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How MDF Speakers are Made

MDF, or medium density fiberboard is used in most mid-level speakers and in many high end ones as well. Speaker companies use it because it is easy to work with, inexpensive and is extremely rigid. The rigidity and density is important so that the speaker cabinet does not color the sound as it bounces around inside the cabinet.

Do MDF speakers look worse than real wood?
In short, no. A high quality speaker company will make them look very nice. Since MDF is made from wood fibers glued under heat and pressure, it offers a extremely dense material that is, unlike wood, dimensionally stable. This gives you a very uniform material to make speaker cabinets from. Unfortunately in its native state, MDF is pretty ugly. To address this, manufacturers attach either a wood veneer (real wood) or vinyl woodgrain (not real wood : ^) outer covering on the MDF before making the speaker cabinet.

How are they Made?

1. Vinyl woodgrain or wood veneer are glued to the MDF. This is a permanent process, but of course the quality and thickness of the vinyl or veneer come into play. The thicker the veneer or vinyl, the more sturdy it will be over time.
2. A Groove Cutter cuts a V groove into the MDF right down to the vinyl or veneer.
3. The MDF is then "folded' to create the cabinet.

In better speakers a brace is usually added for extra support and to add rigidity.

Good as Wood or Better
Overall MDF speakers look and sound every bit as good as a speaker cabinet made of wood alone, probably better. In most cases they will look better, no knots or other imperfections, and sound better due to higher density and conformity of the material.

1 comment:

Sidecar Bob said...

There are definite acoustical advantages to using MDF (or in the old days particle board) for speaker cabinets, among which are its higher density and its lack of grain, which means that the panels do not resonate as much.

Unlike musical instruments that are crafted from woods chosen for the way their resonant qualities color the sound, speakers should always be neutral in that respect, neither adding nor detracting from the sound of the instruments being reproduced.

(I designed speakers at what were at the time the 2 largest speaker manufacturers in Canada for a total of 12 years in the '70s & '80s)

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