Somebody, somewhere, probably a mean old man who’d had a bad day, or a king hundreds of years ago, stated that G12H30 and G12M Greenback guitar speakers, despite both being popular classics, made a dreadful match for each other, and never again should the twain meet, lest the one who would bring about their dark union be met with Tones Most Horrible. The internet being an efficient medium for propagating the opinions of others, who sound like they know what they’re talking about, as your own, so that hopefully you do, too, this was repeated sufficiently that it became Fact. Jeff Goldblum was dead, Acai berries made you thin, and H30s weren’t to be mixed with Greenbacks.
That man was a liar! Or he may at least have had a funny amp, like a Fender, and been looking for the ultimate polka tone or something, because for playing rock/metal on a hot-rodded Marshall type amp this combination is bee-yoo-tee-full.
I credit myself with being a bit outside the box, with not being a sheep, but irritatingly this is one myth I’d accepted at face value before going on to mix various other types of speakers. I love to experiment with speakers; the way they shape the voice of the amp, alter the feel of the guitar, as different frequencies are attenuated and emphasized. Each swap makes turning on the amp and hitting a chord like unwrapping a tone present — you can read about the qualities of various drivers (and combinations of them), but you never know exactly what you’re going to get until it’s there, blaring at you.
My H30 has been in a box for a couple of years, because used in other combinations I’d found it slightly too revealing in the highs and impractically massive in the bottom end; the ‘H’ in G12H30 is for Heavy magnet, i.e. bass city. It was a powerful, clear bass — tight, not muddy — but just way too much of it. Of course, it will have been doubling up whatever else I paired it with. It did have some very positive features, too. I’ve always thought of the H30 like a big bell: it’s huge, open, solidly metallic sounding. The notes really seem to ring with big, brassy authority. It was at times too forward or brash for me, though. Until I found its bro.
The G12M Greenback is of course the de facto rock speaker, and despite trying many alternatives it’s unquestionably my favorite. A clear plateaux of crunchy, complex mids, tailed off at just the right point both high and low for a warm, lightened bass (I prefer a guitar tone that occupies the midrange, not one that competes with the bass player) and sweetened, singing highs. It is voiced so well for the growl of overdriven guitar that they simply belong together.
Here’s what mixing the H30 and the Greenback does. Greenies alone, with all that warmth, can seem soft. Adding the H30 on top, to my ears, paints in a little detail across the sound, a bit of zing, like sharpening a photograph. Tempered by the GB’s smoothness, the sound isn’t jagged or exposed, there’s just more detail to pick up on. It introduces a certain clarity without becoming brittle. The H30 had seemed too top-endy to me when mixed with other speakers that were already capable in that area. The low end of the H30 and Greenback compliment each other similarly; with the Greenie’s characteristic trimming of bass frequencies, the H30 adds some grunt down there — and puts a tight little responsive edge on it — without becoming the overpowering bass monster it can be when paired with other speakers that already have plenty of boom. All this without drastically changing the winning character of the Greenback, nor overloading the mids to the point where they become harsh.
The two together just seem to form a such a complete picture. You have warmth but detail; squawky talky mids but some chunk down low; expanded highs without fizz. These guys love each other!
There are several flavors of both the G12H30 and the G12M Greenback. I’ve always heard (though that could be more internet ‘knowledge’…) that the Heritage Greenbacks have more top end than the reissues, for example, which could mean they wouldn’t work as well in this combination. So here are the types I am using, just in case, along with the rest of the gear.
- English Celestion G12M Greenback, 8 Ohm. Not the fancy Heritage model, just a regular reissue made in England before production moved to China. (Dated 27 November, 2000, if I’m reading their speaker codes right.)
- Celestion G12H30, 8 Ohm. Undated and unlabeled, as it was bought through Avatar Speakers, which breaks them in with a constant signal for a number of hours, then relabels them “Hellatone 30”, but it will be recent and Chinese.
- Speakers connected in series for a total load of 16 Ohms. Read about the difference between series and parallel cab wiring.
- Splawn Competition, 50-watt tube amplifier. Modded Plexi setting.
- Mostly an Edwards Les Paul E-LP-98LTS, loaded with Alnico II Pro (bridge) and ’59 (neck), because it just sounds so rock, it’s a lovely match.
The speakers are, on paper, slightly unbalanced, with the G12M’s sensitivity rated at 98dB and the G12H30 at 100dB. It would be nice if they were the same, but you’ll only hear a difference with your head up next to the cab. Sensitivity ratings are not quite as indicative as they might seem, as they are measured at one frequency only, 1KHz. No guitar speaker has flat response, and at other frequencies two speakers of different sensitivities can rise above and duck below each other as you play. This could be why mixing speakers sometimes produces a more “3D” tone. As you can see from the graph, the ‘quieter’ Greenback is louder at points, notably around 70-160Hz and most of the range from 1.8-3.2KHz. They’re both fairly evenly matched throughout the mids, with the G12H30 truly taking over in the high and low end, reflected in what I hear in the tone. See. Science says I’m right.
Now give it a go.
Celestion’s PDF guide to speaker replacement (don’t over tighten those bolts!)
Avatar will sell you an inexpensive cab loaded with this (or any other) combination.