Which material is best when making a speaker?
Making speakers that sound exceptional and retain stable performance is a mixture of art and science. When shopping around for speakers, you are sure to find all kinds of materials used to make the enclosure (the part that holds it all together). While many modern speakers are made from plastic, aluminium or even steel, there are many that say wood trumps all.
An effective speaker enclosure achieves minimal distortion and efficient amplification of sound from the speaker’s drivers. The characteristics of the speaker are dependent on both the materials used and the design equally.
The optimal speaker material would be:
- Dense – this is so that any vibrations or mechanical pressures are absorbed. This means that additional sounds, or losses of energy at certain frequencies do not occur.
- Rigid – A stiffer enclosure means higher efficiency and less distortion, especially with bass frequencies.
- Non Resonant – If you knock something and it sounds ‘dead’, it is non-resonant. The opposite effect is like that of a bell or tuning fork, when they are impacted they ring out. If this happens when you’re listening to music, you will hear distortion.
The best possible materials would have these qualities, but they also need to be practical. For example, concrete clearly has all of these qualities and it can be formed into almost any shape. However, it’s brittle, very heavy, and it doesn’t look particularly pretty.
Plastic is a popular choice among speakers designed with a priority on appearance and cost. It’s easy to reproduce any shape, and it’s light and durable so it’s great for a portable speaker. The properties of plastic however, are not well suited to a high-fidelity speaker. Think about the sound that plastic makes when you tap it – it’s bright and, well, ‘plastic’.
Metal looks premium – It’s sleek and very durable. However, a box made from metal is a nightmare when it comes to resonance; picture a cow-bell for example. Obviously, a lot of work goes into making metal-bodied speakers as non-resonant as possible – this often means a lot of ‘padding’, in the form of acoustic foam, is used to fill the body cavity. This helps to reduce the internal reflections the hard, flat inner walls of the speaker can cause too.
Wood has naturally occurring acoustic properties. It’s naturally non-resonant, so an energetic speaker driver causing vibrations in the material would be absorbed. It has high density. It’s been used for centuries, possibly even millennia, to help amplify a rich, clear sound from musical instruments. It’s strong and stiff. Humans have also been building houses out of wood for thousands of years. It produces less reflections than both metal and plastic. The only problem we can see is that, so far, it isn’t possible to grow trees in the shape of speakers!
If you’re looking for high quality speakers our Silverpoint 1 & 2’s are bookshelf speaker systems with high definition stereo sound, multi-room connectivity and optical TV input enclosed in 12mm solid wood for natural and efficient sound reproduction.