What is the best wood for speaker enclosures?

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If you don't want to use MDF, then I would suggest Baltic Birch plywood.

Using wood (not a man-made version of wood), is tricky because of wood movement and expansion, due to humidity and temp. fluctuations.

If you're really wanting to use real wood, I would suggest white oak, as it tends to 'move' less than most woods. But the density of Hard Maple would be good too (you would just have to plan for more movement).

Either way, if you choose to use wood, to make the large panels/pieces; I would tongue & groove narrower pieces of stock, flipping the boards end to end, for every other piece in the panel (this will minimize any wood movement.

Good luck!
If you don't wantvto use a man-made substrate, such as MDF or Baltic Birch ply... Then you need to know your woods. Simply put, wood 'moves' with humidity/temperature fluctuations - which is not good for subwoofer designs.

However, White Oak and Japanese White Oak tend to 'move' the least. They're not as dense as a hard Maple, but I believe, better suited.

Instead of looking for wide pieces for your enclosure sides (panels), you would be better off making your panels like this... Tongue & Groove narrower pieces of stock, flipping pieces end to end ( making sure the end-grain is moving in the opposite direction of adjoining pieces of the panel). This will minimize movement.

The other thing to do for sure, is to finish the inside of the enclosure exactly how you plan on finishing the outside. This will make sure that both sides of the wood react with moisture in the air equally, again minimizing movement. Plus finishing the inside of the cabinet with a varnish or lacquer will make the wood more 'acoustically dense'

Good luck!
Best material IMO- solid surface ie corian, himacs and other cheaper readily available by the sheet versions. All can be seamlessly glued and machined fairly easily and it has the best acoustic properties of any material I know. Its not that expensive nowadays, especially if you buy a non-brand solid surface.
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The problem with any solid wood, even the more stable oaks, is how to join the panels. As much as possible, avoid joining end grain to cross grain. But no matter how you orient the wood, a rectangle will always have 4 such joints. These joints in particular need extra surface area. The time and trouble needed here, along with the high probability that a panel will crack anyway, is the best argument for more homogeneous materials like baltic birch or various fiberboards. If your design allows those end->cross grain joints to float - ie. no glue joint - then you have many fewer worries with the solid wood.

Best of luck,

Frank in Mpls.
Dave, what was that old song by Crosby Stills Nash Young - "Love the one you´re with". What you know works fine for one box can be a pain in the *** for anything just a tad bigger or smaller. Generally these plastic materials are nice for anything with a lot of braces or for subwoofers - large unsupported panels in a box that is to go fullrange...no.
I can't help thinking that there is a reason they make instruments like electric guitars and basses from solid wood and that that reason is exactly the same why they do not make speaker cabs from solid.

Of course and it is very simple. The vibrations of the wood are playing very important and often dominant role in the final sound of the instrument, and that is exactly the oposite from what we are trying to achieve in loudspeaker enclosure, where we want the drivers to be the only sources of sound.
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The trouble with wood is inconsistency, and the bigger the speaker the greater the problems. Birch ply and MDF at least tend to be consistent. They're more inert than live wood. If you want to show off your hand skills, put the effort into precision and veneering.

birch plywood, void free plywood

Baltic birch plywood sounds better to me than MDF and the sawdust is more pleasant to deal with than MDF.
If you make your entire speaker with it you don't have to worry about it cracking later.

Of the 30 or so speaker builders I know, only about 20% use plywood. The rest use MDF.

As francolargo and planet10 have pointed out, solid wood moves. When it was alive, the wood grew along its growth rings and that's the way it wants to grow and contract with humidity and temperature.

You will always be creating stress in a sealed box because you will have 4 joints where you are crossing the grain of the wood.

Butcher block construction would probably be ideal. As the width of a solid piece of wood increases so does the chances of cracking. Glue many 2" wide pieces of wood together and the glue joints in between the wood will give a little bit and reduce the chance of cracks.

One compromise would be to just use solid wood on the front and back of the speaker. If the solid wood is on the outside of veneered plywood it can be used to cover the exposed plywood edges. A little roundover on the edges of the solid wood will look nice.

The only speaker I've built recently out of solid wood was a guitar cabinet which I fully expect will crack at some point. When it does (and it will) I will seal it from behind with wood glue to prevent whistling.

A good job of applying veneer and your speaker will look like it was made of solid wood and not have any of the cracking problems. The best use of effort will be in testing stains, lacquer, shellac on your veneer of choice.
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