Everyone craves the highest quality speaker. It doesn’t matter if you intend to use it at home or for commercial purposes. High-quality sound makes movies and music more enjoyable. It’s also good for your health.
As such, many people are prepared to pay a premium to acquire the best speaker system with the latest technologies. For instance, many audiophiles are familiar with Dolby Atmos and Class-D amplifier speakers.
You may want to know that the quality of the speaker box is just as important as the speaker technology and can make or break sound quality.
Read on to learn the best wood for speaker boxes to improve your sound quality, tips to make the perfect wooden speaker box, and how to maintain your speaker cabinet.
What’s a Speaker Box?
A speaker box is a cabinet designed to enhance the output from speaker drivers.
Also known as a loudspeaker enclosure, subwoofer box, or speaker cabinet, a speaker box reduces or controls the effects of out-of-phase sound from the speaker’s rear driver when it is combined with the in-phase sound from the speaker’s front.
A typical speaker box is a hollow enclosure. However, the designs and styles vary from simple sealed particleboard boxes for small speaker drivers in home stereos to complex enclosures with internal baffles and horns.
Some speaker boxes eve hand bass reflex ports and acoustic isolation features and house multiple large-diaphragm drivers for concert-level sound reinforcement.
Note that the speaker box is considered separate from the main speaker system, which contains the speaker’s main components.
So, what is the best wood for speaker boxes?
Best wood for speaker cabinets
- Medium-Density Fiberboard
- Marine-grade plywood – best subwoofer box wood
- Baltic birch plywood
Best Wood for Speaker Box
You can make a speaker or subwoofer box from any wood you come across – solid or manufactured. However, only a few wood types can make the best speaker boxes. Here are the best speaker box wood types;
1. Medium-Density Fiberboard – (MDF wood for subwoofer & speaker boxes)
The material most commonly used to make wooden speaker boxes is medium-density fiberboard.
Medium-density fiberboard is a composite wood traditionally formed by breaking down softwood into wood fibers in a defibrator and combining the fibers with wax and synthetic resin binder.
The product is subjected to high temperature and pressure to form wood panels. However, today’s MDF boards are made from various materials, ranging from woods to scrap, recycled paper, bamboo, polymers, forest thinning, and sawmill offcuts.
MDF doesn’t have a wood grain texture like plywood. Instead, it’s characterized by a consistent light-brown color with no discernible texture or pattern.
MDF is also much smoother, harder, and denser than plywood and is devoid of voids, knots, and splinters. The above qualities make MDF a popular choice for making speaker boxes.
The high density absorbs, thus significantly reducing vibrations, resulting in consistent and very clear sounds. The density is also very consistent.
This is very important because you want the sound evenly distributed around your room. Woodworkers often compare it to plywood. However, MDF is superior in two main areas.
First, MDF has no voids. This is critical for sound quality and when working the wood. MDF gives sharp edges without tear-out.
Secondly, MDF is a lot easier to work with. It takes sawing and nailing/screwing very well. Another advantage is that MDF is easy to paint or stain.
The only serious concern if you pick MDF for speaker box making is that it doesn’t hold up well to humid conditions. When exposed to moisture, unfinished MDF swells and loses strength and, after that, easily falls apart.
Of course, the speaker box would also lose its acoustic qualities. So, you need to take greater care of the speaker box.
What We Liked Most
- MDF is very hard and dense
- It has super smooth surfaces
- Expands and contracts less than solid wood
- Easy to shape into decorative moldings
- It’s widely available
- Very affordable (more than plywood)
What Could Be Improved
- It is heavier than plywood
- It doesn’t hold up very well in humid conditions
2. Marine-grade plywood – best subwoofer box wood
Marine-grade plywood got its name because it was originally designed to make boats. Otherwise, as with all plywood, it comprises thin sheets of wood veneers (plies) arranged perpendicularly to make it stronger.
Cross lamination helps keep the plies perpendicular to each other while giving the plywood strength in all directions.
However, the main difference between marine-grade plywood and regular plywood is that it is made from 100% hardwood, giving it exceptional strength and hardness.
Most marine-grade plywood sold in stores today is made from Douglas fir and western lunch wood, which are exceptionally strong.
The exceptional strength is the first main quality that makes marine-grade plywood a great choice for making wooden speaker cabinets. It results in very strong but lightweight speaker boxes.
This sub box wood type is also very strong and stable. Furthermore, as you probably already know, hardwoods have very high densities. Hardwood plywood pieces are just as dense, a quality important in preserving sound quality.
In addition, it minimizes resonance, meaning you’ll hear sounds close to the original. Besides being strong and high-density, marine-grade plywood is highly resistant to environmental factors.
For instance, it’s water-resistant and thus doesn’t swell when exposed to high humidity conditions. So, you don’t have to fret about using your speakers at an outdoor party through the night.
Finally, marine-grade plywood also boasts uniform strength, guaranteeing uniform sound distribution. Although Douglas fir, the principal wood used to make marine-grade plywood, has knots, the knots don’t have holes.
This makes the plywood very strong. Douglas fir is light brown, often with a hint of red or yellow. The only downside of using marine-grade plywood for subwoofer boxes is the price.
It’s more expensive than regular plywood and medium-density fiberboard. Additionally, it’s not very easy to identify marine-grade plywood from other plywood types.
What We Liked Most
- Highly stable
- Resistant to environmental factors
- Low resonance, thus quality sound
- It’s strong but lightweight
- Highly flexible
- The best wood for subwoofer box
What Could Be Improved
- It’s expensive
- Hard to identify
3. Baltic birch plywood
Baltic birch plywood is another wood type that makes an excellent speaker box material. Birchwood is a hardwood, though one of the softer hardwoods.
For instance, it’s softer than maple. It gives a light creamy white to very light brown appearance, making it a popular choice for indoor furniture and flooring.
Baltic birch plywood is mainly grown in countries around the Baltic Sea, especially Russia and Finland. Several characteristics make Baltic birch plywood a great choice for making speaker boxes.
First, birchwood is very dense. The Baltic birch, for instance, has a density of 400 kg to 625 kg per cubic meter. Dense woods rarely interfere with the quality of sound.
However, this speaker board wood stands out from other dense wood types because it’s also very lightweight. This increases mobility. Converting the solid into plywood gives you even lighter speaker boxes.
Additionally, it gives extremely rigid and durable speaker boxes. So, if you’re keen on a subwoofer wood box you can use for many years to come, birchwood plywood is the real deal.
The plywood doesn’t chip away like standard plywood options. It is also highly wear-resistant. You may also note that Baltic birch plywood is highly resistant to environmental factors.
As a result, the plywood maintains its performance characteristics even in high humidity conditions without deforming or cracking. Above all, many speaker box makers love birchwood for its aesthetic qualities.
The straight-grained plywood boasts fine and even texture, occasionally with beautiful wavy or curly grains that give it a striking appearance. As a result, you can leave it exposed if you wish to blend into the décor.
Unfortunately, Baltic birch plywood is also more expensive than standard plywood. It is also not easy to find.
What We Liked Most
- Excellent sound clarity and tone
- Highly durable
- Less prone to warping
- Striking aesthetic beauty
- Highly workable
What Could Be Improved
- More expensive than standard plywood
- Hard to find
If you cannot or don’t want to use MDF for one reason or another and are unable to find marine plywood or Baltic birch plywood, you may want to consider pinewood.
Pine plywood would be ideal. However, solid wood pieces aren’t too bad either, as long as the lumber is properly prepped. So, what makes it so special? Several things.
First, you may recall that pine is a softwood. Softwoods absorb vibrations better than hardwoods, which is important to eliminate noise to improve sound quality.
Softwoods are also typically lighter. You always want a light material because we move speaker boxes a lot. Another important quality of pinewood is durability.
Pinewood, though softwood, is incredibly durable. It is actually more long-lasting than many hardwoods. Pinewood also offers incredible stiffness, strength, and shock resistance.
Shock resistance is critical in case you accidentally drop the speaker box. The wood is also surprisingly very resistant to shrinking. Of course, pinewood is also one of the most affordable and widely available wood types in the US.
So, it’s arguably the perfect choice for a speaker box if you’re working on a budget. The only downside of solid pinewood speaker boxes is that solid wood distorts sound because of increased vibrations.
You can get around this problem in two ways. First, consider lining the speaker box’s interior with sound-absorbing material to increase sound absorption and minimize vibrations.
Alternatively, go with pine plywood to reduce susceptibility to sound and tonal changes. However, beware that opting for plywood means you forego the natural grain appearance of solid pine wood.
What We Liked Most
- More affordable than plywood
- Easy to treat
- Easily workable
What Could Be Improved
- Solid wood is rarely uniform
- Solid wood is acoustically poor
Finally, you can also use oakwood to build a subwoofer box. We’d advise that you only use this wood for sub box if you cannot access the other four options on this list.
Nevertheless, it comes with several qualities that make it not so bad a choice for speaker boxes. Oak is a hardwood that grows in the northern hemisphere.
Although there are more than 500 species, the most common oakwood types are white oak, black oak, and red oak. Oakwood is primarily characterized by its high density.
At 430 kg per cubic meter, it is far denser than pine and most other softwoods. The high density makes oakwood tough, fungi-resistant, and low-maintenance – three qualities you want from speaker box material.
The wood is also very durable. In fact, oakwood was in the past used in shipbuilding. This already tells you that it handles moisture very well. The closed grain pattern allows it to keep out water/moisture.
Oakwood’s straight grains make it easy to work. So, you don’t have to worry about carving a few patterns on the speaker box. It also takes nails, screws, paint, and stains very well.
However, one of the biggest attractions of oakwood is the color. Oakwood comes in a rich brown hue that appeals to woodworkers and homeowners. The texture is also very soft, which gives it a luxurious feel.
Like pinewood, you can opt for oakwood plywood or solid wood pieces for your speaker box-making project. Plywood is more flexible and produces better sound quality because of reduced vibrations.
However, solid wood gives you greater aesthetic appeal. Unfortunately, oak, being a hardwood, is much heavier than all the other options on this list.
So, mobility becomes a problem. It also blocks sound more than all the other options on this list. So, although it’s an ok choice, it’s rock bottom on this list.
What We Liked Most
- Oakwood is extremely durable
- It is highly weather (moisture and UV) resistant
- Excellent finishing qualities (best on this list)
- It’s highly customizable
What Could Be Improved
- Oakwood is expensive
- Average acoustic qualities
Education: How to Pick the Best Speaker Box Wood
Now that we know some of the best materials for making a wooden speaker box, let’s answer common questions about wooden speaker boxes.
What’s the Need for a Speaker Box?
You may be wondering why every speaker system has a speaker cabinet. Why don’t we just use speakers without the box? Why is the box mandatory?
You need to understand how the speaker works to understand phase cancelation and the role of the speaker box in mitigating sound wave cancellation.
Below is a basic representation of a standard speaker system (without the speaker box).
When you turn on your music system, an electrical AC signal is applied across the voice coil, causing coinciding movement in the diaphragm.
This pushes the diaphragm forward, causing it to compress the air in front of it while raffling the air behind it. Then the opposite happens as the diaphragm pulls backward.
As the diaphragm pushes forward and changes sound pressure, it generates an equal but opposite sound pressure at the back. Thus, there’s a risk of the two equal but opposite sound waves canceling each other.
This is especially true at low frequencies in which sound waves typically travel in one direction. Even though the sound waves may not cancel each other completely, the damage would be big enough to compromise sound quality.
The speaker box’s main purpose is to close off the diaphragm’s rear as much as possible to limit sound pressure generated at the back, thus eliminating or significantly minimizing the risk of sound cancelation.
Types of Speaker Boxes
There are two main speaker boxes types–sealed and ported enclosures – though each type has several subtypes.
Sealed speaker boxes are completely sealed and typically lined with sound-absorbing material. The goal is to muffle rear sound waves completely, only permitting front sound waves to leave the speaker enclosure.
Unfortunately, eliminating the rear sound waves means doing away with half of the speaker’s output. So, your speaker will only be half as loud as it should be. This usually means greater reliance on amplifier gain, thus more costly speakers.
The three main subcategories of sealed speaker enclosures are;
- Simple acoustic suspension systems: These systems comprise a simple sealed sizeable box behind the drivers.
- Infinite baffle systems: These are extra wide (endless) speaker boxes. A good example is a speaker driver installed in a wall that extends indefinitely.
- Isobaric loading systems: These speaker enclosure systems have two-in-one designs that pack two identical speaker drivers in one cabinet, one behind the other.
Ported speaker enclosures
A more popular speaker enclosure system, though, is the ported enclosure. As the name suggests, ported enclosures have an opening/port that allows rear sound to escape.
However, the sound pathways are designed to reverse the polarity of the rear sound waves. As such, the rear sound waves leaving the enclosure improve forward sound waves rather than cancel them.
This reduces the need for or dependency on amplifier gain. The only downside is that ported enclosures decrease transient response and accuracy compared to sealed speaker boxes.
Three main sub-types of ported speaker boxes are;
- Simple bass/bass-reflex systems: These boxes feature front ports/tubes that force rear soundwaves to exit through the speaker’s front, thus enhancing frontward waves.
- Passive radiator enclosures: These soundboxes have two speaker drivers, but only one has a voice coil. Meanwhile, the other passive driver relies on the active speaker’s resonance to oscillate.
- Compound bandpass systems: These speaker boxes send the forward sound waves into a ported tuned box while the rear sound waves are sent to a sealed enclosure (for single-reflex band-pass systems) or a second ported enclosure (in dual reflex band-pass systems).
Other common ported subwoofer box designs are aperiodic systems with poorly/fake rear enclosures, dipole enclosures that are equally open at the front and rear, open-back systems, and transmission line enclosures with long, acoustic labyrinths.
What Makes the Perfect Speaker Box Material?
The above discussion should help you determine what makes a proper speaker box material. generally, the material must be;
The purpose of the speaker box is to “contain” or suppress rearward sound waves to prevent sound cancelation.
Therefore, you want a dense material that doesn’t permit sound waves to leave the box. This rules out extremely porous materials, such as very porous wood types.
This is especially true for bass frequencies. Low-frequency harmonic distortion is almost inaudible. However, any slight distortion at higher frequencies is often pronounced, resulting in poor sound quality.
One way to minimize sound distortion is by using a rigid/stiff speaker box that doesn’t unnecessarily bend when bombarded with sound waves.
Finally, the best speaker box materials are non-resonant. A non-resonant material sounds dead when you knock it.
Therefore, materials such as metal and glass are out of the equation as they make loud ringing noises when you hit them. Ringing noises mean sound distortion.
Is Wood Good for a Speaker Box?
Yes, wood is one of the best materials for making a speaker box. In fact, many engineers consider it the best material for making speaker boxes.
- Wood is naturally non-resonant: You never have to worry about ringing reverberations when you hit wood. This is important to prevent sound distortions when building a speaker box.
- Wood has a high density: Granted, some wood types are highly porous and thus have low densities. However, you can still select from a wide variety of wood products that are dense enough to absorb rear soundwaves in speaker boxes to prevent sound canceling. It also minimizes sound reflections.
- Aesthetic qualities: Finally, many people want beautiful speaker boxes, and wood is one of the most beautiful building materials. Moreover, you can paint or stain wooden speaker enclosures or carve them into different shapes.
What is the best material for speaker box?
Besides wood, two other materials often used in speaker box making are plastic and metal. However, wood triumphs both.
Plastic speaker enclosures
Plastic speaker enclosures are popular among designers looking for a low-cost solution and maximum aesthetics. It’s easy to reproduce in any shape and is both lightweight and durable. Plastic speaker boxes are also low-maintenance.
Unfortunately, it’s not the best material for speaker box making for several reasons. For instance, plastic isn’t non-resonant. It produces audible reverberations when you strike it. Moreover, plastic speaker boxes feel cheap.
Metal speaker boxes
Metal is another material some people use to make speaker boxes. It’s strong, rigid, and dense. Metal units are also low-maintenance.
Unfortunately, as we’ve already mentioned, metal is one of the noisiest materials. The ringing sounds when something strikes a hollow metal box is a big turnoff. It can cause the same sound interruptions you’re trying to prevent.
Solid Wood vs Manufactured Wood for Speaker Boxes
After settling on wood for your speaker box project, you need to select between solid wood and manufactured wood products (plywood, MDF, etc.). Both are good options. However, manufactured wood makes better speakers.
The main downside of solid wood speaker boxes is that they lack uniformity in terms of density. This is a major problem if you want consistent sound effects.
You want a material that distributes the sound equally on all six sides. Plywood speaker boxes and MDF speaker boxes perform much better in this regard.
That said, though, solid wood speaker boxes are more beautiful because they display all the natural qualities of the wood grain. Oakwood speaker enclosures, for instance, are a sight to behold.
How to Pick the Best Wood to Build a Speaker Box
Still on choosing the best wood for your speaker boxes, you need to consider a few more factors to obtain the best material.
- Weight vs. strength: Ideally, you want the lightest yet strongest wood for your speaker boxes for maximum portability and dent resistance.
- Acoustic properties: Different wood types have different acoustic properties. The best choices minimize sound interference by absorbing rear sound waves while promoting front sound wave projection.
- Type of speaker box – closed or open? Closed speaker box designs work best with highly sound-absorbent woods because you want to completely “muffle” the sound. However, open enclosure designs work with any type of wood.
- Ease of warping/denting: We constantly move speakers around, and rough handling is almost a norm in the audiovisual world. Therefore, the selected wood must withstand weather effects, especially direct exposure to sunlight and high humidity conditions. Additionally, it must withstand pebbles, scratches, etc.
- Workability: Building a speaker is more than cutting six pieces of square or rectangular wood pieces. You’ll also need to cut holes into the woof, sand it finely, paint/stain, screw, etc. Therefore, it’s helpful to find easily workable wood.
- Durability: Finally, the wood must be durable. Otherwise, you may have to replace the speaker enclosure, or the entire speaker, within a few months.
How to Make Speaker Boxes out of Wood
Once you have picked the right wood for your DIY speaker box, you can begin building your speaker. The following is a quick overview of the involved steps.
NB: The actual process is usually much more involving, depending on the type and style of speaker you want to build.
- Determine the size of the speaker: You can use online speaker calculators to find the right dimensions. Alternatively, ensure 2-3 inches of “clearance” around the speaker’s face and at least a two-inch clearance at the back. Always add the wood thickness to your dimensions.
- Cut the wood pieces accordingly: Use a jigsaw to cut the front, back, and side pieces gently. Then sand the edges.
- Trace the speaker’s pattern to the front face: Use a pencil so you can erase mistakes with ease. Also, don’t forget to mark the openings for screws.
- Cut the circular opening: Use a router to cut the circular opening carefully. Then measure again to ensure you have the right size hole.
- Brace the speaker with ix1 wood battens: The batten should cover at least 60% of the length of each joint. Screw the battens onto the wood.
- Pre-drill the wood pieces and apply glue: First, fit the pieces together to make sure they match. Then pre-drill them and apply the glue along each joint.
- Pre-drill the mounting screws: Position the speaker on the face panel and mark the screw locations. Then pre-drill the holes.
- Join the panels and apply caulk: Assemble the box and use furniture clamps to hold them together. Then apply caulk along the internal seams to ensure the box is airtight.
- Install the speaker and finish up: Hook up the wires, cover the internal surfaces of the box with a 1-inch polyfill to minimize resonance, then insert the speaker and run the connector through the appropriate holes. With that done, set the speaker over the hole you cut earlier and secure it with screws. Then caulk the area around the speaker, so the box is airtight. Lastly, allow the box to cure for 24 hours.
How thick should wood be for a speaker box?
Generally, MDF for a speaker board should be ¾ -inch thick and speaker box plywood slightly thicker since it is not as dense as MDF. However, solid woods for a speaker box can be slimmer.
Is MDF good for speakers?
Yes, MDF is one of the best materials for a speaker box. It allows sound to resonate through the system and significantly eliminates distortion. MDF is also very affordable.
Is pinewood good for a subwoofer box?
Yes, pinewood speaker boxes are fine, provided the wood is properly dried and doesn’t have excessive knots. It’s lightweight and very strong. Pine is also highly moisture resistant.
Is birch better than MDF for a speaker box?
No, birchwood is inferior to MDF for a speaker box. Although birchwood is also a very good choice, a good choice for speaker box making, MDF is the gold standard.
Is HDF good for speaker boxes?
Yes, laminated HDF (high-density fiberboard) is incredibly dense and strong, making it a good choice for making speaker enclosures. The only downside is that it’s more expensive than MDF.
Can you build a subwoofer out of OSB?
Unfortunately, no. Oriented Strand Board (OSB) has a swelling problem when exposed to above-average humidity conditions. It’s also not very sturdy and is very difficult to seal.
The Best Wood for Speakers Summary
So, what type of wood is best for speaker boxes?
Well, the best wood for a speaker box depends on many factors, chief among them the types of speakers you want to build.
However, Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is generally the best material for speaker enclosures because it’s lightweight, dense, acoustically sound, and very affordable.
Next in line are marine-grade plywood, typically made from Douglas fir, and Baltic birch plywood. Plywood is stiff, sufficiently dense, and lightweight – three critical qualities for a speaker box material.
If you must use solid wood blocks, pinewood and oakwood are the best choices.