If you’re looking to upgrade your amp or cabinet’s speaker(s), choosing the best guitar speakers for rock specifically can be tricky, as each speaker imparts its own characteristics to the sound, and there are noticeable differences between makes and models.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at 3 of the best speakers for rock. Getting the ‘Rock Tone’ was our biggest priority for this review, but we also compared build quality, and overall performance.
All tests were conducted using our Gibson Les Paul Studio, and a 50 watt Marshall Silver Jubilee head, paired with a Peavey 112-C cab. We close mic’d each speaker with a Shure SM57, keeping the mic position and axis the same for all the speakers for consistency.
All speakers tested were 8 Ohm in impedance and 12” in diameter. 12” speakers are ideal for rock and overdriven/distorted tones, but you can get these speakers in smaller sizes too.
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Check out our full rundown of the best guitar speakers.
- Our Top Three Picks
- Eminence Texas Heat Patriot Series 12” 150W – Our Top Pick
- Jensen C12N Vintage Ceramic 12” 50W – Best Budget Option
- Celestion G12H-75 Creamback 12” 75W – KGR Editor’s Choice
- Best Guitar Speakers for Rock – Buyer’s Guide
- Final Thoughts on the Best Speakers for Rock
Our Top Three Picks
The Eminence Texas Heat Patriot Series 12” 150W was our top pick. It offers excellent bite and handles high gain crunch exceptionally well.
If you’re working to a tighter budget, check out our best value pick, the Jensen C12N Vintage Ceramic 12” 50W. This speaker is as inexpensive as 12” speakers can get without sacrificing quality. The perfect entry-level speaker for a rock guitarist.
If you’re not worried about price and you’re looking for the best of the best, our Editor’s Choice, the Celestion G12H-75 Creamback 12” 75W reigns supreme. It offers stunning performance worthy of any stage or studio.
Eminence Texas Heat Patriot Series 12” 150W – Our Top Pick
We found that the Texas Heat Patriot far outperforms its price tag. It delivered a fat tone, while maintaining excellent clarity, and had zero issues cutting through the mix. It was well defined, and didn’t compromise note separation
At the top-end we found that the Texas Heat offered the grit we were looking for, without becoming tinny. The tone lent itself well to a British voiced amp. We felt the sensitivity of the speaker was excellent, with high responsiveness to changes in attack.
The low-end and mid-range responses are aggressive without ever sounding muddy, while the top-end has milder responsiveness. It has a traditional ferrite magnet that offers a lot of durability too.
The frequency response was fat with a chunky low-end and a crisp mid-range. Speaker breakup occurs at medium volume, although pushing these speakers to high volumes can result in clipping while recording.
For our test, we used a 50W amplifier, but the Texas Heat can handle significantly more power thanks to its beefy 2” voice coil diameter. You can use the speaker in 1 X 12”, 2 X 12”, or 4 X 12” configurations, and in an open or closed-back cabinets as you require.
Verdict: The Eminence Texas Heat Patriot Series is perfect for rock because of its rich and smooth tone. We found It to be very touch-sensitive and that it sits well in a mix, but is capable of cutting through when asked to do so. The top-end is aggressive, while the mid-range is rich and flavourful. The higher power rating makes it effective and safe to use in a broader range of use cases than other speakers in its range.
Jensen C12N Vintage Ceramic 12” 50W – Best Budget Option
Jensen had an outstanding market share in guitar speakers in the ‘60s, but they pulled out of the business soon after, only to return in the ‘90s. The Jensen C12N is a throwback to the P12N Alnico, one of the classic Jensen speakers from their hay day six decades ago.
At less than half the price of an actual alnico speaker, the Jensen C12N convincingly replicates the resulting tone from the P12N. It can do this despite being a ceramic speaker. It is perfect if you are on a tight budget.
In our tests, we found the tones of the C12N to be very Blackface-style – bluesy, classic, and rocking at the same time. The mid-range is aggressive and very easy to push into overdrive, which is important for rock. Other than rock, the C12N is also great for electric blues, surf, jazz, country, and even some heavy metal. It’s truly versatile and yet affordable.
We also heard a full-bodied and smooth sound that could drive a soaring guitar lead. The high-end has a pleasant chime to it, and the clarity of the sound is adequate for holding its own in a hard rock song.
The only drawback we could find is that the 1.5” voice coil diameter gives the speaker a low power rating of just 50W. This means you are limited to amps that provide an output in that range, or you have to get multiple iterations of the speaker and the cabinet to support them. For this reason, we think it would be best suited to combo amps like the Bugera V22 or a Fender Princeton ’65.
Verdict: The Jensen C12N is without a doubt the best 12” speaker for rock that you can find in this price range. It’s clear, aggressive, and drives distorted tones pleasantly. It’s suitable for many other genres and is excellent for beginners starting their journey and trying different things.
Celestion G12H-75 Creamback 12” 75W – KGR Editor’s Choice
Celestion has been leading the pack for some time with its range of iconic guitar speakers. The G12H-75 Creamback is another classic. Though it comes at a premium, it proves time and time again that it’s worth the extra expense for a classic rock experience.
The Creamback has a very rich top-end, which lands a foray of classic British jabs when you play with overdrive. In our tests, we also found that the bottom-end is more prominent than expected, with a heavy, impactful tone that pulls through the mix despite the more aggressive top-end.
Contrary to the top and bottom ends, we found the mid-range of the tone is softer and gives the tone an overall scooped feel. Many guitarists, particularly in metal genres, prefer to suppress certain mid-range frequencies; the Creamback is an excellent choice for this purpose.
We drove the Creamback into the high-gain area, and it handled the heavy tones perfectly. It recreates the low-resonance character of older counterparts like the original G12H. This is what gives it the powerful and deep lower-end.
Verdict: The Celestion G12H-75 Creamback is simply the best speaker for rock at any price. We found it to be well worth the expense with its old-school, British sound and scooped mids. It offers decent excellent handling and works well with classic and modern amps alike.
Best Guitar Speakers for Rock – Buyer’s Guide
Buying speakers can be tricky if you don’t know how to make sure your gear is compatible. It’s not as simple as choosing the one that looks the best, or following your favorite artist who loves it.
Before you buy your next guitar speaker, keep these factors in mind.
Size and Wattage
The first concern is the size of the speaker you need and how many speakers you need, if more than one. If you’re a gigging musician, think about the size of venues you’ll be performing in. If you’ll be playing coffee house solo sets, chances are you won’t need more than a 1×12” combo. For large gigs, you might want to consider a 4×12” cab.
You need a speaker with sufficient clarity to hear every single note on each of the strings. To get this kind of definition, you’ll need an even frequency response throughout the range of the speaker.
Be careful about the power output of your amp. If you plug in a speaker with a lower wattage than your amp’s output, it will likely destroy the speaker entirely. Conversely, not having enough power output from your amp can end up not causing enough air displacement by the speaker for the desired tone, so it’ll sound weak and dull.
The speaker impedance and the amp impedance must also be compatible. You should pair 8-ohm speakers with 8-ohm amplifiers only, otherwise you can cause damage to them. Things tend to get complicated when you’re wiring multiple speakers together, as you need to calculate the overall resistance, so if you’re not sure, ask your local amp tech.
Sound Quality and Volume
For a classic rock ‘n roll tone, the speaker not only needs clarity to cut through the mix, but it also needs to adjust well to distortion. Distortion also increases the overall volume of your sound, so the speaker should not be too large for the gig, or it will become impractically loud when you play with high gain.
On the other hand, if the volume is too low, the speaker will not produce the right tone. This is because it needs to displace enough air with the right intensity to give you your desired tone. Louder volumes shape the sound curve into the sweet spot.
Final Thoughts on the Best Speakers for Rock
In summary, we found that The Eminence Texas Heat is the perfect combination of sound quality and practicality, perfect for any rock tone. The Jensen C12N offers a classic sound in a modern, affordable package that’s perfect for beginners. And if you want the cream of the crop, get the Celestion G12H Creamback.
All three of these are great for rock, but see what works best for your rig. Choosing the right speaker might just land you your dream tone without the need to change up your guitar or the amp itself.