Dependent on the sound you are looking for, speaker cabinets come in open- and closed-back configurations based on several factors. You can achieve the sound you desire by using each one to its full capacity, because open-back cabinets often have a more open sound where closed cabinets have a gutsier mid-range sound.
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The most notable open-back guitar cabinets are those made by Fender. The Fender Tweed was first sold in the 1950s and had a partially open back, which opened up many possibilities in terms of the placement of microphones. The closed-back design is most prominent in rock and heavy metal. The most popular configuration is the Marshall 4X12 guitar cabinet, introduced in the early 1960s.
Open-backed speaker cabinets have a surround-sound quality that you don't hear in any other type of cabinet. You can use microphones on the back to get unique sounds from the amplifier itself. The open back allows the high end to flourish. Closed-back speaker cabinets have better low-end response and greater front projection. Although very unidirectional by nature, closed-back cabinets are great for aggressive rock sounds.
Open-backed cabinets are responsible for the creation of the closed-back configuration due to the musicians' preference for heavier mid-range and bass sounds. Originally, Jim Marshall, the creator of the Marshall amp, created an amplifier that was an exact replica of the famous Fender Bassman design, but used a closed back design for the speaker cabinet. This design revolutionised the guitar amp industry and many companies such as Mesa Boogie, Crate and Carvin utilised the closed back speaker cabinet in their lines.
Many believe that an open back cabinet cannot have a prominent mid-range, but Mesa Boogie was able to turn this around with the introduction of a 4 X 12 inch cabinet with a partial open back that worked very well with its mid-range heavy amplifiers. Other manufacturers have used closed-back cabinets for amps geared to styles other than rock and metal including Marshall, Mesa Boogie and Roland.
Although open-back designs are great for jazz and blues, you can get a very unique rock sound from an open-back design, so consider this combination in a rock setting. Some manufacturers' amps sound better with open back-designs, such as the Fender Bassman, so you may also want to consider which amp was designed for the speaker cabinet in question. Marshall high-gain heads sound best with their matching closed back speaker cabinets, but can produce very airy, distinctly vintage tones when combined with open back speaker cabinets.
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