July 04, 2019
Guitar amp modeling is all the rage! The technology has allowed guitarists to access a huge collection of amps and achieve tones that would have been otherwise out of reach. But with any new technology comes new challenges.
Most guitarists are used to the traditional amplifier-and-speaker-cabinet setup. As a result, the Full Range Flat Response speaker, or FRFR for short, has come into being. When coupled with your favorite modeler the playing experience is said to be as close to “the real thing” as you can get. But are these FRFR cabs any different from traditional PA speakers, like the SCx Series? Let’s take a look…
The most obvious difference between the two is their aesthetics. FRFRs are typically marketed directly to guitarists and are designed to look like a classic guitar amp or speaker cab. PA speakers on the other hand are meant to be as inconspicuous as possible. Delving further, most FRFRs are built from materials commonly used in guitar cabs, like birch wood, while PA speakers are often built with materials that reduce weight and provide higher durability. However, the SCx Series is built with poplar wood and uses a DuraTec coating to provide durability. There’s even a model available with a 12-inch speaker. So as we can see, even a PA speaker can be made of “normal” materials but may not have the “cool” looks. Now, cool looking gear is great but we need a little bit more to go on than looks alone.
Looking at the specs on paper, both types of speaker are fairly similar. Both intend to provide high-headroom sound reinforcement to produce the truest signal possible. And what’s more is many FRFRs tout their ability to be used as a PA loudspeaker. So what sets one apart from the other?
Looking at the SCx12A, for example, we see it provides high headroom with its 1000w power amp. Although not all FRFRs get quite that high in wattage they do provide adequate power ratings for guitar. The SCx12A has DSP presets allowing for extended EQ shaping of the audio output and some FRFR models also have extra EQ settings for further tone shaping. So, is the only difference the two speakers have in their appearance?
The big difference between a PA speaker and an FRFR is in how they reproduce sound. A PA speaker is meant to have a wide frequency response, capable of reproducing (with adequate loudness) any audio fed into it…meaning your guitar will sound just as good as your bass, drums, keys, etc. But an FRFR has been designed mainly for use with guitar and bass amp modelers. This means they will reproduce precisely what comes out of your modelers. All your amps, speaker simulations, effects and mic modeling all come out sounding exactly as you would expect them to sound. But aren’t these the same thing? Yes and no…
Each speaker will provide a great, neutral-sounding platform for your modelers. You’ll hear exactly what you would expect to hear from your tones…almost. With the extended frequency response of a PA speaker you’re likely to hear things you might not otherwise hear with an FRFR. The extended low and high frequencies might be something you like, especially when using extended range instruments. But it’s also just as likely that some of these new “artifacts” might be undesirable.
When it comes to deciding on the best option for you remember that anything related to guitar tone is subjective. What you like is not what someone else likes and no two guitarists use the same gear in the same way. At the end of the day you should trust your ears. Which option do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.
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One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
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