Author Topic: Small speaker setup for home use  (Read 129 times)

Online John Brevik

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Small speaker setup for home use
« on: October 12, 2021, 06:29:07 PM »
Hi, all,

I'm setting up my student piano in the living room, so to keep the spouse happy I need an unobtrusive but reasonably attractive amp/speaker setup. I have settled on a nice li'l 5-watt (solid-state class AB) amp and am looking probably at a small custom cabinet, but I really don't grok speakers. I was thinking about a 2x8 or even 2x6 for space factor, maybe with one (Jensen?) bass driver and one full-range -- but as I say I'm no expert so I'm open to suggestions (1x10?). Any suggestions or things to think about? I really just want to get a nice vintage tone at living-room volume.

I realize that the question is a bit vague, but I'd appreciate the input of those who know more than I do about these things. Thanks!

John
John Brevik

1966(?) Student 73
Hammond A100 chop/Leslie 21H 2-speed

Offline spave

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Re: Small speaker setup for home use
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2021, 09:15:06 PM »
I'm not an expert on brands, speaker types, or other speaker details, this is just my two cents.

First, what is your definition of "vintage tone"? Ask ten people what their's is and you'll get ten different answers so that's a good place to start. For Rhodes its usually either A. The suitcase sound B. Twin Reverb or C. straight from the harp.

If you have a rough idea between those 3 or a 4th option you like that will help.


Also, what student model do you have? If it is the KMC, then you could probably mount the amp and speakers inside the cabinet which would save space and allow you to use more/bigger speakers.
1972 Home Rhodes Prototype
1971 Suitcase Fender Rhodes
1977 Wurlitzer 270

Online John Brevik

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Re: Small speaker setup for home use
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2021, 10:35:04 AM »
These are great questions. Thank you for helping me frame the problem I'm trying to solve.

First off, great suggestion about mounting the speakers internally, but my student piano is very old, a pre-"Jetsons" model. The piano itself is similar to the early silver-top models, and it has no internal speaker mounts. My understanding is that originally it would have come with a matching bench with the amp and speaker mounted inside.

I suspect that the answer to your tone question is "suitcase." I've been listening to a lot of recordings of teardrop-hammer pianos, and those must have basically all been mic'ed suitcase cabinets. "In a Silent Way," "Fat Albert Rotunda," and "The Bill Evans Album" sound great to me. With later iterations of the Rhodes, I like the "Aja" tone, which would have been a Suitcase. I'm not sure what recordings used a Twin, beyond the early Chick Corea records (and while I'd give my eyeteeth to play 1% as well as Chick, I don't love that tone).

Thanks again,

John
John Brevik

1966(?) Student 73
Hammond A100 chop/Leslie 21H 2-speed

Offline spave

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Re: Small speaker setup for home use
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2021, 07:13:51 PM »
First off, congratulations on the Pre Jetsons student model! I can only imagine how long it took to find one of those...

As for the speaker setup this is what I would recommend.

I know that the Sparkletop Rhodes used Fender guitar amp speakers so I would imagine anything from a vintage 8" to a 12" from a 60s Fender tube amp would be what you are looking for. I believe I've seen Sparkletops have Utah speakers but those could have been replacements. I would try to look for photos of what speakers the sparkletops came with or you could go down the rabbit hole of speakers on the guitar forums and see what the best mid 60s Fender speakers were. As long as you aren't too heavy of a bass player, most of their tone comparisons should translate to a Rhodes (at least in the mid range).

Another big part of the "Sparkletop" sound was in the preamp. I am unfamiliar with the electronics in the early student models so I don't know if yours has the Jordan preamp but if it doesn't I would look into getting a Vintage Vibe Stage Vibe Preamp.

https://www.vintagevibe.com/products/vintage-vibe-stage-vibe?variant=20185366534

 It is based on the Jordan circuit and has the accurate mono tremolo that those early recordings would have had. There is also a chance that those recording weren't miked and where just taken from the mono line out that I know at least the late 60s sparkletops had, so the Stage Vibe should get you at least half of the way there.

Also, to really dial in that "old record/tape" sound maybe try a lofi pedal? It is another long rabbit hole but something like a Generation Loss pedal will allow you to dial in subtle amounts of wow, flutter, and low/high filtering that will make whatever you are playing sound like it is coming from a 60 year old tape of your favorite recording.

Another thing to note is that a piano that early might have a completely different sound to the later sparkletops anyway. I know there were a few different versions of Raymac tines, square tonebars, and pickups so there's a chance it might be impossible to "voice" this earlier Rhodes to sound like the ones from even a few years later.

Hope this helps
1972 Home Rhodes Prototype
1971 Suitcase Fender Rhodes
1977 Wurlitzer 270

Online John Brevik

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Re: Small speaker setup for home use
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2021, 06:38:24 PM »
I just hit upon the old piano, TBH. I'm currently learning a bit about piano tuning as I try to get it back to being a real musical instrument.

I ran across a photo of the inside of a Sparkletop suitcase cabinet, and it appeared to be wired series-parallel with two Jensens and two of something else (couldn't make out the stamp, but they didn't look like Utahs). Of course, somebody might have cannibalized it to build a guitar cabinet. There were also big caps at the non-Jensen speakers, which made me think that maybe there were bass and guitar drivers in there. I'd be fascinated to know what originally went in them, but that information seems hard to find, and the answer might well be "whatever Fender had lying around that day."

Anyway, thanks for the suggestions. The preamp is surely a good idea; my old Satellite piano sounded good through its preamp and any dumb old PA. As for the speaker, I imagine I can't go too far wrong with a Jensen that isn't too bright. I'm leaning toward a 2x8 over a 1x10, just because I usually like the sound of a 2-driver cabinet better.

John
John Brevik

1966(?) Student 73
Hammond A100 chop/Leslie 21H 2-speed