While our dreams may involve a barricade of 4×12 amp cabs stacked as high as the Great Wall of China, the reality is that most of us rarely have need for much more than a modest 1×12 combo. Because of this, one key topic of interest on TPS over the last few years has been exploring the different ways of extending the reach and range of a small format amp. This week, Dan & Mick added another leaf to this chapter by asking how to not only enhance the volume but also the feel of a small combo by making the most of the often overlooked extension out jack on the back.
A Colossal Combo: The Fender Bassbreaker 15
The amp in question was one that dropped a bomb on the world of 15-watt boxes a few years back: the Fender Bassbreaker 15. Vintage yet modern, this 15-watt amplifier comes stock with a Celestion Ten-30 speaker, runs hot with a triad of 12AX7 preamp tubes, drives with a pair of EL84 tubes, has loads of gain on tap, and who could forget that carefully crafted digital reverb.
As Dan commented, “this is a great little amp. I remember when this came out I was so impressed with it. It’s a really, really cool thing.” Mick replied, “most people might think of the Blues Junior, which is super popular, but this one is a little more versatile in that it’s got more gain in it and a couple of extra features. It’s a little bit more modern-minded.”
But let’s say you’re in a gig or rehearsal situation where you want to go bigger, better, and bolder. Thankfully, the Bassbreaker 15 has an out for an 8-ohm extension cabinet. So how does the amp handle itself when driving a towering cabinet?
The Fender Bassbreaker 15 with Extension Cabinets
“So many bigger amps are just inappropriate for loads of venues,” commented Dan, “so the question is, can we get the Bassbreaker 15 to sound big?”
The first attempt involved the Victory V212VC 2×12 cabinet, loaded with a pair of Celestion G12M Creamback speakers. Right off the bat, both TPS anchormen agreed the vibe was astounding. “That is quite a serious difference,” remarked Mick. “That is crazy,” commented Dan, “you get used to the 1×12 and then that’s plugged in and it has all this body and depth to it. I didn’t think it would be that pronounced, to be honest.”
The second attempt was with a Marshall 1960A 412 cabinet, loaded with four Celestion G12M Greenbacks. “It seems bigger, the bottom end is considerably bigger,” noted Mick as the two reflected on the perceived kick in volume. For Dan, “that instantly just feels awesome.” The lesson here is that even a monster 4×12 can be functional for a mid-size jam or gig when driven by a smaller amplifier.
But is there an unseen and often unrecognized variable in this experiment? You hear it always but almost never see it.
Extension Cabs and the Variable of Speaker Choice
Of course, speaker choices play a huge role in this experiment. One of the advantages of using an extension cab is that you’re hearing the preamp/power amp section you know and love but reimagined through an entirely different physical cabinet loaded with alternative speakers. While we rarely, if ever, see the speakers in our amps. The fact is, they’re one of the main ingredients in the creation of tone.
“Speaker choice is half the game,” commented Dan. It stands to reason, then, if you’re looking to find a new sound without overhauling your entire rig, perhaps an extension cab is just the innovation you need. “To be honest, it’s the reason why I’ve tended to go with amp heads,” noted Mick. This way, you target a tone and tube structure that’s the foundation of your sound and remain happily open to experimenting with different speaker configurations and cabinet constructions. “Then you can pair them up with whatever you like…and [different speakers and cabs] are a great way of giving your amp a new lease on life,” concluded Mick.
Regardless of your amp size and playing environment, whether micro or mega, we’ve got all of your amplification needs covered. Head over to Riff City instore and online for a huge selection of modest-wattage combo amps, amp heads that are open to endless innovation, and a selection of speaker cabs that can easily pair with any powerhouse.
TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard, PRS Silver Sky, Macmull S-Classic, Gretsch G6118T Players Edition Anniversary.
Amps: Fender Bassbreaker 15, ZVEX Nano Head Tube Amplifier.