A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby kurt eye » Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:21 pm

After several months of perusal of this forum I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to share their knowledge and experiences in the quest for the tone. I am a noob when it comes to electric guitars and amps and this forum has helped me tremendously in making informed choices. My goal is to be in the Jerry-tone ballpark, but for now, I'm ok with sitting in the cheaper seats.

I recently sold my banjo (a nice Deering Maple Blossom), and have used that money to buy a used Standard American Strat ($550), a used Fender Hot Rod Deluxe ($350) and (after months of obsessive Ebay watching) a pair of JBL K-120s ($395 with shipping). The JBLs are original cone as far as I can tell.

In the interest of science I tried my best to do an A/B test of the stock Fender Special Design Speaker vs 1 JBL K-120 installed in the HRDX.

Here's a summary of the equipment and settings:

2007 Standard American Strat w/ stock pick ups (no mods)
Guitar Settings: Volume and tone knobs between 5-7; pickup selector switch in middle position

40 Watt Fender HRDX w/ stock Fender Special Design Speaker 1x12 (A) modified with JBL K-120 1x12 (B)
Amp Settings: Clean Channel Volume 4-6, Bass 0; Treble 10; Mid 3; Reverb between 3 and 6, Master 0, Presence 0 (It sounds like I had the reverb cranked up higher during the (B) JBL sound recording)

I have posted some sound clips on Souncloud. (I'm a noob and my chops are limited). I don't know about you, but I have not been able to get hyperlinks to Soundcloud to work on this forum. I apologize if you have to copy and paste the URL into your web browser.

https://soundcloud.com/shrimper-skippy

Your constructive comments/feedback positive or negative would be welcomed.

Here's some pictures of the speaker replacement. Major props to Justin Holton http://justinholton.com/hotrod/. Thanks to the detailed instructions on his website, I managed to remove the chassis and replace the speaker without electrocuting myself.

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I love how you can see the dust cap through the tolex now.

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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby tcsned » Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:33 pm

Those JBLs certainly added that sparkle
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby kurt eye » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:11 am

Here's a few observations after a month or so of playing with my new JBL vs the stock fender special design.

The biggest difference I noticed is with chords. With the special design, the chords seemed warmer and blended together as a single note. With the JBL, I feel like I can hear every note on every string comprising the chord, and I'm more prone to get a discordant sound. This has taken me a little time to get used to. I am learning to play chords with a gentler more nuanced pick attack and I'm learning to play more individual notes within the chord, which is a good thing. My impression so far is that if I was looking to be a strictly rhythm guitarist, the strat -single coil- JBL combo would be frustrating.

As far as single notes are concerned, there is no comparison. The biggest advantage is on the B and high E strings. The JBL gives these notes way more meat than the very weak and thin sound you get from the stock fender speaker. In my opinion this is one of the biggest advantages to the JBLs in the quest for the Jerry Tone. As far as low notes are concerned, both the fender and JBL tones are warm and pleasing, but the JBLs add a more bouncy punchy characteristic.

Most importantly, with the JBL both the low and high notes are imparted with the "shimmer" "sparkle" "jingle jangle jingle" whatever you want to call it that adds that certain mojo that makes the small hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby Smolder » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:20 am

I don't know anything about the HRDX... but I put a sparkly set of those brown/black with gold label fender (I think eminence made them) in a twin I was selling a couple of years ago and almost didn't sell it. Nice, warm... with some smooth breakup. They are dis'd often, but I think they have a great classic fender tone. That said, the JBL is a significant step up and over though.. and critical to that Jerry tone most of us here are seeking. Glad you're diggin it.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby kurt eye » Tue May 06, 2014 3:18 am

I recently changed out the stock pickups in my 2007 standard american strat with a set of David Allen Voodoo 69's. They seemed to clear up that discordant sounding issue I was getting with chords. I noticed a nicer tone with more sustain when playing up the neck. They gave me goosebumps.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby tatittle » Tue May 06, 2014 7:12 pm

The JBL pictured indeed looks like an original cone. That is an important part of the tone...most recones don't sound similar at all in my experience. They may have 21320 stamped in white ink on rear of cone. WOOPs that the code for an Altec 12", 21032 is JBL I think.
Last edited by tatittle on Wed May 07, 2014 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby ccw3432 » Wed May 07, 2014 8:48 am

I've been running a K120 in my HRD as well for about a year or so now. Your sound samples explain it all. They really show what a JBL can do. I had the same stock speaker in my HRD as well. I liked that speaker for playing a more overdriven sound with my Gibson SG but it wouldn't cut it for the Jerry tones. I was able to get a lot of a desirable non-JBL type chime out of chord playing with the Fender speaker though. I'm actually going to pull the K120 out of my HRD, but only because I want to use that speaker for a while in my 2X12 with another K. I may throw an E120 into the HRD for a while, but the K120 really suits that amp well and it's a lot lighter than the E for a combo amp. Based on my experience with the HRD, it is not the perfect 1x12 Jerry combo amp but it can sound real nice with a JBL in there.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby kurt eye » Wed May 07, 2014 6:20 pm

ccw3432 wrote:I've been running a K120 in my HRD as well for about a year or so now. Your sound samples explain it all. They really show what a JBL can do. I had the same stock speaker in my HRD as well. I liked that speaker for playing a more overdriven sound with my Gibson SG but it wouldn't cut it for the Jerry tones. I was able to get a lot of a desirable non-JBL type chime out of chord playing with the Fender speaker though. I'm actually going to pull the K120 out of my HRD, but only because I want to use that speaker for a while in my 2X12 with another K. I may throw an E120 into the HRD for a while, but the K120 really suits that amp well and it's a lot lighter than the E for a combo amp. Based on my experience with the HRD, it is not the perfect 1x12 Jerry combo amp but it can sound real nice with a JBL in there.


Nice to know someone else has tried the HRD/JBL combo. For the money and portability - the set up is not too shabby IMO. Furthur on down the road I may look to upgrade my amp, but for now it suits me fine. Having a combo set up is key for me. I'm lugging that thing everywhere.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby ccw3432 » Wed May 07, 2014 6:38 pm

I use mine as a grab and go as well. The JBL makes it a little heavy but it's pretty easy to move around and not too bulky.
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Re: A/B Fender Special Design vs JBL K-120 in Fender HRDX

Postby James-T » Wed May 07, 2014 6:39 pm

Those side by side pictures say it all. I pulled out the stock speaker in my Blues Deluxe last summer and noticed the same thing. The JBL D120 made the Special Design speaker look like a toy. With that said, many say Fender actually does a good job matching these amps with half decent speakers. What the stock speaker did was break up nicely, but there is zero tightness in the bottom end compared to the JBL.

The JBL is a very high end product, and not everyone likes them as well and to each their own.

One of the nicest live recordings I got was through my BD with the stock speakers. Not Jerry, but just a really cool tone. But I was playing mostly up the neck. :smile:

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