Small Amps Great Sound (Part 4)

Ok so I’ve got the amp head and it sounds amazing, so lastly all we have to do is find a cab to house it in. Simple!

Just to recap I was looking to see if it was possible to get a boutique quality small, 7-8watt tube amp suitable for use in church for under $500. So far I’ve got the head chassis from Lil Dawg amps which listed at $279 but I couldn’t resist adding a few extras so in total I spent $325! To finish the project I need to add a suitable cabinet to mount it in and add a speaker, so I’ve got my work cut out to do the whole lot for $175.


I’ve decided I want the whole lot in a combo rather than head and cab and I want a decent 12 inch speaker, the quality and type of which will make a huge overall difference to the final sound so let’s look at that first:


Not all guitar speakers are the same! The speaker is the one component that can make the biggest overall difference to the tone and volume of your amp so it’s worth reading up and choosing wisely. I’m not going to cover everything here, but the main differences are in the magnet used. Originally speakers used alnico magnets which were plentiful after the war and sounded very musical but as the cost of alnico grew, manufacturers switched to ceramic magnets which sound different. Broadly speaking, the classic Vox sound uses Celestion alnico ‘blue’ speakers and Marshall’s and other overdrive orientated amps move towards ceramic sounds with the G12 ‘greenback’ and others. If you want to compare the differences listen to the sound samples on the celestion website.
For now however I want something that is a classic pairing with the 5F1 tweed champ circuit in the head so it’s got to be an alnico option…

Weber 12A125A alnico $105. Weber speakers are highly regarded and this is a replica of the original Jensen P12Q which has a really warm, loose tone and is fitted to the new Fender hand-wired Tweed Deluxe. Try one out in a shop – you’ll soon see what the fuss is about.

Weber signature alnico 12, $45. Great budget alnico speaker similar to the Jensen P12R so this is a bit brighter than the 12A125 but a very good low cost alternative.

Celestion Blue £180/$289 Weber alnico Blue dog $195. Eminence Red Fang $169. The ‘blue’ used in the AC30 is supposed to be the last word in sweet tone. They do sound really good but can be quite bright in certain applications. Webers are very close copies for less money and the Red Fang is a bit cheaper still


There are three types of wood that most cabs are made of. The cheaper stuff uses MDF which I wouldn’t recommend for an amp as good as this as it’s very heavy and sounds rubbish. If you’re buying a used cab make sure you find out what it’s made of! Most decent cabs are made of plywood. Marshall has always used it and ply seems to work well in amps that are designed for distortion. Also with ply, the weight can be the limiting factor especially if it’s the 13mm Birch type as used in Orange type cabs. Lastly the original tweed Champs and Deluxe’s that my unit is based on all used pine cabs which are light and resonant, produce lovely clean tones but cost more. There are also tonal differences between open backed and closed backed cabinets. Here are some options:

Epiphone Valve Junior 1×12 cabinet. These open back cabs are made of proper ply wood and come with a reasonable Eminence ceramic speaker for around $140US/£100UK which is amazing value. Even under $100 used on Ebay. With a little bit of jiggery pokery the chassis could be easily mounted inside the top of the cab thus giving you a combo. At this price you could even have enough for a speaker upgrade and sell the Eminence on.

Avatar 1×12 or even 2×12– Avatar make great sounding and looking cabs at great prices. Hard to get in the UK but they sell a lot on Ebay so an empty 1×12 could well come in at under $100.

Custom cabs on Ebay. There are loads in the US. I found a guy that does authentic lacquered tweed deluxe cabs for $180 and bare pine versions for $115. For UK customers, custom cabs are harder to find but I regularly see a guy from Morton in the Marsh on Ebay that sells custom made 1×12 pine tweed deluxe cabs for £125! Other second hand bargains do come up so keep your eyes peeled!

Used cabs on Ebay. There are loads of used cabs out there especially in the USA. Search under 5E3, 5F1, tweed deluxe/tweed champ cabinet. Just make sure you get the correct speaker size, wood type, weight and control panel aperture if applicable. You should be able to get something decent for just over $100.

Matamp – somebody mentioned Matamp cabs in a previous post. They are hand made in Britain for under £300 inc choice of speaker which is great value. However they use the 13mm Birch ply which while giving them huge strength and great tone for rock applications but also makes them quite heavy – which is what I’m trying to get away from so probably not for this project.

Orange PPC112 – Very similar to the Matamp but production line built in China so about half the price.

Better Built/Ted Weber 5F1/ 5E3 1×12 cab. Better Built actually hand make the pine cabinets for Victoria amps which are regarded as some of the nicest looking and sounding amps of this kind at a price of about $1200! You can buy the cabs themselves for $220 so if you put the elements together you’ll have a very classy looking amp for well under that price. Weber also do good pine cabs and you can also choose the colour, grill cloth and covering material. Embossed paisley brown leather anyone?

So before I show you the route I’ve taken, I’ve put together some different budget options to wet your appetites. Do bare in mind that in many cases you’ll have to add postage fees and perhaps customs too if shipping overseas. However for what you get its still WAY better value than a production amp of similar price.

Low Budget option
Basic Lil’ Dawg chassis  $279
Used Eminence 1×12 cab  $100
Total     $379!

Budget + option
Basic Lil’ Dawg chassis  $279
New Eminence 1×12 cab  $139
Weber signature alnico 12 $45
Total     $463 (minus whatever you get for the Eminence)

Authentic look used cab option
Basic Lil’ Dawg chassis  $279
Used 5e3 cab    $120
Weber signature alnico 12 $45
Total     $444

Authentic sound option
Basic Lil’ Dawg chassis  $279
stripped ebay cab   $115
Weber 12A125A alnico $105
Total     $500

Authentic look all new option
Basic Lil’ Dawg chassis  $279
New Better built cab   $220
Weber signature alnico 12 $45
Total     $544

Blow the budget option!
Lil’ Dawg chassis + extras $325
New Better built cab   $220
Weber alnico Blue dog $195
Total     $740

So what did I do? Actually something a little unexpected with some really cool twists, but you’ll have to wait till the next post for details and pics.