Posted: April 10, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 3.50.50 PMA friend of mine, Dave Reeves, a very talented guitarist who worked with me at Roland sent an email and it got me thinking, then I did a test…

Hi Paul,

I trust your judgement on all things guitar. Do you know anything about Scumback speakers? Personally, I prefer (Celestion) Greenbacks over Celestion Vintage 30′s, but since they don’t make ‘em in England anymore, I’m considering these instead. Any thoughts?

Here are my thoughts on this subject:

Regarding guitar speakers I have a lot of experience with Celestions. Celestion Greenbacks are softer sounding and distort easier than Vintage 30s. The V-30s are louder, have slightly more bass and highs and take more power to distort. Back in the 1980s-90s I had four Marshall 4×12 cabs and the speakers pre-dated the current V-30s, Greenbacks etc. Each of my old Marshall cabs had a completely different sound. I preferred the heaviest (weight) cab, that’s the one I mic’d, it’s speakers were very much like the V-30s of nowadays.

V-30s are heavy speakers because of their bigger magnets. They are louder and have more power than the lighter speakers. Lighter magnets, like the Greenbacks give you aScreen Shot 2013-04-09 at 3.52.57 PM softer tone and distort easier. Slash uses V-30s, Angus Young uses Greenbacks. 

I started thinking. I demoed the 5150 amp for Peavey at the Frankfurt Music Mesa when it was first introduced. I’m thankful they also gave me a head and a cabinet. If you remember, the 5150 was supposed to replicate Eddie Van Halen’s favorite “Plexi” head and cabinet used on the early Van Halen albums. I remember talking to the Peavey engineers back then. They told me Eddie reluctantly allowed them to take his favorite “Plexi” head and his favorite 4×12 cabinet to their factory in Meridian Mississippi so they could copy it. They also made several trips to LA to have Eddie test the early versions of the 5150.

I think it took a year. Eddie kept saying no, go back and redo it. He demanded the 5150 really match his amp before he put his name on it. The Peavey engineers told me they spent as much time replicating Eddie’s 4×12 cabinet as they did on the head, getting the wood and the speakers just right. I still have the 5150 they gave me, the head is my favorite amp! I also have the 5150 cab in my garage, I don’t use it much. It’s Sheffield speakers are really soft sounding and they distort easy. I’d love to A/B the Sheffields to Greenbacks, I’ll bet they are close. 

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 3.49.38 PMThose early Van Halen albums have as good a guitar tone as anything ever recorded! And we can conclude that, if the 5150 is a replica on of the amp used on those early Van Halen albums, then Eddie’s speakers had that softer sound, closer to the Greenback than the V-30 sound. Eddie played loud so speaker distortion must have contributed to his killer tone.

Back to my four cabinets. The one I liked best was the loudest one with the most bass. I still like the more high powered speakers. When I use my Peavey 5150 head I usually plug it into my 4×12 cab with V-30s, not the 5150 cab. But now, I’m second guessing myself. Maybe I’m not giving my less powerful speakers a chance. When we listen in a room we can’t help but gravitate to the loudest speaker with the most bass.

The way I should really test speakers is through studio monitors after mic’ing them up. Then through studio monitors I can adjust the volumes so they are the same, and I can just listen to the tone! So, I did just that yesterday. I recorded my 5150 head into my main 4×12 cab with high-power Vintage 30s. Then, I recorded with the exact same settings into the softer sounding 5150 cab.

In both examples I used my Yamaha Pacifica 2112, stock bridge pickup direct into the amp. I mic’d with an SM-57 straight in the middle of a lower 12″, each cab. No effects just ‘verb added on the mix. It blew me away! I thinkSpeakerCabs the 5150 is warmer! I still like my V-30 cab but you could knock me over with a feather, the 5150 cab sounds way better than I thought.

(My 5150 and V-30 Cabs on the right.)

Until now I thought the louder cabinet (right) was better! The moral of the story is, louder is not always better, louder is just louder!!

4×12 cab Vintage 30 speakers: 

5150 4×12 cab, low powered Sheffields: 

Now Celestion has about 20 models of guitar speakers, and there are new speaker companies popping up all the time. Too many choices! Dave alerted me to a video by my old GIT friend Peter Thorn demoing the Scumback speakers. Pretty cool speakers, not sure about the name though. 


Peter does a great demo. He plays so well and presents the speakers so clearly. But watching his video I realized something. To me, Peter’s demo of each of the different speakers sound very alike. What Peter plays makes so much more difference than which speaker he’s playing through. Maybe if Eddie used louder clearer Celestions on those first albums he would have still sounded like Eddie.

Check out my podcast interview with Peter Thorn BTR-33


  1. Rich5150 says:

    This is really interesting , I , by mistake but some how it works and sounds good , loaded up my 4×12 with 2 V30′s and 2 Peavey Sheffields – it really sounds amazing – like nothing else . Thanks Paul.

    • phanson says:

      Rich, I just did gear settings for the Guitar World Dec issue. It features “Under and Over It” by Five Finger Death Punch. Zolton Bathroy uses:


      So that’s the same idea as your two sheffields and two V-30s. I wonder do you have them in a diagonal pattern?

      • Rich5150 says:

        Hi Paul , thanks for the reply – you guessed right I do have them in a diagonal pattern – as we’ve just finished recording and I had both mic’ed up it was really interesting to hear the two different tones – sound great blended together too .

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