Jenson P10R Speaker Review
August 23, 2008 by Charlie
If one of your guitar-playing buddies walks up to you and says, “I’ve got the blues,” it could mean one of three things: he just found out his girlfriend’s nick-name is “Back Door Bertha,” he’s a drug pusher or he just had some Jensen P10R speakers installed in his amp. Known as the “blue cap,” “blue bell” or “blue frame,” the original Jensen P10R is considered the ultimate guitar speaker by many tone connoisseurs, and with good reason.
These alnico magnet-powered beauties (Jensen P10R) were stock equipment in Fender’s late-Fifties 4×10 Bassman, one of the most coveted amps of all time. And while they may have been far from hi-fi, their honking midrange, sparkly treble and fat bottom end, along with a tendency to break up into crispy distortion at low volume levels, produce the sound that defined rock and roll, the blues and just about any other style of music work shaking a Strat neck at.
But finding an original Jensen blue cap in good condition is about as tough as finding an honest politician. Fortunately, these speakers have been reissued in all of their former glory, so you don’t have to go digging in stinky basements, dusty garages or your grandpa’s Airstream camper to find some. The reissue retain the unique sonic personality of the originals; the only thing to distinguish them from their predecessors are the absence of the 40 years of aging and the distinctive bell-shaped magnet cover.
We tested these speakers in two different configurations—installed in a 4×10 cabinet from Mesa Engineering and in a 2×10 configuration in a sweet, tweed Victoria 35210-T amp. These speakers are the perfect match for the Victoria’s warm, punchy vintage tones. At low volumes, the speakers have an almost three-dimensional sparkle, where the bass, mids and treble occupy their own distinct space. The speaker themselves begin to distort as the volume gets pushed up, morphing into a compressed tone, with emphasized midrange, spanking treble and rowdy, rambunctious bass. As the amp itself begins to distort, it’s full-on compression heaven, and the guitar begins to honk and howl like the biggest, baddest saxophone you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t hurt that the Victoria amp sounds incredible itself. If you’re a true blue Jensen and tweed fanatic, this combo is irresistible.
We put the 4×10 open-back Mesa cabinet through the paces with a variety of amps, including an original 1957 Fender Deluxe, a Marshall Jubilee and a Mesa/Boogie .50 Caliber. With four Jensen P10R installed, the Mesa cabinet became a screaming midrange monster. These speakers have such a well-defined midrange that the guitar’s tone cuts through a mix as if it were blasted from a bazooka. In a solo context, some players would consider this cabinet “smaller” sounding than a traditional 4×12 closed-back cabinet, but it’s just the ticket when used with a band because it gives the guitar its own solid place in the mix; with a “full range” cabinet, the guitar has a tendency to get lost.
With clean tones, the Mesa cabinet sounds punchy and full. When submitted to increasing amounts of distortion, a horn-like midrange emerges that’s ideal for sustaining blues leads and scorching rock solos. Rhythms are raunchy and loose, with glistening harmonic overtones that would make Keith Richards weep. These speakers are all about attitude and being noticed—meek players with lousy licks should look elsewhere, since using this cabinet is the sonic equivalent of performing on stage without any pants.
The End Line
Whether you play rock, jazz, country or even Swedish astro-ragga-funk, you should be getting into the ‘blues.” Jensen’s P10R in one of the best-sounding speakers for the electric guitar, and playing through them is an experience that no guitar player should be denied.
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