? about drivers, price, and quality

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Shane Morales, Nov 17, 2003.

  1. Shane Morales

    Shane Morales Second Unit

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    I've been looking at the AV1 GR Research speaker kits. Right there on the home page it says they're "audiophile quality loudspeakers". The driver they use sells for $23 by itself. Now, at partsexpress.com they have some drivers that cost like $100 or more, some about $180.

    So I'm wondering how come the GR Research speakers don't use expensive uppity drivers if they're supposed to be really good speakers. Is the price not an indication of quality? Or, inversely, does a low price not necessarily equal an inferior driver? Did they use the M-130 instead of some $100 driver just to keep costs down? Explain please. I am ignorant in the ways of drivers.

    I'm not picking on GR Research here, just using them as an example. I'm gunning to buy some of their stuff in the next couple of months.
     
  2. Brian-K-Owens

    Brian-K-Owens Stunt Coordinator

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    I think in this case, you are getting a great speaker for a great price from someone who is VERY helpful to the DIY community. . . .

    One of the biggest factors in a speaker design is the crossover. $200 worth of drivers with a properly designed crossover can sound much better than $1000 worth of drivers with a poorly designed corssover.

    These are just a couple of reasons I know make a difference. I have never met Danny personally, but talking to him on the phone and talking to friends that have been to his shop, I am sure he could design a nice speaker with just about any driver you put in front of him.

    If you want to spend more money, build the Alpha LS. That is going to be my next speaker. . . .

    Brian
     
  3. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    You have to completely re-adjust your pricing perspective when looking at DIY speakers. $200 worth of drivers can sound absolutely amazing with a VERY well designed x-over. You will also hit the law of diminishing returns a lot earlier than you think. For instance you could hire Danny (or any other of the x-over gurus around) to design a x-over for $1,000 worth of drivers and you will come up with a product with few equals, but it's not going to sound 5x better than the one with $200 worth of drivers.

    Also keep in mind that the cost of the drivers in most speakers systems up to say around $1,000 will probably be less than what the drivers cost for the AV1 (assuming they would price them for retail markets).

    Andrew
     
  4. george king

    george king Supporting Actor

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    I have built 3 of the AV-1s. They sound better than most of the monitors I have heard up to the $2K range (B&W, Rockets, Paradigms, Revel M20s, Kef XQ, etc). They are the real deal.

    That said, Brian hit the nail on the head. When you buy the kit, most of the money is in the crossover. Good or even great drivers with a crappy X-over will sound bad. The sound depends to a large part on the implementation of the drivers in the box, in other words the crossover.

    If you buy the kit, just make sure you get the Sonicaps upgrade. Well worth the money.
     
  5. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    I see what you mean...

    Parts express sold the tag band tweeter that GR-Research used in their kits. They sold it for like $15, while parts express also sells tweeters by Scan speak that go for like $800 a pair. Or the Raven R3 ribon tweeter which goes for an arm and a leg.

    You may have to view it from a DIY point of view though. Commercial speakers have to factor in lots of additional costs and mass production which can lower the bang per buck ratio.

    My guess is one difference in DIY drivers is the "tradeoffs" they have. Companies try to make a good driver and try all kinds of materials/technologies and to do so. They also try to be unique and have their driver sound "better" so that they can sell (which also means there are gimmicks out there) [​IMG]. Thus, there are tons of different driver materials and types at every price point (Which is a good thing).

    Now... I am a believer that drivers do tend to get better sounding as the cost goes up. Take the Diluceo speaker as an example which uses expensive drivers and how Danny considers it to be a step above the AV line. From an engineering standpoint, the more expensive drivers tend to have better specifications. This doesn't mean they'll sound better in the end, it just means the driver perhaps has a wider frequency range, or can play louder, or perhaps looks nicer. These specs can make it easier for the designer to work with. It can also mean that the driver has the possibility of sounding better than a lesser expensive component.

    The speaker is a different story. The designer gets to hear all kinds of drivers and hand picks one that suits their design, such as the paper cone M-130 woofer. This woofer is not as stiff as a kevlar or carbon fiber woofer and definitely has a different type of sound. (I'd describe the sound of paper cones to be a little more smooth). But to some people, paper sounds natural and great so they choose that driver which just so happens is a cheap material. *SCORE.. cheap material, good sound.

    Stamp "Audiophile" on it because it sounds good. [​IMG]

    So I wouldn't complain that a speaker that everyone raves about is cheap. I'd leap on the bandwagon and pay less because once somebody develops a taste for the expensive stuff they may get addicted which isn't pretty.
     
  6. Mike SJ

    Mike SJ Supporting Actor

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    Shane, Im sure GR would design a crossover network for you if you picked out the "expensive uppity drivers" for a descent fee. As stated above, the crossover is definately the most overlooked piece of equip within speakers. yes you can slap together one real fast but those at GR and other small but very dedicated speaker companies will engineer them so they make the speakers perform better.
    for example, lets say GR had used very expensive drivers for their kits and then spent time & effort designing the xover, the kits would be very expensive because of the original increase in driver price but they may not sound much better than the ones they offer now.
     
  7. Brian-K-Owens

    Brian-K-Owens Stunt Coordinator

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  8. TimForman

    TimForman Supporting Actor

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    Occasionally what will drive the price up on drivers are the small tuning adustments that can only be done by hand. When you can get a machine to punch out 1000's of units without much hands-on QA the price drops quickly. In the case of some Seas or Scan-Speak drivers, for example, technicians are required to hand dope the cone at specific points. Something a machine may not be able to do accurately or for a limited production run.
     
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  10. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    Shane,

    Some of the more expensive drivers are definitely better. I have really limited experience but in general quality drivers just sound clearer (their tone is left up to the designer). The problem is that those drivers and the more complex crossovers they might require, cost a lot of money.

    I think it's much more interesting though, for a designer like Danny Richie to get as much performance as he possibly can, from his own value priced components, like $150 in components for a pair. I listened to the A/V-2 recently and it seemed to have a generally similar level of quality to my own Kit281s which have more expensive woofers. There are tradeoffs though, the A/V-2 (using M-130 midwoofers) had a really clear midrange but seemed to have trouble with bass, they are not exactly "rockable." If the current A/V-1s are similar to those, I would make sure to highpass them, then I bet they will sound wonderful. Don't worry about the cost of the components; I always wonder how good the drivers in those popular $2k speakers really are...
     
  11. Danny Richie

    Danny Richie Stunt Coordinator

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    Really good question Shane.

    I have worked with some of the best drivers available.

    Scan Speak, PHL, Focal: http://www.speakercity.com/GRProject...vProject.shtml

    Eton, Aurum Cantus G-2: http://www.gr-research.com/lucidity/diluceo.htm

    I have been a distributor for Focal, PHL, Cabasse, etc, and currently Bohlender Graebener. I have had custom drivers made by Eton recently too. I also have companies send me sample drivers on a regular basis just to try.

    Lots of things effect the final price, but price does not always equal performance.

    Yes, we have our own drivers made for us and we resale them at a price much lower than the price of comparable drivers. Don't let the price fool you.

    Here is a good example of some of what makes a driver cost what it does.

    I used to sell Focal drivers. Take a woofer... The 5K4211 (I'll use it as an example since it is discontinued) sold for $76.80.

    It was a five inch woofer, one of their better sounding ones. Semi exponential PolyKevlar cone, cast frame, etc.

    My cost $48.00. I can't buy from Focal though. They won't sell direct. I have to buy from the sole importer to the US. They make a profit margin on it to.

    Plus, the importer pays 5% duty because it comes in from France.

    They are proud of their labor and efforts over there and labor cost is as high as it is here.

    They also have to cover the cost of advertising, promotion, individual boxes printed fancy, etc.

    Plus shipping cost, brokerage, etc

    Actual cost to produce is much cheaper than you think. Too many people had to make their cut in it all along the way.

    Now look at our M-130 five inch woofer.

    We choose a treated paper cone for several reasons. A more natural sound is the big reason. Paper has a high dampening quality to it that minimizes high frequency break-up too. Our M-130 plays smoothly to nearly 10kHz.

    The smooth roll off also means fewer parts in the network since higher order networks are not needed.

    It also uses a curvilinear shaped cone.

    Not only does the treated paper sound better it is a lot less expensive than Kevlar, less than 1/3 to 1/4 the price. We had samples made of our same woofer with Kevlar cones. The paper won hands down.

    Oh, yea. The paper cone is a little bit lighter too. Less mass to move - less motor structure. Less motor structure (magnet size) - less money.

    They have all the other niceties too. Kapton former, vented voice coil, vented pole piece, bumped back plate, etc.

    The frame is an injection molded polymer. It has advantages over a cast frame in that it does not transmit resonances into the front baffle like a metal frame will.

    It's really strong to. I once watched a 260 pound man jump up and down on one of the frames with both feet and it didn't break it or bend it.

    It surface mounts, looking good, making mounting easy (no counter sinking!) and no thinning of the front baffle material to counter sink it. This means baffles don't need to be as thick.

    Another good thing about that frame is that it is less than half the cost of cast metal ones. :)

    Our woofers are also made in India.

    Labor cost is low and there is no import duty on items coming from India (saving another 5%). Quality control and consistency is great too. Easily as good and often better than some of the European made drivers.

    What really makes a big difference is simply ordering sufficient quantity to get a good price form our manufacturer. We generally order 1000 units at a time.

    No middlemen either.

    And lastly we add a nominal and very modest profit margin, so the customer in the end really wins.

    Sometimes the hard part is convincing the public that higher price does not mean higher performance.

    But then there are guys here like Chris and George that actually try some of our kits and are excited to tell others how they compare to brand XYZ that cost many times more.

    This goes a long way. Thanks guys.

    I hope you all enjoyed my little rant.
     
  12. Shane Morales

    Shane Morales Second Unit

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    Thanks for taking the time to explain this to me.
     
  13. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    I enjoyed it alright! Now, Shane, why not get those A/V-1s working. [​IMG] (I'm actually curious how the new tweeter sounds, myself.)
     
  14. george king

    george king Supporting Actor

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    Shane,

    Yeah go for it, cause I would like to know about the new tweeter too. I have 3 av-1s, and will have to fill out the system. Either with the 1s or maybe a pair of the 3s.
     
  15. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    I built a pair with the GR-T2 tweeters, and I must admit they look a lot nicer. I just couldn't hear anything to justify upgrading the old GR-T1 tweeters I have anytime soon. They may have sounded better, but I don't know if it was just in my head cuz I didn't get to A/B them. I'm at the point that I'm satisified enough with my AV-3s that I can't justify paying more to change them.

    My friend is planning on building the TL Thor speaker. I can't wait to hear the Seas Excel Drivers in an MTM format. Those drivers are pretty nice! albeit pricey. Linkwitzlabs also uses Seas Excel so they must have something good going on. [​IMG] Magnesium and Golden/copper aesthetics being one of them.
     

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