Vaughn's Musical Notation

Announcing the Long Awaited Ten-Inch Green Beret!

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Wooo-hooo!  What an awesome day to be alive and playing electric guitar!  Yep … it’s happened again; that’s exactly how I began my LAST blog.  Guess what?  Yep, we’re announcing ANOTHER new (and massively requested) speaker: The first of our “British” 10’s, the 10” Green Beret.  Yea, great day, huh?

By the time you read this, the new Green Beret 10 should either be available … or will be within days.  For quite some time now folks have been clamoring for a Britt voiced ten that actually sounds as totally kickin’ as the Green Beret, well wait

Announcing the WGS12L!

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

Wooo-hooo!  What an awesome day to be alive and playing electric guitar!WGS 12L WGS12L

I’m so jazzed to announce the formal release of a speaker that has been in the rumor-mill for quite some time: The WGS12L. 

Yes, this is the WGS take on the fabled Electro-Voice WEVM12L.  Rreleased way back in 1973, this was the speaker that allowed folks like Randall Smith to build amps like his Mesa-Boogie 1x12 100-watt combos.  Before this time, that amount of power was strictly the domain of multi-speaker rigs. In its day, the EVM12L was a real game-changer.  The 12L was a direct descendant of speakers designed for high-power PA use, but it was re-engineered to sound good as a guitar speaker while retaining its extraordinary (for the time) power handling ability.  I’ve called Tennessee home for for nearly the last 30 years, and I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the EVM12L because it was made exclusively at the E-V plant in Newport, Tennessee from its inception in 1973 until that plant was closed in 2002.  Yea, that was a sad day; and it could be argued that the EVM12L (and its big sister the 15L) have never been quite the same since.  This may be a small part of the impetus behind the development of the WGS12L.

To this day, some contend that no one has ever made a guitar speaker capable of over 100-watts RMS that can hold a candle to the tone of the EVM12L.  That may have been true YESTERDAY, but not TODAY!  Enter the WGS12L.  The WGS12L can compete head-to-head against an authentic Newport, TN made EVM12L on any possible level, and boy-howdy is the WGS12L a looker!  Sporting a hammered black & silver powder coat finish on its massive frame, this speaker is one serious sight to behold.  Like the E-V, the WGS12L is massive, but it’s also GORGEOUS at the same time; no one’s ever said that about an EVM12L.

So, how does this bad-girl sound?  Well … it just so happens I’ve got a video to answer that question!  You all saw that one coming, didn’t you?  I’ll give you a quick summary:  clean, they almost can’t be told apart … they’re THAT close; dirty they start to sound just a LITTLE different … with the WGS12L having just a SLIGHT bit more upper “edge” than the EVM.  But shoot … y’all take a listen & let me know what YOU think.  Keep in mind that the WGS12L is straight out of the box with zero break-in time.

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Music, Moving Backwards?

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Average: 5 (4 votes)

Vaughn Skow Roots Guitar Player

Okay friends, I’ve gotta let y’all in on a closely kept secret … even though I still look 19 ;-) … I’m a bit of an old-timer in the music biz.  I began performing at age 13 in the late 1970s, playing through a brown Fender Deluxe and singing through a Shure Vocal-Master PA with two big, tall, skinny speakers out front, and no monitors what so ever.  For the youngins reading this with astonishment, what follows is sure to be on the verge of simply un-believable … but I promise, every word is TRUE!  Our drummer played a 100% acoustic and un-miced drum set; our keyboard player played a Fender Rhodes and a Roland SH-1 synth through his Fender Twin-Reverb, and our bass player actually played through … get this, a bass amp!

And my God, it was awesome.  Fun!  Yea.  Nothing in the world is quite as great as playing with other like-minded musicians.  The true awesome beauty of all of you together compressing & refracting air molecules through time & space to create one coordinated amazing localized atmospheric disturbance … man, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

So, why this particular trip down memory lane?  Let’s talk about that.  It all started when I CUT CABLE TV and started watching everything either “over the air” or via Roku & Apple TV boxes or directly on iPads & iPhones.  Not following me, are you?  How could a switch to MODERN technology bring out nostalgia for vintage technology?  Simple answer: Heartland TV.  For the long answer, keep reading! (Warning: this is looking like an epic-length blog … but man, it’s INSPIRED … so it will be worth your investment in time.)

Merle Haggard with Telecaster

This morning I turned on the television and did what we all used to do in the good-old days, started scanning through channels.  I hit the Heartland TV network and a classic 1970’s performance by Merle Haggard (Playing his Tele through a silver-face Deluxe Reverb) and that’s when the channel surfing abruptly stopped.  Holy Crap.  He was good. REALLY good.  Then came a pre-facial hair Waylon Jennings (complete with leather-clad Tele through a black-face Twin Reverb), and then a 1980’s performance by the Charlie Daniels Band exploded my musical world for the first time in years.  

Vintage Charlie Daniels Band Live

That’s when it hit me:  I’d been horrifically musically “dumbed-down” by the decades of technology I’ve survived.  My God, first we were taught that digital is superior to analogue technology, then we were taught that many tracks of highly effected digital sound was preferable to a few actual instruments played by inspired musicians.  And where are we today?  Yea, seriously, let’s talk about THAT.

Today one person (who probably isn’t even a decent musician) sitting at a computer often produces entire hit songs, without so much as a single musician or a single musical instrument actually disturbing so much as a single air molecule.  Bad as it can get?  Nope, then the worst of all possible musical atrocities begins: the vocals.  Usher in the super-cute little boy or girl to caterwaul their way through a poorly written piece of electro-dance pop poop.  And we all know, it doesn’t matter how they actually SING, cuz that all gets cut-n-spliced, tuned and quantized, and effected even to the point of “throat modeling” to make little junior sound like they’ve actually got some pipes.  Wow, so is the carnage finally over?  Is it safe for me to look now?   Nope, better shade those eyes (& ears) a little longer, cuz we’re about to hit mixing & mastering … also known as the hunt to identify and eliminate any hint of musicality that may be found clinging to life.

Ever since the release of the first look-ahead digital limiter capable of “brick” waveform limiting, mastering has kind of resembled mountain-top removal mining.  It goes like this: find the dynamics and remove them, then make every single split-second of “music” as loud as possible … in other words, find all the zeroes and turn them into ones.  Now, the carnage is complete.  The only thing left is to have a small posse of beautiful boys & girls in their underwear pretend to “perform” the “song” on video while having sex.

Now, let’s turn our attention to LIVE music.

Today, we, as guitar players are blessed with the greatest sounding and most diverse collection of guitar amps ever available.  Not only have nearly all the wonderful tweed, brown, black, & silver amps of the 50s, 60s & 70s survived to continue beautifully singing, but a new crop of true tone craftsmen are producing the finest sounding amps ever to put air in motion.   It SHOULD be the best time EVER for guitar players, but that’s often not the case.  Why?  IN-EAR MONITORING, and “playing direct”.  Why on earth has this draconian practice of the 1990’s survived?  Why on earth, in the day and age of low-watt boutique tube amps that can sound rich, juicy, and downright HUGE … even at whisper-soft volumes … are there supposed “audio engineers” out there insisting that guitar players play “direct”?  Here is my theory, and since I’m as much an audio engineer as I am a guitar player, I think it’s a fair assessment.  It’s because too many engineers either 1. Don’t know the first thing about playing guitar (or maybe ANY instrument) and/or 2. They’ve been burned by some idiot guitar thug who legitimately played too darn loud.  What are we guitarists to do?  First, gently educate the misinformed wherever and whenever possible, and second, don’t be “that idiot” who when given the chance to play through a good-old amp chooses to play TOO DARN LOUD!

Now, if we could just free those poor drummers from the Plexiglass cages imposed upon them by equally miss-informed or inept soundmen!  Next would come the return of the floor-monitor.  I mean seriously, singers, have you ever HEARD yourself sing through the best-in-class wedges made by companies like Meyer Sound?  It will make you pull out your $800 custom-molded in-ears, douse them in gasoline and light those puppies up!

Of course, none of this matters until we start to fire the computers from their currently held positions as Drummers, bassists, singers, keyboardists, and of course guitarists. 

For over a decade now the MTV networks (which for those of you who don’t know, includes Country Music TV) have attempted to musically lobotomize the human inhabitants of planet earth.  In the late 90’s and into the beginning of the current millennium it appeared as though their evil agenda would be utterly and completely implemented.  However, a few real hard-core musicians and music fans survived to completely resist the re-programing.  So there IS hope, and WE must join the ranks of those who choose to be part of the cure, not just those who perpetuate the cancerous plague.

Join with folks like T-Bone Burnett and Jack White in the HUGE Roots Music Revival.  In so doing, you will be in VERY good company, and, I believe, you will be at the forefront of the musical revolution that is just gaining critical mass.  Guitar players (& bass players), start moving air molecules again through exceptional sounding amplifiers … darn it, think TONE.  Singers: take those damn pieces of crap out of your ears, turn the computer off, and learn how to sing … better yet, learn how to ENTERTAIN!  Drummers, blow the dust off of that real live kit, educate yourself in how to tune it properly, and learn how to control your own volume … and when they come at you with that plexiglass cage, send ‘em packing!  And engineers, stop acting like it’s still 1999 and MTV still owns the minds of everyone in the western world.

T-Bone Burnett ROCKS!

T-Bone Rocks The Grammy's with Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

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The Difference the CABINET Can Make in Your Guitar Rig

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Average: 5 (3 votes)

Hi friendly friends!  This blog could, to a certain extent, be considered a sequel to my blog entitled “The Difference A Speaker Can Make in Your Amp” from a year or so back; you might want to go back & read that one to get up to speed.

This story has, I believe, a VERY happy ending … and I don’t know about you, but I LOVE happy endings!  So as a quick recap, in part one of our little saga, dude is seriously bummed when he gets together with his old bandmates with his new Egnater tube head & Bugera 2x12 cab … only to get smoked by the other guitar player’s little Peavey open-back combo.  The problem wasn’t the Egnater, it was that little closed-back Bugera cab … loaded with VERY inefficient speakers!  The solution: a REAL cabinet with REAL speakers, of course!  So, let’s pick up the story as “dude” is preparing for another reunion gig.  He’s learned his lesson, and and if anyone is to get blown off the stage … dude’s gonna be the one to do the blowin’!  Here is the conversation we had via Facebook messages:


“Dude”: I've read a bunch of your blogs and really enjoy them, even of I'm the "target". So, my question to you is this- I bought an Avatar traditional 212 cabinet with a couple Celestions. I am going to play with the same band, same guy with the loud Peavey amp, in a couple of weeks. This time we are playing in a smaller venue. Actually it's about a 175 seating bar/restaurant. I still have the Egnater 40 head and the 88 head. The Avatar traditional cabinet has a removable panel on the back to make it a partial open back cab if desired. The Celestions are 1- Vintage 30 and 1- Cream 65. In order to "keep up" with the other guy would I be better off keeping the cabinet closed or opening it up by taking the panel off and which head would be better to use in a room that size? I really trust your opinion and respect your knowledge on this stuff. Your help would be greatly appreciated! Sincerely, the "dude"

Me:  Dude, definitely take the back panel off, I have that same cab & always run it 1/3 open!  As far as which head to use ... it's fairly common knowledge that a 100-watt Marshall is only about 3dB louder than a 50-watt ... same goes for a 85-watt Twin vs a 40-watt Super Reverb. So ... I'd choose whichever one you like the tone of best! 

“Dude”: You are the man! Thanks Vaughn! I took panel off the partial panel off the back of the cabinet like you suggested, went to Virginia and did the show, and smoked the other guy. It made all the difference in the world. Thanks for the advice!

So, there you have it!  Now, of course I could have lectured dude on the better value & quality of WGS speakers … but hey, one lesson at a time, right?  And, the HUGE (!!) lesson here is this:

THE SPEAKER & CABINET REALLY, REALLY, REALLY MATTER! 

Like I always say, change your strings & get a very slight difference in tone, change your tubes and get a very slight difference in tone … but change your SPEAKER and you’ll get an entirely different rig altogether.  Seriously.Bugera 2-12 Cabinet vs Avatar 2x12

A Picture of the Avatar 2x12 cab next to the Little Bugera Cabinet that started this whole adventure.  What you can’t see is the Avatar’s 1/3-open back vs the Bugera’s closed-back.  What you CAN see is how much larger the Avatar is … and, sorry guys, but in speaker cabs, bigger is almost always better!

So, thanks “Dude” for once again giving me a cool blog topic!  Along this same vein, I also got a super-duper blog idea posed to me as a question on my YouTube channel:

Hey mate, There's this big discussion on the internet saying that a 5w valve amp is just as loud as a 50w valve amp and what determines how loud an amp is are the speakers and the cabinet size. Could you please post a video demoing different wattage amps through different speaker/cabinet configuration and show whether or not this statement is true?
BTW, I really like your videos.
Cheers
!”

Yes!  What a cool idea!  Definitely putting that one in the “as soon as possible” category.  It’ll be great, I promise!

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WGS Blackhawk HP vs ET-90

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

Hi-diddly-ho above-average tone seekers!  Today I make good on a promise I made over on the Q&A forum … I was asked to do a shootout between the WGS big-dog Alnico Blackhawk HP and the Ceramic ET-90.  Wow!  What a cool idea.  In essence the idea is this:  “Hey they are both big juicy warm speakers that can handle big-wattage tube amps … so, what can I expect to gain with a couple hundred dollars’ worth of highly sought-after Alnico?  Good Question!  So good that the idea just hit me … I need to make my next blog a detailed expose’ on the merits of Alnico vs Ceramic vs Neodymium.   Yea!  That’ll be next; I promise.  But for now…

I won’t waste a bunch of time telling you how I personally felt about the results … well … just a LITTLE time :-)

The Alnico Blackhawk HP did that magical thing that Alnico does … makes the top end both very present & very smooth all at the same time.  Generally you get one or the other, with Alnico you get both! 

The ceramic ET90 has a bit more upper-midrange presence … but doesn’t have as much silky-smooth top-end chime.

Personally, I’d probably choose the Blackhawk HP over the ET-90 (if money were no issue) for everything except maybe full-on high-gain use.  But that’s just me … what y’all think?  Post your thoughts here, I’d love to hear some other takes on this shootout.  Now ... roll the Video!

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Warehouse Guitar Speakers Moving Forward – To Infinity and Beyond!

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

WGS has been a secret weapon in the arsenal of many top-shelf boutique amp builders and in-the-know amp gurus for quite some time now.  The WGS “family” has always been a fairly tightly knit fabric composed of like-minded tone aficionados who run the gambit from players to record producers and engineers to manufacturers.  Now, it seems as though the WGS secret is out.  Warehouse Guitar Speakers, once solely available “factory direct” (or as the stock speaker in a boutique amp), are now available to mere mortals through big-name retailers like Musicians Friend and Guitar Center.  So, what does this mean?  How will this effect quality control, customer service, and American production?  Let’s talk about that.

The short answer is that nothing will change.  Believe me when I say that all of us at WGS would just plain shut down production before we allowed ANY aspect of the most highly regarded guitar speaker company in the world to slip even the slightest bit.  WGS is still a premium boutique speaker builder, and highly skilled craftsmen are still building our speakers by hand in Paducah, Kentucky.  There are simply more people building more speakers.

Now, for the more elaborate answer … for those of you who have an interest in elaboration.  If you are truly a WGS type, you’ll probably be interested, since we are, by nature, folks who devour any and all details of a subject in which we are interested.  We make the FBI, CIA, & CSI seem like amateur investigators.  So here goes.

WGS is built on the firmest of foundations in many ways.  WGS can trace her linage quite directly back to the glory days of CTS manufacturing of guitar speakers in Paducah.  WGS has folks onboard who know how to design and manufacture the world’s finest guitar speakers, but that’s nowhere near the limit of our combined knowledge; WGS also has folks with intimate knowledge and experience in the art of maintaining the highest quality standards even in the face of huge production runs.

WGS is also fortunate to have plenty of available space, and access to the world’s finest work force.  Additional space and trained workers are easily added on an as-needed basis.  And last, yes there have been some significant changes in a few areas of the plant.  A beyond state of the art “paint-booth” now exists in addition to the original booth where David, WGS founder & President labored many late nights to come up with the just-right new powder-coat concoction for a new model.   A jaw-dropping new metal & milling shop now exists side-by-side with original 1950’s CTS equipment.  The system for filling orders and shipping them is significantly more robust than it was even just a year ago.  In short, there are more people making more speakers on more equipment, but they are still conceived and designed by the same devout team, and they are still made in exactly the same way:  One at a time, by hand, by people who care in Paducah Kentucky.

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ET65 vs ET90 Is There a New King?

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

Holy cow has this one been coming for a LONG TIME!  Yep, that’s EXACTLY the opening sentence from my last blog (Blackhawk vs Blackhawk HP) … but, well, it rings just as true.  The ET65 has been a favorite of mine since day one, and it’s new big-brother the ET90 has also really caught my attention, so I’m not quite sure how it is that this particular shootout slipped by me, but it did.  Sure, I’d done some side-by-side listening myself, but just never got around to filming it for public consumption.  Until now!  It’s a done deal, and here it is.

SPOILER ALERT!  If you don’t want to know the results then stop reading now and play the video.  If you want the short-n-sweet version of the results, here it is:

Tone: The ET65 had a fair amount more lower midrange warmth in the 200-600hz range, and more of a vintage organic tone.  The ET90 had a bit more of a modern tone, more filled out on top & bottom.  This remained quite consistent with all levels of dirt and with all pickup settings.

Volume:  Not much apparent difference even with various amounts of dirt.

Touch Sensitivity: Again, pretty much the same.

Okay, that’s it, here’s the video … please post your comments, this one was a close one for me!

 

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Blackhawk vs Blackhawk HP – High Power AlNiCo Guitar Speaker Shoot-out!

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Average: 5 (3 votes)

Holy cow has this one been coming for a LONG TIME!  Truth is, I haven’t had a Blackhawk HP available for a shootout until now.  I’m not gonna waste your time with a bunch of talk; we’ll get right to the shootout video asap.  I will say this, the tone of the HP surprised me a little, as it was a fair bit brighter than the regular Blackhawk, and I usually expect high-power speakers to be somewhat dull.  The HP had more prominent upper-midrange in the 2-3kHz range, whereas the regular Blackhawk had more dominant lower-midrange in the 200-400Hz range.  As far as apparent overall volume (sens.), they were dead-on with one another. It is important to point out, however, that the HP model was fresh out of the box, and the regular model had probably 20+ hours of play time … so the HP model may “warm-up” a little with break-in.  Okay, that’s it, here’s the video … please post your comments! 

 

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The New Home Entertainment - Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

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Hi y’all!  This blog harkens back to the early days of this forum … when I pulled out my soapbox and blogged about whatever crossed my mind!  What’s been crossing my mind lately?  Television.

The New Home Entertainment -  Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

How many of you all out there hate your cable TV company?  Yea, that’s what I thought.  Holy crap, has there ever been such a MONOPOLY in American history?  Their service sucks, they keep raising rates, and man … even though you pay hundreds of bucks a month to them … you STILL have to sit through seemingly endless COMMERCIALS in your favorite shows, and receive the worst customer care in the world.  Worst part?  We’d all choose a different option … but there are no different options.  Comcast owns the cable to your house, and no one else can access it.  Sounds like “Ma Bell” before IT was broken up by our government as a monopoly … but Ma Bell was NEVER as bad as the cable companies.  Her rates didn’t go up practically every month, and her customer-service people were the best (remember “hello, operator speaking”?).  It seems inevitable that Comcast and the other cable monopolies will eventually be labeled as the monopolies they are and broken-up.  But what do we do until then?

My solution has two parts.

Part one: Get a nice, big antenna. 

CUT CABLE!! -  Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

Choose one according to where you live.  Folks in urban areas won’t need nearly as high-powered an antenna as those in rural areas.  To find out just EXACTLY what stations broadcast for FREE in your area (there are more than ever), go to http://www.tvfool.com/.  In the Nashville area, I get about 25 channels.  HD quality is actually BETTER than cable on most stations as they are not trying to cram so much crap down a single coax cable!  I bought my antenna from Crutchfield … the last great audio/video company with EXCELLENT customer service.  I put it in the attic right next to where our cable line entered the house, and simply plugged ITS output in where the cable was coming in, and now IT fed all our televisions.  Now we got all the “major” networks, PBS, and a host of indie networks, all complete with their extra digital streams, totally free.  Yep, we became cable cutters. Almost.

Part Two:  Roku, Apple TV, and Magic Jack.  This is where it kinda sucks … because you STILL need an internet connection.  In our case the only real option for internet with acceptable speed is … you guessed it … the cable company.  In my case, I chose Comcast “Business Class” internet, which has a whole different “team” than the regular home division.  Better reliability, better install folks, better customer service.

For my home business phone lines, I went with Magic Jacks … and they have both been rock solid for nearly two years now.  That’s phone service on two lines for $30 a YEAR!  For TV / video-on-demand, I tried every streaming box I could get my hands on, and for us the clear winner was the ROKU.  We now have three of them, one in my office, one in the bedroom, and one in the living room. 

CUT CABLE TV!-  Free yourself of the Cables that BIND you!

For $16/month (the cost of Netflix & Hulu), we now have EVERYTHING we could ever want, when combined with what we get for free over the air.  I might mention that we also have one Apple TV box, which works SOOO cool, but it doesn’t have nearly the channels as the Roku.

Okay, so let’s get to the best part: the savings breakdown:

With the cable company: TV (that got the channels I wanted), internet, and 2 phone lines was $225/month by the time they add the seemingly endless and very cryptic fees and taxes on.

Now, the same services cost $92/month ($70 for Biz Class internet, $8 for Hulu, $8 for Netflix, and about $6 for the magic Jacks … although I actually bought 5-years of service on them at once).

So what can I do with an extra $133 a month?  Buy guitar goodies, of course :-)

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Vaughn Skow Amps – Quest for the Ultimate Speaker

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Average: 5 (3 votes)

So this week finds me once again looking for YOUR advice!  I’m just now putting the finishing touches on the first “production-run” of ten of my Vaughn Skow amps.  Four of them will be 1x8 combos, and they will, of course, be outfitted with WGS G8C’s … there has NEVER been an 8” speaker that sounds this HUGE, juicy, and NOT BOXEY!  So, that’s an easy decision … but, what about in the 1x12 combos, where I have SO MANY choices?

First, it was an easy decision to go with WGS speakers exclusively (except for a possible true vintage speaker on special occasion); no other company even comes close!  American made speakers with impeccable tone at unbelievable prices!  But which specific models should I offer?

Because of my lengthy and thorough time spent with all the speakers … and in a great number of amps … I was able to narrow the field down to my perennial favorites in 1x12 tube combos.   

First, the Black & Blue, which seems like a perfect fit for a 15-watt combo.  But it’s not, really, because this combo has a lot of filtering and can easily push the B&B out of its comfort zone … so I’ll stick to only offering this in my 10-watt versions.

So, the logical choice is the Blackhawk!  My, oh my how I love this speaker in nearly all applications.  If only AlNiCo material were not so very expensive!  So, for ceramic (ferrite) options…

The ET-90: My new favorite all-around winner in the ceramic category … everything the ET-65 is, but with a little more … for lack of a better word, “balls”.

The G12C/S: This smooth-cone speaker brings out uber-warm smoky twee-tones in spades, but also has a very tight bottom end, and a silky (but somewhat muted) top end.

The Retro 30: A clear winner for having both Fender-ish top-end chime and a VERY solid bottom end!

So, this little video was really just for me … but boy, oh boy would I LOVE to hear you all’s thoughts.  So, please, comment away!  I’ll take it all into consideration, I promise :-)

 

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