Replaced particleboard speaker cabinet with ....

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Project by Bill Davis posted 01-14-2011 03:38 PM 5003 views 3 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Mike had a pair of speakers he liked the sound of and for over 10 years lived with the particleboard look. He asked me if we could do something about the appearance. Decided to scarf up some reclaimed Narra and see if he could tolerate the change.

I basically copied the existing p-board, started with some old house siding that looked like it might result in a worse look. Had to remove a handfull of nails, screws and other assorted embedded stuff before selecting suitable pieces.

I asked to alter the original design by doing dovetailed joints. He agreed after seeing a sample.

It was my first project using Narra and I think it began a love affair with it.

The finish was about 6 coats of sprayed lacquer finished off with some wet sanding to about P1000 grit to leave a satin smooth surface with just the right amount of sheen.

25 comments so far

View Don's profile


517 posts in 4046 days

#1 posted 01-14-2011 03:43 PM

Wow, that is very pretty! The dovetails really add a nice touch, how did you cut them?

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4897 days

#2 posted 01-14-2011 03:49 PM

My teeth.

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4897 days

#3 posted 01-14-2011 03:49 PM

Actually I have an Akeda dovetail jig that I really like.


View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4897 days

#4 posted 01-14-2011 04:32 PM

Here’s the happy owner with his new sound.

View Tomoose's profile


422 posts in 4347 days

#5 posted 01-14-2011 04:41 PM

I had not heard of Narra before – it sure is beautiful. Great work!


-- “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

View Brit's profile


8233 posts in 3816 days

#6 posted 01-14-2011 04:43 PM

Fantastic transformation and they will probably sound better now too.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View EEngineer's profile


1137 posts in 4587 days

#7 posted 01-14-2011 04:57 PM

…they will probably sound better now too.

Actually, maybe not. I designed speaker cabinets many years ago. Part of what determines the sound quality of the cabinet is the elimination of resonance in the cabinet. It is primarily harmful in the lower frequency range. Generally, the stiffer the material and the more mass the material has that the cabinet is made out of the better the speaker will sound. Solid wood is not the best choice. Plywood is actually much better. Furniture plywood (with more layers than regular plywood) is better yet. Because of the mass, particle board may be better than solid wood (it is primarily glue, after all) but I never made and tested any enclosures out of particle boar, so I don’t know for sure.

To get the same sound quality as plywood, I had to use solid wood that was about 1.25X to 1.5X thicker than plywood.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View PurpLev's profile


8642 posts in 4622 days

#8 posted 01-14-2011 05:06 PM

looks fantastic, but I too am curious about the sound quality. Usually MDF is the preference of choice for exactly the reasons EEngineer has stated. more specifically MDF veneered with exotics.

how was the front and back attached? glued in?

it does look beautiful.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jetnum's profile


50 posts in 3666 days

#9 posted 01-14-2011 05:27 PM


-- “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4024 days

#10 posted 01-14-2011 05:28 PM

I don’t know what they sound like, but they’ve got to be infinitely prettier than they were before the redo.

That Narra certainly is stunning with the finish you applied.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View SgtSnafu's profile


960 posts in 4245 days

#11 posted 01-14-2011 06:36 PM

You did a great job on the speaker rebuild. I really like anytime someone can use reclaimed wood. That Narra is a very attractive wood.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Scotty - aka... SgtSnafu - Randleman NC

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7087 posts in 4168 days

#12 posted 01-14-2011 09:45 PM

I’m afraid that I have to agree with EE and PurpLev,
MDF is the choice of speaker builders because like was said, is better for the elimination of resonence. I have built several speaker cabinets, and particle board (but now we have MDF which is a better choice). Built a few out of pylwood (my second choice), and they had a good sound, too. You need to make sure that you have some kind of a batting material inside the box plus a couple of large holes in the front of the box to let the air escape. I just got through rebuilding a subwoofer for my stereo components, used MDF, put in the batting material (or whatever it’s called), installed 2- 3” air escape horns, mounted the 12” woofer, and put the front protective cover on, and man what a sound….Oh yea….I painted the whole box flat black to match everything…...The wood really looks beautiful, by the way….Hope it sounds as good as it looks….

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4897 days

#13 posted 01-14-2011 11:25 PM

I agree in theory with your comments on preferred woods for speaker cabinets but….
1. There are more and bigger sound differences caused by other issues that are frequently ignored.
2. The owner is a musician with a critical listening ear – much more than myself and he gave it his strong approval. We had discussed this issue about resonances (note spelling) before the project. The owners ear is the ultimate test.
3. If I put you, a critical listener with a golden ear in a listening room where you could not see the speakers (eyes do affect the percieved sound) but could listen using the best electronic amplifiers and you could instantly switch between several speaker pairs and use any program material you choose, I’ll bet your golden ear to a bag of sawdust that you could not consistently make the same choices of ‘the best sound’ in multiple listening sessions conducted on different days at various times of the day. I have conducted that test multiple times in a controlled environment and one of the main outcome was that there was very little consistancy and the actual speakers, including size, quality (cost), construction, color, material used etc etc etc. Also it seemed that the more critical the listener was proported to be the less consistent his tests were, over and over.

The front and back were glued in place.
The inside of the cabinets are braced.
It is a ported design
Brit you are right on – They DO sound better now. The owner told me so!

Thanks for all of the comments
Bill – retired speaker system designer/EE/audio test engineer and know-it-all.

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4897 days

#14 posted 01-14-2011 11:56 PM

Narra (Pterocarpus indicus) may be recognizable by one or more of its other names. Burmese Rosewood is a tree that yields valuable timber. It is known as Narra in the Philippines, Sonokembang in Indonesia, Angsana or Sena in Malaysia and Singapore, padouk in Fiji, tnug in Cambodia, and Pradu in Thailand. Narra is the national tree of the Philippines. Amboyna is another name ususlly for highly figured veneers cut from burls of Narra. A valued furniture and cabinet wood, decorative veneers, novelty items, interior trim. Found in Philippines, Borneo, Burma, New Guinea, and the Malay Archipelago. Often planted for shade along roadsides and as an ornamental. It is considered a valuable timber often traded as padauk. “Padauk – The wood of kings, railroad trains, and many names.”

View from the back.

View Hacksaw's profile


185 posts in 4350 days

#15 posted 01-15-2011 03:39 AM

I’ll take the challenge Bill :) when can I come over? The statements made by EE were true…but so were the statements you made. The fact that the owner says they sound better means they sound better.God know s they LOOK better ! If you were to use an analyzer and mic in an anechoic chamber you would probably “see” the difference on the graph but maybe not “hear” any difference whatsoever. I have a pair of Westlakes,a pair of KRKs,AMRs, cheap Tannoys,the obligatory NS10s and two or three other sets of “monitors” but the “speakers” that I prefer are my Realistic bookshelf speakers. I have listened to them for so long i know them intimately.I guarantee you if you put these speakers in a room comparing them to 10 other sets I would pick them out better than 90% of the time (I have done it…my instructor at engineering school said I couldn’t either so I had to prove him wrong)

-- Nothing's just gets expensive

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