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.
Fender Super Champ SC112
This cabinet is designed to pair perfectly with the Super Champ X2 head from the same brand, but you certainly won’t be limited to Fender equipment if you buy it. The included Celestion G12P-80 speaker brings a British flavor to the tone of this American-made cabinet. It has a smooth, modern sound when played clean but can deliver a classic rock growl when you push the gain. The closed-back construction helps to focus the tone, giving you a clearer, punchier articulation and more oomph in the low end. It has the power to function as your only speaker but also works beautifully as an extension cab, especially if paired with the warmth of an all-tube head. If you’re short on cash, this is likely the best 1×12 guitar cabinet.
This 80-watt extension cabinet is one of the most impressive 1X12” cabinets you’ll find for less than $200. The power of the sound is especially impressive given both the size and the price. This is mostly thanks to the included 12” Turbosound speaker, but the amp’s high sensitivity rating certainly helps, too, making sure the speaker delivers the most possible sound for the amount of power you give it. The sound is consistently high-quality with clean tones and high gain, and the construction is solid, meaning no rattling or other noises when you start to play hard. With all this power, it’s still incredibly convenient to transport, with a built-in handle to make it more comfortable to carry.
Seismic Audio 1X12” Guitar Speaker Cab
If you’ve already got some high-quality speakers and just want to upgrade the cabinet that’s housing them, you can get better materials for less money by buying an empty cabinet. This cabinet from Seismic Audio is a great choice if you want to go this route. It’s constructed of ½” birch plywood that’s well-braced for durability while still being lightweight enough to transport to gigs. Both the back panel and the front grille are removable, making it easy to load, wire, and adjust your speakers. The combination of the black Tolex cover and tan cloth grille give it a clean, vintage look that looks perfectly at home on the stage.
Open versus Closed Back
There are two predominant designs in speaker cabinets. The closed back models—like the Orange and the Bugera 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 Fender amp, for example, you can be pretty sure it’ll sound great with a Fender 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 1×12 guitar 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!