This post will be a direct comparison between two 4×12 cabinets that are popular in the rock and metal communities, specifically the Mesa/Boogie Traditional and VHT/Fryette Fatbottom, which I actually own two of. I have owned other 4×12 and 2×12 cabinets before, but thought it would be best to only include these two since they are the only ones I currently own and can compare side-by-side at home for the purpose of this comparison.
Although these cabs are nearly identical in dimension, the speakers, construction, and overall sound are all distinct and different from one another. The Mesa features four Celestion Vintage 30 speakers rear-loaded on a straight baffle while the VHT is front-loaded with four Eminence P50e speakers on a baffle that is straight, but tilted slightly upward.
The different speakers, of course, are a large determining factor of the overall sound. The Vintage 30’s in the Mesa are very clear, aggressive, and have a nice spike in the midrange frequencies that help your sound cut through a mix of drums, bass, and any other instruments. Compared to the V30, the P50e speakers have a smoother high end response, less exaggerated midrange spike, and better low end headroom, while not necessarily putting out more lows. While the Vintage 30 will put out all the frequencies and power you need to be heard, the P50e will generally be less fatiguing to the ear and break up into distortion less at high volumes. A full write-up from Steve Fryette about using the P50e vs V30 in his company’s cabinets can be found with more detail than I will be able to provide here.
Front-loading versus rear-loading speakers in a given cabinet is difficult to make a direct comparison about since there aren’t any guitar cabinets, to my knowledge, with the option for either arrangement on the market currently. However, the general rule for rear-loading is that the cabinet enclosure itself will attribute to the sound more, put out more low end, and make the sound dispersion more focused and narrow. Conversely, front-loading will show off more of the voicing of the particular speaker, tighten the low end, accentuate the highs and note definition, and “fill a room” better. The projection of the VHT is even further enhanced by the tilted speaker baffle.
Taking these factors into consideration, the overall sound of each cab is exactly what one would expect. True to its name, the Fatbottom cab puts out plenty of low end without ever losing tightness, lots of thick midrange, and a smooth, but defined high end. It can be picky about what amps and voicings will sound good through it, but the amps that work with it make for what is, in my opinion, an unbeatable sound. The Mesa is a safe choice for most applications and amps. It puts out more sub-lows, higher mids, and a nice aggressive cut. I love both cabinets for different reasons and use them in my full-stereo rig for the best of both worlds.