Despite its critical position as the last link of the chain before the sound from your guitar, pedals and amplifier hits your ears, few of us spend as much energy researching (okay, lusting after) speakers as we do the more glamorous, visible components of our rigs.
It’s also fair to say that the majority of electric guitarists who do express a preference when it comes to speakers tend to gravitate towards a very small number of brands and plump for vintage-style units with either ceramic or alnico magnets.
We’re a conservative bunch, that’s for sure. In the wider world, neodymium magnets (a rare-earth permanent magnet made from an alloy of neodymium, iron and boron) have superseded alnico and ferrite/ceramic magnets in innumerable applications and appear in everything from MRI scanners to e-cigarettes.
Their greater strength compared to alnico or ceramic magnets means that neodymium magnets can be smaller and lighter, and they are now commonplace in pro-audio speakers and headphones.
Neodymium magnets have been around for a while in guitar speakers, too, but the new Ascension N30 from Fane Acoustics sees the Yorkshire-based company bring its considerable heritage as a loudspeaker pioneer to bear on a product that aims to nail a vintage alnico tone in a lightweight format.
As part of the brand’s recent relaunch, a great deal of attention has been paid to design aesthetics, and the smart cream and metallic red N30 is no exception. Time to get the screwdriver out…
Fane Ascension N30 in use
With a depth of 120.5mm, the fit inside our Swart AST combo is a much less snug affair than the 165mm deep Celestion Gold that we’ve been using recently.
As promised, it also shaves off a little weight, with our amp weighing in on a digital scale at 14.4kg with the Gold installed and 13.03kg with the N30. It’s not an earth-shattering difference in a 1×12 combo with a pine cabinet, but if you’re dragging a 4×12 up and down pub staircases every weekend then a 5-6kg reduction will be both noticeable and welcome – the difference is more than the weight of a Les Paul Custom!
Celestion’s Blue and Gold are most players’ benchmarks when it comes to alnico speaker tone, and in a direct comparison test, with all the drivers involved having been nicely broken in, the Ascension N30 fares very well indeed.
At 99dB, the Fane is slightly less efficient than the 100dB Celestions (this may well be a good thing depending on your playing circumstances) and there’s a shade less high-frequency brilliance and complexity, but it has similar overall characteristics and plenty of the appealing chime you’d associate with vintage alnico speakers.
As ever, our preferences are very guitar-dependant, but we prefer the Fane to either Celestion in combination with a crisp Telecaster bridge pickup. Switching to a Gretsch or Gibson ES-335, the N30 has a little more low-end punch than either the Gold or Blue, which is most noticeable when playing deep, single-note lines on the E and A strings.
Throwing Fane’s own Ascension A60 alnico speaker into the mix, the N30 has a little less woodiness in the midrange but, again, it’s a close-run thing.
• PRICE £179.99
• DESCRIPTION 12-inch neodymium magnet loudspeaker, 8/16-ohms, made in UK
• POWER RATING 30-watts
• SENSITIVITY 99dB
• WEIGHT 2.7kg/5.95lbs
• CONTACT Fane Acoustics 01924 224 618 or www.fane-acoustics.com