Are Real Wood Speakers Really The Highest Quality You Can Buy?
Andrew talks about the sound properties of solid wood vs manufactured wood, and what you should look for if great sound is your number one priority.
So I'm sure that anybody who works in any sort of customer service support capacity for a loudspeaker manufacturer probably gets this question maybe daily, and it's not the well, what speakers should I buy? Of course those are typical things. It's are your speakers made of real wood? And by real wood, when you get that question, usually it's somebody who wants to know are your speaker cabinets made of solid wood? Now, in some cases, I know that it's an air of that audio file while your speakers, if they're any good, have to be made from solid wood, otherwise you guys are just using some cheap material and there's nothing better than solid wood, and it gives the best tone and whatever. I almost get into arguments with some people over that question occasionally. And by the way, I'm going to take out of our lineup, things that are not made of any wood type product, so our outdoor speakers, our portable speakers, they're made to have water resistance, so they're made out of a special injection molded type of plastic.
I'm talking about the bulk of the subwoofers, floor standing, bookshelf speakers, center channels, that we build. And I'll say right now, none of them are made out of solid wood. While there are some very good, practical and manufacturing reasons, the main reason is actually performance and acoustics. So let me go into this for a second. So our loudspeakers and many loudspeaker companies use what is called MDF, which stands for medium density fiber board. And I have a piece of it here on off cut, and essentially what it is is some people will say it's compressed sawdust mixed with adhesive, MDF is closer to almost powdered sawdust or powdered wood, which is then mixed with a special adhesive and then compressed under very, very high pressure.
And you can also see, I hope you can see, that on both sides of this there is what looks like wood grain, both on the inside and the outside. And this is the wood finish, whatever species of wood that you pick, whether it's walnut, maple, oak, whatever, this is what you'll actually see. And yeah, it looks like real wood because it is real wood. It's a veneer. It's a thin layer covering that MDF material. Now I mentioned, yes, there are some very practical reasons from a manufacturing standpoint why we use this MDF material. One is that the sheets are perfectly flat and perfectly smooth. And if you think about, you've probably seen, if you have wood flooring, different times of the year when there's more humidity or less, that they cup and warp a little. I mean, wood moves around.
MDF is much, much more stable, it's much flatter, and it machines very well, which means that we can get consistent opening sizes and a rotor depths and hold tolerances to .2 of a millimeter on machining. Which means the cabinets will go together perfectly every single time. So yeah, you might say, "Okay, that's all well and good, but you could still make the speaker if you wanted to. Let's go back to the naysayers. If you cared enough or you wanted to spend the money instead of cheaping out. Well, I mentioned that the main reason that we use MDF is performance and acoustics. Now, why is that? If you're a hobbyist woodworker, if you're a DIYer and you decide that you want to build your own pair of speakers. Sure. Go ahead. Take that beautiful aged kiln dried solid walnut and go ahead and make a pair of speakers for yourselves or one of your friends or family, and enjoy them.
That's perfectly fine, but understand that one pair of speakers, should you make another pair of the identical speaker, even if you used identical sheets or planks of wood from the same tree with the same aging process, will never perform the same. And why is that? Well, nature is a funny beast. Trees are all different. If you've ever bought, let's say, a dining room set with a hutch or a cupboard, a large table with a couple of insert leafs and chairs, all made of whatever, let's say oak, I guarantee you that if you go around to all those pieces that the grain and the look is never going to be identical, and this is a high quality dining set that's made from solid wood. They're never going to be the same. Well, that grain, that change in the different parts or different trees, even if they're from the same species and gone through the same aging, will mean that the vibration frequencies of a cabinet made of solid wood is going to be totally different.
It's going to be variable. So why is this a bad thing for a speaker company? Well, we can build one pair of speakers out of solid wood, do all of our measurements, our blind listening tests, get them fantastic, crossovers are great, drivers are great, sound is wonderful, and we will likely never be able to build another pair that sounds exactly like that. Ever. And part of that is going to be due to the fact that every cabinet we build will have slightly different wood characteristics and slightly different vibration. So, the main reason that we use MDF is that it is incredibly consistent, unit to unit, speaker to speaker. And it also has a property called internal damping, its internal damping quality. So how much it will resonate at certain frequencies and how quickly that vibration or resonance will disappear is very predictable and very good.
And we can go through and look at the panel sizes, top sides, bottom, front, back, and we can look at the vibrational ranges, where those frequencies are, and we can add bracing if we want to get rid of a large panel vibration that might become audible. But again, it comes down to consistency and audibility and it's a beautiful tool that we can get that consistency every time we build another speaker. Now another bonus, and this goes back to the practical thing, is Axiom Audio manufacturers in Canada, we manufacture everything here in our own facility and Canada has the luxury of having a lot of softwood and a large lumber industry, and you can see in here that this piece, I think you can see, it says made in Canada. So it's actually a fairly locally sourced product for us.
So the next time that somebody might ask you, "Oh, your Axiom speakers, are they real wood?" Well, they are real wood. The outside is real wood. The inside is real wood. It's just not solid for the reasons that I mentioned. And I hope that clears that topic up. Again, there's nothing wrong with somebody wants to make a pair of speakers out of solid wood, just understand that if we want to guarantee that you and everybody who orders a particular pair of our speakers is going to sound like our reference design, using a material like MDF is crucial. We couldn't get away with using solid wood. Thanks a lot for watching.