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Birch plywood vs. MDF


DirtyChains

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I have been doing some reading on both these materials and cab construction. I realize most all reputable major companies use birch plywood for construction and MDF is considered cheaper quality in most cases.

 

Some of the reading I have done has brought some interesting information. It seems some people believe 3/4" MDF, properly braced with wood and sealed, is sonically superior to standard birch plywood construction. I am talking about boutique type builders who may not even be in a business, so to speak, not mass produced stuff.

 

Has anyone here had experience with a quality built 3/4" MDF cab? If so how did you feel about the tones you got from it versus a well built birch plywood cabinet?

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Well Engl makes both and they both really sound great but come loaded with dofferent speakers. The biggest difference between the 2 cab's is the Standars Engl(MDF) is darker and smoother than the Pro (V30 loaded ) but both seem to be equally as tight.

 

Derek

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MDF is generally used in hi-fi speakers, because it is not as resonant as and much more acoustically neutral than plywood/solid wood. I suppose this might give a tighter sound in a guitar cab; but don't get that stuff wet, it's just sawdust and glue.

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I have owned both and my experience is that MDF is very dead sounding. It may work well for high-gain purposes, but if you want clean tones or you want your reverb to splash and echo birch ply is your stuff. Also, on the other end of things, pineboard can be too resonant and not be good for anything heavier than blues or rock tones. It's too lively. That's all just my opinion, of course. I always buy birch ply cabs. They seem to everything well. Much more versatile for tones.

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About 8 years back I used to be in car stereo... MDF was and still is the wood of choice due to its non resonant properties. I however liked the lighter weight AND sweeter tonal qualities of 13 ply marine grade birch... so that's what I made my subwoofer enclosurers out of. With MDF, you'll be hearing mostly the speakers IN A CABINET. With birch, you'll hear speakers AND THE CABINET. I hope I explained that correctly. Please not that the sweeter tonal qualities that I mentioned were not in the guitar's range (I always used a crossover in the 80-120 hz range).

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Originally posted by Shiny_Surface

Ah yes the old MDF vs. plywood debate
:D

I'm waiting for someone to post how MDF will fall apart and lose structural support if it rains on the cab
:eek::)

 

HAHAHAH! Actually if you paint MDF with latex paint inside and out it will never be a problem...or cover the outside with that bedliner textured stuff that looks like tolex when it dries.

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Originally posted by Shiny_Surface

Ah yes the old MDF vs. plywood debate
:D

I'm waiting for someone to post how MDF will fall apart and lose structural support if it rains on the cab
:eek::)

 

I don't suppose many people leave their cabs out in the rain though. I'm sure that would not even be wise for a birch ply cab or any gear for that matter. Actually, rain hitting the cab while transporting from vehicle to venue or from venue to the vehicle certainly would not mean imminent destruction of the MDF cab. If you gear does get some drops on it immediatly wipe it down with a towel or rag. Take some plastic drop cloths that painters use and protect your gear or purchase a cover. Take care of your gear. Having said that, I too prefer/use birch plywood for its tone.

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Originally posted by DirtyChains

I have been doing some reading on both these materials and cab construction. I realize most all reputable major companies use birch plywood for construction and MDF is considered cheaper quality in most cases.


Some of the reading I have done has brought some interesting information. It seems some people believe 3/4" MDF, properly braced with wood and sealed, is sonically superior to standard birch plywood construction. I am talking about boutique type builders who may not even be in a business, so to speak, not mass produced stuff.


Has anyone here had experience with a quality built 3/4" MDF cab? If so how did you feel about the tones you got from it versus a well built birch plywood cabinet?

First of all,I'll preface by saying that I would never want to use particle board/MDF for gigging/live sound. But yes,MDF is obviously more sonically dead than plywood. Which is a good characteristic for stuff that needs to be accurate(all PA cabs,bass guitar,etc)I personally find this to be a bad trait for a guitar cab,though.

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Originally posted by cap'n'crunch



I don't suppose many people leave their cabs out in the rain though. I'm sure that would not even be wise for a birch ply cab or any gear for that matter. Actually, rain hitting the cab while transporting from vehicle to venue or from venue to the vehicle certainly would not mean imminent destruction of the MDF cab. If you gear does get some drops on it immediatly wipe it down with a towel or rag. Take some plastic drop cloths that painters use and protect your gear or purchase a cover. Take care of your gear. Having said that, I too prefer/use birch plywood for its tone.

Stuff gets rained on at outdoor shows. Also,just plain old high humidity can cause major probs with particle board/MDF.

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the weight is an issue: a 3/4 inch MDF 4x12" cab is gunna be HEAVY as hell

 

And if you drop a MDF cab on the corner, it's easy for the corner to basically crumble or break apart. Plywood may splinter but will hold together much better.

 

I like solid pine or hardwood too... old school.

 

markIIb.jpg

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Originally posted by tlbonehead

Stuff gets rained on at outdoor shows. Also,just plain old high humidity can cause major probs with particle board/MDF.

 

 

First of all it's completely covered in tolex and speaking of humidityI live in Florida and have had no problem;'s at all with the Engl Standard cab's I have in stock or out on demo.

 

Derek:D

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Originally posted by DerekB



First of all it's completely covered in tolex and speaking of humidityI live in Florida and have had no problem;'s at all with the Engl Standard cab's I have in stock or out on demo.


Derek:D

I could post lots of pics of cabs that were only 5-10 years old that were very noticeably swollen at the joints just from humidity. Tolex will not keep all moisture out. Plus once its inside,the tolex actually traps it in.

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Originally posted by tlbonehead

I could post lots of pics of cabs that were only 5-10 years old that were very noticeably swollen at the joints just from humidity. Tolex will not keep all moisture out. Plus once its inside,the tolex actually traps it in.

 

 

You can? Let's see.

 

Derek

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Originally posted by DerekB



You can? Let's see.


Derek

I could if I could hook a camera to my brain. Look,defend your cabs all you want. I have no idea. Maybe they treat the wood product first. I just know it is pretty common knowledge what MDF and especially particle board is like around moisture and humidity. The worst I recall were some tolex covered Yamaha monitors. They were very noticeably swelling at the joints within 3 years of gigging. And of course,the weight is just one more reason to not use it.

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Originally posted by tlbonehead

I could if I could hook a camera to my brain. Look,defend your cabs all you want. I have no idea. Maybe they treat the wood product first. I just know it is pretty common knowledge what MDF and especially particle board is like around moisture and humidity. The worst I recall were some tolex covered Yamaha monitors. They were very noticeably swelling at the joints within 3 years of gigging. And of course,the weight is just one more reason to not use it.

 

 

 

I see.

 

Derek

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Originally posted by tlbonehead

I take it you aren't a woodworker?

 

 

Of course not and I know that typical particle board is crap and that MDF is a higher quality of some sort. I have many desk's that have fallen apart over the years that were made from PB and I know about the whole getting wet business and what it will do if it's exposed.

 

That said I know people that have played with the Engl standard cab's for year's and have no complaint's about expansion or falling apart and and many have picked them over the Birch Engl cab's as well tonally for the music they play. Maybe Engl does treat them(I just sent Horst an Email to find out) All I know is that the standard's sound great and are built like tank's.

 

Derek

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There's a big difference between MDF and the particleboard of old. The chips/fibers/particles are a lot smaller, put together with more pressure, and bonded with water-resistant adhesive. I wouldn't be afraid of MDF -- except for the weight factor. If it sounds good, it sounds good

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