The Greenback and H30 Myth

sad & angry smiley guitar speakers
The myth: Greenbacks and H30s do not get along.

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.

The Tone

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!

guitar speakers with happy emoticons
The truth: Greenbacks and H30s total BFFs.

The Gear

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 Specs

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 Graph of Celestion G12H30 & G12M Greenback frequency response.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.

Matchless is one amp company that knows the secret — their 2×12 is H30/GB loaded.

11 Replies to “The Greenback and H30 Myth”

  1. What cabinet enclosure did you use? Avatar? If so which model and what configuration as far as closed or open-slotted?

    1. Hi John. I use an Avatar 2×12 Traditional, which was bought as open-back (so great for swapping speakers!) but has been modified to closed back, if stuffing a memory foam pillow and sheet of cardboard over the hole can be called “modified”. 🙂 I really should get round to ordering a proper closed-back. Thanks for swinging by.

  2. I have often wondered if the frequency chart for the G12H is correct.
    The PDF for that speaker on the old homepage did look more similar to the G12M.
    The frequency curve for the G12H looks more similar to the new heritage 55 hertz G12H, but this has a very different 55 hertz cone.
    Celestion released recently a heritage G12H 75 herts cone and that looks much more similar to the greenback. Actually the PDF file of the anniversary G12H looks very similar to this new released 75 hertz G12H heritage which should make sense…

  3. The freq response curve of the G12H you describe seems to be taken from the G12H(55), the 30W speaker with 55Hz res freq:

    The G12H Anniversary (also a 30W speaker, also rated 100 dB) oddly shows the exact same response curve as the Greenback (I asked Celestion if this is a mistake):

    1. Could you please specify which 30W G12H speaker you are referring to in above article?
    2. If you indeed talk about the G12H(55) above, could you comment at all on the 25W Greenback + G12H Anniversary combo? I am considering pairing these two. I already own a G12H Anniversary, now paired with a G12T-75. How would replacing the T75 with the GB affect the sound in your estimation?

    I expect the GB to be louder and more responsive at lower volumes than the T75, but I understand their characters are similar (curves support that). So basically it would better balance the woody sound of the T75/GB with the open, ‘toppier’ sound of the G12H Anniversary.

    1. I think Celestion has mixed up some assets since revamping its website. My G12H graph was taken from the Anniversary model’s page on the old site, and that is indeed the version of the speaker I used.

      If the curves suggest a similarity between the T75 and the GB, then it’s time to stop looking at graphs! These are two very different speakers. The T75 is often described as “scooped”, because it’s absent in the mids. It sounds congested and choked to me, though it can get by in an open backed combo/cab. Witness the decline of Yngwie Malmsteen’s tone since he started using these. The GB is like the anti-T75: wide open, talky mids, with an early bass cutoff and rounded highs. To answer your question, I think you’ll hear a lot more detail, grit, crunch and warmth swapping the T for a Greenie. It’s like popping the T75 inside out!

  4. Hugo González says: Reply

    Hi Gray! I totally agree with you about the decline of Yngwie´s tone. I have a 4×12 with Gt12-75, and i don´t like. My amp is a plexi 1987x, and i love yngwie´s sound on the “live at budokan” era.
    Which speaker do you think will sound close to this era, the g12h30 or the greenbacks?
    Thanks !!!

    1. H30s would be my vote, though I wouldn’t discount the idea of rented cabs loaded with V30s. Some pretty honky upper mids on that show.

      The sound flips abruptly back and forth between live cabs and Yngwie’s studio overdubs on this (and other!) concert DVDs, if you watch/listen closely. The timbre of the guitar will change, a whole lick will happen – sometimes without YJM touching his guitar! – then it’ll change back. I wish he’d let us have it “warts and all.”

  5. Anders Barfod says: Reply

    Celestion finally managed to include different freq curves of the G12H anni, G12M, G12H heritage 75Hz, G12H heritage 55Hz and the low power heritage G12M, But still not sure you should trust them completely.. Better to listen to them side by side with the same amp and settings to give and idea of the differences.

    The G12M and the G12H anni, share the same cone but with different magnet size and I think the same wire.. So it is not weird for them to have rather similar response.. But there is a difference… The G12H anni is louder,, bigger bottom and more highs. But the greenback might sound bassier as it it gets this fuzz in the lows that make it seem bigger.. The G12H just slams you harder in the chest with a cleaner bass signal which is less audible so it seems brighter, The top end is very detailed and extended on the G12H, not as creamy as the greenback or as mid driven as the V30.

    Right now I got the G12H anni in a small chineese laney cub 12r. The circuit is a mini JCM800 type curcuit,, two preamp tubes, followed by a british tonestack, then feed into a long tail PI and into fixed bias EL84 tubes generating 15 watt. The combination of that circuit (small output transformer) in a tiny open back combo is not the greatest.. To much speaker for the amp,, and I acutally think a greenback with a smaller magnet would sound better in this setup.. The G12H anni is somtimes said to be scooped. In this particular amp the clean sound is not great with a stratocaster, and I have really tried to mess with the EQ, Though a nice lead sound is easy to do, with the distortion circuit of the laney and the right celestion sound with mids, than e.g the celestion G12T 75 watt.

    The G12H does sound more scooped than a greenback, v30 but a different kind of scoop like the G12T 75 watt. It is like the G12H put some mids in when you crank it and run some overdrive into it..

    I also see the G12H anni being used in the open back combos of 65 amps. But these amps feature a really excellent deep baltic birch cab, and amps circuits that have no tone stack, hence are full range (no scooped mids at all), like the normal channel of a vox ac30, a watkins dominator amp (marhall 1974x), and they have large quality output transformers.
    Another amp without tonestack is the fender deluxe 5E3, this amp also seems to work well with the more scooped G12H anni..

  6. Anders Barfod says: Reply

    Sorry for my long description,, got carried away..

    Just mentioning cab size.. Open back cabs need some space to not sound boxy.. It is speaker dependent,, The rocket 50 (more scooped) that came in the amp is actually less boxy when played fairly loud than the G12H anni.

    The laney cub 12r cab size is more suited for a 10″ speaker. Put a 12 inch in a small cubic open back cab it is doomed to sound a bit boxy.. You get too much lower mids phase canceling, and a middy speaker, this includes most celestions, especially the loud ones.. suffer..

    The fender blues junior is often claimed to be boxy.. And some of this comes down to cab size.

    A fender 5e3 deluxe and a tweed tremolux. Both amps are 6v6, no tone stack, and have no negative feedback, The same original jensen P12Q sound much larger in the huge tweed tremolux pine cab than the smaller more compact 5E3 cab..

    Lastly the marshall tonestack is less scooped and has its midrange control at a higher freq (800Hz) than the typical fender tonestack (500Hz). It is hard to scoop out the mids around 400-500Hz with a marshall tone stack.
    But put a very scooped speaker in a fender blackface deluxe.. Those 22 watts aint gonna cut it with a band if your are playing rock.. VOX AC15 handwired with a alnico blue,, will cut right through,,

  7. Dave Bourgeois says: Reply

    Hi Gray,
    In part due to this article, I will be taking possesion of two 16-ohm t-2168’s (just like the original T-1221’s but without the covers).
    Soooo … I’ll be playing mix and match this weekend. I have a pair of Heritage 55hz’s to combine with these vintage G-12m’s. You made it sound so good … I have to hear the pairing for myself.
    The 55’s sounded better after I modded the tone stack on my Fender to a pair of .022 capacitors for less bass.
    It is the Zep/Hendrix sound but the bass can be just a tad too much.
    And you’re right that the 55’s add oomph when properly-paired. They sound nice matched with a Weber F1250. So into an Avatar 2-12 they will go this weekend; I’ll report the results.

  8. markus reeves says: Reply

    BUT …. how do you mic it??? 🙈

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