A Review of the Celestion TN0820 in an Orange PPC108 Cabinet
I found a used Celestion TN0820 8″ driver to put in the Orange PPC108 1×8 cab.
Rated at 150w with a 2″ voice coil, this thing will easily handle what I give it from the Quilter Toneblock. Here are my findings, opinions on how it sounds and a couple of solutions to fine-tuning the sound, which to me at least made it sound better.
I was a little nervous about trying this speaker because the frequency response (60Hz to 4000Hz), was significantly lower than the speaker that Quilter uses in its 8″ combos and many players use as their upgrade speaker (Celestion TF0818). I am a fan of dark-sounding speakers, but I still like detail and clarity. It’s a fine balance that causes me to be very fussy about guitar speakers. The shocking thing is that I just got lucky with my Kustom Defender 1×12 cab because the speaker in that (unknown manufacturer) is pretty dark and I love how that responds to my Quilter Toneblock.
After finding the Celestion TN0820 used, which of course made it cheaper I decided to try it out rather than a TF0818, which is a much more affordable speaker. I’m glad I did because I still found the TN0820 to be too bright for my application. The TF0818 would have been even more so I think.
So I “Fixed” the Sound
However, regardless of the top end being a bit too much, the rest of the sound spectrum was pretty good. Nice bottom end and quite a lot of it for an 8″ speaker and with the comfort of knowing it’ll never be too bottom heavy. I figured I’d try the same thing I did to tame the brittle top end of the the PPC108’s stock speaker – Orange’s own Voice of the World 8″. I place a layer of thinnish fabric over the sound hole of the baffle, held in place once the speaker is screwed in. You’ll never see it because it’s behind the grille cloth. It made a big difference, just balancing the top end with the bottom and midrange without muffling it completely.
I also stuck some polyfill (the synthetic “fluff” that cushions and cuddly toys are stuffed with on the back panel. I originally put it on all walls of the inside of the cab, but it didn’t sound so good, making the cab sound more boxy where the aim was to make is sound less so. I think I’ve found a good balance – it took a lot of trial and error.
What I found regarding the sound of the speaker was a little different to what I was expecting to hear before I installed it. I was half-expecting it to sound more boxy and much darker than it did. In fact I was quite hoping it would be just too dark, so I could slam it with lots of treble from my pedals. That is not the case at all.
It sounded to me like the frequency response goes much higher than the 4KHz it’s stated to be, sounding almost as bright (but not as harsh or spiky) as the stock speaker. Of course the frequencies above 4KHz aren’t completely muted, so the frequency response specs are obviously referenced to a threshold level I guess. However what I started to notice too (and don’t forget the cabinet itself is playing a large part in the tone) was that the midrange was very prominent. After listening to guitar speakers for many years, you may forget just how much midrange is “scooped” out of their frequency response – at least for most of them. The guitar puts out a lot of midrange frequencies, so it sounds relatively “normal” through a guitar speaker.
The celestion TN0820 is not purpose-built for guitar, so it’s response over the midrange frequencies is quite higher than traditional guitar speakers/ The high-mids also contribute to the brightness, especially when they approach the region of the highs (around 2-3KHz). I concluded that this speaker has a lot of high mid to its tone and that can be easily compensated for with the amp tone controls (more easily than untamed treble anyway).
At low volumes the speaker sounds incredibly smooth and warm, but starts to “attack” the ears more once you get closer to stage or rehearsal volume. I find that’s pretty much the same for all speakers though due to the behaviour of the human ear.
So is it Any Good Then?
One more thing that is very noticeable is that this speaker is much quieter than the stock speaker (and both my Tonetubby 10″ and my Kustom 1×12). Its sensitivity is rated at 94dB, which is on the low side compared to most guitar speakers, but for me this is fine, seeing as I’d rather have an amp that I need to turn up (knowing I have the power handling now) than not being able to turn down quiet enough.
I am now keen on getting a 2nd one of these to put in my new DIY 8″ cab, which is a little wider than the PPC108. I already tested it out using the stock speaker briefly and it sounds a bit fuller than the Orange Cab.
On the whole I’m happy with the TN0820. It’s still got plenty of bite, but is a bit smoother now I’ve made some tweaks. It’s full-enough sounding compared to the old speaker so that it no longer sounds like a toy and it’ll serve me well on stage.