tight" sound which helps definition. It also rolls off the low end quickly which eliminates muddiness. Not quite a HiFi sound, but it can be very effective for live sound.

    I have one of Steve's fabulous Bugbasses, and I use it with the tiny EA CXL-110 cabinets. These are also highly damped, but have a much more extended low end response owing to the transmission line design of the cabinets. This gives you both good damping, low end, and much higher efficiency.
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hmmm...interesting subject - I mean I just go into a shop and buy what sounds best, but I suppose it is a good idea to know why it does! ;)

    I have read about the EA cabs and "transmission line" - but I'm still not sure I fully understand it!!

    I just know I like the sound! :)

    I suppose my experience of hearing amplified DB is at my local Jazz club where the players seem to go for as small a combo as they can get away with - presumably for portability, but also as they are only "re-inforcing" their acoustic tone - but most of the time, bowed solos don't sound too good through small combos.

    I think the best tone I heard there, was a guy who used no amp at all and just used a mic fed directly into the P.A. - but I did go and see the Wayne Shorter quartet recently at a much larger local venue and what sticks in my mind is the fantastic tone that John Patitucci got - whether bowing or plucking and he was only using an EBS 2 X 10 cab on stage - although what I was hearing was the PA feed so I don't know what it was that got him that glorious amplified tone?

    Apart from the fact that he's such a great player of course! ;)
     
  19. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    The job of any cabinet is to prevent the backwave from the speaker from interfering with the wave coming from the front of the speaker, because if the two meet, they cancel out. You can deal with the backwave either by (1) sending it somewhere else by mounting a speaker in a wall or ceiling (the 1950s home stereo solution); (2) inverting it and using it to reinforce the front wave (tuned port, passive radiator, undamped transmission line) or turning it into heat (sealed box, damped transmission line)

    What EA does, mostly, is turn that backwave into heat by absorbing it in a folded path stuffed with a dense material that absorbs sound energy.

    Normally this is a relatively inefficient way to reproduce sound. EA makes up for the inefficiency of the cabinet at low frequencies through the use of massive magnets that increase the sensitivity of the woofer. It's an interesting approach... and it works very well.
     
  20. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    mje - can you recommend any good books on this subject?

    I've always been an acoustics junkie, but I've never been able to find much on modern cabinet and amp design.