Which comm. speaker mfgr. makes the best cabinet?

Which commercial speaker manufacturer makes the best FUNCTIONAL cabinet and why? What type cabinet? (reflex, sealed, T-line, etc?) I'm not talking about cabinet finish....but function and quality of design and construction. Quality of finish would be lowest priority.
Thanks for your comments!
I give richard vandersteen the kudos for his vandersteen 1, 2 & 3 speaker cabinets. They are very rugged due to the fact that their cabinet is basically a strong wood frame covered almost entirely in cloth - very little to scratch.

They are also very easy to move since you can pick them up by the attached stands. Using the original boxes, I hauled a set of 2C's through approximately 20 moves over 10 years (several accross country) & they still looked and sounded great. They are also fairly kid and critter proof.
I nominate Avalon. The inertness of the cabinets and their beveled shapes (particularly around the tweeter, where they have managed to sculpt the cabinet so the tweeter portion has a baffle the size of a mini-monior's, if that) are principal reasons they "disappear" as well as they do when playing music.
Not to toot my own horn but I agree with Rcprince, I love the way my avalons look. And when I replaced the drivers I was in awe, more then just window dressing there is stuff going on inside these speakers I can't believe(makes the cost more justifiable). In fact they are so easy on the eyes, and sound decent I would get a set over another slightly better sounding speaker of the same cost- a big plus for me is girls love them, classy and elegant paired with a first rate finish- a speaker everyone can enjoy, not just musically either. I sound like the anti-christ audiophile, please don't flame ;) ~Tim
Tim, I believe the correct expression is "chicks dig them", but we get the idea!
Very interesting to think about. I'm not sure that any one manufacturer has really gone all out and put together everything that would be possible in an advanced cabinet for a dynamic box speaker. Some things do readily jump to mind. The first cabinet design I remember really capturing my attention was the original B&W Matrix, and their idea for internal reinforcement was widely imitated, but not to same complete degree as they employed. B&W also popularized the "bullet" tweeter with no baffle. Thiel has been influential with their concept of a smooth baffle curving away from the drivers without sharp corners, and also a grillecloth frame that integrates with the surface to avoid interupting it. Vandersteen and Dahlquist emphasized minimizing baffle size, and Dunlavy applied damping material to the baffle around the drivers. Alon mounted drivers on a "cabinetless" free baffle open to the rear. Wilson uses dedicated advanced composites for their enclosure panels instead of the ubiquitous MDF, and made many models with separate cabinets for the different drivers. Kharma has created a fascinating cabinet with a contoured interior surface designed to diffuse sound waves. Gallo made speakers with 360' symetrical spherical cabinets of spun aluminum. Many makers have tried to reduce or eliminate parallel cabinet surfaces, use thick baffles, use internal sub-enclosures, and brace internally at the very least. Likewise, many have designed slanted baffles to help with time-alignment, and many have gone to symetrical, "D'Appolito"-style speaker arrays to mimic a point-source, or to multi-driver columns designed to mimic a line-source.

I don't think it's possible to choose just one type of cabinet loading, i.e. sealed, reflex, tansmission-line, etc. as being unequivocally better than the others - a good (or bad) design could be made with any of them. But I do think that the traditional preponderance of speakers on the market following the status-quo of rectangular, square-edged cabinetry made from MDF will fade away. Although plenty of good designs have been made this way (and still are), I think the bar is being raised, albeit slowly. A big manufacturer like B&W obviously has the edge when it comes to the kind of resources needed to inovate a remarkable design like the new Nautilus midrange enclosure, with its elongated semi-spherical, quasi-transmission-line, all-synthetic, baffleless cabinet (and still sell it at a reasonable price, to boot!). But I believe computer-aided design, and the demand for ever-better sound, have numbered the days for makers who don't take the next step in trying to reduce or eliminate addressable problems with conventional cabinets, such as resonance, flexing, standing waves, diffraction, reflections, durability, and the like. There's still a lot of room for overall industry advancement in the area of speaker cabinets, utilizing superior technology and materials, but audiophiles will probably have to get used to a different kind of appearance and a likely a higher price.
Well done, Zaikesman. I can't help but wonder if future omni-directional designs will be less dependent on cabinets.
Jond- I was trying to be PC it doesn't happen often but I don't want Aj beating me up, refering to her gender as "chicks", but since you said it yea chicks dig avalons, RANDY BABY YEA! :)
Look at Meadowlark Audio.
Mcne and Gmc...duh.....read the post dudes!?! WHY?
Myraj you too ! And i too ! ha ha ha...
Cabinet? If you're in Rhode Island, that's a Milkshake. A drug store in Warren, Rhode Island still has the soda fountain. They make great Coffee Cabinet with their own homemade coffee syrup.
Rockport Technologies makes a decent molded cabinet out of .375" fiberglass on the outside, .375" fiberglass on the inside and then 2" of stuff that sets up similar to MDF between the two shells.....These are made in a boatyard in Maine.....
Hey Bob, now you're not mixing the speakers up with their sailboats, are you? Sugarbrie, how could a place so close to where they call a milkshake a Frappe have come up with such a name??

Back on thread, while I have not heard them, the Wilson-Benesch speakers employing carbon fiber technology in their cabinets probably should be considered among the better functional cabinets, in part for their shapes, which are curved and without parallel walls in the ones I've seen, as well as the inert properties of the carbon fiber. Also, the Duntech/Dunlavy designs deserve some mention for their use of sealed boxes with the woofer sections, keeping them separate from the mid/tweeter chambers. And any manufacturer using outboard crossovers for their speakers (Alon, Avalon, among others) deserves mention too, for keeping those sensitive components separate from the internal vibrations in the speaker enclosure.
Okay... Lets not forget the originator, Wilson Benesch!!

Check out the Wilson Benesch Act One
Boats and fiberglass speakers both use what is known as a "plug" and the guy that does the plugs for boats also does them for boats.....Bought my Rockports in 1992 so wonder if W-B was first or if Dave Wilson with the Watt beat both Rockport and W-B? Doesn't matter I guess except to those folks....Sure makes it easy to make complex shapes with walls that are not close to parallel.....
Tim, to be PC you would have said "women" love them. I would agree that they are very attractive.
Ray- I admit being PC isn't my forte` :)
John_1 made a good case for R. Vandersteen's 2C/3A speakers. R. Vandersteen is a very innovative and practical guy, and I would also nominate the Vand. 5s. Why? Well, they have built-in subs that are freq. flat to about 22 HZ, they have internal 400 wpc amps to drive them, and the upper drivers are housed in milled out cavities in something like 22 layers of laminated and inert high density fibreboard.

With these speakers, you dont have to look for places to put your subs, and on top of all this, the bass from 125 HZ down is 11 band adjustable. And being very heavy (185 lbs each, net) they are even less prone to resonance. Did I just write ad copy for the V5s or what? Sorry for the unseemly gushing;>). I just think that the V5s are very functional yet still attractive. Cheers. Craig.
Its alright Craig we all have our overly passionate moments about our own gear-hell why would we have bought it other wise!!!
1) The Thiel cabinets. The cabinet fronts slope outward to improve timing and the fronts curve away to mitigate corner effects. They are very well braced and heavy to reduce flexing. Downsides: Passive radiator (doesn't bother me much most of the time but a lot of people are not crazy about that), terminals are hard to work with (you need to tilt the speaker up which requires a second person for the larger units), and you have to be careful about the relatively flimsy wood skirt at the bottom (don't use even a padded dolly on the larger units). They are attractive with excellent fit and finish.
2) The Montana cabinets are built like a brick &%@#house. Very, very heavy with a sextagonal (sp?)vs. rectangular design to help reduce standing waves. Woofers are moved outward from the tweeters in a less elegant fashion than the Thiels, but the effect is the same. Felt is used around the tweeters to reduce reflection effects. Did I mention that they are very, very heavy to reduce resonance? Their larger speakers have wheels for easy moving (at least on hardwood) and allow for spikes so the wheels can be lifted from the surface. Very easy access to terminals.
If you are considering cabinets that's are innert you would have to include Sony's top of the line. They are pyramid shaped and if my memory is correct Stereophile demonstrated little to no peaks in the cabinet throughout the frequency range. Now, I have never heard a pair, nor their super duper new variant but on this variable alone it is worth mentioning.
I wouldn't rule out Soliolquy..........
I love my Sonus Faber Extremas. They are a sealed unit for accuracy but have a radiator in the back to help with cabinet pressure.

They are slanted back a bit to help with the perceived phase distortion (timing errors between drivers) between the two drivers because of the different lengths in soundwaves of different frequencies. The two drivers are small and close together which also helps with phase distortion.

They are made out of wallnut on the outside which not only looks great but they claim it has also has an effect on sound quality.

I have also been told, but I have never seen, that the inside is shaped in a way to help break up or articulate certain frequencies.

And lastly the edges are smooth and rounded which help with reflection of the sound waves.

I read a book on speaker design and layed out all the options I would want in my custom speaker. The funny part was when I was done I noticed I had essentially designed the speaker I already own.
Now that I think about it Merlin's are innovative with there cabinet design. Those 3 lines in the front and on the top are brass I believe and run all the way through the speaker(there is some reason for this but I don't remember at this time), it is also made of some composite(not mdf) material; a mold if my memory serves me correct. Striked me as being a little weird for a high end manufacturer to do something like this.
There is a whole new cabinet design on the market, www.zucable.com I have the druids and they are amazing. There is an opening on the bottom (not a port) and there is no filler in the speaker (batting). This is a new animal, check it out.
Okay.. a little more clarification as to why I selected Wilson-Benesch (which is a relatively rare and nearly unknown speaker in the US) as having the "best" cabinet for quality, function, design and construction. Since I could not state it any better myself - I am posting information from their website. It is a little wordy but very interesting reading none-the-less.


There are over sixteen very different and carefully selected types of material used in the enclosure alone, this is before the drivers and crossovers are introduced! Some of the materials like the spine for example require many machining operations in order to be shaped. Fourteen machining operations are required to produce one spine for one enclosure. Each Advanced Composite Technology panel is hand made and pressed in dedicated, mirror finished, stainless steel tooling. Six different types of adhesive are specified for the basic assembly. The ten millimetre thick steel plate used at the base of the cabinet to tune the low frequency port and provide mass to the system precisely where it is required is cut by laser to very fine tolerances. It can be seen that in every detail the system is quite different in every way from the many loudspeakers which have preceded it.

The name Wilson Benesch is synonymous with innovative design and advanced materials technology.

Wilson Benesch products are unique in every detail. The visual aesthetic is determined by function and engineered from the raw material under one roof. The quality of finish is a natural requirement of materials. Choice and sonic performance is everything.

ACT One derives its name from the Advanced Composite Technology panels which are used so effectively in this high performance loudspeaker. The distinctive form is both functional and attractive and incorporates the very latest technology and the very finest materials.

The ACT One is unlike any other loudspeaker. Its specification has been determined by engineering criteria which has quite naturally brought about a three dimensional form which is pleasing to view from any angle.

The carbon fibres that form the large curved side panels compliment the wood grain. Engineering components like the ten millmetre thick steel plate at the base of the cabinet are carefully considered in how they function aesthetically and other aspects of the design have been re-evaluated and addressed in order to achieve optimum performance both sonically and visually.

Externally the structural needs of the cabinet function without getting in the way of the pressure waves created by the powerful drivers. The low diffraction of the form allows the speaker to virtually disappear as the ear cannot detect the diffraction patterns commonly detected with less well considered speaker enclosures. Internally the curved forms prevent the manifestation of standing waves. The small amount of precisely located damping material mops up any unwanted third harmonic and is used in such small quantities that its effect on the drivers is virtually inaudible.

Curved forms have always been used in both natural and man made structures and are an important design parameter in terms of the effective strength of materials. In 1975 D.A. Barrow presented a paper to the Audio Engineering Society entitled "Sound output from loudspeaker cabinet walls". His investigations indicated that structures with curved surfaces were extremely rigid in terms of both expansion and compression waves, offering the potential of very low colouration structures. Although A.C.T. panels are extremely expensive they offer unique and very significant advantages over all other materials used to date. Some of these advantages are outlined below.

1. Low mass structures, as in the Wilson Benesch turntable sub-chassis, are incapable of significant energy storage. Avoiding this problem is essential to un-coloured reproduction. With high performance drivers massive transients can inject a lot of energy into an enclosure structure. Only by minimising this absorption can subsequent re-emission be minimised, this is quite different to suppression which is rather like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

2. A.C.T. panels of a given thickness are over five times stiffer than a similar M.D.F. board. In practice this means that the first resonant frequency of the A.C.T. panel when installed in the cabinet is well into the treble range where energy levels are significantly lower than in the bass regions. Emissions from the enclosure walls are subsequently in the ultrasonic range. (With reference to the finite element analysis diagrams it can be seen that the first resonant frequency of the A.C.T. panel is five times higher than that of a similar M.D.F. board Curvature of the panel would give a further 5 fold increase in resonant frequency).

3. The chamber created by the curve avoids the standing waves that are inevitable in box designs. Standing waves accentuate particular frequencies and distort the quality of the signal by producing an inaccurate output.

4. Nearly thirty years ago a paper by H.F. Olsen appeared in the Audio Engineering Society entitled "Direct radiator loudspeaker enclosures". Twelve different shapes of cabinet were tested for their effects on the final frequency response of a loudspeaker. Essentially the sphere provides the smoothest characteristic whilst the box provides worst. The A.C.T. Two Loudspeaker exhibits very low diffraction surfaces on both the exterior and interior forms. They provide for a broad dispersion of the signal avoiding the forward beaming effect of a large box shaped baffle designs. The atmosphere and sound stage of recordings are reproduced more faithfully as a result.

5. A curved chamber coupled with sloping braces reduces the need for absorbents enabling the drivers to breathe effortlessly and without the colourations that are commonly introduced by large quantities of absorbent.

6. A.C.T. panels are a matrix composed of literally thousands of anechoic chambers, the panels actively deal with resonant energy in a way that no other panel to date can. The materials used in its construction have intrinsic self-damping characteristics. No additional damping materials are required that will be prejudicial to the quality of the sound reproduction. If you touch the panels when they are playing loud you will appreciate just how effective they are.
the Kharma Exquisite must be one of the speakers with possibly the "best" cabinet. the cabinet is made from 1" slices of a resin composite, very inert and non-resonant, with irregular interior cut-outs in each slice, then bonded and glued together to make a completely non-resonant 500 pound mass, then has solid wood shoulders added and a 75 pound aluminum stand firmly attached. there are no flat surfaces anywhere inside or out. then the speaker is painted and finished like a work of art.

when you hear the Exquisite you will appreciate the speed, articulation and extension of the bass below 20hz is mostly due to the amazing cabinet.....which looses virtually no energy to resonance. due to the weight and rigidity of the cabinet the floor ceases to be a conduit for resonance. all the energy that the drivers recieve is heard as music.

the immediacey and detail that is the result of this "no compromise" approach must be heard to be believed.
The only problem I've had with my Rockports is I had to cut the mast down a few feet to get them into my listening room. Otherwise, smooth sailing :-)
Actually, I'm wearing my Rockports at the office today. High end shoes with "sole", baby!
Ah! Sorry MYRAJ. What and why.
Well, I was leaving it as an all encompassing answer;
Best cabinet? Dynaudio / Why, Dynaudio.
I am sorry that was out of your understanding. In the future I will try to keep my all encompassing answers very clear. I hope that this clears up any misundr.
Wilson never used Carbon Fiber. They used Corian by Dupont. Still do...
Rgrost, did someone say that Wilson used Carbon Fiber? I cannot find that post.
The post on 5-8 about boat building mentioned who used CF first...
Rgrost - thanks for the clarification. I was checking because many folks tend to confuse Wilson-Benesch with Wilson Audio for whatever reason. To my knowledge neither Rockport or Wilson Audio uses or has ever used Carbon Fiber reinforced cabinets.