When it comes to setting up the sound system for the guitar, everyone has an opinion. Some believe in nothing but stereo, while some see sense in using a mono setup since it is usually cheaper.
However, there has been another approach that seems to be between the two. The approach? Using a stereo guitar cabinet. How does a stereo guitar cabinet work?
A stereo guitar cabinet works by having two or more speakers inside a single speaker cabinet. Depending on the setup, the speakers usually are wired to receive signals separately. You can then manipulate the different signals and have the speakers produce different sounds.
In this post, we explore stereo guitar cabinets and how they work. We also look into how they are commonly set up and if it is better than using two mono-speaker cabinets.
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What Is A Stereo Guitar Cabinet?
A stereo guitar cabinet is a setup where you have more than one speaker in a single cabinet. A guitar cabinet is the box that holds the speakers. Depending on the setup, the stereo cabinet can contain two or more speakers of similar or different sizes, performance, and wiring.
A stereo guitar cabinet may sound complicated, but it is not. Let’s break it down. Stereo means two or more sound sources, meaning two or more speakers.
The word cabinet refers to the framing that holds the speakers. You usually see guitar speakers in a box-like container – the cabinet.
Speakers: Speakers inside a stereo guitar cabinet can differ by number, size, performance, and type. Some set up uses two similar speakers, while some may opt for one larger and a smaller speaker.
Inputs: Depending on the number of speakers inside the cabinet, you may have multiple inputs. This means speakers may have their individual input audio jack. If your stereo guitar cabinet has more than one speaker, you may have more than one input jack.
Stereo guitar cabinets may be preferred by some musicians needing to combine multiple audio sources and send them out from one speaker cabinet. This may include hobbyist bands or guitarists who want to experiment with specific sounds.
How Does A Stereo Guitar Cabinet Work?
The two most common ways to operate a stereo guitar cabinet are to run it as a regular or dual mono input. With stereo input, you have a separate sound source for each speaker. With the dual-mono setup, both speakers receive the same input. Each setup allows you to adjust the sounds differently.
When setting up a stereo guitar cabinet, there are two common approaches: stereo input and dual-mono input.
To simplify the explanations below, we assume that the stereo guitar cabinet uses two speakers of the same size and performance. We also assume each speaker has its own dedicated input audio jack.
In a stereo input setup, the two speakers receive different signals, producing different sounds. This is usually achieved by plugging in two different sources into the input audio jack of the speaker cabinet.
The most straightforward stereo setup example would be to hook the left speaker to the lead guitar. In contrast, the right speaker is plugged into a bass guitar.
You can hook both speakers to a single guitar in a more complicated setup. However, the signal from the guitar is first split into two using a splitter, creating two channels.
Both channels of signals now travel to a mixer, where you adjust the sound quality. For example, you make the sound on the first channel clean and the second distorted.
The clean channel is plugged into the left speaker, while the right speaker receives the distorted signal.
In this case, the sounds both speakers play out will be similar in volume but different in quality. For example, both speakers will play the same sound when you strum a G-chord on the guitar. However, the left speaker will be cleaner, the right a bit distorted.
Dual Mono Input
With a Dual-Mono setup, you essentially have both the speakers play out the same thing, with the option to perform some adjustments. A dual-mono setup is usually simpler than a stereo setup in many situations.
Unlike a stereo setup that allows you to hook two instruments into the guitar, a dual mono setup does not do that. Instead, you connect both speakers to a single sound source.
For example, instead of connecting to a bass and lead guitar, you only connect both speakers to your lead guitar.
With a dual-mono setup, many players often adjust the quality of the sounds that come out from each speaker. For example, one may have a more bassy sound, while the other is more treble.
Single Stereo Cabinet vs. Multiple Mono Speaker Cabinets
You may achieve similar sound effects using a single stereo cabinet or two mono speaker cabinets. The difference, however, may be in the setup process, cost, transportation, and effects.
If you think a little deeper, stereo speaker cabinets may be unnecessary. This is because you can likely achieve a similar effect with two or more mono-speaker cabinets, if not better.
For example, you hook up two instruments into each speaker in a single stereo cabinet setup. However, you can also do the same thing on two mono-speaker cabinets. Just place them side-by-side, and then plug one instrument into each cabinet.
However, there are reasons why single stereo cabinets remain popular. It has strengths that multiple mono speaker cabinets do not have. There are several ways they can differ:
Ease Of Set Up
In general, a single stereo cabinet should be easier to set up. This is because all the speakers are contained inside a single cabinet. You only need to hook up all your sound sources to the cabinet.
This may make setting up for a band jamming session incredibly easy. Simply place the speaker cabinet in the middle, and instruments can connect to the input audio jacks.
You can play with the amps on the cabinet if you need to adjust the volume and sound quality.
With mono-speaker cabinets, the setup may be a little complicated. There are more speaker cabinets to lug around and place. Each speaker needs to be placed correctly and connected to the instruments.
On top of that, when you need to adjust the tunes, volume, or other sound qualities, you need to move around more. This is because the amps are in different speakers.
Transportation may be a catch-22 here. This is because both speaker cabinet styles have their strengths and weaknesses.
Stereo cabinets may be easier to transport around since it is a single cabinet. You do not need to lug multiple cabinets around. However, when you have multiple speakers in a cabinet, it becomes large and heavy.
Mono cabinets are the opposite. It may be lighter and easier to carry since each cabinet only hosts a single speaker. However, you will have multiple cabinets, so transportation may become a bit of a hassle.
Stereo guitar cabinets are usually more expensive than mono cabinets. The reason is simple: it has more speakers and more complicated wiring inside. Despite its benefits and capabilities, the higher cost may be a hurdle for many players.
With mono guitar cabinets, they tend to be cheaper. As a result, some guitarists spend money on mono cabinets, only to buy another one when they want to experiment with stereo sounds.
This allows players to slowly upgrade, and break the spending into several payments, instead of putting a larger sum to immediately get a stereo guitar cabinet.
One good thing about mono speakers is that they come in separate units. This allows opportunities for you to explore spatial effects.
For example, you can have the speakers placed some distance apart from each other, and see if there is an effect. The distance could be from left to right or from front to back. You can also pan the sound from left to right or vice versa.
You may have issues performing such experiments if you have a stereo guitar cabinet. This is because your speakers are connected in a single cabinet, meaning you cannot exactly separate them out to place them a distance away from each other.
Even if you can perform some spatial effects, such as panning, the effects may not be as dramatic as separate mono speaker cabinets. This is because the speakers are too close to each other, making the effect less noticeable to the ears.
Should Beginner Guitarists Get A Stereo Guitar Cabinet?
In most cases, beginner guitarists may do better with a mono guitar cabinet. This is because it is cheaper and easier to set up. Plus, the beginner can always upgrade when the need comes.
Suppose you are new to guitar and are considering getting yourself a speaker cabinet. In that case, you may feel tempted to jump straight in and go for the fancier stereo cabinet.
However, you may be better off with a mono speaker cabinet in many cases for many reasons.
First, a mono speaker cabinet is generally cheaper. As a beginning guitarist, you may be unsure if you will make guitar playing a long-term passion. Simply investing so much money into speakers may not be a good idea.
It may be better to first get a mono speaker cabinet. You can always upgrade as you play along and feel like you want to experiment with stereo sounds. At this point, you can either get another mono speaker cabinet or a single stereo guitar cabinet.
Secondly, a mono speaker cabinet is easier to set up and work with. As a new guitarist, you should spend more time getting better with the guitar itself rather than worrying about the sound qualities your speakers make.
With a mono speaker cabinet, you can easily use it since it does not require a complicated setup. This frees up your attention to focus on the guitar playing instead.