Mike Vans Evers has a great web site on tones and ways to control sound. Veneers I don't believe will change the sound but the chip board density will, I believe.
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pbb: i quite agree with jab. the dynamic box speakers with which i have familiarity are designed around ridged, non-resonate cabinets onto which a veneer is applied only for show. my avalon eidolons, for example, have boxes constructed of multiple layers of mdf with robust internal bracing; that sort of construction, together with very heavy voice coils, give the speakers the heft requiring two people to set them up. avalon takes great care applying and finishing the veneers that sheath their cabinets. between the veneer and mdf, a layer of proprietary material is applied that both adds to the deadening of the cabinet and, perhaps more importantly, allows for expansion and contraction of the veneers in all directions, thus reducing the likelihood of splitting. avalon does a fabulous job of book-matching" veneers so that each pair of its speakers is a unique manifestation of cabinet making art. my ascents were done in curly maple that shown thru three dimensionally. my eidolons are in myrtle cluster burl that easily befits the $3k upgrade charged for "premium" finishes. -cfb
I'm assuming you mean the external part of the box--in which case I would say the veneer would have virtual no effect, except that if a looked at a box that was veneered in birdseye maple and one in pine (if there is such a veneer) I would automatically assume that the birdseye maple box would sound better--just because it looks more expensive. Many woods are used in musical instruments to get a desired result--but they are solid, not veneered. From guitars, to violins, to pianos (once made in Brazillian Rosewood and painted black--it was for the sound--not the look) the solid woods created a particular sound. With speakers it's different story--you want neutral--not a sound of a particular wood--that's why MDF is used in many cases and the veneers are just that--something to look at (so my advice is use a really good looking veneer--it will make everyone think the speaker sounds better).
I Don't think any veneer would have much influence when the base material is MDF. Two disimilar woods that produce great tone together are Pau Ferro(Ironwood)and Koa. Any guitar made from from that combination would be fantastic. Unfortunately, a speaker would be really heavy if made entirely from these or any instrument grade wood...even Basswood!
I have been looking into the Sonus Faber Guaneri Homage speakers. They were built to honor the Guareri violins and are made with solid maple. They are quite expensive monitors (around $10K retail) but are said to reproduce the sound of a violin better than most other speakers. Perhaps its the wood and the design of the enclosure. Joel
A veneer should have little or no affect on the tone of a stoutly built speaker enclosure, especially those such as the Avalons stated above. Speakers made out of solid wood such as Diapasons I suspect would have tonal shifts depending on the type of wood used. However, they use very dense hardwoods, which may exhibit more inert characteristics than MDF designs. Roy from GreenMountain Audio uses sheets of sorbothane sandwiched between the MDF and quarter inch planks of hardwoods to eliminate any coloration the purely decorative hardwood coverings may induce. I have Gallo speakers made out of aluminum spheres. They are devoid of any woody or boxy sound, however I have always felt they had a bit of a metallic sound. I dont know if it is due to the material itself, the lack of any wood in the design, or the sonic character of the CDT tweeter.
My advice on selecting a veneer is to match the color of the wall you will be facing while listening. Choose light colors with light colored grilles for white walls and dark speakers for dark walls/wood backgrounds. This will create more of a psychological disappearing act for the speakers than any tonal difference one could detect between veneers. My speakers are all black, and I painted my listening wall a dark plum. If there is a speaker finish you must have then the other option is to listen with the lights off or eyes shut, but then, whats the point.
The one thing important about veneers on speakers is to do the inside of the cabinet too. The reason is that alot of particle boards will warp overtime when exposed to air moisture and other elements and the veneer seals the particle board (MDF, HDF, whatever type) from the surrounding environment. Obviously, as speaker enclosure with warped walls will sound different over time for many reasons. I'm sure that there are less costly methods than veneering to treat processed boards, but the point is that it has to be on the inside and outside and so this will allow the speaker to maintain its performance as originally designed. So the veneer does help the performance in that way.
The other thing it does, depending on what the cabinets are made out of, is that it may minimize the cabinet vibrating by making it slightly stronger and thicker. However, some cabinets will benefit none from it. The other nice thing about the veneer and even multiple wood layerings as another post pointed out is that the resonant properties of a 1" thick board of X dimensions are not the same as those of a 3/4" board and a 1/4" board sandwiched/glued together--the two different pieces alone change things, in addition to the glue. So the veneer will act in a comparable manner of changing the resonant properties of the enclosure walls, although on a much smaller level. I.e. don't count on the veneer alone to significantly increase the cabinet's strength, the bread-and-butter of it is in the "core" materials of the walls and bracing (if any). However, the veneer does not give the speaker any distinctive sound--speakers are not musical instruments. Any cabinet resonances are colorations and only to be supressed (with a few exceptions), the material used is only a means to an end.
A loudspeaker cabinet can only vibrate one of two ways-in phase with the original sound or out of phase, the former will augment the total ouput and the latter will null some of the drivers energy. And then technically speaking some amount energy is lost in the "friction" as the wood bends in the form of heat. The latter approach is taken sometimes, and it can eliminate the what would have been colorations; however, energy is still lost and so in the case of low-frequency drivers it can give a mush sound. I'm a little fuzzy on the latter, someone may no more. There is more to it than that. The vibrations in the cabinet can cause interdriver resonances and it can cause slight rocking of the cabinet. There's also the way the sound waves propagate from the driver itself through the front baffle hitting the edges and then the transmission to the side panels, i.e. energy is getting to the side panels from the other panels in addition to through the air pressure creating its own forces. The bottom line--the veneer will do very little for the sound of a well designed cabinet. It can help a little, but not much and not in any way the morado is more desireable than tiger maple.