Speaker Cabinet Construction

Published on
January 18, 2021 4:36:33 PM PST January 18, 2021 4:36:33 PM PSTth, January 18, 2021 4:36:33 PM PST


At Mojotone we get calls from customers in need of a new extension cabinet, or just a replacement for an older worn out cab -- obvious, yes I know.But in all of these calls, there seem to be a few questions that come up more than others, so we wanted to put together a quick overview that aims to concisely break down certain bullet points regarding cab construction and hopefully will give you an idea of what your own preferences are.

Are Your Cabinets Finger Jointed?

Valid question.Yes, our cabinets utilize ¼” finger joints for a number of reasons.For one, we are in the business of producing true-to-form vintage reproduction speaker cabinets.In an effort to maintain historical integrity, we use ¼” finger joints since that’s what the big dogs were using even back in the 50s and 60s.For two, we are also in the business of making the finest speaker enclosures in the world, and with that comes a large degree of responsibility.¼” finger joints create a solid bond between the wood panels used in constructing a speaker cabinet.Carefully and consistently cut, and with the right amount of wood glue, this type of joinery increasing the overall foundational stability of your cab and thus increases the life of a cabinet by years.

I have used a number of cabs over the years, and when I first started out I was even building my own cabs and using a basic lap joint.Not to knock lap joints in general, they are perfectly suited for certain applications but definitely not the right choice for a speaker cabinet.  By nature, speaker cabinets tend to find themselves in abusive relationships.They are moved around constantly, thrown into trailers, hauled by random stagehands, dragged here, pushed there, dropped, bumped….burned alive….alright perhaps not the last one, but you get the idea.In any case, I have watched lap-jointed cabinets crumble from nothing more than everyday wear and tear within 6 months of their construction, whereas I have literally tested the absolute limits of a finger-jointed cabinet by throwing it as high as I could on repeat for about 20 minutes and letting it crash to the ground over and over...and in all honesty, the finger joints never separated no matter what other damage came to the cabinet. 

Baltic Birch Ply or Solid Pine?

Glad you asked!Unfortunately, this is where things get a little more subjective, so I’m going to outline some of the basic sound characteristics of these woods and then let you decide.

Our Baltic Birch Plywood is voidless and very high quality.But as a general rule, there is not a lot of “movement” with the birch ply.What I mean by this is that a baltic birch ply cab will not necessarily become a big part of your overall sound as it does a lot of dampening/isolating and tends not to be able to color your sound.The plywood is stronger and heavier than solid pine but almost completely non-resonant.  Historically birch ply has more often been used for larger closed back cabinets (Marshall and Mesa) if this helps establish a frame of reference.

Solid pine is a much different beast.Tone geeks often consider pine to be a more “musical” wood in that it adds to the vibrational whole of the sound and can even color your tone.It is a lively sounding wood that is lighter than birch, making it easier to haul around to gigs.There seem to be a lot of players who enjoy experimenting with their favorite (and least favorite) speakers in pine cabs to see how the wood itself affects their final sound.On the other hand, a lot of players find a speaker that they are happy with and use a baltic birch ply cab under the notion that the cabinet won’t change the sound of the speaker they love so much.Historically speaking, pine has most often been used in smaller openback cabinet like all the old Fender Tweed and Blackface models.

Both woods are extremely high quality and have their unique benefits.But like anything else, this is an extremely subjective topic so we recommend testing out as much as you can.If you have a pine cabinet but you know a buddy with a birch extension, mosey on over and plug your amp into their cab and see what you think! 

Open Back or Closed Back?

If you have a cabinet built with a 3-piece removable back panel, you may have already noticed that going from open to closed back can drastically change how your amp sounds and interacts with any given room/stage.In fact, if you are in the market for a speaker cabinet, it is worth checking out our 3-piece removable back panel option as it will allow you to shift from open to closed back in a heartbeat with nothing more than a screwdriver.

Open back cabs are typically only partially open, with an upper and lower back panel still in place.This allows some of the speaker’s sound to emanate from the back of the cabinet and out into the room.Often this provides a more open and “breathing” sound that many guitar players consider to be a more natural/true representation of sound as the speaker’s voice is not being compressed.   When using an open back cabinet, one may notice the representation of high end in their sound is a bit more brilliant where the low end is more loose.  Depending upon the room you are in and the sound system being used, this can help fill the listening area and/or the stage.

Closed back cabs do not utilize the multi-directional projection of sound, but rather only move your sound forward.If you think about the physics here, moving the sound in a more narrow direction may give the player a harder time hearing themselves on stage, causing them to rely heavily, if not solely, on their monitors.However, most sound technicians would likely be grateful for the use of a more compressed sound that doesn’t “wash” the stage as much.  Closed back cab users will likely also experience a more defined attack in the midrange and low end of their amp/speakers giving them a more direct punch in the end.

Again, as with anything, these two build styles each have their own pros and cons.  Rest assured that if you order any variety of Mojotone cabinet you will be receiving the highest quality piece of gear you can buy.We do not skimp on materials or joinery, and we have done the research to know exactly how to faithfully reproduce your favorite vintage cabs as well as how to build a proper sounding modern enclosure.We even provide our customers who want a fully custom build that same peace of mind.Call today to start building your dream cab.