Best speaker materials

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Chris_W, Dec 6, 2001.

  1. Chris_W

    Chris_W Extra

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    I'm looking into possibly designing some speakers, and it seems one of the first questions is what drivers to use. At this point my question isn't really what brand or model number, but more of what material... What are the merits of different materials such as paper, kevlar, etc... Also I saw these Audax speakers with a cone made of something they call "HDA", how do those sound. I know I wasn't going to mention brands...[​IMG]
    Back to the question. What materials to you guys feel are the best for speaker drivers and why? I know this is probably a subjective thing, but that's ok. This goes for tweeters and midrange/ bass speakers. So have at it.
    Thanks
     
  2. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Each cone material has it own particular sonic signature. Trying to state which is best is quite problematic, since the answer is highly subjective.

    One criteria used is which material is the most linear (pistonic) in the given operating conditions?

    Cone breakup (meaning that it's no longer linear/pistonic) is one of the bigger problems with cone drivers. So generally speaking the designs that utilize the stiffest materials have the lowest amount of breakup. This usually means a better driver/better sound. Hwever it can introduce a whole set of new issues. Looking at the FR plots of metal cone drivers will show you a example of this.

    Everything is audio is a compromise. So audition and listen for the sound you like best.
     
  3. Chris_W

    Chris_W Extra

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    I guess opinions are really what I was looking for. I know one material won't always be the best. But who likes drivers made with what materials the most. And give reasons why, like maybe for example that one type of material has a bright sound and you like bright sounds. I don't want to start arguments, I just want people's honest opinions on what they like the most. Thanks
     
  4. Rich Kraus

    Rich Kraus Stunt Coordinator

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    my opinon: most of the fancy stuff (b&w's flashy kevlar cones ass an example) is just sales floor fluff.

    i would and did buy woofers/mids made form a treated/impregnated paper based pulp. tweeters with soft (silk) domes.

    having said that, i think that this line of questions is probably not the place to start when wanting to build a set of speakers. have you done this before? do you really understand the variables invloved? if not, than asking which pre engeneered kit might be a better question. there are a lot of great kits out there, in varying stages of completion.
     
  5. Chris_W

    Chris_W Extra

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    I don't claim to be an expert in speaker design. And no, I haven't built my own speakers before. I won't actually be designing or building any speakers for a while (probably not until this summer at the earliest). At this point I am just trying to learn the absolute most I can and this happens to be one thing I haven't learned much about. You guys always seem to try and shut people down who want to design their own speakers. This happens to be an interest of mine and I want to learn about it. I know there are probably plenty of kits around that do a better job than I would ever do my first try, but a lot of the reason I want to do this is to learn something and have fun. Please answer my qusetion without using things such as this kind sucks ass, and its too hard anyway. Thank you for any help.
     
  6. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Chris

    No one's trying to shut anyone down.

    The reason you're being ask about your experience is that usually when some decides to build their own loudspeakers, they have some understanding of the various cone materials.

    Here's what you'll find, poly and coated paper are the least expensive, and most readily available.

    Usually better than poly and paper are fiberglass drivers. These are frequently a nice compromise between price and performance

    Kevlar, Carbon fiber, and the exotic synthetic plastic hybrids are higher up the food chain. IMO both these sound very good. The drivers are just a little on the pricy side though $90-$150 for a 6.5" driver.

    Almost the top atleast according to price are metal cones. Plan on $180+ea for these. Some people swear by, other swear at metal cone drivers. They certainly are not for the novice builder.

    Finally for those with cubic $$$$ there are ceramic drivers. And you know what they say about having to ask about the price....

    You ask about Audax. Well they are sort of the 600lb gorilla of speaker mfgrs. Frequently they invent new cone materials/technologies. These have varying degrees of success and acceptance.

    My personal favorites are the Eton Kevlar Hexcone drivers. Very very light cones, good motor structures, very transparent sound, etc, etc. Lots of people shy away from these because they have spikes in the highest regions of the FR plot. We use a special type of XO alignment, limit the bandwidth of the driver, and as a result the high frequency spikes are no problem.

    The goal of DIY is to have fun and learn something, so go for it. Hope you already have your copy of 'The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook' by Vance Dickason memorized........

    Hasta

    Tomas'
     
  7. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Thomas,

    In the future I plan to design my own speakers and am prepared to slowly assemble the necessary tools to do measurements, etc. Having said that, for those of us that are beginners I think what might be most helpful is knowing what you (and others) consider the best bang for the buck drivers. By bang for the buck, I mean inexpensive as well as being fairly easy to work with from a crossover standpoint. Maybe those two requirements are mutually exclusive. If so, I know you'll say so!

    Brian
     
  8. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Brian
    Frequently I buy closeouts. I've purchased both ScanSpeak and Eton for less than 1/2 their original prices. Look on the sale page at http://www.madisound.com.
    There is a problem buying closeouts. That is, it's impossible to find replacement if you fry a driver. Not that anyone would ever do that [​IMG]
    Anyway, MCM has a nice selection of low buck carbon fiber drivers. I have 4 of the 6.5"s, but haven't gotten around to putting them into a test box. I'm pretty sure that they are going to sound good, and they're priced right. Also MCM frequently has very nice sales on these.
    Call them for a free catalog 1-800-543-4330
    Go to http://www.i-mcm.com enter as a guest, then type these numbers into the product search
    55-1545
    55-1550
    55-1555
    55-2321
     
  9. Chris_W

    Chris_W Extra

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    Thanks Thomas,
    Your advice was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I'm still hoping to get more people's opinions on different materials... Like I said this is more for gaining knowledg than probably anything else.
    I didn't mean to be rude with the comment about shutting people down, I just meant it as an observation that I've noticed often when somebody posts something about designing speakers he is told to that its too hard and he should use a kit. Just an observation and I wasn't trying to call anyone a jerk or anything. This forum has a lot of very knowledgable people and I've learned a great deal of what I know about speakers from this place.
    As for the "Speaker Design Cookbook" should be here for Christmas [​IMG] . So far I read some radio shack book and have learned a lot online.
    Anyway, please keep responding as I haven't really seen much on this topic (If I'm missing something could somebody post a link?)
    Thanks
    Chris
     
  10. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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  11. JohnRG

    JohnRG Auditioning

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    virgin poster here (on this forum)
    I have built a more than a few speakers, and after all is said and done, paper is hard to beat. The fancy materials can have very pronounced breakup modes, requiring higher order crossovers.
    If you want to experiment without a huge cash outlay, build the Adire Pop!
    http://www.adireaudio.com/the_pop!.htm
    This is a small shielded two way which would make a nice pair of surrounds, or the mains and center in a minimalist system. They could also double as high-end computer speakers.
    I have a few projects on my homepage
    www.geocities.com/thespeakerguy/index.html
    Lurk at the message boards of www.madisound.com and www.partsexpress.com, you'll learn alot.
     
  12. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Hi John
    Welcome to HTF.
    How about turning don't the volume on those LARGE FONTS? [​IMG]
     
  13. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    My $.02: (we need a 2 cent smiley, I think)
    The object with cone construction is, you want it to be rigid yet lightweight. So, there are trade offs to be had.
    I like the uniform, matte look of polypropylene drivers, personally. But, polypropylene alone doesn't work well in large (over 8") drivers (I like treated paper there, mostly for the cost [​IMG]). Also, I prefer rubber surrounds to foam. After watching my brother having his B*se 901s refoamed sold me on the durability of rubber.
    MCM is a great place to pick up some great driver deals for tinkering.
    Designing speakers is not too hard. With freeware programs out there like WINISD, all you do is plug in the specs and away you go. Even wiring a simple crossover is not a big deal. If you saw the hack soldering job on my first project, you'd be amazed they even worked at all.
    I find the hardest part about speaker designing is finding accurate driver specs, and the actual construction of the enclosures (all I have is a dull, crooked, circular saw and a cheap black & decker versa-crap jig saw).
     
  14. Greg Monfort

    Greg Monfort Supporting Actor

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    The best point source drivers I've heard over the years have all had light, rigid paper pulp composite diaphragms and doped accordian pleated surrounds/spiders, which damp the edge/diaphragm resonances much better than rubber, foam, etc. (at least the older versions as the testing results I saw are decades old now), and lasts forever (at least compared to human lifespan). My Altec ex-theater woofers are all original except for having the AlNiCo magnets rezapped, still look/sound like new (except for some lint stuck to the gooey surrounds coating), and were manufactured in the early '50s.
    The downside is that the suspension design severely limits Xmax/Xsus, and an underhung motor design (a plus IMO) that limits Xmech, so if they get a spike, it's reconing time to go with that Miller. [​IMG]
    Getting the right blend of pulp (or whatever), edge/apex dip (if used) is more art than science (or at least used to be), with mucho prototypes/testing required for a given application, so don't expect to find any definitive 'cookbooks' published.
    GM
     
  15. Rich Kraus

    Rich Kraus Stunt Coordinator

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    since i think i set ya off [​IMG] i'd better reply again.
    no disrespect was intended, then or now. i just want everyone elst to have the very satisfying and sucessful DIY experiences ive had.
    my problem is, i had/have a limited knowlege on these things (heck, i hardly even know what sounds good....) so rather than re invent the wheel on my first full range speaker project, i chose a kit. now lets not kid ourselves, a kit that requires you to build your own cabinets and crossovers is no quickie, and lacks only the trial and error of "real" speaker design. i feel the learning curve was nearly as strong as starting completly from scratch, but with a more "predictable" result. i think with the vast array of well tested designs/kits available, one should at least examine the options. save a full blown "i designed it myself" project until after you have sucessfully completed a working project and have the confidence to follow through on a fully self designed system.
    best of luck!
     
  16. Chris_Campbell

    Chris_Campbell Stunt Coordinator

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    Unlike some of the others here, I do believe there are distinct advantages to using "exotic" materials such as B&Ws "flashy" kevlar cones. This post is certainly not meant to be confrontational, and while I agree that this style of cone can be flashy, I'm of the opinion that they just sound tighter in their freq bandpass than paper cones. My advice to Chris_W would be to take a listen to some of the different types of drivers at a local audio dealer, and see which ones possess the sonic characteristics you prefer, then go with those. Good luck
     
  17. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    I am not a speaker design expert or even a speaker designer

    at all for that matter. But to me it seems fairly simple.

    A speaker (any speaker) is merly a motor used to move air.

    The more efficiently it can move that air without deflection

    of the driver the better the sound should be.

    I concour with ChrisC fully about the use of "exotic" materials. I prefer alloys over anything else but if I

    couldn't have alloy mids and high range then I would say

    Kevlar and Carbon Fiber would be next on the list.

    Bose uses paper...
     

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