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Plastic Cabinets?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ashtray, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. I had a thought today... with the push for lightweight powerful cabinets (neo speakers, etc) - I was wondering about the cabinet construction material, and how that affected the tone.

    I have seen some PA cabinets made of some sort of plastic. These cab even with 15" speakers and horns are easy to carry with 1 hand.

    Now, I would have to assume that the plastic cabinets wouldn't sound as bassy/warm/etc - but that's just a guess. And seeing how they're used in full range PA cabs, they can't be terrible.

    So - does anyone make bass cabs with this material? If not, I'd love to hear the science behind why.

    And, as a follow up - is there another material, even potentially an expensive one, that would provide the proper tone for bass cabinets and be very lightweight? (is there are people willing to pay $10k for an ultralightweight bicycle frame, there's gotta be a market for an ultra lightweight bass cab, right?)
  2. There was a bassist who got plexiglass cabs made for him...there is a thread around here with pics, but it's a year or two back now.

    IME wooden cabs sound better. PA systems with plastic housings are ok, but all the really deep, clear sounding PA systems I've heard used wooden housings. I think using plastic as a cab material is a compromise, and that will be more noticable for bass cabs.

    I don't know if it would be possible to make a standard box-style cab of plastic; if you think of a plastic PA speaker, it's all curves and corners, I don't think plastic would have the rigidity to make a solid enough baffle to mount 4 drivers in, unless it was so think you may aswell have used wood.

    Also, a lot of full-range PA speakers are plastic, but almost every PA sub I've seen has been made of wood.

    Just my observations on the situation, I'm sure some experts will chime in soon. :)
  3. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Plexi is very heavy. Most plastic's that can withstand the beating and temperatures also tend to be heavy.

    Wood is a great renewable resource that is somewhere in between IMHO.

  4. johnk_10

    johnk_10 vintage bass nut Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 16, 2008
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    John K Custom Basses
    i think that a cab could be made out of plastic or almost anything else as long as it is designed properly. i think that wood is used basically, because it already works/sound very well, is easily cut/machined, is durable, and is fairly lightweight.

    also thinking of bikes, carbon fiber or a sandwich composite comes to mind.
  5. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Yep. It's just so far not been shown to be a good investment to do structural foam/composite/plastic injection molding for this market niche. Where's the returns for the extra cost of R&D and tooling and materials and build time? But it can be very light yet stout. It just hasn't attracted anyone to do it. A lot of people already doing bass cabs aren't technically savvy, but they do understand this market's prospective customers pretty well.

    It's also something that can be handled as DIY, sweat equity offsetting costs. Zac has a thred on his composite build, and Passinwind and I are contemplating one, having already spent some time in R&D and looking at a lot of further study.
  6. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    plastic moves to much - the cabinet should only hold the air behind the speakers and not resonate. I could see some sort of plastic/foam/plastic sandwich being strong and nonresonant, though
  7. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    Au contraire, JBL for one uses composite honeycomb construction in their Vertec cabs. But at around $11K each you should be getting more than just another 2x12. :eek:
    More than a few startups have tried composites and gone out of business. It literally triples the cab build cost.
  8. Imagine a 30 pound 4x10 cab handling 500 watts. I think there's a market for that - even at a more expensive cost.

    Again - people are willing to pay more for Neo speakers b/c they're lightweight - I would think the cabinet designs would be next, or at least there would be a high end niche for these cabinets.
  9. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    I thought I meade it clear I was saying in the Bass cab sector.
  10. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    People are already getting over a grand for simplistic designs with wood cabs and a couple cheap drivers. Add to the materials cost and labor time and watch the retail price balloon. There go a lot of buyers who were already a distinct minority among bassists. And only a megacompany could offset the R&D and tooling costs by using it in their PA line.
  11. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Behringer use plastic for their combos.
    Not high end enough ? Acoustic Image does too.
  12. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Weren't/aren't some of Eden's Nemesis cabs made from a non-wood, composite material?
  13. That was part of my thought process (owning 3 Nemesis enclosures, each weighing a manageable amount without the use of Neo speakers). Again, the plastic idea was b/c many PA manufacturers already use plastic for their cabs, so the R&D work would be minimal.

    I think the carbon-fiber wrap idea could go somewhere. Take a cabinet design, use much thinner pieces of wood, but then wrap them in carbon fiber so they are 100x stronger, and you'd have a cab with low weight, but the same design. Yes - at an additional cost... BUT, there's companies out there like Carvin or Avatar selling bass cabs for $400. Bump that up to $1,000 and they're still competitive with a lot of other cabinet manufacturers.

    Now I have to wonder if it's possible to make a bass cab light and powerful enough to knock itself down during operation! :D
  14. Perhaps IKEA should start making bass cabs.

  15. Adam from the beastie boys :)

  16. Bassmec


    May 9, 2008
    Ipswich UK
    Proprietor Springvale Studios
    Celestion Road-Star series PA Cabs where molded polypropylene and I have a very interesting shaped one that was mounted a little too near some stage lighting.
    Sound wise the word is soggy in the extreme. The JBL ones use honeycombed type reinforced construction and are not very flexible and sound very good, its possible to make great plastic cabs but its just very expensive in a bass cab.:ninja:
  17. Awesome!

    In every way possible!
  18. Deepwoods


    Dec 5, 2003
    St. Louis
    Peavey has a PR series molded subwoofer. I wonder if anybody here has tried it with another full range cab?
  19. BassOverflow


    Jul 12, 2007
    Western NC
    I saw them last night and both his head and cabinet were clear... they freakin' killed it - btw.
  20. riker1384


    Jan 2, 2007
    No, that wouldn't work. The composite materials work better when they're thicker, with more space between the fiber sheets. You need something thick and light, hence the styrofoam.

    I was thinking, that the labor mostly seems to be getting the fiberglass into all the nooks and crannies, around the corners. I have to imagine it's possible to make flat sheets of the stuff cheaply, since you only need rollers and whatnot. I wonder if you could make sheets of the stuff, and then have hardware to join them. You could have a piece on the inside and outside of a corner, and join them with rivets. No need to bond anything to the fiberglass. Maybe make brackets to mount speakers so you don't have to fiddle with t-nuts.

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