In this paper, the vibration and damping of a hollow sandwich box column containing a viscoelastic layer (VEL) or an electrorheological (ER) or magnetorheological (MR) fluid core with a constraining layer are analyzed and a comparison of performance is made. The hollow sandwich box column comprises two skin plates and a VEL/ER/MR fluid core layer. The finite element method is used to study the vibration and damping behaviors of the column. The natural frequencies and modal loss factors are obtained by solving the complex eigenvalue problem. The modal dampings and natural frequencies of the column are calculated for various electric as well as magnetic fields and their performance is compared with that of the viscoelastic core layer for the clamped-free boundary condition. Effects of core thickness, electric voltage and magnetic field on the vibration behavior of the sandwich box column are investigated. © 2008 World Scientific Publishing Company.