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Most cone speakers require some type of cabinet, or enclosure to optimize their sound quality. The main purpose of a speaker cabinet is to cut down on rear output that creates sound cancellations which can have a detrimental affect on a speaker's performance.
In the audiophile world, there are three basic schools of thought when it comes to speaker cabinets. The first, and most primitive, is the Open Baffle Design. This is simply a speaker mounted to board, in a round cutout. The board or baffle is cut to a particular size to optimize the speaker's performance (many old theater speaker designs used this principal). The second ideas (that gained a foothold in the 1950's) was the use of 'lossy', or resonant cabinets. A lossy speaker cabinet will attenuate rear sound waves, making them less noticeable. The final basic theory is to make the speaker cabinet as non-resonant, or 'dead' as possible. When knocking on the side of this type of speaker cabinet, it should feel, and sound solid and very dull.