1x12 PowerHouse

I just love 1x12s. Seriously. They’ve revolutionized my gigging life, and if you haven’t gone there yet, you should. A 12" speaker’s full-bodied sound is well suited to single-driver configurations—and when the 12 is a lightweight neodymium speaker, a potent portable rig emerges. Mesa Engineering recently added its own neodymium 1x12 to this increasingly crowded product category. Mesa designed the feature-rich cab to offer a “hi-fi” alternative to its Scout 1x12 (Soundroom, January ’04), which has a warmer sound.
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As a guy who does most of his gigging in an urban environment, having a portable, dare I say one-trip bass rig is a blessing. But at 48 pounds, the PowerHouse flirts with the boundary of one-trip acceptability. The lightweight neo driver helps, but the cabinet’s extensive 14-ply birch bracing, baffling, and joinery add up. Thankfully, Mesa offers a telescoping-handle dolly cart or optional slide-on casters, which might actually improve the shlep since an amp can rest on the cabinet’s top during transport. All that wood inside the cab is a good thing, though: A stiff cabinet prevents tone-sapping vibrations.

The Mesa’s construction is solid, and the interior design demonstrates engineering thoughtfulness. Like the rest of the PowerHouse line, the 1x12 features “Tuned Tri-Ports,” triangular ports that are deeper at the cabinet’s bottom than the top. Mesa purports that this improves punch, balance, and clarity. Mesa also focused on the crossover. Rather than using a simple second-order design with L-Pad tweeter attenuation like most cabs, the PowerHouse allows the player to select from three crossover points. Lower crossover frequencies result in more signal going to the tweeter, for a brighter sound. The resettable tweeter-protection fuse is another dandy feature; it’s easier than replacing a conventional fuse or bulb.

Thick & Crispy

It may or may not have something to do with their weight (and accompanying stiffness and density), but the PowerHouse is an exceptionally heavy-sounding 1x12. It’s burly, with a crisp edge and rotund booty. Its lower midrange response is most assertive, making fingerstyle lines and furry pickstyle grooves jump out and get noticed. It projects well into rooms, and its low-frequency extension seems particularly deep for a 1x12. Power handling is acceptable; using amps well beyond its 300-watt rating (don’t try this at home!) didn’t slaughter it. The 1x12’s slick three-point crossover proved a useful tone tool. For gigs that required an extra bit of slippity-slap edge, I dialed in the 3kHz setting and jacked up the L-Pad—it made a big difference. The Mesa’s bellowing lows sounded good with upright, but it required a judicious touch on my amps’ low-frequency EQ to avoid pianist-wincing boominess.

The Mesa PowerHouse 1x12 is an excellent addition to a winning concept. Sonic carnivores will lick their chops at its thick and juicy sound, and delicate sophisticates will gleefully titter at its highbrow features and slinky, smooth tone.