If you’ve ever played a guitar amplifier, you could be forgiven for not paying close attention to the back of it. Really, why would you? The important stuff is on the front or the top, right?
Whether you’re playing a combo or a roaring stack, the back of the amplifier is a huge part of your tone. It has to do with whether or not it is open or closed back.
You can tell immediately if your speaker cabinet or amplifier is closed or open back. You simply have to look at it! How open or closed back speakers define tone has become a big part of the signature sounds of many famous amplifiers, cabinets and combos over the years. Let’s discuss how.
Contributed by Byron Struck for the Roland Australia Blog
Combo amplifiers usually have open back speaker cabinets. With the back of the speaker cabinet removed, the sound from your amplifier now has more space to “escape”. Consequently, you’ll have a more “open” sound, rich with ambience and resonance. Some players even consider this to be a more authentic representation of your tone.
As a result, the benefit is that you won’t have to drive the amp too loudly in order to enjoy its tone. Both you and the band will hear the amp clearer as well, because the sound is multi-directional. And, if you’re playing on a stage, your drummer will have a better chance to hear you, because the guitar sound will be coming from both the front and the back of the amp.
The downside is that it’s much harder for the sound engineer to control ambient sound. So, you might experience “spill” in the drum mics or other stage mics, which can be less than ideal. That isn’t to say it’s all bad, it just might be a little more difficult to control.
But after all, this is the nature of live sound at times. Don’t forget, players have been using open back amplifiers for over 50 years now and you can hear them on many memorable performances. So, there’s nothing a little bit of creative placement can’t fix if the amp’s sound is too much to handle at the gig!
Closed back speakers tend to almost always be on your classic, 4×12 quad cabinets and some types of combos. As the speakers are fully enclosed within the unit and self-contained, the audio is only projected from the front. The result is a directional and focused sound, which also gives you a punchy, bassier and tighter tone. It’s also easier for audio engineers to control in live and recording situations because the sound can be captured and manipulated from one main source.
Consequently, because it is a directional kind of sound, it doesn’t benefit from an open-back amplifier’s natural ambience. A closed-back cabinet will shoot a kind of “laser beam” of sound forward. Even that can completely change if you take a step right or left! You can overcome a lack of ambience by offsetting it with reverb or delay if need be. And if you’re playing a closed back amplifier, this powerful and defined kind of sound might be just what you want!
WHICH ONE IS FOR ME?
This is absolutely down to personal taste. Try both and see what works for you!
The BOSS KATANA Cabinet212 and WAZA Amp Cabinet212 both feature a removable back panel. This will allow you to configure your cab for the beefy punch of closed back, or the airy spread of a semi-open back, depending on your playing situation.
So, if you can’t decide whether you prefer open-back or closed-back speaker cabs, BOSS are able to deliver to you the best of both worlds. Check them out HERE.