Breaking in New Speakers

This is the method I use for breaking in new raw speakers. It's a combination of recommendations I've gotten from Ted Weber, Tim at EarCandy Cabs, and online correspondence with Celestion.

  1. After installing a new speakers in should first be exposed only to the normal backround noise produced by the amp. Turn the amp on but leave the guitar volume off for a few minutes. All amp tone controls straight up. (Run the guitar cable straight from the guitar to the amp. No pedal or onboard effects).
  2. Select the amp channel with the cleanest voicing and set the volume low. Bring the volume up on the guitar and begin by struming full open chords. Optimal would be about 15 to 30 minutes of exposure. Do not use bar chords for this part of the breakin. The idea is to expose the speaker to a wide frequency range containing both fretted and open strings.
  3. Begin mixing single notes with the open chords and vary the attack and type of picking both with a plectrum and with bare fingers. Again, at least 15 to 30 minutes before moving on.
  4. You can now start mixing in bar chords and moving further up the neck. Over the next hour or so expose the speakers to as wide a range of frequencies as possible. Mix in tonal adjustments on both the guitar and amp. Save the highest and brightest settings for last. Work up to them slowly.
  5. Of note* New speakers should be limited to one to two hours of usage at a time. Then give them a break. Come back later, give them a couple minutes to warm up, and continue.
  6. At this point you can start increasing the volume and add in a little crunch. Again, chords first and then mixing in single notes and lead patterns.
  7. For the very best sounding speakers try not to drive them into "speaker" breakup for at least their first 15 hours of usage. The speaker needs time to limber up. It's like daily warmups of a runner getting ready for a marathon. Each day a little longer and a bit more vigorous.

 

Each speaker is different. Some models will be sounding their best after maybe 25 hours of usage. Others may need 50 to 100 hours to truly sing as they were designed to. Hemp cones seem to take forever and many players give up on them too soon. Doped speakers will handle more abuse but lose a little of their optimal sound. AlNiCo models offer more compression and have a very sweet sustain because of this. Ceramic models offer more headroom, less breakup, and a crisper sound. Ceramics seem better voiced for extreme gain and bizillion note leads. AlNiCos are better for rich chords, vintage blues crunchy breakup, etc.

Other notes* Multi ribbed cones tend to be darker and smoother. Non ribbed cones tend to be brighter and more "intense" in the sound they produce. Less richness but more drive. Speakers that are driven closer to their rated output will supply a larger percentage of the tone you hear. A 25 watt amp into a speaker rated at 100 watts will have a different sound than the same amp driven into a 25 watt version of the same speaker. This can be bad or good. If you want the voice of the amp to be what you hear then the higher wattage speaker will allow that tone to come through. If you want the actual voice of the speaker to play a bigger role in what you hear the lower wattage version would be better. A great example is comparing the tone of a Vox AC 30, (30 to 35 watts into a pair of 15 watt AlNiCo Blues), to the tone of a 50 watt Marshall driving four 75 watt GT75s. The speakers in the AC30 play a much bigger role in the sounds produced. They're being pushed to their max. The GT75s, while adding a voicing of their own to the Marshall, do so at a much smaller degree. Swapping the GT75s for Vintage 30's will notably alter the sound of the Marshall. Swapping the AlNiCo Blues for Vintage 30s will produce a huge difference in the voice of the AC30.

This is just my (Rick inmyhands) opinion based on info I've received from the builders and suppliers and my own personal experience. I hope someone benefits from it.