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Painting unfinished speaker cabinet (Ascend CBM-170SE)  

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I have a pair of unfinished Ascend Acoustics CBM-170SE speakers with the intention of finishing them to match the color of my walls. I have painted stuff before but my paint knowledge is pretty thin. The Ascend boxes are unfinished MDF and the surface is not perfectly smooth. Furthermore, the front baffle and rear panel does not fit flush with the four sides. I have the following observations and questions:

1) I will need to smooth out non-flush fitting parts of the cabinet. Is it better to fill or sand? I am thinking I'll need to do both. What do I use to fill in the imperfections? Bondo? Or that wood filler stuff from Home Depot?

2) After the cabinet is perfectly smooth, what kind of a primer/sealer will I need? The cabinet looks to be made from MDF.

3) I am not looking to do a glossy finish, just a satin finish would be great. Is enamel the best paint type for this? I want something that is durable and won't pull off.

4) Should I apply a clearcoat such as polyurethane? I am thinking that an enamel paint won't need a top coat to be durable, but I am not sure.

The walls of my home are painted in Antique White using Duron brand latex paint. I am hoping that Duron can provide me with the same color in any type of paint that I would need.

Here's a picture of a corner of the CMB-170SE speakers showing the kind of imperfection that needs to be corrected before painting:

post #2 of 14
Man...I would have thought Ascend would do a better job than that.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
I am a little confused too. But I did ask for unfinished cabinets so maybe this is what they look like unfinished.

The drivers look great, but the enclosure does look kind of, well, cheap. The lip on the port in the back is a little ragged where it was cut from the parts tree. And the terminal cup philips screw heads looks pretty worn.

It sounds fine though. Maybe I should send Ascend an email to see what they say about the fit and finish of this cabinet.
post #4 of 14
Yeah...how much cheaper was the unfinished vs. black?
post #5 of 14
I am by no means a great carpenter, so I had similar issues in some areas of my cabinet. But I did mine completely with batter powered hand tools... I would have expected better from a manufacturer with the right equipment. That being said, I also painted my sub. I just used vinyl spackling from Home Depot. Wood putty probably would have been stronger, and bondo probably stronger still. But my sub wasn't getting mounted where it will get abused, and spackling dries fast and sands easy, so it wasn't that big of a deal to do several spackle/sand iterations to get a good, flat finish. I just used plain old primer on top of that (a couple of coats, I think), and then paint on top of that. You absolutely can't tell that there were some panel mismatches.
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
I've sent off an email to Ascend. I am going to see what they say. I hope it's just a mistake on their pair. However, if all their unfinished cabinets have similar flaws such as these, then I am going to exchange them for a pair of finished 170SEs. It would be much less work to prepare the surface of finished speakers for painting than to correct the problems on these unfinished cabinets.

To answer Michael83's question, these cost the same as finished 170SEs. The proposed benefit is that they would be easier for the buyer to finish into whatever color/finish. But of course with these imperfections, those benefits evaporated.
post #7 of 14
Lee Lee, Those cabinets look like something I would do.... :eek: :D

Hopefully you will find they were a mistake ...
post #8 of 14
IMO, the unfinished ones should at least cost something like $20 cheaper than the finished..but what do I know.
post #9 of 14
Just to clarify, my hand tools are powered by batteries, not batter. The latter sounds very messy. :o
post #10 of 14
Unfinished means unfinished not paint ready.
My guess is usually people who order the unfinished give it to a woodworker to apply a veneer and they make it purty.

post #11 of 14
MDF edges are so easy to damage. I wonder if this is typical, and just gets covered by the paint. I'm going to really have to look at mine tonight. I haven't noticed anything bad about the finish, but I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could find something.

I used real Bondo my subs to clean up all the edges. Works well, but you end up doing a lot of sanding.
post #12 of 14
I agree with Wild, you'd think that the unfinished cab would be at the very least $20 less....It takes alot of time, and in some cases alot of money to do a good finish on a speaker. Mostly alot of time though.

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
I would like to restate the point that I fully understand that these are unfinished cabinets. However, I expected that "unfinished" merely meant that a finish has not been applied. That is, the cabinets have been prepared up to the point until a finish is applied and all the buyer has to do is apply the finish that he wants. However, in its current state, a lot of work has to be done to the cabinets before a finish can be applied. Certainly the black veneer that Ascend uses cannot be applied to these cabinets.

I think it is perfectly reasonable for Ascend to ask for full price for these unfinished cabinets. It is not their standard cabinet, which they get in large quantities. Unfinished cabinets is an option that they offer to their customers so that they can finish them in something other than black vinyl. Any time you add a "special case" to your product line, you add some complexity to your process which adds cost to handle. So whatever savings Ascend receives from the cabinet supplier (I doubt there are any, but even if...) it is probably offset by these additional costs they incurr just to have the extra process to handle unfinished cabinets.

An update for this situation is that Ascend indicated that these unfinished cabinets are representative with what they should look like. So there is not something uniquely wrong with these cabinets. As such, I indicated that I would like to exchange them for a regular black finished pair, which they were more than happy to oblige. Top notch service as always.

If nothing else, this thread would be good for those who may be looking to buy unfinished Ascend speakers to get an idea of what to expect when they receive their speakers.
post #14 of 14
Thanks for the update Lee. Very well stated.
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