Curious as to what are the best budget guitar cabs for your brand new tube head? Here are our favorites heading into the upcoming year!
What Is a Guitar Cabinet & When Would You Need One?
A guitar cabinet is a wooden housing for one to four speakers. Cabinets are always paired with amplifier heads that power them because heads do not have any internal speakers like a combo amp does. And honestly, that’s about it! Just to briefly reiterate, cabs are simply a wooden box with speakers inside, and you connect a head (amplifier) to the cabinet (speakers) to get sound.
A word of warning: you’d never want to power on a tube head without being connected to a speaker cabinet. You’d risk damaging the amplifier by not having it connected to a load-bearing source such as the cabinet. Other than that, it’s all pretty basic stuff. We’ll dig into some common features to look for in matching your amp to a cabinet, but at the end of the day, it’s all about preference!
Features to Look for in a Budget Guitar Cab
Right away, one of the first features to look for is the size of the speaker and the number of them. The most common speaker dimension for guitar cabs is 12″, though you’ll occasionally see 10″ and 8″ (we’ve included an 8″ here). 12-inch speakers generally have a nice, balanced sound for electric guitar which is why they’re so widely used in cabinets.
Next is the number of speakers in the cabinet. On a budget, one-speaker enclosures are going to be more affordable. Not only that, but they’re smaller than cabinets with two or four speakers. We’re not going to mention any here, but 4×12 cabinets (four 12-inch speakers) are some of the most popular, and they’re part of what we call a half-stack when paired with a head. They’re both pricey, big, and loud. On a budget, you’re better off going for a 1×12 or 2×12.
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Another feature to consider is the make and model of the speaker(s) inside. Doing a bit of research in this department will help you narrow down speakers best suited to your style of playing. Common speaker companies include Celestion, Eminence, Jensen, Electro-Voice, and more. This is actually very important since the speaker is what’s reproducing the sound of your amplifier and pedals. If you pick the wrong speaker for your tone, you may not be happy with the result.
Speaker cabinets also come in open- and closed-back designs. Similar to headphones, open (or partially open) cabinets let sound radiate from the back and sides of the speaker for a natural, room-filling quality. The high-end sounds tight and crisp, though the lows might sound flubby. Closed cabinets, on the other hand, are forward-projecting with no leakage. This accentuates the midrange and tightens up the low-end for more punch (great for metal!).
Finally, you want to make sure the cabinet you’re getting matches the impedance (Ω) of your amp. Amplifiers and speakers usually come with 4-ohm, 8-ohm, or 16-ohm impedance. Some heads have switchable impedance so you can properly match it to your cabinet. Just make sure the numbers match and you’re good to go.
What Are the Best Budget Guitar Cabs in 2023?
Sometimes guitar cabs can be as expensive as amps! It’s discouraging for someone who wants to trade their combo for something with a bit more “oomph,” or anyone who wants to collect heads and try out different sounds. The good news is there are plenty of affordable options out there so you don’t have to shell out a ton of money for speakers. Since affordable cabinets also tend to be smaller, they’re a great choice for home/apartment playing as well.
1. VHT AV-SP-112VHT Special 6 1×12 Speaker Cabinet
The VHT Special 6 is a closed-back 1×12 cabinet housing a propriety VHT ChromeBack speaker with 16Ω impedance. VHT are known for their high-gain amplifiers, so this cabinet is a perfect match for metal players who want a gritty midrange and tight low-end for palm-muted riffing.
2. Marshall MX112
Even folks who don’t play guitar know Marshall. Here is their straightforward 80-watt, 1×12, 16-ohm, closed-back cabinet with a Celestion Seventy 80 speaker. If you really like that “British” sound, this is a good way to get there thanks to the Celestion inside. That said, this is versatile cabinet overall — it’s quality you can trust, and you can get plenty of mileage out of it regardless of genre.
3. Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 112 Guitar Amp Cabinet
The Fender Hot Rod Deluxe cabinet perfectly accompanies rigs for blues, rock, country, and more. This 1×12 closed-back cabinet houses a Celestion G12-80P for a smooth, rich sound with a splash of low-end extension for extra creaminess and power. Visually, the Fender has a distinctive look that calls to the ’50s and ’60s, but sonically, this cabinet has impressive range.
4. Orange PPC108 20-watt 1×8″ Cabinet
Right up there with Marshall in terms of recognizability — perhaps even surpassing them — are Orange cabinets. Orange cabs are rock-solid, incredibly versatile, and generally just all-around fantastic speaker enclosures. This mini 1×8 cabinet features a specially designed Orange speaker with a British quality to it, pumping out 20 watts at 8 ohms. As far as size and affordability goes, this cabinet is friendly in both areas.
5. Marshall MX212A
Next up is the 2×12 version of the previously covered MX112. This is an angled, vertical 2×12 cabinet with ample sound dispersion and power. Inside are a pair of Celestion Seventy 80s passing 160 watts of power at 8 ohms. In the infamous words of Yngwie Malmsteen, “more is more.” When you need more power, more volume, and more fun, go for a bigger cabinet!
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