I have a long time love affair with the 15-inch guitar speaker. My first real amp was an Oliver Powerflex 502. 35 watts of real tube power through a single 15-inch speaker. It all seemed so magical to me. I am not the only guitarist with a love for 15-inch speakers.
Guitarist Dick Dale’s blasted through a Fender Dual Showman loaded with 2 15 inch speakers for Miserlou. Stevie Ray Vaughn was another 15-inch speaker guy, rocking two Vibroverbs during the 80’s. Eric Clapton got his signature tone from a Fender Concert with a single 15-inch speaker. Guitar god Jimi Hendrix used 15’s during his SUNN amp days. Even Jimmy Page rocked a Fender Dual Showman in his Yardbirds stint. Fast forward to modern days and the 15-inch guitar speaker is still a staple. Dimebag Abbott kept 15s in his live and studio rigs.
So, if 15 inch speakers are so great why are they not used as much as 12s? There are a few reasons, most of them falling into the realms of logistics and perceptions. Fifteens are obviously bigger than 12s. During the late sixties when people starting using multiple speaker cabs to play larger venues the multi 15 cabs resembled small refrigerators. 2×12 and 4×12 speaker configurations became the norm for touring musicians due to their portability. We being who we are as musicians are drawn to buy what we see our heroes play through. The 15 faded from the public’s eye.
The 15-inch speaker has gotten a bad rap over the years from some cork-sniffing guitarists that are ill-informed. Let’s dispel some of those myths you may have heard. Today I am going to focus on one fifteen inch speaker. The new Celestion G15V-100 Fullback. The G15V-100 as the name suggest is a 100-watt 15-inch speaker. It is 8 ohms and has a sensitivity rating of 99 dB making it a very efficient speaker.
One thing I get asked frequently is “will 15-inch speakers make my tone muddy?” No, fifteens will deliver a rich fullness, a round sound if you will. Your treble and high end are not going anywhere. When guitar players play through 15-inch speakers designed for PA gear or bass players, of course, their high-end will suffer. This is not the case with the G15V-100 Fullback, this speaker is designed for guitar. It has a frequency range of 65-4000Hz more than enough range to pick up the tonal spectrum of a guitar and enough to even cover a standard piano. Yes, you will have to dial in your amp a little differently but I suggest doing that when switching to any new speaker.
The other concern I hear is 15-inch speakers have a slower response than a 12-inch speaker. Hold on there Flash you are not going to outplay a speaker. If the 15-inch speaker is responsive enough to keep up with Dimebag, Page and Hendrix I don’t forsee you having any problems. So how does the Celestion G15V-100 Fullback sound?
We loaded ours into a pine C-4 Custom Tweed cabinet from Soundsrite Audio, the makers of Rocket Cabs. You can read our review of the cabinet (check out the review) and get a deeper dive on the versatility of the Celestion G15V-100 Fullback. The Celestion G15V-100 Fullback is a classic (don’t read that as old) sounding speaker with a lot of presence. When paired with an Orange Micro Terror or Fender Excelsior the speaker had a lot of funk and pop. The cleans were shimmering and clear as I worked my way down the fretboards comping chords. When running through some funk and blues licks around the 3rd and 5th frets I found the speaker to have beautiful midrange tones with singing sustain. This speaker also has a lot of headroom. I was able to push cleans to wall shaking levels with no noticeable distortion what so ever.
Hitting the G15V-100 Fullback with a bit of gain is a whole new experience. I plugged the cab in next to my Marshall MX212 loaded with Celestion Seventy 80 speakers and drove it with my Marshall JCM 2000 100 watt head. The combination of the 12s with the 15 was amazing. With just a bit of gain in the CLASSIC GAIN channel, I was dredging up great classic rock tones. The definition on the lows was crystal sharp. There was no mud or any other conceivable artifacts in the tone. Switching over to the ULTRA GAIN channel and giving the gain a generous boost I was in heaven. This is the chuggy, thick sound I have always dreamed of. The cabinets complemented each other perfectly delivering face smashing power chords and singing leads.
The G15V-100 Fullback is a great general purpose speaker that will take you anywhere from crystal clean jazz to face-smashing metal. Besides the amps we have mentioned so far we also tested it with an 80’s solid state Fender M80 with great results. We also tested it as an extension cab speaker with a 1972 Fender Quad Reverb and a 70’s Randell solid state 4×10 combo. Every time and in every application the G15V-100 Fullback delivered. As a replacement for you 1×15 combo or as an addition to your current rig I think most guitar players will be impressed with the tone and performance of the Celestion G15V-100 Fullback.