Guitars are used on a good 90% of the music in the modern world. Since the early blues days, guitars, producers and enthusiasts alike have all been searching for the elusive ‘perfect’ tone out of their guitar amp, and because of this, it’s become such an open playing field and understandably everyone interested in the subject has their own point of view on the ‘best’ sound.
And that's the point, what you think is good is totally subjective to you - but there are some cool tricks to get everyone closer to being on the same page and that's what I'd like to talk about today.
Personally, I think the cabinet has the most impact on the overall tone of your guitar and the amp. Every speaker, no matter how beautifully crafted by the world's best cone makers, will be different sonically - even if minutely.
But one thing usually stays the same which is the dust cap in the center is where you’ll find the brightest sound, and the edge of the cone is where you’ll find the darkest.
I’ve been a part of the Control Room, a group on Facebook ran by a JZ Mic’s artist, Romesh Dodangoda, in which there are some phenomenal artists. One of which is Adam Getgood (Getgood Drums, ex-Periphery Bassist) and he found a new technique that I have tried and works like a charm.
On the back of the speaker (stay with me here, I know I just said ‘back’ of the speaker), there are usually 2 small blobs of glue for the wires of the input to connect to the speaker in order for it to receive power.
When mic’ing up, try to aim for these blobs on the front of the front. Adam found that there’s a pleasing lack of sharpness to the tone, and specifically, it’s right in the sweet spot for a typical mic’ing set up in that it’s where the dust cap meets the cone - but with the addition of the glue and the lack of the piercing frequencies, we’d usually look to remove in the mixing stage (3-5Khz).
Choose the Right Speaker
Now you have the new technique, it’s time you start putting it to use. As we’ve already discussed, each speaker sounds different, so it’s now down to you to find the most pleasing one for your ears.
There’s usually one ‘best’ sounding speaker, and there’s no way to tell without listening to it. In order to do this, i’d recommend setting up the cabinet in a separate room, and if you have a friend or a band member, or if you’re super lucky - and engineer or intern - then ask them to move the mic’s between the blobs on the speakers. If this is too much to ask, then go the longer route, set up the mic in a separate room, and play a DI recording reamped through it (if you don't have a Reamp box, you’ll need to play through and amp directly, so try to play consistently), and move the mic between each speaker on the cabinet.
Once you have a recording for each speaker, listen in solo to them, and choose which is your favorite - and then try and find it again. This last step is critical as it could be luck that you found a good place, so we have to repeat the finding in any experiment for it to be conclusive.
If you find the results match, I usually place some electrical tape in an L shape above and to the left of the mic’s position so I can aim to place the mic in the corner and find the same ‘sweet’ spot the next time I go to mic up.
My failsafe is always impulse responses. There are literally thousands out there, free and paid for, that you can go through until your heart's content with the ultimate tone. A personal favorite of mine is OwnHammer Impulses - they have a wide range of cabinets to choose from, preEQ’d mic’s and non-EQ’d mics, the rear of the cabinet (that time I genuinely meant they mic the rear of the cabinet - sometimes it’s cool to blend it!), and all recorded through several high-end preamps and mic’s that are hard to come by if you’re still early to the recording game.
Another great one is Adam Getgood’s own brand from Getgood Drums which is featuring the Zilla Cabinets selection of cabs, all hand-built and extremely well rounded in their sound.
They’ve also built an interface and plugin to use for the impulses which takes a lot of the guesswork out of the experimenting, and they have some presets that are great to get you started - so if sifting through literally 100’s of individual responses isn't for you then I’d start here!