Shootout: Guitar Speakers for Metal – Winners Only

If you’re looking to dial in your own custom sound, one of the best ways to start is by changing up the speakers in your combo amp or speaker cabinet. The speakers that come stock are generally great all-rounders, but if you’re strictly playing metal, the best way to bring the “chug” is to upgrade to speakers that are specifically voiced for metal.

In this review, I’ll look at the three best speakers designed for metal. For each speaker, I’ll compare the tonal range, voicing (American vs. British), and output. All of these speakers come in multiple sizes, but for a fair comparison, I’ll only be looking at the 12” version of each speaker.

To ensure consistency, each speaker will be tested in the same amp – my Bugera V22 Infinium with a ProCo RAT distortion stomp box.

Read more about our review process.

Interested in guitar speakers?
Check out our full rundown of the best guitar speakers.

Editor's Choice
Celestion Vintage 30

Celestion Vintage 30

Features: 10.4lb weight, Ceramic magnet, 60w RMS max

Benefits: Amazing high gain performance, Creamy top end, Easy installation

Best Value
Eminence DV-77 Mick Thomson

Eminence DV-77 Mick Thomson

Features: H70w Max power, Kurt Meuller cone, US Made

Benefits: Well balanced tone, Tons of bottom end composure, Extreme distortion performance

Best Budget
Eminence Swamp Thang Patriot Series

Eminence Swamp Thang Patriot Series

Features: 150w max, Ferrite magnet, 11.1lb

Benefits: Compatible with big amps, Fat bottom end, Huge American tone

Our Top 3

Our Top Pick, the Eminence DV-77 Mick Thomson signature, strikes a great balance between price and performance. This speaker is designed specifically for modern metal and is ready to bring you crushing bass and tight, focused mids. Even if you’re not a Slipknot fan, you’ll still appreciate the amazing responsiveness and pro-level performance they bring.

If you’re on a tighter budget, we’d recommend our Best Budget pick, the Eminence Swamp Thang. This speaker provides plenty of punchy low end and great clarity in the mids. It can handle high power without breaking a sweat, making it perfect for metal fans who like to play dimed out all of the time.

If you’re looking for the very best, regardless of the price, the speaker you need is our Editor’s Choice, the Celestion Vintage 30. This classic British speaker has been the model of choice for countless guitar legends and continues to be a favorite of metal players everywhere. It packs an impressive punch, with plenty of clarity and articulation that will give your amp a huge bump in performance.

How to Choose the Right Speakers for You

Fans and practitioners of the metal genre generally understand there is no one specific tone associated with metal. Between the metal pioneers of the early ’60s to the artists of today, the sounds have changed, but none are any less metal – just different. 

There are a couple of factors in speaker construction that influence the characteristics of a speaker, and they include:


Most modern speakers are equipped with one of three different magnet types – ceramic, alnico, or neodymium.

Alnico magnet-equipped speakers are generally the warmest sounding at low volume but add to a great-sounding breakup at higher levels. They boost speaker reactivity, helping to improve note separation and clarity.

Ceramic magnets, sometimes called ferrite, were designed to act as a cost-effective alternative to the pricey alnico magnets that were traditionally used in speaker manufacturing. They became very popular with metal players because of their excellent versatility, ability to hand power, and their great sound at high volume.

Neodymium is a newer material that offers a great attack and a nicely balanced frequency response. Their biggest advantage is their light weight, making them a great choice for players concerned about transporting gear.


The power rating of your speakers is limited by the diameter of their voice coils and the magnet’s mass. A rule of thumb – the heavier the magnet and the larger the voice coil, the greater the power rating. In an ideal world, you should match your speakers to the amp’s power.

If you want to improve low-frequency responsiveness, you can opt for a speaker rated higher than the amp, but you should never equip a speaker with a lower power rating than your amplifier’s output. It will physically work and may give some interesting distortion, but there’s a good chance you’ll destroy the speaker quite quickly.

Individual Reviews

Our Top Pick
Eminence DV-77 Mick Thomson Signature

Eminence DV-77 Mick Thomson Signature

A highly anticipated speaker that genuinely lives up to the hype.

If you're looking to replicate Mick Thomson's sound, upgrading your amp with his signature speakers is a great way to do it. They are balanced, and respond brilliantly to changed in attack, letting you shift quickly from chugging rhythm lines to searing solos.

Eminence has quickly become one of the industry leaders in speakers for metal guitarists. This is evidenced by their partnership with Slipknot’s Mick Thomson for his Signature DV-77 speaker. The whole unit was designed from the ground up, avoiding the typical sway between the American or British sound. Eminence wanted the DV-77 to have a tone all of its own, and I really think they succeeded.

While metal tones are quite varied, one thing most people agree on is that the mids need to be tight and focused. The DV-77s are amongst the thickest and tightest out there, without falling off the other side and becoming brittle or shrill. Despite the focus, when I pushed it hard through my 22-watt all-tube amp, it still left plenty of room in the middle of the mix for other instruments – particularly for aggressive vocals to shine through. If you play in drop tuning or plan to use one or more of these speakers for bass amps, you’ll be pleased to know that the lows are massive.

These speakers are rated for 70 watts and have a 70Hz resonance. I was blown away by the amount of character that the Eminence DV-77 boasts. The sound balance was excellent, which really helped to avoid unnecessary EQ balancing, leaving me more time to enjoy the speaker.

Notably, the Eminence DV-77 uses a ferrite magnet, which struck a nice blend of sharp attack while maintaining versatility across the volume range.

Verdict: The Eminence DV-77 absolutely leaps out of any mix. It’s bold and in your face and doesn’t sound harsh at any volume or gain level. It’s made with the best of the best components, including a hand-selected Kurt Mueller cone, which gives this speaker a unique tone while still keeping an unmistakably metal voice.

Best Budget Option
Eminence Swamp Thang

Eminence Swamp Thang

A great choice for players looking for a massive bottom end.

These speakers offer some of the meatiest bottom end in the business. They are phenomenal for doom, thrash, and other heavier subsets of metal, and come with a monster power rating of 150 watts.

The Eminence Swamp Thang is a fantastic budget option and was clearly built to complement heavier players. It really focuses on the bottom end, which becomes immediately apparent when you hear the huge amount of tight bass, which is pretty rare in a 12” cone.

I found it was more than capable of bringing the hard bite that’s prized in thrash and other heavier metal styles without coming across too raspy. Up in the mids, it became clear that this speaker was biased towards the lower end, which made the sound a little too muddy at lower volumes, although it did still offer a pleasing amount of breakup when pushed, which lent some versatility to this speaker.

The Swamp Thang is one of the most powerful 12” speakers on the market, with an impressive 150-watt rating. This kind of power makes it a great choice for those planning to play large venues. However, if you’re just using it for bedroom or even garage practice, you should probably consider a lower-powered option like the DV-77 or the Vintage 30. Otherwise, you may find it hard to let the character of your amp come through.

One benefit of the huge power rating, however, is the massive amount of headroom left at high volume. This became even more apparent due to the fact that it was tested with just 22 watts of power through the Bugera V22. The ceramic magnet kept the player response sharp and really responded well when cranked to 11. 

Verdict: The Eminence Swamp Thang is a great choice if you’re looking for something at a good price that can handle large venues. If you’re using a lot of pedal-based effects, the headroom that comes with the huge power rating really helps to let the genuine character of the pedals come through, too. These speakers are reliable and well-made but are definitely better suited to use in an extension cab than as a solo speaker in a combo amp.

Editor's Choice
Celestion Vintage 30

Celestion Vintage 30

The definitive metal speakers continue to impress.

With these speakers you'll get classic tones reminiscent of the early days of metal. They offer excellent focus in the bass register, and tight mids that really hold together with high gain and distortion.

Launched in 1986, during the heyday of metal, the Celestion Vintage 30 offers a modest power rating of 60 watts, which is far from the highest out there. Having a lower power rating can assist with distortion and get you some great metal tones, but it can also cause some reliability issues if you push your speakers hard for extended periods.

For tones, the Vintage 30 has a big, British voicing, and it really brought the noise across the range, including tight and focused lows and a beautiful range of overtones across the spectrum. It put out some of the richest mids I’ve ever heard. Even the highs were filled with incredible-sounding harmonics.

With gain maxed and my RAT at full distortion, the Vintage 30 still provided awesome note separation. And because of its high-quality construction, heat dissipation was superb, ensuring that performance was reliable and consistent even during extended play through a hot, all-tube amp.

Verdict: Some may say the Celestion Vintage 30 is getting a little long in the tooth, and in some respects, they may be right. Because the Celestion Vintage 30 is pretty much the industry standard when it comes to speakers for metal, they have subconsciously influenced the musical tastes of many metal fans, and this can make it hard to stand out if you’re trying to sound unique. Despite this, they really have earned their reputation over the years through a combination of excellent build quality and big “in your face” mids that are exactly where you want them to be on a speaker for metal.

Final Thoughts

There is such a vast difference between different speakers that it becomes readily apparent that getting the sound you’re looking for is about more than your guitar and amp (and the right metal strings). Switching out the speakers, even on a high-end combo or cabinet, to a set that will yield the tone you’re looking for can have a huge impact. And if you’re building your own cabinet, any of these is a great starting point.

  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before running away to work on ships. These days his passion is budget guitars, amps and pedals - though he's not afraid of the finer things.