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Oak vs Pine in a combo cab?

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,329
I know boogie used to make hardwood combo cabs but I thought it was mostly for show or maybe because the chassis' weighed so much that pine would have rattled apart in short order. But do people make hardwood cabs because they really sound better?

I have a 63 Fender Deluxe Amp that in a (tolex covered) oak cab, and I am considering having a pine one made instead. I don't record with this it's purely for playing out. Would there be a significant difference in the sound? ( And if so would it sound better? ;) )
 

Roundtone

Member
Messages
305
A pine cabinet made correctly is VERY strong. The quality of the pine is important as well. Pine cut for shelves that is full of knots is much weaker that clear pine. I purchase a higher grade clear pine, use tight finger (box) joints for the corners, use high quality glue and clamp until dry. Have you ever picked up a tweed bassman? Pine will handle the weight.

As far as tone goes, any cabinet could be tuned using whatever wood you like, sort of like the body of an acoustic string instrument. This is far beyond my current ability and would involve calculating the right thickness of wood, bracing, different glues, speaker placement. At 3/4inch thickness hardwoods aren't going to resonate very much. They will however be extremely strong if made in the same method as above, but very heavy. Pine does resonate at 3/4 inch, it is much less dense than hardwoods. How much does this resonance add to the tone? Better ask the hundreds of thousands of guitar players who use them. This is very subjective call for both the player and the audience. (IMO - Pine gives an added layer of complexity to the sound that you completely loose when you use MDF, Plywood, or dense hardwood. Some purists do not want cabinet resonance in the equation at all - they merely want the space the cabinet provides.

Pine was cheap and plentiful back in Leo's day so this may add to the reason it was used so much. One great benefit is that it is light! Pick up a Tweed Deluxe with an Alnico in it. Your back will say thank you while your ears will say oh yeah. The back panels of any open back amplifier also make a dramatic different in the overall sound. Experimenting with these (while not cutting off air circulation to the tubes) can yield great results.

Hope this helps :)
 

mbratch

Member
Messages
2,381
I know boogie used to make hardwood combo cabs but I thought it was mostly for show or maybe because the chassis' weighed so much that pine would have rattled apart in short order. But do people make hardwood cabs because they really sound better?

I have a 63 Fender Deluxe Amp that in a (tolex covered) oak cab, and I am considering having a pine one made instead. I don't record with this it's purely for playing out. Would there be a significant difference in the sound? ( And if so would it sound better? ;) )
I think people make hardwood cabs most of the time because they keep their amp in a visible place at home and they look nice. Like a fine piece of furniture. Me personally, I like something I'm not afraid to take out and get a little scratched up. ;)

Good pine, as has been stated, certainly can be plenty strong. Look at all the old amps that have held up over time.

I don't know if anyone's done a real controlled experimental test with everything identical except cab wood type and compared. I haven't seen any serious claims that hardwood sounds better. I suspect there will be a difference in sound and resonance. But hard to say which would be better. I don't think it's obvious that hardwood would sound better than pine. (That sounds a little funny - maybe I can make a woodchuck joke out of that line somehow...)
 

VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,916
I know boogie used to make hardwood combo cabs but I thought it was mostly for show or maybe because the chassis' weighed so much that pine would have rattled apart in short order. But do people make hardwood cabs because they really sound better?

I have a 63 Fender Deluxe Amp that in a (tolex covered) oak cab, and I am considering having a pine one made instead. I don't record with this it's purely for playing out. Would there be a significant difference in the sound? ( And if so would it sound better? ;) )
"Sound better" would be very subjective. However, I've owned a few of the Fender '59 Bassman reissues and the pre-LTD's were made of plywood and the later LTD's were pine. To my ears, the stiffer plywood cab of the pre-LTD's had a tighter bottom. Better?, depends on the ears I suppose but, in that amp, I personally prefer the plywood cab.

However, in my homebrew 12/10 amp, I went with 3/4" knotty pine for the look and wanted kind of a faded blue jeans color, and was lucky enough for it to sound great after it was done. I didn't have the necessary fixtures to do fancy corner joints so they are just glued & nailed and it seems solid even after several months of gigging. But, it's not a heavy amp either:

 

Fuchsaudio

Member
Messages
7,768
Oak is a very dense and not terribly resonant wood. One problem with Oak is out-gassing. If the wood is not well sealed or finished inside and out, it can out-gas a corrosive gas that can corrode hardware and likely damage components. I had a friend how made audiophile speakers out of oak. They looked and sounded great (in audio speakers you don't want resonance, but guitar amps you do...), but the speakers eventually failed. We opened them up to find the frames rusted, and the voice coils open. The copper wires were green molded ! Be careful with oak. It's also heavy.
 

mikefair

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,439
By accident, I did an A/B comparison of birch ply to finger jointed pine. It's pretty unscientific, but there were some surprises. I was using an Avatar 2x12 cab - the one loosely styled after the Bluesbreaker - closed back, birch ply, loaded with Hellatone 30s. Next I got a Stagecraft 2x12, Bluesbreakerish, open back, fingerjointed pine, Hellatone 30s. The cabs are of similar dimensions. Some of the results were expected. The open back dispersed a little better. The closed back was slightly more forward sounding. The surprise was, there was a ton more low end with the open back pine cab. I probably really mean low mids, but low end for a guitar. It was looser to be sure, but the curve was definitely tilted toward the low end.
 

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,329
By accident, I did an A/B comparison of birch ply to finger jointed pine. It's pretty unscientific, but there were some surprises. I was using an Avatar 2x12 cab - the one loosely styled after the Bluesbreaker - closed back, birch ply, loaded with Hellatone 30s. Next I got a Stagecraft 2x12, Bluesbreakerish, open back, fingerjointed pine, Hellatone 30s. The cabs are of similar dimensions. Some of the results were expected. The open back dispersed a little better. The closed back was slightly more forward sounding. The surprise was, there was a ton more low end with the open back pine cab. I probably really mean low mids, but low end for a guitar. It was looser to be sure, but the curve was definitely tilted toward the low end.
I'm no expert but I'd think the open vs closed would make it an apples/oranges type thing. FWIW I had a 1x12" closed back cab that I thought had too much bass and so I made a 1/3rd open back panel for the back.

That was WAAAAAAAAAAAY more bassy. Unusable really. No idea why but it was not good.
 

Roundtone

Member
Messages
305
The open back dispersed a little better. The closed back was slightly more forward sounding. The surprise was, there was a ton more low end with the open back pine cab. I probably really mean low mids, but low end for a guitar. It was looser to be sure, but the curve was definitely tilted toward the low end.
Which one did you prefer? How big was the room in which you were testing?
 

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,329
Oak is a very dense and not terribly resonant wood. One problem with Oak is out-gassing. If the wood is not well sealed or finished inside and out, it can out-gas a corrosive gas that can corrode hardware and likely damage components. I had a friend how made audiophile speakers out of oak. They looked and sounded great (in audio speakers you don't want resonance, but guitar amps you do...), but the speakers eventually failed. We opened them up to find the frames rusted, and the voice coils open. The copper wires were green molded ! Be careful with oak. It's also heavy.
I was surprised how light this cab is actually. It seems like about the same weight as pine would with the tolex, not more than a pound difference for sure. But then its for a pretty small amp and it has a thin ply baffle.

I don't actually know for sure that its solid oak though, its painted black on the inside of the cab and the grain really looks exactly like oak and there's no seams in it that I can see... but maybe they make some sort of plywood or something with a veneer of oak for all I know.

I don't have any specific gripes with the sound but just wondered if pine would make a big sonic difference. Between the light weight, the open back and the plywood baffle I'm starting to think maybe not.
 

UMT

Member
Messages
879
I was once told by a source that I respect that the 'baffle board' holding the speaker is the piece of wood most responsible for sound. (All things being equal: good solid cabinet, etc)
 

mbratch

Member
Messages
2,381
I was once told by a source that I respect that the 'baffle board' holding the speaker is the piece of wood most responsible for sound. (All things being equal: good solid cabinet, etc)
That wouldn't surprise me. The baffle is, in some sense, a 2nd order extension extension of the speaker. The dimensions of the rest of the cabinet probably have as much impact on the sound as the material.
 

Spudman

Member
Messages
1,303
Ear Candy uses mahogany ply for the speaker board and birch for the rest of the cab. They get good reviews on this combo and it makes sense.
 

Trout

Member
Messages
7,551
I stick to pine, though if I wanted a hardwood cab, I think I would get some select poplar instead of oak. Generally it is less dense(lower weight) than oak, and the tighter grain is easy to finish.

We made several conference tables out of poplar a few years back and put a stunning gloss black piano finish on them very similar to those Black Fender 57 Deluxes.
 

Spudman

Member
Messages
1,303
I toured with a 2x12 oak closed back cabinet for my Marshall for many years. The JMP I paired it with was open backed so I guess the combo was okay. I never really listened to the oak cab by itself so I couldn't really say how it sounded. It looked good but sure was heavy. For a while the other guitarist used it with an open backed Fender amp and that combo sounded good as well.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
33,357
I have a 63 Fender Deluxe Amp that in a (tolex covered) oak cab,
That seems a bit unlikely, to me, anyway.
To make a change, even with open back, line the cab with fiberglass insulation or real, acoustic, sound absorption material.
Or, see Jay Mitchell's thread on sound dispersion modifiers.
 

JDJ

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,671
I'd look for some nice reclaimed pine from a barn or something. It will be very light and resonant compared to recently-harvested pine.
 

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,329
That seems a bit unlikely, to me, anyway.
How come? I figured it was just some guys home made cab. The tolexing isn't great the handle was set so you could barely get your fingers under it, etc. What do you think is more likely?

To make a change, even with open back, line the cab with fiberglass insulation or real, acoustic, sound absorption material.
Or, see Jay Mitchell's thread on sound dispersion modifiers.
This is a combo amp cab, not an open back speaker cab if that's what you meant. I don't want fiberglass in there because I don't like the splinters and since you have to put the cord in there and pull tubes etc, it would be hard to avoid.

But I already put the mitchell donut in. I think I was the first guy to try it and report back on that thread :AOK It may have been on the previous thread that got moved, now that I think of it. Anyhow, it sounds good there just like it does in the two other combo cabs I have it in.
 

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,329
I'd look for some nice reclaimed pine from a barn or something. It will be very light and resonant compared to recently-harvested pine.
I live in the middle of Boston - not a lot of barns round about. Are there people who sell recycled barn wood or something? I do have some 20 year old unfinished pine bookcases I wouldn't mind recycling... :)
 

mikefair

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,439
Which one did you prefer? How big was the room in which you were testing?
My personal preference was for the closed back birch ply. I play in a band with a bass player with a big sound, so too much low end just gets in his way. Neither was bad, though.
 




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