17 April 2013

Amps: Harley Benton 4x12" Vintage Cab


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around March/2011. I am revisiting it here.
A friend of mine received as a gift a Marshall Valvestate 8200 Bi-Chorus head, an hybrid amp that can work in stereo, delivery 100 W RMS by channel.
This bad boy was used by people like Panthera and, needs to have a speaker cab connected to each channel, otherwise can be fried.

My friend "stores" his cab in my home and, I hadn't any cab able to handle that amount of watts so, I've started to search for some valid cab to test the amp head.
Immediately, the Marshall 1960A comes to mind but, the price was higher enough just to test the head so, I browsed again, looking for a more affordable alternative.
I was gratefully surprised with the price of the Harley Benton 4x12 Vintage cab, it was mounting 4 Celestion Vintage 30 (V30), maybe not the best option for a Metal amp but, a bargain, anyway.

Well, the cab is here and, I was testing it so, what follows are my own impressions.


Harley Benton is the white brand by Thomann. Previously, I gave a Harley Benton strato-like guitar to my brother in law and, I was surprised for its quality, taking into account the cheap price. Honestly, I've seen expensive guitars worst finished. The wood of that guitar was ok and well finished, despite of the cheap hardware and electronics.

So, I've decided to give a try to that Harley Benton cab, at the end, it was mounting 4 Celestion V30 that could be mounted in any other cab, if things were wrong.

Before buying it, I was googling a while and, I saw some people that already bought it and, that had the patience to open the cab and look inside. The cab was made of plywood, instead of the cheap DM material that many other cheap cabs are made of (as Framus cabs, by example).
The external look, as well as dimensions and wall thickness of such a cab were very similar to those of Marshall's and, they mounted true V30s.
So... I didn't saw any reason to not buy that cab.

Being a bulky good, the cab came palletized in a truck, differently of the typical order that comes via UPS, by example.
It took me a while to unwrap the cab. They had put the casters just in the hole of the handles so, to get the handles on hands to support the cab and while kicking off the cardboard box was a bit difficult, but... finally I've success.

Casters, instead of being inserted by pushing them, go screwed and, once in place, they allow to move the cab with ease.

Before plugging the cab, I had a look to the overall aspect of the cab and, it pleased me. The finishing is perfect, same quality you could found in a good cab. Squares had some metallic reinforcement, painted in matte black, narrower that the ones in Marshall's but, useful anyway.
The handles, the tolex... everything was ok.

Satisfied with the external look, it was time to check the cab.

Breaking in speakers

First task, when you have a new cab or speaker is to break them in. Speakers are adapting themselves during their life and, they aren't usually delivering their best sound at the beginning.

According to Celestion, there is a "breaking in" process that allows us to achieve the 95% of expected sound, after a short breaking in time. The remaining 5% could take a long time. In fact, in my other amps, speakers seem to have being finally settled after a year, more or less.

To start the breaking in process, you need to work with the clean channel, with all your tone stack at noon, low gain and low volume, for about 15 mins. You should leave the speakers to be warming up for this time, playing softly and variate, at low volume.

Once the warming up process finishes, you have to put gain at minimum and volume at full. Mids and Bass at full and, Treble at least at noon. Gain will be increased step by step  during this second phase, until to reach a good loudness but, without being painful.
You need to strum strongly strings, trying to achieve peaks in basses, mids and trebles. Power chords force the coil to be moved in all directions and with all intensities what will help to settle the cone.
This should take 15 minutes more.

So, after half hour, your speakers should be delivering the 95% of their best sound.

The Sound

And, that's the key question... do they sound nice?.
Geeks will say that being so cheap, those speakers have been made in China (honestly, what else don't?). Look at around you, your mobile, your PC motherboard, your TV...
This cab mounts authentic V30 and, they sound as they should, wherever they were made.

I cannot understand how Thomann can offer such a kind of cab to a price that is just slightly over the price of a single speaker. I dunno how but, if you are searching for a 4x12" V30 cab, be sure to check this one.

At the beginning, we were trying to test the Valvestate cab of my friend but, unsuccessfully. The head seems to be out-of-order. I've even swapped the original tube with a new brand one.

Then, I've tried the Orange Rockerverb 50 for next test and, this is the amp I've used to perform the breaking in process. After the breaking in, I've started to check several guitars plugged to the Orange's and, I liked a lot what I've heard.

Then, I've switched off the Rockerveb 50 and, switched on the Vox Night Train. Being the smallest of my amps, I was curious about how it will sound thru a 4x12 cab.
Atomic Mother! What a craziness!. With that cab, the NT is a beast. I wasn't able to raise the volume beyond 11:00, without starting to suffer pain in my ears.
The LP sounded to death, as the Charvel did but... the Strato... Pink Floyd Live!.
Tomorrow or, during next weekend, I would like to test it with the Koch Studiotone and the Marshall 1923C (with which I am expecting the most spectacular results, thus the last I want to test).

If I have some time and willing, I will prepare some video with part of the tests.

Since speakers aren't totally settled, it seemed to me as if they had an "slow" response at the beginning, something that went to better while playing. At the very beginning, it seemed as if the notes were "glued" to the cone, making it difficult to play speedy riffs.

One more sensation I had the very first day is that those speakers break up really early. In my rest of speakers, I can achieve cleaner sounds at higher volumes / gain levels while, I've been forced to lower the gain and/or volume to achieve a clean sound with this cab. Otherwise, it's really easy to break up the speaker and enter in Blues or Hard Rock territory.

I suppose that the way that the amp interacts with that 4x12" cab is totally different to how it does it with the stock speakers but, ok, to achieve the target sound is just a matter of re-tweak your amp's knobs, at the end.

What is impressive is the amount of air that this cab moves. I've maintained low level in each amp and, the sound was slapping me hard. I finished half deaf.
This cab needs some room around, since it produces a true sonic Tsunami. I think even my name was vibrating, while checking the gear. I cannot imagine how can kicks you with a 1959 Super Lead at full.


I've prepared a video where I am firstly showing the finishing details of the cab and, then a demo of its sounds, using as a basis a free downloadable version of "Shine on You crazy diamonds" by Pink Floyd.
Just focus on the sound and, as ever, forget my playing.


A 4x12" cab, with 4 authentic Celestion V30, made of plywood, with similar building characteristics as a Marshall 1960A cab and, at a price that is just slightly expensive than a single V30 speaker?.
Don't doubt it, it's a bargain!.

If you are looking for a 4x12" cab, with a Vintage sound and, you don't check this one, you are loosing a great opportunity, in my honest opinion.
The only drawback I can imagine is its potential re-sale value, because its logo doesn't corresponds to a big brand. But, this negative point for the seller will be a godsend for the buyer.


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