It occurred to me the other day that while I've done reviews of instrument amplifiers and combos I haven't as yet reviewed a speaker cabinet on its own. Well folks here it is: The VHT Special 6 1x12 cabinet in closed back form. An open back version is available which features a Celestion speaker but the version we're looking at today features VHT's own 1260 Chromeback Speaker. I happen to be a fan of house speakers so I see this as a plus and not a minus, if the speaker is good that is.
There's something that happens when you lift a cabinet made of birch ply and not compressed board. The solidness is immediately apparent. Birch has better acoustic properties as well. From the stats I found not only is thing made with birch ply but they go the extra mile to finger join the corners. Another immediately obvious feature is that the handle is attached to a recessed area in the top of the cabinet. When you get to where your going push the handle down and it is flush with the top - very nice. This may not be a big deal to you but I can't stand it when I set a head on a cabinet and it's tilted by the handle. Makes me worry about dropping an expensive head on the floor.
The tolex is pretty standard stuff but the corners are all done well - no exposed wood, glue, or crinkled up vinyl. Seems like properly applied vinyl is becoming a lost art. Many cabinets these days come with small loose areas and poorly glued areas. Doesn't seem like a big deal but after being loaded and transported a few times those are the areas that will become large tears. Do it right from the get go and the purchaser should be happy miles down the road. The grill cloth is also nicely done - no puckers or loose areas to be found. This brings us to the most important aspect of this cabinet:
Generally a house speaker is employed to bring the price point down on a cabinet. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. There isn't some magic that happens at a Celestion or Eminence factory - just good quality control and design. That's something a lot of companies can do and if the end product and sound are kept in mind its totally doable. How did VHT do? I've heard lots of people call this setup tight but I found that with the Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 18 I hit some great modern heavy tones as well as some crystal clear cleans. This is definitely not a vintage style speaker - there is no speaker distortion to be found. None. Nada. Zilch. If you like some breakup as you crank the amp up you won't find it with this speaker. As a comparison I A/B checked this thing against the 16 ohm Peavey Valveking cabinet I have (house speakers again) and yup this is one of the cleanest speakers I've found. The Valveking cabinet has a lot more breakup - and obviously with a bigger 4x12 cabinet is going to have more bass production and projection.
So would I say that this Chromeback 1260 speaker isn't good? No - actually most players today that rip out modern rock and metal don't want any speaker breakup. I'm more the vintage guy that likes that extra oomph and texture of speaker breakup but that's really a personal choice. Also consider that this single speaker is rated at 60 watts - generally a speaker with breakup like a Greenback will have a rating of 20 to 30 watts. Another consideration is that this is a closed back design so it accentuates bass and projection much more than an open back design. An open back design with a Celestion speaker is available in another model so perhaps that is more the vintage sounding unit? So how does it compare to other very tight sounding speakers - I'd say good but not great. Consider this is a sub $200 cabinet so obviously not the best materials are going to be utilized in this speaker. At this price though the thought of buying one of these and using it as a test cabinet for other speakers really comes to mind.
The Special 6 1x12 Cabinet is so much solid value. For $180 you could easily order a birch cabinet with finger-joining. You won't get a speaker with that, probably not a handle, vinyl, or grill cloth either. The value of this cabinet is pretty unbelievable. The sound is very good. I like the Jensen clean tight sound better but that's my personal choice. If this thing meets your sound palate then by all means go with it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with its sound - just everyone develops there preferences over time. The speaker in this unit would not be my choice for a vintage rock sound or for blues. Playing bright cleans and having a tight heavy sound are the forte of this particular speaker which falls squarely in the "modern" category. I'd really like to try the open back Celestion speaker unit to see what the sound of that unit is. Oddly several vendors sell this unit but I couldn't find a dedicated page for it over at VHT. Perhaps this is one of their little secrets?
I'd say this speaker would be great for a practice rig. I wouldn't record with it but if it suits your sound taste I'd gig it without any worries.