If you’re purchasing a new guitar combo amp, or cabinet to go with your amp head then you’ll need to decide what size you need. Two popular cabinet (speaker) sizes are 1×12″ and 2×12″. In this article I’ll go through the differences between them in terms of tone, volume, portability and price.
Here’s the quick answer.
An amp with a 1×12″ cabinet sounds thinner and brighter compared to an amp with a 2×12″ cabinet which sounds fuller and warmer. The 2×12″ cabinet also sounds louder because it pushes more air. However, 1×12″ cabinets are much lighter and smaller so easier to store and transport.
An amp with a 2×12″ speaker cabinet will sound warmer and fuller compared to the same amp with a 1×12″ speaker cabinet, assuming all other variables are kept the same. This is because the 2×12 cabinet has a stronger bass-response.
The 1×12 cabinet will sound brighter, not because it has more treble, but because it has less bass to warm up the tone. Some guitarists complain that a 1×12 cab sounds a bit thin and doesn’t have as much depth as a 2×12 cab.
Check out this great YouTube video by SpectreSoundStudios to hear a comparison of a 1×12 and 2×12 combo amp.
Is a 2×12 Cab Louder?
A 2×12 amp cabinet is capable of moving more air compared to a 1×12 cabinet and hence sounds louder and fuller. This can be very useful for playing in a live band with a drummer, as sometimes a 1×12 cabinet might not be large enough, especially if the wattage is lower.
That doesn’t mean that you get twice the volume though with a 2×12 cab compared to a 1×12 cab. This is because half the wattage goes to one speaker, and half goes to the other.
Notice that I only said the 2×12 sounds louder rather than has more volume. There’s a difference between perceived and actual volume. The actual volume is the same, but the 2×12 sounds louder because it has more bass response which makes it sound fuller.
Weight and Portability
One major disadvantage of a 2×12″ cabinet is that it is much larger and heavier compared to a 1×12″ cabinet. This can be an issue if you need to move your amp around frequently, or have limited storage space. Storage space can be less of an issue though if you have a vertical 2×12 cab.
Combo amps with a 2×12 cab also usually have a higher power rating (wattage) compared to a combo amps with a 1×12 cab which again makes them heavier.
To get an even comparison of the weight difference, here’s a table showing the weight of popular 1×12 and 2×12 speaker cabinets (not combo amps).
|Cabinet||1×12 Weight||2×12 Weight|
|Marshall Jubilee||26.9 lbs||54.0 lbs|
|Marshall Studio Vintage||27.1 lbs||52.6 lbs|
|Orange PPC||36.5 lbs||62.0 lbs|
|Fender Bassbreaker||21.0 lbs||36.0 lbs|
|Mesa Boogie Slant Rectifier||32.0 lbs||75.0 lbs|
Another disadvantage of 2×12 cabinets is that they are also more expensive than 1×12 cabinets.
Again, with combo amps the wattage tends to increase as the cabinet size increases, so it’s difficult to get an apples to apples comparison. However, in the table below you can see the cabinet-only 1×12 and 2×12 prices of some popular options. Bear in mind that the power rating also doubles as the cab size doubles.
|Cabinet||1×12 Price||2×12 Price|
|Marshall Studio Vintage||$1100||$1200|
|Mesa Boogie Slant Rectifier||$600||$1050|
Best for At Home/ Bedroom Use?
For a home-use guitar amp, a 1×12 cabinet is typically better than a 2×12 cabinet. This is because the smaller cabinet does not sound as loud, so you can push the amp without it getting unreasonable loud. Also, 1×12 cabinets take up less space and are easier to carry.
Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, a 2×12 cabinet risks sounding too loud and you might really annoy your neighbours and housemates. You may actually want to go even smaller than a 1×12 for bedroom/ home-use and consider a 1×10 or 1×8 cabinet instead.
Check out my article comparing 8″, 10″ and 12″ cabinets to learn more.
Best for Recording?
This really depends on what tone you want.
If you want a warm, full sounding amp then you’ll need to go for the 2×12 cabinet. However, if you want a tighter bass response then you will probably prefer the sound of a 1×12 cabinet.
Best for Gigging?
Typically a 2×12 speaker is better than a 1×12 speaker for gigging as it has a better bass response so sounds fuller and will be heard more easily over a drummer.
However, the only drawback is that it can be a real pain to carry a 2×12 cabinet to a gig. Instead, another popular option is to go with a 1×12 combo and then get a 1×12 extension cabinet.
This allows you to use the 1×12 at home for practicing and then have the option to use the extra cabinet when you need more bass response. Make sure when purchasing your combo amp that it is compatible with an extension cab though.