How important are the Speaker Cabinets?


I am curious to learn about speaker cabinet design and how important does the cabinet contribute to the overall sound. Does the weight of the cabinet make a difference. For instance a floor standing speaker that weighs 200 pound versus one that weighs 60 pounds or 300. Is there any correlation to weight and sound? How about material?

How much are you paying for the cabinet versus the drivers on an expensive pair of speakers?

Just curious?

Thanks.
revrob
They are an integral part of the overall design so they are important. The overall design matters more than any particular cabinet shape or size. Generally, they should be very rigid, which infers greater weight. Larger cabinets cost more to build and maintain high rigidity compared to smaller.

One good example of a speaker cabinet built to the nth degree is probably that of the Magico mini, which is a rather small 2-way midsize monitor with integrated stands that cost over $30000. They can command that price not only due to good sound in a relatively compact package but build quality of the highest degree.
The volume of air inside (and porting) as well as stuffing will create a resonant system with the woofer. Cabinet volume and porting are matched to a particular driver. This is extremely important for the woofer.

Furthermore the edges and shape of the speaker may influence the edge diffraction of frequencies above about 500 Hz.

Furthermore cabinet resonances may color the sound and increase distortion.
the best cabinets are closed perfect cubes, no prorts or internal structurs. You can just stack as many as you want on atop the other. T walls must be free to resonate at 500 cylces thus use a thin copmpliant material. Make sure that no one slips any damping materials into the box .
The only downside is that they are a bit skittishhis cab be aproblem as some of the best made of really thin brittle material can break if it bunces off it's perch to the florr. If made right it will shatter. They make a really loud buzz /hum at 500 Hz.The family often gathers around to witness this like the first planes to break the spund barrier.
The pretyentious speaker makres use heavy damped non paralell walls to make them fancy. They add wieght with extra internal bracing -it's only purpose is to make the speaker real heavy and rthus feel like something substantial. That gives you the sense that they are a prestigious product.
Don't fall for that industry tomfoolry.
There are various ways to skin this cat.

Just as in turntable plinths, one school advocates the addition of mass, in the form of thicker cabinet walls and additional internal bracing, to make the cabinet as rigid as possible. All cabinets resonate, always at more than one frequency, and the goal of this design is to quiet those resonances as much as possible. The addition of mass, usually lowers the frequency of the resonanance and lowers the "Q".

Another design school advocates making the cabinet lighter. The obvious effect is that the resonances, though louder, will be higher in frequency. If they can be moved up in frequency, they are both less bothersome to the ear, and they tend to be of higher "Q". "Q", or quality factor has to do both with how wide the resonance is and how quickly it clears, or stops ringing. Even if the high frequency resonance is louder, if the ear is less sensitive to resonance in this range and the resonance stops sooner, it will have a different sound than the other example, above.

Material is an important consideration in the resonant structure of the cabinet, which is why some manufacturers use exotic materials, such as the aluminum cabinets of the Magicos referred to in the above post. And some use different materials in different parts of the cabinet to spread resonances and to add some degree of economy to the equation.

Although most speakers are made of MDF (medium density fiberboard) which is generally cheap and may be comparable to the cost of some drivers, the labor in constructing and veneering the cabinet is the more significant expense in the finished cost of most speaker cabinets. My guess - and it is just that - is that most cabinets well exceed, by serveral times, the cost of the drivers in them. And this is most certainly true of those with exotic materials and unusual construction techniques.

But in the end, knowing if the eggs are brown or white does not tell you a lot about the finished omlette. Listen without predjudice to various speakers and pick the one that most closely matches the paradigm of live music that exists within your mind.
Post removed 
Hi,

You should have started the thread by asking if speakers need a cabinet at all?
A speaker cabinet is a cheap (if not free) way to produce "bass".
A dipole - open baffle speaker will solve the problem more efficiently. Just save your $30,000 in the Magico Minis and spend more time doing speaker's design research.

Martin.
>I am curious to learn about speaker cabinet design and how important does the cabinet contribute to the overall sound.

It's significant.

>Does the weight of the cabinet make a difference.

Weight and stiffness determine resonance amplitude, with stiffness going up with the cube of thickness. Obviously a thick enough brace will out-do uniformly thicker material but involve higher labor costs.

You really want to limit un-braced lengths enough to push resonances out of the driver pass-bands.

Siegfried Linkwitz has suggested that (mid-range) enclosures shouldn't have over 4 square inches of unbraced cabinet.

>For instance a floor standing speaker that weighs 200 pound versus one that weighs 60 pounds or 300. Is there any correlation to weight and sound? How about material?

All else equal there may be. There's an AES paper which gives an example of cylindrical enclosures (the material is stressed only in tension) being as stiff as 4" concrete which you can (I did that with Siegfried's Pluto design) exploit to build a rigid 15 pound speaker. Open baffle speakers don't have internal pressurization to cause problems so a 60-70 pound floor standing example can be free of cabinet coloration (I did that with Siegfried's Orion design).

>How much are you paying for the cabinet versus the drivers on an expensive pair of speakers?

Depends on construction technique, labor costs, finish. Many large vendors speakers are cut on CNC routers and assembled with miter fold construction. MDF is nearly free, common hardwood veneers are cheap and don't take much to apply to the whole sheet in a veneer press, semi-skilled Chinese workers make a lot of speakers for $150 a month in wages, and the drivers should be more; but most of the price is overhead in terms of advertising costs, dealer profits, dealer overhead, etc.

American labor is pricey. Craftsmen are more expensive than factory workers. Use the Orion+ built by Don Naples at Wood Artistry as an example. You start at around $6800 less $1900 for drivers in small quantities, $500 for cross-over parts, $300 for cross-over labor, $170 in licensing costs, and are left with cabinet costs of $3700 of which maybe $3500 is labor and a screaming deal (California is not cheap).

Larger companies get better deals on drivers (quantity) and labor (factory workers not craftsman) but some really cut corners on drivers. $15-$25K a pair covering advertising, overhead, markups through the distribution chain, maybe amortized engineering costs, etc. is not out of line.
Benifits of a thicker cabinet wall. Better bass definition. Less coloration. Better image since drivers not vibrating on baffle as much as thin cab. To me doubled cabinet walls with bracing are the way to go. MDF is a poor choice baltic birch ply is 1 of the best materials.
Thanks Drew. The questions here are not suited for short answers, but you've put it in a nice nutshell.

It's a very complex subject. You can get a reasonably good broad based understanding if you dig for it¬ólots of resources on the net and in the library.

In another nutshell, material and mass are very important for reducing panel vibrations, which are very detrimental. This is why open baffle or cylinders are far superior. Instead of using brute force to fix a problem, eliminate the problem from the start.
Wow! The information provided does give me more of an insight into speaker cabinets. I did not know it was such a complex issue. The synergy between cabinet, cross-over and drivers determine the level of sound quality if I am correct. However it appears that the cabinets can be as much as 75% of the cost.

I guess I was under the impression that the drivers were the most costly and contributes mostly to how speakers sound. Given that revelation couldn't you use cheaper drivers with a great cabinet to get close to the same sound as better drivers?

Thanks
very important since people generally are influenced(even in audio)by what they see. the merits of exotic materials arguably are more about setting a product apart from the pack and (at the end of day)find an audience with people who just dig 'the look'. nothing wrong with that, but you'll certainly pay for 'the look'.
Jaybo

Interesting so do you believe people are choosing speakers based upon how they look and are willing to pay for that look even if their is a comparable speakers that cost less but doesn't look as good?
"I guess I was under the impression that the drivers were the most costly and contributes mostly to how speakers sound. Given that revelation couldn't you use cheaper drivers with a great cabinet to get close to the same sound as better drivers?"

Maybe. In practice, most designs have to compromise somewhere in order to provide an affordable yet quality product.

But in the end its how all the component parts of a "speaker system" contribute together to deliver the sound people want that matters.

Lets not forget that they are "speaker systems" after all, comprised of various parts, often but not always including cabinet. Some may have no cabinet at all as pointed out.

Its like making soup. There is margin for error (nothing is perfect) but get any one ingredient in the soup wrong by enough and the taste will suffer.

But also remember the speaker system alone is still not enough to guarantee good sound. There's how well the speaker works located in your listening venue/room and how well the amp is able to drive the speakers. Only once all that is set up well are you in a good position to judge how good your sources (CD, phono, etc.) really are. After that, your entire system is tuned in which is what it takes t get the best sound out of what you can afford.
Jaybo

Interesting so do you believe people are choosing speakers based upon how they look and are willing to pay for that look even if their is a comparable speakers that cost less but doesn't look as good?

Absolutely. How many audiophiles do you see using ugly pro black ash speakers? How many audiophiles do you see using aesthetic looking speakers with fine veneers?

On average, it is more about aesthetics than everything else combined. This is self evident the moment you step into a high-end consumer store versus a pro sudio store.
I'd agree that speaker cabinets are important both for the way they sound AND the way they look to most buyers, including audiophiles.

Again, back to the Magico Mini example, I doubt people in NYC cramped quarters who can afford them (a key target demographic) would shell out $30000 if they did not look as well as sound good.
With single driver speakers there are everything, especially getting the lowest bass possible
Revrob writes:
>Interesting so do you believe people are choosing speakers based upon how they look and are willing to pay for that look even if their is a comparable speakers that cost less but doesn't look as good?

Sean Olive at Harman found that appearances matter most, with people preferring larger more expensive speakers in sighted comparisons that don't perform as well in blind ones.

http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/04/dishonesty-of-sighted-audio-product.html

My next speaker will mate solid hardwood edging (I'm thinking bubinga) to void free baltic birch plywood panels with figured veneer (I'm thinking maple or makore) with SOTA design so every one is impressed.
Yes, big expensive speakers are very impressive!
What does Mechans' post say? Does anyone have a clue??
I have a clue but not quite enough to solve the puzzle.
What does Mechans' post say? Does anyone have a clue??

In some prior threads he has explained why his posts are sometimes not optimally expressed. The reasons are definitely not grounds for sarcasm (and I don't mean to imply that you intended any). A couple of re-readings should make his points clear, although they are debatable.

Regards,
-- Al
the 'effect' caused by the introduction of the word 'lovely' into hifi lexicon took the hobby in directions that enthusists could have never imagined (what happed to red power lights?..i guess they weren't lovely..i will admit that purple and mint green speaker wire from xlo did sound really good to me....make my speakers teak, and i'm still there (apologies to the planet).
07-16-09: Revrob
I guess I was under the impression that the drivers were the most costly and contributes mostly to how speakers sound. Given that revelation couldn't you use cheaper drivers with a great cabinet to get close to the same sound as better drivers?
Whether you use cheaper drivers or a less inert cabinet, you sacrifice linearity and dynamic range. However, driver non-linearities and cabinet resonances sound different, though they both compromise accurate reproduction.

Wilson, Sonus Faber, and Magico are good examples of how important the enclosure is. All three are meticulously engineered to limit or control resonances, and all have extraordinary low level resolution.

Of the three, Wilson cabinets are probably the most rigid and inert, and I think this explains why some people love them and others hate them. Wilsons are so revealing that they absolutely show the differences in upstream electronics and cabling. If they are a bad match, the Wilsons won't sound impressive.

I've heard Watt/Puppies, Maxx 2 and 3's, and Alexandria X-2s on several occasions. When powered by a complete chain of tube electronics ending with powerful tube amps (VTL Ref and ARC), they were extraordinary. When powered by a $40K solid state signal chain, they were OK--impressive, but not as involving as with the tubes.

About 25 years ago when B&W prototyped their first 801 Matrix design (which renders the cabinet much more inert), it revealed non-linearities in their drivers that went previously unnoticed. Result: They had to re-design their drivers to match the neutrality of the matrix enclosures.
Thanks Al

I apologize sincerely to Mechans. I am pulling my foot from my mouth as I type this. My sarcasm is never intended to be hurtful.
somebody better call maggie in white bear lake and tell 'em they're missing out on all the fun.
Mechans (The Doctor) is a unique and brilliant person, as well as being a close friend of mine. He does have a few personal things going on, but I feel he's capable of expressing himself well enough even if I wish there were some paragraph breaks to make things easier to read. Yes, his posts can be difficult to read, and I would ask people to try to read his dry sense of humor/sarcasm he is trying to interject into things (which can often be impossible in the black and white of a discussion forum) when something seems really off kilter.

I wouldn't get too worked up over these things, I'm sure he doesn't...
Me thinks Mechans is planning on reviving the old LIRPA LABS brand. LOL.

Cabinets design is important, but I don't think they need to look like the hull of a Criss-Craft speed boat.
"baltic birch ply is 1 of the best materials"

I though all plywoods have the potential to delaminate and vibrate internally and thus should be avoided ?

07-17-09: 6550c
"baltic birch ply is 1 of the best materials"

I though all plywoods have the potential to delaminate and vibrate internally and thus should be avoided ?
There are lots of ways to laminate. I used to work in sales at a piano rebuilding store. I recognize the stock used in the cabinets of Magico, NuForce, and Lominchay--commonly called Baltic birch--as the same material the piano shop used for pinblocks. I've held the raw stock in my hands. This was a premium rebuilding shop and this stock was the best available for pinblocks, which have to be able to hold over 200 threaded steel pegs in a grand piano to anchor all the strings and enable them to be tuned. This stuff does not come apart!

In fact, this stock is very heavy, and certainly inert, because more of the weight is from the resin that holds it together than from the wood itself. It would be an excellent speaker cab material--very rigid, strong, cohesive, and inert.
Drew,

Thanks for the link. The article proves what most people inherently feel or know to be true (if they are ruthlessly honest about it): aesthetics is more important than sound quality to most audiophiles.

This is why audiophile manufacturers make costly and beautifully finished speaker cabinets and stuff them with very cheap but pretty looking drivers...sound is awful but nobody notices.

In contrast a sturdy but obviously DIY speaker armed with expensive drivers looks like a POS and will be judged that way even if it sounds fantastic.
Shadorne, the article does not prove that looks are more important than sound quality. The conclusion I draw is that non-sonic factors clearly influence a listener's opinion of sound quality. Those non-sonic factors could be size, brand name, number of drivers, design elements, build quality and appearance.

Audiophiles are a varied group, but one thing I've learned from looking at the all out assault systems here is that, if money is not an obstacle, a great system can look great as well as sound great.
Re: the purchase motivation of expensive loudspeakers.

If you place a pair of large floorstanders in a living room, they are effectively something between furniture and sculpture - in addition to the last link in the sound system. Thus, they have 2 functions: visual and aural. As you spend more money, you would expect the product to perform both functions "better". Of course, in both cases, "better" may be the subject of some debate. Given the realities of the overall market, how else would you expect it to be?

Marty

BTW, I don't dismiss reverse psychology. I'm sure that someone out there makes an "ugly" megabuck speaker specifically to convey that all the cost is dedicated to the "aural" function and little (to none) to the "visual".
Given the realities of the "lunatic fringe" (BTW, I could reasonably be classified as either part of, or close to, that crowd) how else would you expect it to be?
Shadorne, the article does not prove that looks are more important than sound quality

Well the way I read how the selection process went blind versus sighted (choice is so utterly dependent on visual cues even though they were instructed to rate only sonic quality), it is hard to see how one could not draw this simple conclusion: what audiophiles see is what they hear.
Shadorne, why limit it to just what can be seen? Better it's what the audiophile knows is what they hear. In anything it's near impossible to not be influenced by what you think you already know.
For what it's worth Shadorne, in this thread, you and I seem to be completely of the same mind.
Shadorne, why limit it to just what can be seen? Better it's what the audiophile knows is what they hear.

Yes absolutely. What I meant to say was that when an buyer sees the product and knows who makes it then he/she becomes influenced by all the reviews and aura around the product, as well as the aesthetics. You are right to correct me - it is not ONLY aesthetics but a whole bunch of factors - including testimonials people have read on the web...

In fact I was playing Golf this morning and I am still amazed at how many brands of Golf ball there are (and clubs) - I got to wondering if most of these are just OEM sourced equipment from a few large volume manufacturers that get a different cosmetic look and logo (is the Nike Golf ball really that different from Pinnacle)....much like many speaker companies using the same North European third party low cost drivers...much like cable manufacturers that don't make their own cable but simply add logos to what an OEM makes.
>07-18-09: Onhwy61
Shadorne, the article does not prove that looks are more important than sound quality

Speaker S went from the most preferred speaker in position 1 with blind listening to least preferred with sighted comparison.

While I'd accept that looks alone don't cover all of the bias (with brand recognition and influence from reviews being other examples) the priority inversion shows that sound isn't the most important factor in speaker preference.
selling hifi is a game of inches, even if you're jumping thousands of dollars....in the early 90's i did sales and marketing for a notable hifi manufaturer, who made wonderful speakers. each wrapped in a sock with wooden caps (not def teach or vandy). on the sales floor of a dealer, we were up against pretty big competition, and though we were certainly as good, we were being killed in sales. brainstorm.....we replaced the standard oak caps with a variety of exotic woods and of course, raised the prices a few hundred dollars. we also offered very rare caps and custom sock colors for a bigger price....sales and special orders improved dramatically....the speakers were always solid performers, they just needed to involve the consumer at a different level to seal the deal.
I know a lot us buy equipment based upon resale value just in case we want to upgrade and sell our equipment. So I guess brand recognition it just as important as sound quality. How do new speaker manufacturers overcome this?

Do they offer a comparable product for less than its value to break into the market? Then once they have broken into the market do they raise their prices to reflect their current market position.

I have notice some manufactures offer a great product at a reasonable price in the beginning and then almost price themselves out of the market.

It appears, IMO, that this becomes a game the consumer has to wade through to find the best value.
Very important!! You don't want them if you want the most accurate sound:

Quad

Soundlab

Magnepan

Martin Logan (well some)

Apogee

Analysis Audio
"Accuracy" is the most used, undefined, term in audio. The sword that everyone falls upon in claiming that one thing is better than another.
Viridian, you are absolutely right. A recording is an approximation of the original event at best. In room #1 we have components A,B, and C. The origninal recording engineer has listened to the playback and proclaimed it to be an excellent recreation of his work. Now we move A,B, and C to room #2 and the engineer listens again and proclaims the sound is too hard and steely. So, are the components accurate or not?
To the original OP, obviously the cabinet material/construction has a major influence in the sound. You can go from ultra rigid cabinets like Wilson to bending wave cabinets such as the Omnimon.