Is the 4×12 guitar cabinet still relevant today?

They are still the totemic image in rock and metal, but in the digital era do you still need a 4×12 in your life?

The 4×12 guitar cabinet has been a staple of rock music for decades, but is it still relevant in today’s musical world? In an article from Guitar World1, the author argues that the physical size, large depth, and internal pressures created in a 4×12 make for a great-sounding cab. While the size and weight of equipment, especially guitar amps and cabinets, have been decreasing, the author believes that we’re still getting great sounds in much more practical packages today.

The 4×12 cabinet came to life in the early 60s when amp builders needed to increase the power handling of their cabs due to the increasingly powerful amps of the day. The first 8x12s were reportedly built for Pete Townshend of The Who, but complaints from roadies resulted in a pair of 4x12s being used to split the weight. Nearly all 4x12s are closed back, which generally gives a more direct sound with more focus or control on the low-end (bass frequencies). The increased movement of air from four speakers holds a certain weight to the sound that’s hard to replicate in smaller cabs with fewer speakers.

While some compromises have been made along the way, we still finds old Marshall 4x12s beautiful and believe that the sound they produce is hard to replicate in smaller cabs with fewer speakers. Of course, a great player will sound good on nearly any piece of kit, and combos and open-back cabs sound awesome in many situations. Plus, not everyone needs or even wants the qualities that the author has described as admirable here.

In conclusion, the 4×12 guitar cabinet may not be as practical as it once was, but it still has a place in today’s musical world. The physical size, large depth, and internal pressures created in a 4×12 make for a great-sounding cab that’s hard to replicate in smaller cabs with fewer speakers. While some compromises have been made along the way, we’re still getting great sounds in much more practical packages today.

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