Plywood V Hardwood

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Rockyrollercat, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. Rockyrollercat

    Rockyrollercat Member

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    It was suggested to me that a solid hardwood cab is better than a plywood cab. Talking about high end examples of both and used for rock music. The hardwood cabs I've seen have beautiful joinery, grain and finish but, do they sound better or just a nice piece to match the furniture?

    RRC
     
  2. megatonic

    megatonic Member

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    Plywood would probably be less likely to warp or crack.
     
  3. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    If the goal was to be sonically as "flat" and non-reactive as possible, then I'd submit that MDF ( medium density fiberboard ) would probably be the least reactive material, assuming all cabinet designs were properly braced and designed. 3/4" solid wood tends to be stiffer than plywood, so large plywood cabs need to be well braced internally, especially for bass reproduction. Most solid hardwood tends to be heavy and less stable than plywood. Plywood can also cost less than high end solid hardwoods. And actually, my favorite wood for smaller guitar cabs/combos is KD White Pine or KD Douglas Fir. Both are lighter in weight than 3/4" plywood and quite reasonably priced. Both are stiffer than plywood, requiring less bracing, and are superior when using dovetail/finger joints. They are a little less stable than quality plywood but are still fairly stable in moderate climates. Some hardwoods are quite heavy, especially South American imports, others aren't too bad, like American Blk Walnut or American Cherry. North American Maple is very unstable and has more of a tendency to crack. And N. American Oak is only marginally better than maple. If I wanted a solid hardwood cabinet, I'd consider N. American Cherry or Alder, and not build it too large.
     
  4. KWCabs

    KWCabs Member

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    A lot of the information from the quote below is very true if you were trying to make a PA or HiFi speaker cabinet. The guitar speaker cabinet is in the creation chain not the reproduction chain. The cabinet itself ads to the to tone of the player. If it was all about reproducing the amp and guitar all amps would simply run direct outs into a perfectly tuned PA speaker, but that's not where the beauty of guitar tone comes from, and very few players take that route (but they are of course welcome to).

    In terms of "wood" being stiffer or harder than ply or mdf, complete nonsense. Every type of lumber or material has a different density. Some woods are harder and stiffer than the average plywood some are not, plywood varies piece to piece as well, why??? because guess what, it's still wood, just sliced up, although it is also about 20-30% glue which ends up simply acting as a dampening agent. All lumber acts differently, and just like in an acoustic guitar (which btw, is an acoustic speaker cabinet) different woods sound differnt. BTW, MDF is incredibly hard, but lacks a strong bond and is very weak to some forces.

    In terms of stability, this is also untrue. Most dried lumber is in fact more stable than plywood because most plywood is not dried to the same level. However, due to the construction process of plywood (alternating grain direction) the movement accross both directions of the board is evened but not necessarily minimized. Where the idea that NA Maple is unstable comes from is beyond me. It's been used in high end furniture for hundreds of years and is the most popular guitar neck material there is. Dried lumber that is then sealed and finished properly will remain very stable under normal conditions.

    Mind you, I do apologize if I sound like I'm reacting to the post below, in a way I am but it is mostly because there is a lot of wide spread misconception of how lumber reacts and its application when it comes to the guitar world especially speaker cabinets. It takes a lot of experience to actually learn how it all works, and having woodworking been my profression for over the last decade it never ceases to amaze me that I still learn something about it on a regular basis.

    Of course, I submit that all are entitled to their opinion, and I respect them, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak. So the most important thing to say is to try some for yourself, and more importantly try some that were designed to work for what they are made from. Natural wood has offered musicians of all sorts glorious tools to create beautiful music, and while many man made materials are incredibly innovative and have a place, it is very rare for us to find one that truly competes with the best of what nature has given us.

     
  5. KWCabs

    KWCabs Member

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    Yes it is less likely to crack, but warpage is not necessarily the case.
     
  6. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    That's why I said IF. I agree that a cab can add to the tone, and it's up to the user to decide if this is what they wish to do. A speaker also adds to the tone of the amplifier, so running direct isn't a good analogy IF one chose to build a "tone neutral" cabinet.

    Actually, there are lumber guides that state the stability of various woods. As a finish carpenter for 30+ yrs, I can definitely say there are differences in solid lumber. Some lumber can and does expand and contract at different rates than other woods, regardless of whether it is finished or not, but finishing will help prevent rapid moisture absorption or loss. Isn't this why one is cautioned not to allow their guitar to dry out or be subjected to rapid temperature or humidity changes? Furthermore, I have witnessed plenty of solid oak and maple cabinet doors develop splits and cracks. The lumber was KD. In furniture construction, there are common joinery practices used to accommodate wood's natural tendency to absorb and release moisture ( move )

    Finally, while your experience is in guitar cabinets for ten yrs, mine has been in that, plus cabinetry, flooring and furniture, plus general carpentry for 30 yrs. I did not say solid wood was inferior or unusable for guitar cabinets, and in fact, added that my preference would be solid pine or fir, due to cost, tone, weight and stability. I stand behind everything I said and would add there is plenty of science behind what I have said. That you maybe unaware of it does not make what you have to say completely correct.

    Just one wood supplier's article: http://www.mcilvain.com/wood-moves-get-over-it/
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2012
  7. wrathfuldeity

    wrathfuldeity Member

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    Imo, tone wise, it also depends what amp or sound you are going for...loud marshall/high gain the ply vs low watt tweed then pine or fir. However I think tone goal first; then design open, close, detuned; then spkr selection; then baffle thickness and attachment. IDK but I'd think the low to medium the watt amps...say 10-40 watt range, the more significant the wood selection...just because the cab is then more of an acoustic instrument in and of it self.
     
  8. amphog

    amphog Silver Supporting Member

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    Most of those beautiful hardwood cabs look better than they sound, and are heavy.
     
  9. 908SSP

    908SSP Supporting Member

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    If you're looking for unique and original sounds experiment. If you want the sounds you're used to say late 60s Marshall then you do what they did. Seems obvious but for some reason the obvious is often ignored.
     
  10. guitarcapo

    guitarcapo Senior Member

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    Plywood is more stable and has a flatter frequency response. Less resonant peaks or "wolf notes". It's also less apt to crack. Fiberboard is probably even better by being more dead acoustically (which is a good thing in a speaker cab...tubes shake less in combos, less rattling and wolf notes etc...), but I don't like how the stuff might age. Crumbling from humidity etc....
     
  11. Rockyrollercat

    Rockyrollercat Member

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    This seems to be conventional wisdom, anyone care to expand on that?

    Thanks,
    RRC
     
  12. Rambergwest

    Rambergwest Member

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    Resonance is the key to cabinet design in my mind and to address the high gain/plywood aspect just consider the makeup of plywood. It gets its strength from cross directional layers of wood. The cross grain and adhesive that make the product stay together combine to make a very inert product compared to hardwood or really any non composit wood. This means it will be less reactive to the huge amount of vibration coming from a high gain system. On the other hand a pine cabinet with a blackface circuit in it is designed to resonate and rather add a woodiness to the overall tone that would be mud if driven as hard as a 100watt Marshall would do. A tonewood cabinet that is made of extremely high quality hardwood will almost always be too dense and bright for my ears and also almost certainly toooooo heavy. Now all of this can be designed around (Allesandro to name one) but it takes a really considered approach to avoid the inherent hardness of the wood showing up in the tone.
     
  13. Frank Speak

    Frank Speak Member

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    My personal opinion is if you want a nice looking piece that can stay in the living room without infuriating the wife, then go with hardwood. But, I can't see using hardwood and then covering it with tolex. Pretty much all of the great cabs out there today, and as far back as I can remember, have been ply (usually birch). Why go against something that obviously works well and sounds great?
     
  14. wrathfuldeity

    wrathfuldeity Member

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    My attempt of trying to get it into the living room...but wife hasn't let out of the basement. Old qtr sawn fir for old 10 watt se6L6 tweed; its damm lively, open loud 3-d and with some good verb...originally a detuned attempt but now 1/3 open back for better room fill.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    That's a pretty cool looking speaker cab you have there. Put a cushion on top and it doubles as seat. And yes, I'm serious. I like it.
     
  16. sharpshooter

    sharpshooter Member

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    I don't believe for a moment, that Leo, or anyone else at Fender, ever said anything like "Lets design a resonant cab, using pine".
    They used locally available, cheap, #1/#2 1x12 pine shelving,knots and all,,industry standard wood for home/kitchen cabinitry.
    And, the issue of minimumly fastening in the baffle, in order to arrive at something called "free floating", actually reduces the transfer of speaker/sound vibrations to the cab.
    Plywood became the norm, when companys wanted to build cabs that were deeper than the standard 1x12 wood would allow.
    Good quality plywood has never been cheap, but the ease of its use, and stability of form has made it the leader in construction for most cabs.
     
  17. sabby

    sabby Member

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    In my limited experience, I would agree.
     
  18. guitarcapo

    guitarcapo Senior Member

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    You really don't want to hear the cab. You want to hear the speaker in the cab. For a cab to impart a tone to what's being fed into it would create a sameness for all the different effects, guitars and electronics you use. The most transparent material is the most acoustically dead material.
     
  19. KWCabs

    KWCabs Member

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    Actually a hardwood cabinet is most often lighter in weight to an equivalent plywood or mdf one. Plywood is actually quite heavy (largely due to the high glue content). Our solid Poplar cabs loaded with traditional magnet speakers usually weighs in at only about 45 lbs and solid maple usually about 52. Compared with your average 50 on the market it's surprising.
     
  20. KWCabs

    KWCabs Member

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    Very very true!!!!
     

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