Sunday, February 22, 2015

Building Speaker Boxes: MDF vs. Particle Board

This subject may not interest many people, but when it comes to using MDF or Particle Board, it is definitely not limited to building speaker boxes. In fact, many folks use these types of wood for other things, including shelving structures, furniture, under-flooring material, and so on. However, this post is about the differences between these types of building material and whether or not one is more suited for speaker boxes than the other.

First of all, MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard. Particle board (also spelled particleboard or chipboard) is a lower density wood. Actually, both MDF and particle board are not true forms of solid wood, as they are engineered woods. For example, particle board is composed of wood chips, sawdust and random shavings that are glued together. This cohesion is not known for its durability or reliability, but it still functions as wood nonetheless. MDF goes through a similar process, but instead of all those random scraps being used in the composition, it consists of just the wood fibers, instead.

MDF is heavier and more sturdy than particle board. It doesn't warp and bend as easily when weight is applied to it. Although neither of these engineered woods need to get wet, MDF can tolerate dampness much better than particle board. In less words, do not get particle board wet! MDF has a smooth texture and is an excellent surface to paint. A lot of people that use the less-attractive particle board for speaker boxes, often want to staple carpet over it, to cover up the ugliness; ha! I must say, though, that has never been a problem for me. When I'm building speaker boxes, I'm more concerned about the bass and/or the performance of my subwoofers as opposed to the cosmetic effects my box may or may not provide.

Now, when it comes to using screws, particle board is generally an easier material to work with. Unless you get too close to the edges, it normally adapts to screws quite nicely. Some people complain about having to drill a pilot hole prior to screwing into MDF because it's more solid, and it is also known to split. I've never had too much trouble with this, but I suppose it depends on what you are building.

The cost of both MDF and particle board is fairly cheap when compared to real solid woods, but MDF is still a bit more pricey when compared to the dirt-cheap particle board. When it comes to the subwoofer performance and bass response, some car audio enthusiasts will claim that MDF is the best but takes longer to break in. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, many of us "subwoofer gurus" claim that there is a break-in period in which the bass hits harder from a box that has been used for an extended period of time. I'm guilty of this belief, as well, as I really think that the bass thunders from a well-used box more than it does a new one with the same proportions and air space, as long as there are not any air leaks, of course.

Where I live, they sell MDF and Particle Board in 4ft. by 8ft. slabs. The MDF is 3/4ths of an inch thick, while the particle board is 5/8ths of an inch thick. Even though I have just described MDF as being superior to particle board, I must say, for speaker boxes, I see no reason to favor it over particle board. The reason for my conclusion is that you are not going to be getting it wet, you are not going to be using it for a shelf or to hold weight, and the added thickness of MDF doesn't mean very much when concerning a sealed box for your speakers. In a thumbnail, it is not worth the extra expenses nor is it worth lugging around the extra weight of the wood. The only exception I see, is if you have several 15 inch subwoofers with a high-powered amp, as then you may definitely need MDF! Now, for building shelves and furniture, I'd vote for MDF all the way, if I had to pick between these two forms of engineered woods.

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---End of Post "Building Speaker Boxes: MDF vs. Particle Board"

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