- Does the thought of carrying a 4×12 guitar cabinet around make your back hurt? (yeah…it does for us too…)
- A good 2×12 cabinet can provide rich tones to rival even the best half stack.
- We check out some of the top contenders for the best 2×12 guitar cabinets for 2021!
There are areas where a combo amp can be the right choice, but for some guitarists, the limitations outweigh the benefits (literally).
Combo amps tend to be a bit on the heavy side, and if you’ve ever tried to move around an almost 80 lb Fender Twin Reverb from gig to gig then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
With all of the great 2×12 guitar cabinets that are available, you have the flexibility to pick the one that matches up the best with your favorite amp head. But with all of the models that are out there, how can you tell which guitar cabs are worth your time (and money), all while giving you the heavy metal performance you need?
Gotcha covered – today we’re going to check out the best 2×12 guitar cabinets that live and work in the rock/metal arena.
The 7 Best 2×12 Guitar Cabinets In 2021 (Which One Shreds Best?)
Even though EVH may not be as established as some other brands, we’ve determined that our coveted Editor’s Choice award for the best 2×12 guitar cabinet goes to the EVH 5150 III 2×12. Simply put, EVH has gained a solid reputation due to high levels of performance in the rock and metal genres, and this cab is no exception to that idea.
A surprise pick for our “Best Value” model turned out to be the Peavey 212. Yes…you read that right…we actually like a Peavey! We were surprised too, but the performance level coupled with the price point was just too hard to ignore.
Finally, moving to the higher end of the cab spectrum gives you the Friedman Runt 212, which has landed our trophy as the Best Premium 2×12 cabinet around. The Friedman brand is solidly placed in the upper echelon of guitar amps, and once you hear what the Runt 2×12 can produce it’s easy to see why.
Here’s the full list…
- EVH 5150 III 2×12 (Best Overall)
- Peavey 212-6 (Best Value)
- Friedman Runt – 212 (Best Premium)
- Mesa Boogie Recto 2×12
- Marshall MX212
- Orange PPC212
- Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister TM212
1. EVH 5150 III 2×12
The EVH 5150III Combo is a tube combo amp featuring two Celestion G12M speakers and three channels (Clean, Crunch and Lead).
- Big volume in a scaled-down chassis
- Headphone jack for private practice
- Enhanced top-end and bass response
Eddie Van Halen was known as a tone chaser during his long and storied career, and he was not one to slap his name on any old product in order to make a few bucks. He was obsessed with finding the perfect rock sound, and the 5150 III 2×12 line of speaker cabs certainly fit that bill.
- Loaded with two custom Celestion EVH G12 30W Anniversary Series speakers
- Birch and pine construction for enhanced top-end and bass response
- Built-in tilt mounts to allow upward projection onstage
While all of the models we have looked at have earned their spot on our list, the Editor’s Pick is reserved for that near-perfect combination of features, functionality, and tone. In our eyes, no model meets those criteria better than the EVH 5150 III 2×12.
Designed to be the ‘perfect’ pairing with the EVH 5150 III series of amp heads, the 5150 III 2×12 cabinet may be all you need to get everything from the coveted Van Halen ‘brown sound’ to harder metal tones that are dripping with tube saturation and crunch that would make any metalhead proud.
One thing we can say about EVH as a brand is that they really think of the professional guitarist, adding little design features that make a big difference. For example, the tilt mounts make this a great option for stage monitoring, and the casters and carry handle help a lot for portability (it does weigh a bit…but the ‘tone per pound’ ratio is still pretty impressive!)
2. Peavey 212-6
The Peavey 212-6 extension speaker cabinet is flawless in looks and tone for mating up with your 6505 Mini guitar amplifier head.
- Convertible back design
With the 212-6 2×12 cabinet, Peavey has a great entry into the rock speaker cabinet market. Peavey may not be the first name you think of when ‘great guitar gear’ is mentioned, but with all the 212-6 has to offer we think you just might change your opinion.
- Stock speakers are a pair of classic Celestion Greenback 25 speakers
- 18mm plywood construction and metal corners for on-the-road durability
- The convertible back design allows for either closed or open back, enhancing tonal options
Don’t forget – Peavey was the original manufacturer for the EVH 5150 line, so they know a thing or two about how to get a great high gain tone. Greenback 25 speakers have been the speaker of choice for a good number of rock players over the years, and they certainly get the job done with the 212-6.
A particularly useful feature is the ability to use it in an open or closed back configuration, as it gives you a completely different tonal option in your toolbox.
3. Friedman Runt – 212
Vintage style 2x12 closed-back guitar cabinet hand-crafted in the USA.
- Massive tone in a small package
- Road ruggedness
- Exceptional quality
A relative newcomer to the metal world, Friedman is making a fast name for itself with amp heads that simply…sound…amazing. They have a full range of speaker cabinets to go with them, and the Friedman Runt 212 is a great way to get that massive tone in a smaller package.
- Two Celestion Vintage 30’s deliver the goods without breaking a sweat, regardless of the gain
- Top-tier tongue & groove Baltic birch construction for road ruggedness and huge tone
- Built with pride in the USA with the same construction techniques as many boutique amplifiers
Our ‘Best Premium’ honor for the best 2×12 guitar cabinet goes to the Friedman Runt 212, and rightfully so – it’s a decidedly top-shelf model with top-shelf performance to match.
The Runt 212 has a rear-ported cabinet design, meaning it has a hole in the back that accentuates low frequencies and gives more bass response. These are optimized with the mid-to-upper response of the Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, giving you the best aspects of both an open and a closed-back cab.
There is an ‘air’ with the Friedman that just tells the world that it’s a premium product of exceptional quality. Sure, it comes with a premium price (almost twice some of the more inexpensive models we have looked at), but in our eyes the Runt 212 is one of those products that’s worth every bit of what it costs.
4. Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister TM212
The Hughes & Kettner 212 120W comes loaded with two legendary 12" Celestion Vintage 30s that are behind some of the most popular tones.
- Made for the road
- Full-range tone with plenty of low-end toughness
Hughes & Kettner themselves sums up the TM212 in one statement: ‘the steel fist in a velvet glove’. And they’re right – this cabinet delivers, giving you impressive sounds all the way from pristine cleans to enough gain to melt the paint off the walls.
- Tough for the road while still being lightweight
- Has two 12” Celestion Vintage 30 speakers on tap
- Closed-back cabinet design gives a full-range tone with plenty of low-end toughness
The Hughes & Kettner TM212 is among the lightest 2×12 cabinets on our list, coming in at an impressive 43 lbs. That being said, there is no worry about it not being durable as it’s simply built like a freakin’ tank. And it may be a relatively minor detail, but it has rubber feet on more than one side, letting you use it in a vertical configuration as well.
If you’ve done much research on 2×12 guitar cabinets, you’ll often see Celestion Vintage 30 speakers used. Pairing these up with the closed-back cabinet, the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister TM212 will give you a tone with plenty of aggressiveness and low-end chunk no matter what your preferred level of gain is.
5. Mesa Boogie Recto 2×12
This speaker cabinet monster sports 120-watt performance, V30 speakers, and a closed-back design - all adding up to massive punch.
- Bone-crunching tone
- Mono or stereo input capability
Anything with the words ‘Mesa Boogie’ and ‘Rectifier’ in their subject line typically means one thing: bone-crunching tone that will satisfy even the most fickle metalheads around. The Mesa Boogie 2X12 Recto Horizontal cabinet is the right choice to get that tone without the overkill of having ‘too much amp’.
- Celestion Vintage 30 speakers (rear-mounted) provide all the punch you may need
- Baltic birch cabinet construction for impeccable tone
- Mono or stereo input capability allows for increased utility and flexibility
One of the keys to getting a great metal tone – given all of the gain that’s going on – is to have a cabinet that is exceptionally crisp and clean. The Recto 2×12 has all of that and then some, featuring a tight low end that keeps things from getting too mushy or flabby. Yes – it may be a bit on the heavy side (both in the weight and price categories), but once you hear what comes out of those Celestion Vintage 30’s you’ll realize it’s all worth it.
6. Marshall MX212
Voiced to be paired with the DSLR series of amplifiers, the new MXR mono cabinets featuring the iconic Marshall logo are loaded with Celestion speakers.
- Available in either a horizontal or vertical
- Perfect for travelling musicians
We’d be nuts to have any sort of discussion about rock and metal tones and not have mentioned Marshall somewhere in the mix. The classic full amp stack wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Jim Marshall’s legendary vision, and with the MX212, Marshall has taken their 4×12 mojo and squeezed it into a great 2×12 cabinet.
- Available in either a horizontal or vertical (complete with an angled top) configuration
- Celestion Seventy-80 speakers handle classic rock crunch to molten high gain metal sounds
- Lightweight (but rugged) high-quality construction, making it a perfect choice for the gigging musician
We’re actually going to look at two different 2×12 Marshall cabinets here: the MX212 (horizontal configuration) and the MX212A (with a vertical setup). Both cabs pair perfectly with your favorite Marshall head (or, really, any high-octane amp of your choice), but we have to say we’re a bit partial to the MX212A.
It solves a long-standing problem when using a 2×12 cabinet on stage in that it places one of the two speakers farther off the floor and – being angled as well – gives more projection in all of the right places.
Plus – it’s a Marshall. Anything else?!?
I didn’t think so…
7. Orange PPC212
Orange celebrates 50 years of amplification excellence with a new series of lightweight, vertical cabs specially sized for the Terror series of amp heads.
- Sounds great
- Well-balanced sound
Orange amps have made a resurgence in recent years, particularly with the harder rock/metal crowd. Artists like Jim Root (Slipknot), Brian “Head” Welch (Korn), and the guys from Mastodon surely know a thing or twelve about getting some pretty impressive sounds with them.
With the Orange PPC212 you’ll find a well-built, great-sounding cab that takes that Orange metal vibe and puts it into a compact 2×12 cabinet that’s sure to please.
- All birch plywood construction (18mm) for durability and ‘just the right tone’
- Fitted with Celestion Vintage 30s to handle all the gain you ever need
- Closed-back cabinet for a fat and full sound
If you’re looking for a 2×12 cabinet that has an amazingly well-balanced sound, then the Orange PPC212 may be your ticket to sonic nirvana. All ends of the frequency spectrum come to the party here, with a low end that has no ‘flub’ to it, mid-range that isn’t overbearing and too thick, and a clean top end that lets those high notes cut through the mix without being too harsh.
If you’re looking for a 2×12 cabinet that is exceptionally well designed with a high build quality and distinctive visual appeal, the PPC212 is certainly a top contender for all of that as well.
2×12 Guitar Cabinets – Your Questions Answered (FAQ)
Some of the answers to questions that get asked about 2×12 cabinets may seem somewhat general and…well…boring. That’s because on the surface it may seem that they are all just ‘speakers in a box’. That being said, there’s often more to a question than what appears on the surface, and if you’re new to this kind of gear then there’s no such thing as a bad question, right?
So let’s check out a few to get a better understanding of what 2×12 guitar cabinets are all about, shall we?
What does ‘2×12’ mean?
‘2×12’ is a simple designation to show the number of speakers in a cabinet along with how big those speakers are (meaning the diameter of the speaker cone in terms of inches). So a ‘2×12’ cabinet has two 12” speakers loaded into it. Keeping the same mindset, a ‘4×12’ cabinet has four 12” speakers.
Is a 2×12 cabinet loud enough to compete with a 4×12?
With all things being relative with your amp knob positions (that is, the same volume and tone stack settings), using a 2×12 over a 4×12 should give you the same relative volume. More speakers do not create more power – what’s coming out of the head is what matters the most.
Where the big difference may lie is in the feel. With two more speakers, a 4×12 cabinet will definitely be pushing more air, and the sound may have more fullness to it. That, plus since there are more speakers over a given area, you’ll typically have better sound dispersion.
One thing to consider is where a 2×12 guitar cabinet is placed onstage. If it’s pointing straight out, then the speakers will be farther away from your ears than a 4×12. Angle it up towards you as a monitor, or place it on some sort of stand – you may find that the differences between the two cabs can be somewhat minimal.
Are 2×12 guitar cabinets expensive?
We can’t really debate the issue here – a good quality 2×12 speaker cabinet can cost almost as much as a tube combo amp. At the same time, they can be almost half the price of a 4×12 from the same brand!
It’s hard to say that price shouldn’t be a concern, because for most players it can be at the top of the list of things to consider. At the same time, the truth is this: quality and performance come with a price, and that’s true for just about any product.
How much lighter is a 2×12 guitar cabinet than a 4×12?
A 2×12 doesn’t weigh exactly half as much as a 4×12, but there’s no doubt that there is enough of a difference to make a 2×12 the better choice for the gigging guitarist. For example, the EVH 5150 III 2×12 weighs in at 60 lbs, while the 4×12 version tips the scales at 88 lbs. That’s a pretty substantial difference!
(If you’re considering modding your current amp for a better tone, check out our roundup of the 7 Best 12 Inch Guitar Speakers With Great Tone.)