When searching for great 2 x 12 guitar cabinets, you should look out for a few things. We go into these criteria in the latter half of the article, but since folks are busy, we’ll first show you our recommendations for the best 2×12 guitar cabinets on the market:
One of the best-valued cabinets you can get from Marshall is the MX212, which delivers the brand’s hallmark high quality at a about half the price of the Orange model shown above. The solid MDF construction doesn’t sacrifice on either durability or aesthetics, and the cab features the distinctive styling that Marshall is known for. Of course, the most important thing about the cabinet is the sound, and the MX212 delivers on that front, as well. The tone is solid and clear with no added noise or distortion and gives you the big, full Marshall Tone the brand is known for.
Crafted from 13-ply high-density birch, the PPC212 is built with the same care and attention Orange pays to all its amplifiers and cabinets. The rugged construction makes sure this cabinet will last you throughout decades of shows. The unique design features of this cabinet (see full specs) go all the way down to the feet. Their skid design makes a better acoustic connection with the stage than most cabinets, which will give you a more focused bass and better definition in the mids and trebles. The 120 watt RMS will power pretty much any speaker you want to put into it, although once you hear the pair of Celestion Vintage 30s that come installed, you’ll likely find the sound needs no upgrades.
Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 212
Designed to complement the TubeMeister line of amplifier heads, the 212 closed-back cabinet (see full specs) is perfect for anybody who wants an aggressive sound with a punchy, powerful low end. Not only does it have a huge sound on its own, but the parallel output means it can be easily linked up with a second cabinet for even more sound production and tone coloration. It’s lightweight enough to make transportation easy without sacrificing anything in the way of durability. Once you hear the full tone this cabinet can put out, you’ll be amazed it’s not a 4X12. Using the TubeMeister means you’ll get the same oomph as you would from those larger models without having to lug around the extra bulk. Hands down, this is one of the best 2×12 guitar cabinets.
You can still get a high-quality and durable guitar cabinet for less than $200 with Bugera’s 212V model. It’s got attractive vintage styling and a detail-oriented design that cuts down on resonance and vibration from your low end, making sure the pure sound of your instrument is all the audience hears. It can be configured in either mono or stereo, making it compatible with both 8- and 16-ohm equipment, and it’s got the versatility in design to be matched with any amp head and speaker combination to give you complete control over your tone. If you’re on a budget, this is likely the best 2×12 guitar cabinet for the money.
What to Look for When Buying 2×12 Guitar Cabinets
The sound of a particular extension cabinet is a combination of many factors, from the arrangement of the interior space to the materials used in the construction. The resonance of sound inside the cabinet will color your tone.
Solid wood resonates the best and will give you the richest and most musical tone, though high-quality MDF can also yield excellent tonal quality. Durability is also a major consideration—a cabinet’s no good to you if you can’t count on it to play when you’re at a gig. Since manufacturers often design extension cabinets with a specific amp from their line in mind, choosing a cab from the same brand can be an easy way to find a cab that complements your amp’s sound.
While the speakers in the cab are an important part of the overall sound production, they’re easy relatively inexpensive to upgrade if you love the feel and look of a given cabinet but aren’t completely sold on the tone.
Open vs. Closed Back Cabinets
One characteristic that has a large impact on a cabinet’s overall sound is whether it has an open or closed back. Open-backed cabinets produce a fuller sound with a broader dispersion range. Closed-back models, like the TubeMeister listed above, produce a more focused tone with less boom in the bass and clearer attacks throughout the frequency range. Which design is best for you will largely depend on what you intend to use it for.
Closed-back cabinets project the sound in a single direction, making it easier to isolate on a single mic. This can make it more convenient in a recording studio. Open-backed cabinets, on the other hand, can play the room more, especially if you play a lot of smaller venues with limited PA systems. Keep these ideas in mind when looking for the best 2×12 guitar cabinets, and you’ll be all right.
The resistance of the circuits within your speaker cabinet, measured in ohms, is the most important of the technical statistics you should look at when shopping for a new cab if you’re buying it to match with a specific head or speakers. A cabinet with a higher impedance than the amp will make the entire system inefficient and reduce the overall volume and power output.
On the other end of things, a cabinet with an impedance that’s too low will cause your amp to overheat, which can blow out the tubes in a tube amplifier or even melt the interior of a solid state model. Most solid state amps will be stable anywhere between 4 and 16 ohms, making them compatible with the vast majority of cabinets on the market. Tube amplifiers tend to have a more limited resistance range, though they may have an ohm selector switch that lets you adjust the load to match your cabinet.
If you’re using multiple cabinets, you need to match all your cabs as a unit to the impedance of your amplifier if you’re connecting them in a parallel series. You’ll have the most success matching the impedance of your cabinets. Using a 4-ohm and an 8-ohm cab together is theoretically possible but will ultimately be less efficient, especially if you’re using a solid-state amp that’s designed to match the impedance of the cab—running to two different resistance loads at the same time will make the power draw unevenly, potentially causing damage to either your speakers or your amp head.
To figure out the total impedance of two speaker cabinets, divide the stated impedance in half. Two 4-ohm cabinets will give you a 2-ohm load when run in parallel. This may seem counter-intuitive, but remember that this is a measure of resistance, not power; multiple places to send the signal will mean more options for where that power can go and less push-back against the amp’s circuitry.