In the past couple of posts, we’ve talked about speaker cabinet design, vented vs. sealed, and its impact on the sound derived from those speakers. There’s another aspect of cabinet design and in many cases it is considered equally important. Audio loudspeakers, whether in the living room or a dedicated music room, are furniture. They must fit with a style and décor and they must maintain a look that, hopefully, adds to a room rather than detracts from it.
Driving that point home, there are some speaker companies that specialize in exotic, expensive or novelty cabinetry. In fact, there are speakers on the market where more thought, money, and research has gone into the cosmetics than into the acoustics. I knew of one enthusiast whose bedroom night tables were a pair of marble-topped speakers. No wires – not because of advanced technology, but because the speakers were not connected to anything at all – they just looked cool.
Speakers often get evaluated by eyes as well as ears. If you are proud of your audio system and enjoy playing it for guests, it’s important to recognize that many people judge the sound quality of speakers by their looks (the species of veneer has no effect on the sonic qualities of the speaker). Even if you understand that it’s the sound that counts – maintaining the cosmetics of your music-making furniture is as important a chore as vacuuming the rug or dusting and polishing the other furniture in the room.
Like many quality loudspeakers today, most Ohm speakers have cabinets made with real wood veneer as the visible finish. We are often asked how to, ”… keep them looking as-good-as-new?”
For many years, our speakers had an oil finish. Since the cardboard of the shipping cartons absorbed oil from the wood wherever the two were in contact, we included Lemon-Grass Oil for applying as soon as the speakers came out of the carton. About fifteen years ago, we switched to a wipe-on, poly-gel finish that does not suffer from this leaching during shipment. Dusting the current speakers with a soft, lint-free cloth will maintain their finish.. Still, there are 200,000+ Ohm speakers in the world with the original oil finish plus many from other manufacturers. Also, there are a few lacquer-finished and vinyl-wrapped Ohm cabinets – do not use the following technique on them.
Since many manufacturers in addition to Ohm are using veneer, it is likely that our experience can be more generally applied. However, you should check with the manufacturer, if possible, before applying anything to your speaker cabinets. If that’s not possible and you still want to restore/maintain the finish, run a test of the procedure on a small, hard-to-see area like the bottom.
Here’s what our experience shows works best and the materials you’ll need:
- Scott’s Liquid Gold © furniture polish (not in a spray can)
- 3M brand of Scotch-Britetm scouring pads (the finer grained are better; but even the aggressive ones for outdoor grills work) Don’t use sandpaper as you are likely to sand through the thin layer of real wood veneer. We recommend cutting the pads into strips about two inches wide.
- Lint-free cloth wipes and rubber or plastic gloves to protect your hands.
All these materials are generally available at hardware stores.
Using a strip of pad, apply a liberal amount of Liquid Gold © to the veneered surface. Wipe only in the direction of the wood grain. Allow the Liquid Gold © to penetrate for an hour (or day). Wipe off excess with a fresh pad (again, wiping only in the direction of the grain) and then with a lint-free cloth.
Allow a week — to a couple months — and repeat the process. The Scotch-Britetm scouring pads used with the Liquid Gold © this way will clean the wood (often removing stains) and take the “fuzzes” off the edges of the veneer where the grin has raised and become rough as well as renewing the oiled finish. You add a deep, rich glow to the natural beauty of real wood.
If you repeat this renewal process every few years, you can just dust with a lint-free wipe slightly moistened with Liquid Gold © between renewals. Your speakers can look better-than-new for years and years. Do they sound better to you? They may very well… At the very least, they will give you greater pleasure!
Enjoy & Good Listening!
P.S.: In case your Ohms need a bit of sonic refreshing, there are parts, service and/or upgrades for Ohm speakers going back for over forty years at: http://ohmspeaker.com/legacy-products/
John Strohbeen Author
John Strohbeen is the president of Ohm Speakers.