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Post new topic Do I want a 15" speaker for nonpedal?
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Author Topic:  Do I want a 15" speaker for nonpedal?
Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 24 Aug 2019 10:40 am    
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OK, while technically I have a Fender 400, I'm principally a non-pedal player. Stuff I play falls mainly into the styles of Jules Ah See, Barney Isaacs, Andy Iona, and jazz standards (but mostly melodic, not the funky cool chordal stuff some of y'all are doing). I play 8 string, mostly Stringmaster, Magnatone, and a Clinesmith frypan.

One of the things I love is with my main tunings (C13 with a low .070 C and B11 with a similar low B), with the right rig I get a nice full deep tone from those low strings (I have to use them somewhat judiciously and not overuse the effect). It has a very Hawaii Calls sound, which, no surprise, I love.

Now my amp situation is this...I generally run into a 5 watt cheap Bugera dialed dark (basically an EL84 pushing a small 8" speaker), and sometimes when I want more volume or fullness, I'll biamp with my GenzBenz bass amp (150watts into a neodymium 10"), and that gives you the nice tone of the amp with a touch of reverb but fills out the low end. It's kind of a silly rig but it works for low level volumes I usually play at, and it's what I had on hand when I started this hobby. I also have a 30 watt Crate Vintage Club (poor man's AC30) but I've found I don't love its tone, just a bit brighter than I prefer, with a high noise floor.

So my question is this, when/if I get a new amp, since so many steel guitarists swear by 15" speakers, should I be looking into that? EG Quilter Steelaire, or other such rigs. Seems like that would kick out a whole lotta bass depth from the bass strings which I would love. I've gathered generally that the 15" speakers are more sought after by country or pedal players, and lap steel / Hawaiian players tend to be more all over the map on amplification. Anybody playing similar styles and would offer recommendations?
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 24 Aug 2019 12:01 pm    
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In my opinion, it all depends on how loud you need to be, and your budget.

Seems to me you're chasing a vintage sound with vintage instruments -- or in the case of your Clinesmith (lucky guy) a modern replica -- using relatively modern amps.

Among the most popular amps for steel players back in the day were tube amps with tube rectifiers and often times 15" speakers, ala vintage Fender Pros and Bassmans, etc. When the Bassman switched to four tens, steelers hit the jackpot. (And so did most everyone else, with the exception of -- ironically -- bass players.) So speaker size is only part of the equation.

Vintage tube amps, as wonderful as they are, are often costly to purchase and costly to maintain. There are dozens of builders who specialize in boutique amps based on the classic circuits. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

If you opt to purchase a new 15" speaker, keep in mind it will take some time to break it in. I'd advise keeping an eye on the ads here, and trying to obtain a speaker that's been used but not abused. That's what I did with the BW 1501-4 I installed in my old PV LTD 400 (after the factory JBL blew), and I could hardly be happier with its sound.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 24 Aug 2019 10:43 pm    
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In my opinion you do not need a 15” speaker. The speaker size doesn’t have much to do frequency range anymore. Try some different amps out that are in your budget and buy the one that makes you happy when you play through it. Don’t worry about it being a steel amp or bass amp or any of that.
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Jeremy DeHart


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 25 Aug 2019 6:34 am    
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Hey Nic neat thread here. Seems like you and I are similar in our tunings/guitars and preferences. I play a single neck stringmaster and I’ve been messing with a lot of different amps. I love the sound and idea of the 6- string C6 through a small magnatone with a 10” speaker. It’s so compact and sweet. However with my C13 stringmaster I want something bigger and I come from the Surf Music genre to this endeavor so I have many amps/Speaker Cabs in this regard. I was about to switch out my Dual Showman and 2x15” cab to a single 15” cab with a tonering (made famous by Dick Dale). I’m going to start experimenting with this soon and I’ll definitely share my results. I had also heard a single 15” is the way to go, but I’m also a huge JB fan and he said a 2x12” combo fender twin with the treble on 0 is the way to go. Let’s experiment!
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 25 Aug 2019 6:59 am    
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I would say no. It is overkill and not practical sonically. 2x10 or 2x12 is a much better choice. I say this from experience; I used a 15” Altec and D130F for more than a year.
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Jim Newberry


From:
Seattle, Upper Left America
Post  Posted 25 Aug 2019 7:35 am    
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I built a 2x10 Fender tweed Super and have configured the chassis to be able to put in a 1x15 Pro cabinet. I used it as a Pro for some time, trying out 3 different speakers, then back to the 2x10 configuration. I have a problem with the 15” speakers being beamy (the trebles very aggressively beaming from the middle of the speaker) and the 2x10 configuration gives a more 3D swirl. Both setups work for the low E on an E13th tuning just fine. I don’t have a clear favorite. At home, 1x8, 1x10 vintage lap steel amps... 1x12s... So, do you “need” a 15 for your frequency range? I’d say no, but you might like it. How’s that for some clear advice?
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 25 Aug 2019 8:27 am    
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Good advice so far. It's one of those things where I should just go try amps out, but the average shop is not likely to have steel-focused amps (like the Peaveys, Quilters, Fender twin custom 15, etc).

One of the things I know from my current rig...I'm not liable to need high wattage, I'm playing with at most a (quiet overall) jazz guitarist through a Fender Blues Jr, an upright bassist, occasional a vocalist...not playing against electric bass and drumset, so volume is pretty reasonable. Also, given that my dual amp setup right now has a mere 10" speaker in the bass amp, I obviously can get a decent bit of low end from a smaller speaker anyway.

"Don’t worry about it being a steel amp or bass amp or any of that."

Haha, I have had a few experiences recently with what are otherwise considered bottom of the barrel amps, just using them because they were at hand...a 15 watt Crate keyboard practice amp and a Rogue 50 watt solidstate bass amp....with my Clinesmith, I actually ended up thinking, this sounds better than it has a right to! Smile
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Steve Lipsey


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 25 Aug 2019 9:26 am    
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Dave Beaty at Telonics told me that for his NEO speakers, a 12" was fine for E9 pedal steel, but C6 would benefit from the 15"...so there is a difference way down low....at least for that line of speakers. So your low tuning might want a big speaker, depending on the specific speaker, maybe...

I've been using a Jupiter 12" ceramic 50watt model with my The Amp Milkman for lap steel...Jupiters are amazing (Tim at Milkman told me it is what he uses). Ive had Milkman amps with both 12" and 15" NEO speakers (pre-Telonics) for E9 pedal steel, and there wasn't any difference I could hear.

Conventional wisdom says that the larger the speaker (for similar designs?), the narrower the projected sound beam....
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Steven Paris


From:
Los Angeles
Post  Posted 25 Aug 2019 10:49 am    
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"Do I want a 15" speaker for nonpedal?"
Yes. The 15" JBL D-130F is the undisputed KING of all guitar speakers.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2019 5:23 am     Re: Do I want a 15
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Nic Neufeld wrote:

I generally run into a 5 watt cheap Bugera dialed dark (basically an EL84 pushing a small 8" speaker),

I also have a 30 watt Crate Vintage Club (poor man's AC30) but I've found I don't love its tone,


One suggestion would be to try out amps that are NOT EL84's which I like MUCH less than the typical "Fender" tubes like 6L6 and 6V6's.

EL84's just never have the "right" tone for the musical styles I like, including the Hawaiian stylists you mention.

I agree with those that suggest using a 15" speaker for that really fat bottom on your low strings; however, part of the sound you want may be the Fender tube sound, be it real tubes or modeling.


Last edited by David M Brown on 27 Aug 2019 9:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Yeago


From:
Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2019 5:53 am    
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Michael Lewis had a wonderful old school guitar store here in the 1980's for a number of years. Besides being a fine guitarist, he got the pedal steel bug and became a good player before going to work for Fender. They made him a VP and was the driving force behind their steel amp, numerous other guitars and amps, Gretsch, and so on.

i recall a conversation with him about steel amps and he very much preferred the 15" speaker, which didn't lack anything on the highs, either.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2019 10:33 am     Re: Do I want a 15
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David M Brown wrote:
One suggestion would be to try out amps that are NOT EL84's which I like MUCH less than the typical "Fender" tubes like 6L6 and 6V6's.

EL84's just never have the "right" tone for the musical styles I like, including the Hawaiian stylists you mention.

I have a Crate VC-5o8, which is also EL84-powered, and it sounds harsh and nasty to my ears for lap steel. (It's the second-best harp amp I've ever played, however.) I also have a couple EL84-powered Pro Juniors, that to my ears make decent lap steel amps. Perhaps my favorite small amp for lap steel is the Musicmaster Bass amp, which has 6V6s. The common feature among the Crate and the two Fenders is they all have only a single tone control, which is a feature I favor on a smallish lap steel amp. Stacking tone controls on a low-wattage tube amp is a noticeable (to me, at least) tone-suck.
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Steve Lipsey


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2019 11:38 am    
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The Matchless amps I used to play are EL-84-based and sound like angels singing, no matter what you played through them (DC-30 and Lightning)...I only switched because they seemed to get a lot heavier over the years...but that also is a whole different level of cost...
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