If you’re wondering what the best wood for a guitar speaker cabinet is, this is the post for you!
Speaker Cabinet Construction
It’s easy to focus on the amp, pedals, guitars, and everything else when optimizing your guitar sound. But many don’t seem to pay as much attention to speaker cabinets. After all, this is where the tone, processed through your amp, comes out.
Technically, even a combo amp will have a speaker cabinet one way or another. However, in this post, I’m focusing on your regular speaker cabs for amplifier heads.
As you may already know, there is an abundance of speaker cabinet variants. The main thing that we focus on is the speaker configuration. The most popular are 4 by 12-inch ones. But there are also 2×12, 4×10, 2×10, and 1×12. You’ll also find some weird configurations like 1×8 or 1×15.
But talking about cabinets, we also need to consider the construction. We’re technically looking at wooden boxes that keep the speakers in place and at the desired distance from one another.
Then we also have the issue of how they’re put together, which is usually through finger joints. This will primarily improve their structural integrity. But it can also ultimately affect the performance.
Then there’s also the issue of open- and closed-back cabs. This can help you get a different response from your amp
Although speakers are, obviously, crucial parts, there’s more to cabinets. The way they’re positioned and the wooden construction that holds them matters the most.
How Much Does Wood Type Affect the Tone?
And, of course, the next logical question is whether wood actually affects the tone. In short, yes, it does affect it, although it’s not that simple.
The differences aren’t as prominent compared to, let’s say, tonewoods of acoustic guitars. Or even hollow-body electric guitars. But there’s still some impact.
But at the end of the day, you can’t expect to build a cabinet out of just any wood and get good results. After all, there’s a reason why certain woods are used as they, overall, produce the desired results.
Types of Wood to Use for Cabinets
The first thing to consider is whether you’re going to use solid wood or plywood. In some cases, cabs may also use MDF or medium-density fiberboard. However, MDF mostly gives the same results as plywood.
Plywood and MDF
So what are the main differences between plywood and solid wood? What’s interesting about plywood is that it won’t impact your tone that much. It might sound weird, but plywood not impacting the tone is its advantage.
Instead, it lets the speaker do its work. And, most importantly, it mostly directs the sound instead of absorbing it. Its structure is more homogenous compared to regular wood. There aren’t any natural features of natural solid woods like rings and knots.
By directing the tone, plywood gives you a lot of projection in front of the cab. It will also make the sound brighter and punchier.
As I’ve already mentioned, MDF is somewhat similar to plywood in this regard. However, MDF is usually found on more affordable cabinets. It’s not a bad material in terms of structural integrity. However, it may tend to deaden the tone a little.
Although birch is the most common, you’ll also find some other plywoods. These include mahogany, oak, fir, and ash.
Solid Natural Wood
And then we get to solid natural woods. Compared to plywoods, they don’t have a homogenous structure. So they interact way more with the vibrations from the speakers. This means that they’ll affect the tone.
This comes with an advantage and a disadvantage. Solid woods can add a new twist and a different texture to your tone. You’ll sound warmer, sometimes even fuller.
On the other hand, solid wood absorbs some of the vibrations. This reduces the projection and you can lose some of the punch. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re aiming for a smoother and warmer tone. However, it may cause some issues in practice, especially if you need to cut through the mix.
For the most part, solid pine is the way to go. Some also prefer to go with cedar, which is a bit softer. If you want to get more projection, you might want to experiment with harder woods. Some have reported good results with cherry or mahogany.
However, pine is the most common. For the most part, its properties have proven to bring the most favorable sonic traits.
For the most part, you won’t see solid wood cabs made by famous brands. But if you’re in favor of a softer tone, they’re definitely worth checking out.
What You Should Pay Attention To
One thing to bear in mind is not to get misled by some promotional practices. You’ll see words like “Baltic birch” and “void-free” thrown around. “Void-free” or “voidless” refers to the properties of Baltic birch plywood. But this is pretty much the standard.
I’ve also seen MDF used as a promotional buzzword, which made no sense. In short, don’t let anyone mislead you by using terms that you might not understand in the bigger picture.
Should You Obsess About It?
What I’m about to say might seem weird to some. However, I can’t help but point out that there are so many factors involved in the equation. Technically, yes, the wood that the cabinet is made from can affect the tone. But it may not always turn out the way you intended it to be.
You see, guitar amps are beasts of their own. Especially if we’re talking about tube-driven amps as their tone and response will change depending on the tubes and the state that they’re in.
Then there’s also the issue of the room that you’re playing in. And don’t get me started on how complicated things get with microphones in front of your speaker cabinet.
From my experience, it’s much simpler to have a simple plywood cabinet. This is more or less the standard. In particular, we’re looking at Baltic Birch. If you’re planning to build your own cab, it’s probably best that you use 11 or 13-ply Baltic Birch. This is what you find with some high-end cabs.
In my opinion, you shouldn’t spend your time looking for the “best” thing. Instead, focus on finding what works for you. Solid woods will impact the tone, each in its own way. But you’ll lose some of the punch and projection. Birch plywood is way more common as it can help you cut through the mix and have more projection. The choice is up to you.
Best Wood for Guitar Speaker Cabinet: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you think through guitar speaker cabinet materials and which is best for you!
And if you want to read more about guitar speakers on this blog, then check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!