A lab test in a studio test of the unbraced early 69 and the 70/71 braced 4x12s to ascertain how the addition of a sound post affects the rigidity of the box, and panel resonance. This will be conducted over the summer
White amplifiers were the house brand for Whites Music in Sunderland. Initially the amplifiers were made by Matamp on contract with the woodwork manufacture taking place at Liek. Examples of White products in the wild are incredibly rare but the boxes are themselves nothing special. Just good solid traditional 4×12 enclosures.
The amplifiers themselves were simply Matamp GT120s in different boxes in an arrangement similar to Orange, Park, Kitchen Marshall and others.
This is a very early promotional picture. I have access to it and others via Matamp. In terms of aesthetics and construction these are very much the same as those offered by Orange post Cooper Mathias.
The head is the early small box type, the wider boxes came later in the decade. The logo on the earliest amplifiers were engraved three ply traffolyte while the cabinets had a large screen printed acrylic badge. This later became smaller and was incorporated into the new larger box head boxes at some point around 73/74.
Later amplifiers in the larger box. Note these wear the screen printed acrylic badges as does the cabinet below. While we have a close up of the enclosure we can see a much more finished looking product than the Orange Matamp cabinets from the preceding years. We have the string in white this time with further white piping around the perimeter of the grill cloth. Interestingly the cloth is Lloyd loom spray painted black, the original colour being visible in areas where the cloth has been damaged. The obvious final change is a move to proper handles. By proper I mean made from metal throughout.
The image below displays the interior of the enclosure and the drivers contained within. We see the rear of the handles. The shape of them presents a problem for working out how much air volume is displaced by the portion of the handle that protrudes past the cut out into the cavity of the enclosure. That there is a cut out also presents an opportunity for air to leak out. A much better alternative would be to use something like this.
These handles are surface mounted and spring loaded. This means there is no aperture in the walls that air might escape from. These are standard on many high end cabinets currently on the market including the Bergantino cabinets in the practical hardware blog post elsewhere on this profile.
A close up of the label below reveals that these appear to be the same 122/17g Fanes that are used in the other Orange Matamp loudspeakers in this series of case studies. There is one issue that precludes them from being relevant to inclusion in testing and that is that these drivers have a second cone (often referred to as a whizzer cone) for which there is an explanation here:
This makes their performance very different and would compromise the results and switching the drivers for a quad of the white basket drivers would detrimental to the value of the donor cabinet.
For comparison. From top; 1972 OR120, 72 W100, mid 70s Tour Range W100 made under license. The OR120 was Orange’s first model as a separate entity and was very similar to the Orange Matamp OR100 and W100/GT120. The W100 uses the same shell but has a vinyl covered wooden facia. This close resemblance extends to the speaker cabs.
In comparison we see slightly different construction internally with extra battens securing the baffle and a slightly different mounting of the sound post. At 38cm in depth this is the deepest of the square cabinets and is 76x76cm in height and width. Compare this to the other examples in the table below.
A Case Study of Orange Matamp Speaker Cabinets from 1968 to Present.
In this first study I will present a timeline of changes in the Orange Matamp brand of speaker cabinets. I will be comparing the construction of one of the first six loudspeakers manufactured (there is a very high chance that this enclosure was owned and used by Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac and was one of the prototype cabinets that was used for the 1968 London dates prior to their maiden tour of the USA) by the brand with later model 4×12 cabinets that demonstrate the changes in its construction in the years 1968, 1968/69, 1969, 1970/71 and a White branded box dating from 74. Though this deviates from the specified remit of this title the White brand was very similar in that the electronics were supplied complete from Matamp while the cabinetry came from the now defunct Leik Manufacturing in Salford. Bar the cosmetics these boxes are the same exact dimensions as the Boxes offered by Orange at the time.
What I aim to achieve with this is to show how designs have been advanced and improved upon since their inception. In turn it would be remiss not to include a modern Matamp 4×12 to see how today`s model compares. It may also be pertinent to compare the series to a modern CNC made enclosure to further augment the study. It also offers the opportunity to assess how effective the sound post is in reducing resonance.
The brand was launched in 1968 as a partnership between Cliff Cooper, the founder of Orange Music based in London and Matt Mathias Owner of the Radiocraft and Matamp brands who operated from Huddersfield. Matamp handled the wiring and Orange who had retail premises and distributed the products.
This partnership was dissolved at some point in 1973 with the separation of the brands starting in 1972. It is claimed by Orange in their brands history book that the speaker enclosures were manufactured in house. This was in fact not the case. The woodwork was contracted out to Salford based company Leech Manufacturing, who, in the 1960s and 1970s were the one of the biggest manufacturer of speaker enclosures in Europe.
I am in a fortunate position to have examples of not only one of the earliest enclosures made, but also four other later boxes all of different vintages. This enables me to track the progression of its design through the period of 1968-1973 from when the design remained pretty much unchanged until OMECs demise around 1980.
In this era the consensus on how to construct roadworthy cabinetry seemed to be to use the heaviest 18mm ply possible and hope for the best. Some brands saw fit to incorporate a “sound post” a 2×2 brace running from the centre of the baffle where the speakers are mounted, to the rear panel generally referred to as “the back door”. Its function is to provide extra rigidity and reduce panel resonance.
General Overview of Construction.
There is of course a very strong sense of continuity within all eras of these wooden enclosures. I will present these first in order to establish the core of the timeline of change. There are a great many features that changed seemingly on a yearly basis and as such no two cabinets within my collection of Orange Matamp 4x12s that share a common specification.
As to the reason for this we cannot be sure. If we look to the origins of Orange Music it should be noted that Cliff Cooper`s youth worked against him. Distributors of musical instruments in the UK were (INSERT BOOK OF ORANGE QUOTE HERE) disapproving of both his age and his long hair and were unwilling to deal with him. In Order to circumvent this problem Cooper contacted Mathias in Huddersfield.
Between the authorised histories (the Book of Orange and Matamp at 60) there are some discrepancies as to the formation of the Cooper Mathias partnership and who was responsible for what in terms of sales and manufacture.
Below you will find a list of elements of the loudspeaker`s construction that constant remained throughout.
- 18mm Baltic birch ply. Marine grade & void free.
- Orange baskeweave vinyl to cover. First batch sourced was factory seconds.
- Plastic corner protectors (two different types).
- Wooden skids on the base of the enclosure.
- Butt joints.
Below we see how the dimensions change over the years. The second and third are unbraced while the first box features two centre braces to the final pairs single.
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Bacon, T. and Day, P. (1997). The ultimate guitar book. London [etc.]: Dorling Kindersley.
Ball, E. (2010). Gretsch 6120. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub.
Heatley, M. (2003). The illustrated history of the electric guitar. Surrey, England.: Merchant Book Co.
Hunter, D. (2017). Ultimate Star Guitars. Laguna Hills: Voyageur Press.
Ingram, A. (1994). The Gibson ES175. Ely, Cambs. [England]: Music Maker Books.
Marten, N. (2007). Guitar heaven. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Minhinnett, R. and Young, B. (1995). The story of the Fender Stratocaster. London: Carlton.
Tulloch, D. (2009). Neptune bound. Fullerton, Calif.: Centerstream.
This final example is my favourite of the four presented. It has 200w of power handling compared to the 120w the Celestion loaded cab is capable of, meaning that it can handle more powerful amplifiers without risking failure. For casual musicians and those who don’t subscribe to the world of amplifiers as heavily as I a single cabinet is enough. A higher power handling gives this type of customer the greatest choice in accompanying amplifiers. From my perspective I have a selection of amplifiers to choose from so this logic equally applies to other sections of the market. Currently available bass amplifiers supply anywhere from thirty watts up to over one thousand. This covers Ashdown’s valve powered Drophead 30 combo which is loosely based on the 1960s Ampeg B15, and modern class D amplifiers. While the eventual prototype I produce will be intended for use with the two hundred watt bass amplifiers in the Matamp range there must be a high enough power handling to accommodate other brands products.
If we look inside the box we see a return to using bracing. This primitive form is still in use in cabinets marketed to guitarists, who generally require less engineered enclosures to propagate their sound satisfactorily. In use I believe this addition ensures better performance than the almost identical first incarnation equipped with the same drivers based on extensive use and comparison by myself. My belief is of no consequence however and this will need to be proven scientifically under lab conditions.
In terms of revisions we see that two decorative parallel lines of gold coloured plastic coated string have been added around the sides. These are secured by staples underneath and is placed in a channel routed into the wood prior to covering. This practice continues today at both Orange and Matamp.
Internally the sound post that runs from the baffle to the rear panel has arrived. This remains through the 1970s until Orange went bust at the tail of the decade.
This is the last in this series of case studies of the 68-72 period of Orange Matamp enclosure development. In a relatively short period of time we see the boxes develop from crude and impractical, to slightly less crude and impractical while remaining constant in its significant weight.
Given that three of these loudspeakers are loaded with identical Fane drivers but differing construction we are presented with an interesting opportunity.
The three boxes in question are the offset from 1968, the 68/69 first version of the square cabinets with the aftermarket kitchen cupboard handles and no sound post, and finally the most Aesthetically refined version with sound post from Circa 70/71. The latter two offer the best direct comparison and I would like to get them both into the studio for testing. How I go about this test will require further research, but Initially it would be interesting to see how the bracing affects the lower frequencies in particular. In light of the lack of bracing and the high degree of panel resonance the 68/69 cab is prone to I would expect there to be an effect on the lower frequencies.
As mentioned the offset 4×12 has a pair of sound posts and is taller and narrower. Though the best data will come from testing the boxes with the identical dimensions it would be remiss not to ascertain how the Fane drivers behave with the change in dimensions. There’s always the possibility of building an identical enclosure with the bracing omitted if indeed the 68’s bracing cannot be temporarily removed without risk of damage.
For the above testing I will look at how to test panel resonance in addition to testing signal response and spl (dbs).
Moving on to this example that originates from later in mid 69. This box came in to my possession as part of a half stack. The accompanying head is serial number 006 and is the 6th ORST ever produced. No sn data exists for this model pre 1970 but the first few were apparently shipped to Scandinavia late in 1969 according to the vendor who had been in contact with Orange.
Aesthetically there is very little difference. The only exterior change to the front is the method used to affix the branding. Gone now are the screws, replaced with hot glue.
From the side aspect we can see that crude cutouts have been added to aid portability. These are boxed in internally and sealed with glue. Note the edges of the cutout are not bevelled and cause discomfort when lifting the substantial weight this box presents. Also this box predates the practice of routing a 2mm channel around the top, sides and bottom into which a plastic covered string is secured by staples. See the amplifier below for an illustration.
Internally though we see the box covers for the handles there is still no sound post.
In the next case study we see the addition of the central brace but the date it was included in the design is not clear. The next enclosure is the final version to wear the Orange Matamp branding. There was a subsequent transitional model, but these are so rare that I have not seen one in person and there are very few pictures available.
Place picture of interior here
Note the use of Celestion manufactured G12 drivers. These bear the same Orange branded stickers as the Fane loaded cabinets. Gauging things from the box specifications it appears that fane were used from 68 to mid 69 with the next batch from mid 69 using Celestion. At some point likely during 1970 depending on the size of the batch of cabinets.
This is the first and earliest version of the Orange Matamp 4×12. They were swiftly redesigned and by early 1969 they had been superceded by shorter, squarer boxes with the four drivers arranged in a two by two pattern. Manufacture of the offset model continued, possibly sold for sound reinforcement or public address. No data exists for how long they were made for, but they are of similar size to the 2×15 which may indicate a common box with the 4×12/2×15 baffle fitted as required.
This cabinet contains Fane drivers. One of my theories on this cabinets status as one of the very first loudspeakers the brand manufactured revolves around this particular quad of Fanes. Every other 12″ Fane speaker used in this period was built around the same white basket (the thing the magnets and cone attach too). On the back of each driver Orange placed a sticker with their branding on. On one of the arms of the basket Fane placed a label which had model, flux density, power handling and occasionally a date. The model designation in this instance is 122/17g. The 17g pertains to its flux density.
The above picture shows the text on the standard label applied to Fane products. Note the white finish. This picture is from a square ormat 4×12.
Note the offset arrangement of the drivers and two sound posts to brace the elongated shape of the box. With the addition of casters and handles (there are none present here) this would be eminently more portable than a square 4×12. If you reference this against the Bergantino NV412 discussed here;
You will see similarities in the overall dimensions with some constructional variations. The main difference is that the back panel is an integral part of the box and cannot be removed. This trait is often seen in loudspeakers that have internal bracing. The baffle is installed last and the drivers are loaded from the front. The Barefaced ’69er also shares this characteristic.
The drivers contained in the 1968 cab (above) are devoid of technical information, on a different colour basket but have untampered with Orange stickers on the magnets. Physically they are identical bar the coating on the ones usually found within, suggesting that they are pre production samples or perhaps purchased to fulfil the first order made by Fleetwood Mac.
This late 1960s Hiwatt/Sound City 4×12 turned up recently. The herringbone grill cloth, aluminium badge and squarer corners indicate that it was produced around 1967/68. A quick look at the Who’s backline from that period we see similar enclosures.
See the pattern of the cloth and the square corners of the cabinets.
In the next picture Entwistle can be see stood in front of a Sound City amplifier and a Hiwatt 4×12 with the herringbone grill cloth. In addition the 1957 Fender Precision bass and haircut date this picture to 1968.
Inside we see a quad of very familiar cast frame Fane drivers. While there are cosmetic differences in the magnet covers and finish they bear the same model designation as the ones factory fitted at various times to Orange Matamp products. This confirms the driver models existence in 1968. Though with the minor difference of solder tags and screw on terminals as a means to wire up the drivers.
The following link contains footage of Fleetwood Mac appearing at the Fillmore West late in 1968. You can find a short segment featuring the band starting from 2:20. On the far side of the stage adjacent to the single tall cabinet that housed four fifteen inch speakers (of which McVie used a pair of these into the early 1970s) are a pair of stacked enclosures of the same dimensions. The top cab has the drivers and hardware (well, the branding and the wooden skids on the base) arranged horizontally, while the bottom enclosure has the same features but arranged vertically. See the link below.
First version Orange Matamp 4×12.
I’ve seen a pair of these with origjnal Celestion G12 “greenbacks” and a third which was equipped with the same white basket cast frame Fane drivers we see in this example. The Fane loaded box definitely was without a sound post but I never had the opportunity to inspect the inside of the Celestion loaded cabs.
Most of the cabinetry was supplied by Liek Manufacturing, a Salford contract manufacturer who dealt with most of the big amplifier brands in the UK. So presumably accounts were set up with Celestion, Fane and likely also Goodmans. In terms of logistics, Liek and Fane were based in the north. It makes sense that the speakers will have been paid for by Cooper Mathias and free issued to Liek meaning that the boxes would come wired and complete. The company was very small at this point and drivers were purchased on the merit of which account wasn’t currently on stop! The other possibility is that the loading and wiring were done in Orange’s Neil’s Yard address or a combination of the two as expedient.
The rear view reveals very little. A single socket with no branding or spec plate which would usually contain the enclosures load, power handling and serial number. You can see some scuff marks where the bottom and back panels meet. This is typical damage for these sort of cabs.
There should be a pair of 18mm Baltic birch ply rails on the bottom. These where not present when I found this example. You can see areas of woodworm damage in the wood.
Note same branding stickers as the 1968 offset but on White baskets and the lack of a sound post.
The maroon sticker attached near the terminals contains model number (122/17g), the fluxes density and on occasion a date though sadly not in this case. In later revisions you will note the addition of a 2×2 brace that runs from the centre of the baffle to butt against the detachable back panel. This in theory provides rigidity and reduces the amount the baffle and rear panel resonate. Given the availability of identically sized enclosures with common drivers, one with and one without the sound post, further research would be simple. I will discuss this further in my conclusion.
The lack of handles was addressed pretty soon and at some point in 1969 crude cut out handles were added to the sides, boxed off internally to seal the enclosure. This example was made before that and has received these very uncomfortable additions.