As guitarists, we spend a lot of time looking at amplifiers and researching them. Often times however, not enough emphasis is put on the choice of speaker cab. One important and common consideration are the differences between a 1×12 vs 2×12 guitar amp cabinet. Let’s take a look and dive in on what you need to know.
1×12 Guitar Amp Cabinet
The three primary benefits of a 1×12 guitar amp cabinet are:
- Lower cost
- Less weight
- Clear, focused tone
Since 1×12 speaker cabs only contain one speaker instead of two, they are understandably more affordable.
Also, 1×12 cabinets are typically made with less material than their respective 2×12 counterparts. This will also help reduce the overall cost.
Due to the increased affordability, you may find that a higher quality cab is now in your budget. A smaller, better constructed guitar amp cabinet will likely outperform a larger cab that is not built as well.
With one less speaker and a small overall formfactor, 1×12 cabs typically weigh less that a 2×12 cabinet.
At first this doesn’t always seem like a big issue, but after you have carried a cabinet up and down flights of stairs repeatedly at various gigs, you will be wishing for the small cab or your own personal roadie.
However, a 1×12 will not always weigh less than a 2×12. The type of wood used in the speaker cabinet design plays an enormous role in the overall weight. For example: a 1×12 cab made of Baltic birch could actually be heavier than a 2×12 cabinet made of pine.
Clear, Focused Tone
Tone is always subjective, so this is not clearly a benefit for 1×12 guitar cabs, but it certainly could be if this is your desired sound.
With only one speaker, 1×12 cabs sound tighter and more articulate than a 2×12 design. This is suitable for many different genres of music and applicable everywhere.
The best way to know the difference between the sound of a 1×12 cabinet and a 2×12 cabinet, is to try them both out. Likely, you will begin to find what tone you prefer as a guitar player.
2×12 Guitar Amp Cabinet
The three primary benefits of a 2×12 guitar amp cab are:
- Stereo ability
- Large, wide tone
By having two speakers loaded into a cab, you instantly gain more versatility as a guitarist. Especially if you load two different speakers into the cabinet.
When you mix and match speaker types, a complex tone is created and can really be honed in to fit your style of playing. The two speakers allow you to sound good while playing multiple genres.
Some cabs also allow the option to play one, the other or both speakers simultaneously. So, in theory a guitarist could have one speaker that sounds great for blues, one speaker that sounds great for rock, and still have a custom tone of the two together! Not all 2×12 cabinets have this ability though, so be sure to check first.
If you utilize time-based effects such as reverb and delay, a 2×12 guitar amp cabinet will be very beneficial with the ability to be configured in stereo.
Just like your stereo speakers at home, a 2×12 in stereo allows for two different signals to be sent to each speaker. This gives ample control over your sound and has some unique tonal qualities.
For example: you can send your dry signal to one side of the cabinet, and your wet (time processed signal) to the other speaker. You can then control the volume and tonality of each side separately.
Large, Wide Tone
With a 2×12 speaker cab, you push twice the amount of air as a 1×12. While this does not mean your sound is twice as loud, your sound does feel wider and bigger.
This is one of those things that’s hard to describe in words but can easily be differentiated when played in person. The 2×12 cabinet has a full, encompassing sound that fills the room, where a 1×12 is direct and articulate.
Again, anything tone related is completely subjective, and a 2×12 cab does not sound better in any way compared to a 1×12 cabinet. They just sound different and are different tools for different jobs.
Reasons to Have Both!
Personally, I recommend owning both a 1×12 and a 2×12 speaker cabinet. They are very much different tools for different jobs, and if budget allows, owning both can ensure you are always prepared for any guitar occasion.
Owning two amplifier cabs is not always practical or doable however, so I completely understand owning only one as well.
I enjoy having a 2×12 cabinet for larger gigs and recording. Then, I breakout the 1×12 cab for smaller shows, rehearsal, and general jamming.
What about a 4×12 Cab?
If you are a rock player, a 4×12 cab may be up your alley. A 4×12 will be like the difference from a 1×12 cab to a 2×12 cab. Larger tone, more versatility, extra weight, and higher cost.
I used to own a 4×12, and decided it just wasn’t the right piece of gear for me, but it could certainly be perfect for you!
If you are considering a 4×12 guitar amp cabinet, I highly recommend trying one out (including carrying it up a couple flights of stairs) before you decide to buy.
Speaker Cab Conclusion
All in all, it doesn’t really matter what speaker cabinet you use, as long as it sounds good to you.
Remember that 1×12 guitar amp cabinets typically have a clear focused tone, weigh less, and are more affordable. 2×12 guitar amp cabinets typically have a large wide tone, stereo capability, and increased versatility. You definitely want to head out to the local music store and give both a try.
Also, different brands of speaker cabinets and different brands of speakers will all sound very different. I hope this article has helped you better understand the basic differences between a 1×12 vs 2×12 cabinet. Happy playing!