Creators of guitar cabinets are constantly working to find the perfect balance of sound and convenience. This is in no way more evident than the world of 1X12 cabinets, which are the smallest and lightest speaker cabs, and can be incredibly convenient for a gigging musician. Most guitarists spend a lot less time thinking about their speaker cabinet than they do about their amp or pedals, but the truth is the materials used in the construction of the cabinet and baffle and the shape of the interior space will have a large impact on your overall sound profile.
Just like anything else you’re plugging your guitar into, the way the cabinet resonates will shape how the soundwaves reach the audience, and it’s important to pick a cabinet that will do your tone justice. Whatever your price range, try one of the speaker cabinets below if you’re looking for big sound in a compact package. These are the best 1×12 guitar cabinets on the market.
This closed-back speaker cabinet has a 16-ohm impedance and comes with a Celestion Vintage 30 speaker. The solid birch construction is durable enough to survive rough gigs and bumpy rides, and it’s got a powerful output for a 1X12 cabinet. The vintage look and distinctive orange covering mean it looks as good as it sounds. The cabinet is also extremely versatile and a great cab for guitarists who play in a wide range of styles. At high gain settings it’s perfect for metal and punk, but it also plays beautifully clean, with punchy, accentuated mids and lows and clear, ringing highs. This should be on anyone’s list of the best 1×12 guitar speaker cabinets.
Diamond Amplification DVAN112 Vanguard
The Vanguard 1X12 uses the same high-quality speakers and construction that are in the line’s 4X12—in a smaller, more convenient cabinet. In terms of specs, the cabinet (see full specs) has got a closed back and is powered by a 16-ohm Celestion V-Type speaker. Hand crafted from 11-ply birch with a black grille cloth, it’s got a clean and sophisticated look, and its lightweight design makes it easy to transport. Designed for maximum response and efficiency, the Celestion speakers have a smooth sound that emphasizes lower frequencies, producing a well-rounded and powerful tone that doesn’t distort at high volumes.
Vox Night Train V112N
At under $250, the Night Train is an incredible value. The open back design paired with the 12” Greenback speaker gives your sound a broad attack in the mid range, and it’s great for chords and lead playing, with a clear sound and a nice overdrive. Vox had gigging musicians in mind when it designed the cabinet. It weighs less than 25 pounds, has a sturdy and convenient handle on the top, and it looks great on stage, with sleek rounded edges and white trim around the attractive diamond-patterned front. If you like pretty, this is among the best 1×12 guitar cabinets period.
Kustom The Defender
If your budget is a serious factor, consider the Defender, a powerful cab that will set you back less than $100. It’s got a solid construction of MDF with a plywood baffle and an open back. Aesthetically, it’s utilitarian. Sonically, this cab gets great response in the low end and compliments it with smooth highs. The 12” speaker doesn’t add a whole lot to your sound, but it’s got some range and handles overdrive fairly well. At 16 ohms impedance and 30 watts RMS, it’s got the specs to work nicely with the majority of amps. If you’re short on cash, this is likely the best 1×12 guitar cabinet.
Open versus Closed Back
There are two predominant designs in speaker cabinets. The closed back models—like the Orange and the Vanguard above—have a completely covered back. These cabinets tend to have a tight sound with sharper attacks that’s especially focused in the low end. Open-backed cabinets are not completely open—usually only ½ to 1/3 of the actual back is exposed, but it’s enough to let the sound escape from both sides of the cab. This means an open-backed cabinet has a looser tone and increased sonic envelope.
There are proponents of both open and closed back cabs. Since a closed-back cabinet projects sound in a single direction, it’s easier to capture with just one or two mics, and a closed-back is probably best if you’re doing a lot of studio work. An open back, on the other hand, has a fuller, more three-dimensional sound and does great in small venues where the monitors and speakers are limited.
Picking the Right Cabinet for You
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of playing on a cabinet with your equipment before making a decision on which one’s right for you. If you can, get into a local music store and play around with the cabinets they have. If they don’t have the particular model, look for something from the same brand to give you an idea of how it plays with your amp. Most brands that make speaker cabinets also make amps, and frequently release them as parts of the same series; if you already have a Vanguard amp, for example, you can be pretty sure it’ll sound great with a Vanguard cabinet without hearing it first.
Even if you don’t have a chance to feel out if the cabinet works sonically with your set-up, it’s imperative to make sure they’ll physically work together. Impedance is rarely an issue, as most cabinets have outputs for both 8- and 16-ohms, but check out the RMS wattage and make sure it’s compatible with your current equipment.
Customizing Your Cabinet
Since there’s only one speaker inside, the best 1X12 cabinets are especially easy to customize. This can be a great option if you love the look, feel, or convenience of the cabinet but want to get a different sound out of it. Frequency response is the most important factor in the sound character of a new speaker—look for a range of 80Hz-6000Hz. In terms of power, you want to run by a formula of at least 100 watts RMS (continuous) speaker handling for every 100 watts of amp power. Beyond that, it’s finding the right speaker to fit your sound. If you want lots of volume and power, look for a speaker with a good sensitivity rating. Anything over 96 is generally good. The construction of the cone and magnet will also factor into the sound, and with enough fiddling you’ll definitely find a perfect fit for you. Good luck!