Why are there so many wooden speakers?


I have noticed a problem within the speaker industry. 99% of speakers that come onto the marketplace are wooden, i.e MDF.
 
This is true of old speakers and new speakers. This is true of Dynaudio, B&W, Elac, Kef, revel, PMC, Focal, ATC the list goes on and on. This is a longstanding problem that has been deceiving audiophiles for decades and it requires a solution. 

The problem with a wooden box is that no matter what crossover or drivers you use, it will still sound like a wooden box. 
There is a limit to the sound you can get out of a wooden box so it is not possible to improve the sound just by using different drivers. Despite this, every year or two, the aforementioned companies put new speakers on the market claiming that they sound even better than what came before. In conclusion, we are being misled. 

I have no problem with MDF boxes per se. MDF is a good material to use. But if you want to make an even better speaker then you obviously need to use a better material. You cant use the same material and say you have made a better speaker. Thats false. 

Let's take the B&W 600 series for example. This is a series that has been going on for decades. 

Here is the latest speaker from their current series

https://www.bowerswilkins.com/home-audio/607

There is no mention of what wood is used but I'm pretty sure its MDF. All they talk about is their continuum woofer and dome tweeter that goes up to 38khz. No mention of even improvements to the crossover let alone the cabinet.

I believe that this has gone on for long enough and audiophiles deserve better treatment. I don't know if a class action lawsuit is the answer but something needs to change.
kenjit
You can blame it all on Master Geppetto.
Once his speaker came to life, all bets were and are, off.
MDF replaced chipboard because although it tends to sound worse in the mids it was cheaper and easier to cut.

Chipboard replaced Baltic birch plywood because although it sounded worse in the mids it was cheaper.

However some speakers (LS3/5s etc) still use it but they come at a cost.

Nowadays many companies are starting to use composites or layers of both MDF and particleboard sandwich. Bowers and Wilkins use Baltic birch plywood themselves in their higher range models.

At the end of the day it’s up to you the consumer to decide if it’s good enough for your particular needs.
But if you want to make an even better speaker then you obviously need to use a better material.


And what are these better materials that we consumers have all been denied?
Yay kenjit is back! My speakers use Baltic birch plywood and sound great. I don't want MDF in my system ever again.
Likewise, utterly unreasonable that most stringed instruments have bodies made of wood.  Outrageous!
If only Stradivarius had followed the model of the charango, things would be a lot better...
MDF....what the hell is that? My speakers are made bespoke birch plywood cabinetry.  The timeless beauty of the oiled walnut, hand selected burr walnut inlays....not to mention well engineered Variable Distributed Port system allowing low-frequency output to be tuned to suit any room dimensions -:)
Here is what Focal says about using MDF cabinets. It makes sense to me.

Because the surface area of a loudspeaker cabinet is many times greater than that of the drive unit diaphragms, it is all too easy for the enclosure to radiate sound at a level similar to that of the drivers, sound that is coloured by resonances within the cabinet structure. This muddies the speaker’s sound and blurs the stereo image. To prevent this, it is vital that the loudspeaker cabinet be as inert as possible. At Focal, we use MDF (medium-density fibreboard) to achieve this. It may seem a "low-tech" solution compared to some cabinet materials employed today but MDF has inherent advantages that we believe make it the optimum material from which to construct a loudspeaker.

First, it is dense enough and stiff enough – when used in a thick, heavy front baffle – to resist the magnet reaction force from the drive units. As the driver diaphragm is forced forwards by the voice coil, an equal force acts in the opposite direction on the drive unit chassis. This is one of the major inputs of vibrational energy to the cabinet and it must be resisted. This requires not just a thick baffle but also meticulously placed internal bracing. Too stiff a cabinet, though, can be as bad as one which is not stiff enough because it pushes structural resonances up in frequency to a part of the spectrum where the ear is more sensitive.


Second, MDF has something resembling a sandwich structure, in which the faces on each side of the board are denser than its core. As well as contributing to stiffness, this endows MDF with good internal damping to help suppress vibrations when they occur. Sopra and Utopia front baffles use MDF plates thick laminated to multiply the sandwich effect (69mm thick for Sopra). Third, MDF can easily formed into curved cabinet forms. These are good both acoustically, because they allow the radiated sound to diffract smoothly around the cabinet without secondary radiation from sharp cabinet edges, and structurally because curved panels are stiffer than conventional flat ones. This combination of a thick front baffle, extensive internal bracing and curved panel forms (all constructed using MDF) we call Focal’s Gamma Structure. It is as important to the sound of our top loudspeakers as the drive units themselves.


https://www.focal.com/en/focal-teach/gamma-structure




And what are these better materials that we consumers have all been denied?

Magico Wilson and others use materials like aluminium or concrete or composite materials. 

If you are going to put out a new speaker everything needs to be fully upgraded. The drivers, crossovers and cabinet. 
Speaker companies do not do this. They deserve to be blamed for this. 

At the end of the day it’s up to you the consumer to decide if it’s good enough for your particular needs.

It's up to the speaker companies to stop making MDF speakers that all sound like MDF boxes. Do you really think audiophiles want that? 
Audiophiles want more transparent sound quality not less. MDF does not provide that.
My speakers are made of bespoke birch plywood cabinetry.
The B&W 607 are not. Neither are most speakers made by Dynaudio, B&W, Elac, Kef, revel, PMC, Focal, ATC. 

Audiophiles want better sound and you cant achieve that with MDF. Why do speaker companies keep producing newer models when in reality they use the same cabinets which adds the same coloration? How do you justify this?  Do you want to hear the music on your cd or the coloration of the speaker cabinet? 

kenjit OP
975 posts

Your right, plane and simple, MDF is the least expensive for what it does,
and the most expensive for what it cost to make. It is the cheapest solution to the speaker making, world.

Is it better than plywood? It is better than most. why? The voids in most of todays plywood has way to may other problems. GOOD speaker A/B plywood is well over 100.00 a 4 x 8 sheet, and cost a LOT more to make than any compressed composet, like MDF. I bet MDFs profit margin is twice that of any plywood. Things like Corian, or HDF.  WOW, cost to machine, cost of material, look out..

My cabinets have HDF front baffles, they start with a 10" x 14" x 72" solid block and machine the tapered baffle and cut the 7 openings. That is attached to a 2 1/4" thick X 72" tall 8 CF MDF 3 x cabinet.

What does 3 layers of MDF mean? That means there are 6 very dense layers of HDF, and 3 sandwiched layers of MDF. EXCELLENT cabinets..
They sound like green concrete. They make NO NOISE...and disappear with the tapered baffle design. VMPS RMx Elixirs. less than 8 pairs left in the world...only 16 pairs ever made...

Mine weigh over 400 lbs each, with drivers loaded.

Yup, K, they were made right. The guy’s name was Dorn (sp) Dibble a cabinet maker in El Sobrante CA. 7 layers of acrylic black lacquer.
Yup they are something, to behold... Even 15 years after they were made.

Not a single added blemish, from the factory, well there is one, But no one could find it... :-)

Regards
I love Granite enclosures a lot better than anything else after hearing some Acora Acoustics SRB's!
 Granite enclosures will be the only thing I will buy until I die now! 

 https://www.facebook.com/The%20HomeEntertainmentShow/videos/625838731377234/UzpfSTM1NDM3MTgzODk0Mzo2MzY5NjI3NjM1Nzk5ODY/
Post removed 
You can buy a 4'x2' 22-ply 3/4" baltic birch ply in a big box store for $20. How cheap does a speaker maker have to be to save $20 on a $2000+ speaker?
MDF is used because it is cheap, is easy to bend and machine, requires minimal CAPEX and no specialized knowledge to manipulate.  
If you want to compete in the high volume game, MDF or other wood material are inexpensive and the only way to compete.  
For instance, in an MDF cabinet, I can produce a Stand mount speaker that will be pretty good for $2k if I sell consumer direct as a small manufacturer.  It cost me more to paint a composite or carbon fiber cabinet than it costs me to produce a whole speaker in MDF.  
Material costs on advanced materials (fiberglass, carbon fiber) are very high or machine costs or mold costs for aluminum, casts for phenolic resin, etc... are all extremely expensive and then the cost to paint is dramatically higher.  

@highend666 I've heard and liked the Acora Granite very much. $38000 though...
Granite rings like a bell, I think you mean synthetic granite, ATH @ Corian

VMPS STIII SE used that material 25 years ago, in the front baffle only.
It weighed over 550 lbs, with just a front baffle.

A whole tower (72") of Corian would weighs over 2000. lbs. @ 5/8" after bracing. That is why Brian C. didn’t do whole speakers or ATH @ Corian 25 years ago...BTW that stuff is used in a lot of Turntable plinths too, some like the sound some don't, it does have definite sonic signature, but behaves VERY well in the bass region.. It's different... I've tinkered with it a couple times with bookshelf (under 18" tall), worked very well.

Cost, build ability, just didn’t make sense. A TON...for one speaker. Who would pay for shipping? 2 tons just arrived at your door step, could you sigh for them please? ;-)
5,000.00 plus for materials and machine work, THEN putting it together. and delivering it, undamaged.

Lots of luck with that one. ;-)

Regards
LOL LOL LOL... 

THANKS FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT!!!! 


There is a limit to the sound you can get out of a wooden box so it is not possible to improve the sound just by using different drivers.
Well, no, there isn't. Because its not the box that makes the sound. Its the drivers AND the box. So improving drivers can indeed improve the sound even if the box stays the same. 

Also not only the box but the materials inside the box affect and are able to improve sound quality. Not to mention the shape of the box, its size, and construction. If the box is ported, sealed, transmission line or folded horn that will also affect the sound quality. So its possible to use the same drivers and have greater or lesser sound quality from the same wooden materials simply by changing the way they are used.  

You seem to be awfully concerned with speakers kenjit. I do hope you are getting this. Its really useful information if you want to understand them better.
Do your homework Kenjit. You will figure it out.  Everyone else has.
Can anyone say Open Baffle? I knew you could.
Kenjit,
So Magico & Wilson are okay to buy then? Good to know!
kenjit is back from the virtual trump rally
Do your homework Kenjit. You will figure it out. Everyone else has.

I figured mine out.. Everyone? LOL you have a lot more faith in the typical audiophiler, than me.

A typical question. How do I change the stylus in my MM cart, I pulled a pointy thingy out of the front,, what do I do next? or I pulled the stylus out of my so and so MC cart (2000.00 cart). where can I get a new one?

or

I have so and so cables, and they are "Bright", I changed them a while back from so and so. They were fine. What cable do you think I should try now?

Everyone? Hee Hee ok..

BTW there is no Baltic Birch 22 ply, at 20.00. It's 50-60.00 for 11 ply. Over 100.00 for 13 ply but not delivered. 13-15 ply in the EU 200.00 dollars a sheet VOID and formaldehyde free. They are actually XRayed. 300.00 a sheet delivered here in the USA. Some really good stuff out of Russia now...

NONE of the big box store ply is good for speaker cabinets, have to be very careful when making kitchen cabinets with it. A LOT of voids in that crap from SE asia, and a lot of really REAL bad glues is used.. Bad for your the health.  I age Big Box ply or MDF for at least a year before making anything with it. Think ahead material for sure.

Regards
Bayz Audio could be exactly what you seek. Made from carbon and looking similar to the creature from Alien.
I was able to listen to them at the 2019 AXPONA. IMHO easily best of show.
You can pick up the flagship model for just under six figures. The good news, no wood in sight.

@kenjit  As I have posted until people are tired of reading it, speakers in a box--ANY BOX--distort music during playback.

This is why people who love music love Magneplaner speakers.  They reproduce what you drive them with.  If your gear is substandard, guess what?  You hear it.

This is what speakers are SUPPOSED to do.  

Look, obviously there are some speakers in boxes that sound OK.  I remember fondly the Fulton 100's from the 1970's.  They were pretty darn good next to the Maggies of the day, and inventors have improved on EVERY aspect of the speaker business...I wonder where they "all of a sudden" got the idea of making tall speakers?  Gee, I have no idea...what a mystery!!

Put some Maggies in your room and see if you like them after a week.  If not, get something you LIKE.  If so, good for you!  You might discover some weak areas in your hardware, etc. that you suddenly notice now that your music is not coming from a box (especially one with a HORN, for goodness sake)!

Cheers!
I'm guessing most manufacturers don't know that other materials exist.  They don't know about aluminum, concrete, resins, etc. so they haven't considered using them.  If only you'd tell them they could do some tests and decide whether they think these other materials are better.  
Ascend acoustic sierra towers use vertical laminated bamboo.
Choosing to focus on one element of speaker design (while ignoring the vast myriad of other variables) is playing to the lowest common denominator of forum membership by dumbing down the plot so much. Well done as always @kenjit
Choosing to focus on one element of speaker design (while ignoring the vast myriad of other variables) is playing to the lowest common denominator of forum membership by dumbing down the plot so much

That's exactly what the speaker companies are doing. They focus on the drivers and use the same old MDF boxes over and over again. They are the ones playing to the lowest common denominator and I'm here to teach the forum that its wrong but it seems nobody agrees.
Its as if they choose to ignore the fact that Dynaudio, B&W, Revel, Kef, ATC and many others use the same old MDF boxes over and over again with no improvements made to the boxes whatsoever all the while claiming that they have produced a better speaker. 

The box is the biggest variable so if you're not upgrading the box, the overall sound is not going to be an upgrade. 
Geeee kenjit, I agreed. I didn't use disappearing ink either. It is the standard, and a lot of the manufactures still use it, plus inflation to justify the triple dip polymer unchippable paint jobs in a country where it's legal to use the crap on your back porch, but not here in the US.  It's considered a controlled substance, and need permits to be in possession of it...Much less use it. There is a reason for off shore manufacturing of certain parts. 
It's always a money issue, a gread issue, and I think I'm a speaker builder issue.

I love the guy that says "I bet I can make your speaker sound better"

Well no sh&t, so could I. Time and money, more time than money though.

A lot of that out there
Class action lawsuit???
Well I'm happy with my speakers constructed with multiple layers of Baltic birch plywood. No plans to sue anyone ;-)
Because there are so many trees.....
X-Material... need I say more? MDF is dense, cheap and easy to manipulate. And overall, it works. That’s why.
HD3 laminated with 4mm sprung steel plate. Lined with two different densities of open cell Dupont brand memory foam. Full Duelund internal PCB free crossovers... Close to $3k just in raw crossover components.
@kenjit - you probably don’t even know what to look for anyway.

It’s easy to complain, try actually designing something that sounds great, is affordable to the masses, and isn’t ridiculous to ship because of the weight?

I’m confident there are truly magnificent speakers out there kenjit, you just haven’t heard them yet.

Wood?  No high end speaker uses wood.  Nothing is superior to an aluminum / unobtanium matrix with a finite element analysis 3D printed damping matrix sandwiched between sheets of very thin depleted uranium.

Everything else is just consumer pablum.
There is certainly some truth to Kenjit's posts on cabinets being a potential compromise. There are other materials that are by far superior, and generally to implement them correctly would cost substantially more. The resulting products would also weigh more, and cost more to ship as well.

Open baffle resolves some of the issues kenjit presents, and it also presents it's own set of problems as well, much of which can be tuned with equalization.

Replacing MDF for a more exotic material, or laminating other materials to reduce or rather as Focal states moves the energies into different frequencies is a real thing. However just because Focal hasn't found out how to do it, (I know they certainly haven't done it with MDF, please feel free to run a full white noise sweep through a pair of Focals to prove me wrong) doesn't mean nobody else hasn't or can't.

There's reasons cars are still mostly pressed steel, and not carbon fiber, aircraft grade aluminum, or some super rigid ultra light materials... The cost to produce exotic cars is far removed from the affordable family sedan.



eric...+1....oh, ’ell....+10....;)

I’m using foamed PVC....rigid, stable, absorbs vibration, easy to machine, doesn’t weigh much (indoor forklifts don’t exist, so no ’blown back syndrome’), takes finishes well....

...but then I’m not using it for an enclosure, either....so resonance issues are minimal....

"Wood is So 20th Century...." *snicker*
@erik_squires  your SNR1s are MDF arent they? That is probably one of the main reasons youre not happy with them
That is probably one of the main reasons youre not happy with them

I'm a lot happier with my speakers than you are with your lot in life, Kenjit. 

Mine are made from cast iron, Jern 14EH, and are stunningly good. No colouration. They need a couple of subs, but give high end quality at full range in a small form factor for a good price.
Kenjit has a point, and he draws attention to an industry that charges, and gets, exorbitant prices for products that only cost a limited amount to construct. For instance, a local stereo shop has a system on the floor for $500,000. It is certainly beautiful to see and stunning to listen to. However, it doesn't look or sound $475,000 better than my system. I am amazed by the dollar amounts that get discussed for some things on this forum. In another post, we discussed our occupations with the most of us not having millions in discretionary income. How about someone posting a thread regarding cheap and simple ways to improve the sound? How about assigning a dollar amount for this discussion to around $300.00 or less with an emphasis on most improved idea that cost the least? 
800 series B&W's use an internal, labyrinth inspired construction to damp out vibrations and echoes.  Listen with something other that what Best Buy Magnolia offers.  The current 804's are un-listenable with the Rotel electronics used for demos.  I gave them several auditions to understand what was wrong.
I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!
Thank you Kenjit for bringing this important subject to our attention. 
MDF is easy to bend??  I've been doing it all wrong. 
Why the f#$k did I read this posting? Another dumb speaker argument.
you can always build your own
oldhvymec
BTW there is no Baltic Birch 22 ply, at 20.00. It’s 50-60.00 for 11 ply. Over 100.00 for 13 ply but not delivered.
I stand corrected. I mixed up used 22ply I had bought for $20 with other ply I had bought.
@danvignau,

’The current 804’s are un-listenable with the Rotel electronics used for demos. I gave them several auditions to understand what was wrong.’



Given the history of Bowers & Wilkins that statement is very difficult to make any sense of.

I’m curious as to what you think the problem was?

I mean were those Rotel amplifiers simply unable to drive the 804’s adequately, or has there been some monumental misjudgement by the company?