considering DIY speakers

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by JohnVB, Aug 29, 2002.

  1. JohnVB

    JohnVB Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi,

    I'm considering what speakers to get for HT. We're also trying to get our backyard done. The less I spend on HT, the more I can spend on my backyard, which the wife would like for sure.

    It appears that DIY speakers are a lot cheaper. But I'm wondering what skills are needed. I don't have a workshop in the garage or anything, so I would need something fairly prefab.

    Would I need to buy a soldering iron? Last time I used a soldering iron was pretty much in an electronics class in high school.

    Are DIY speakers pretty simple, or should I stick to pre-built ones?

    FYI, I've built a few computers from parts, which is mostly just putting parts together and installing the O/S and drivers.

    - bones
     
  2. Darren_T

    Darren_T Second Unit

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    Howdy Bones,
    I recently built my first set of speakers and sub and they turned out great. Extremely easy. Of course, I'm a woodworker hobbiest so I had all the tools and experience. I don't feel you need any special skills to build speaker boxes well though. Having the woodworking skills for making the MDF is quite an advantage though, but becomes more of a requirement when you do more exotic finishing on the speakers...veneer, hardwoods, different profiles etc. If you leave it MDF and paint it you will find it isn't too difficult. Just some patience and a friend with a tablesaw and a couple other tools is all you need. I built a DIY Tempest Sub and am extremely pleased with the results. It cost 300 bucks for parts, about 350 with the MDF. I decided to finish the sub with solid and veneer cherry wood which brought my total up to about 550. I'll tell you one thing...after getting the sub set up correctly I can state without a doubt that I've never heard any other sub that even comes close to the performance of my Tempest. Granted I haven't heard a ton of subs but I've listened to quite a few.
    Based on my limited exposure to DIY kits, I'd recommend either GR Research or Adire Audio. I've listened to both the AV1+ kits and the Kit 281's. Both of these kits are quite good in my non-expert opinion and for the price they are a steal. I myself can't say that one is better than the other because I don't feel I have the qualifications to make an educated decision on it. More qualified people here have their favorites and will let you know why. That should help. I can tell you that both kits do compare to much more expensive retail brand speakers. People have told me that a comparison to B&W 600 and 800 series, Dynaudio, and others wouldn't be out of line. I tend to agree. I've auditioned Dynaudio, B&W, and Paradigm and find these two kits easily compete with them. The kits have different qualities just like two different brand speakers.
    What do you need to build speaker enclosures?
    My opinion of what is most helpful is a tablesaw of any sort, a router, clamps, a good accurate ruler for measuring squareness etc., and a hand held drill with a steady hand or a drill press. Oh, and yes, in some cases you will need a soldering iron to assemble the crossovers. The router isn't mandatory but makes it much easier to get a clean accurate cutout and is one of the only ways to get a recess for flush mounting drivers etc. It's much easier than it sounds. Simple jigs makes it painless. You can also have a cabinet shop cut the pieces for you or order cabinets with the speakers, there are also people on this forum that will build the enclosures for a fee. I'm sure they'll chime in.
    Here are the websites for the kits I listed.
    www.adireaudio.com
    www.gr-research.com
    Hope this helps, just some advice from a budding audio enthusiast.
    Darren
     
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Feel free to check out my DIY Projects link in my signature below. I've documented the construction process of my entire HT speaker/sub setup.
     
  4. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    John, either I or Brian Bunge could build cabinets for you if you don't have any tools. We could do anywhere from bare MDF which you could paint, laminate or veneer or we could laminate or veneer the cabinets. With veneer, we could stain/finish it or you could. Best priced kits I've ever seen and a great value are SCH kits: http://www.speakerpage.com You can buy the cabinet parts from them also, so you'd only need to be able to glue and clamp. Both models of the SCH bookshelf size kits come with preassembled crossovers, so you wouldn't need a soldering iron for them.
    You may be able to afford GR Research or Adire kits, but you need to first set a budget in order to make the other decisions.
     
  5. JohnVB

    JohnVB Stunt Coordinator

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    Darren,
    I've done some workworking in Jr High. I wouldn't say I'm particularly skilled at it. The only power tool I have is a cordless drill. I think the cost of getting tools to build a speaker cabinet would offset the cost savings of building my own speakers.
    Hank,
    You would build speaker cabinets for me? That's a very generous offer. I'm sure if I go this route, I could make it worth your while.
    I'm looking at getting stands or tower speakers for the fronts that can be loaded with sand. This will stablize the speakers, making them less likely to tople on our kids.
    As for budget, well, I was considering shelling out $1000 for a pair of MonitorAudio Silver 9i's for the fronts. It looks to me like I could get the L/R/C and a sub for $1000 with DIY speakers.
    So if you make the cabinets and I get the kit with preassembled cross-overs, Then basically I would just glue stuff together?
    If you make cabinets for me, how does that work? It's an interesting idea to get speaker cabinets specifically for our needs. (I accidentally told my wife that they had cone shaped subs when I meant cylindrical. Now she wants a conical shaped sub [​IMG] )
    - bones
     
  6. Darren_T

    Darren_T Second Unit

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    Bones,

    Yup, the tools could offset the savings but if you have a friend with the tools it's a cool gig. Another way to look at it is if you were going to spend 1000 bucks on mains, you could buy a router, and a drill press along with the speaker kit for about the same money. This is a good way to get tools and build your own speakers. The only thing left is the tablesaw. If you build your own sub you could buy a contractor tablesaw with the savings!

    Great for procuring tools!

    Darren
     
  7. Daniel T

    Daniel T Stunt Coordinator

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    JohnVB,

    One thing you could do is find a reason to buy several tools to build speakers by saying they are for doing work on something for the backyard. I am about to build some do it yourself speakers and sub but I am redoing my wifes kitchen so I can blame the kitchen for having to buy the tools. I had to redo the kitchen anyway so now I can build the speakers I want.

    Daniel T
     
  8. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    John, you're getting good advice for rationalizing tool acquisition [​IMG] If you really want to get into DIY (not just for speakers, BTW), then you can buy power tools and learn to use them and reap the rewards of "I did it myself" and money saved for years to come.
    If I or someone else built your cabinets, the would arrive ready for you to install the crossovers and drivers. As I said, they can be raw MDF and you can finish them to your liking, or I could laminte or veneer them. Veneer would be maple, cherry or oak or an exotic if you prefer.
    Now that you have a budget in mind, look at the kits available from SCH, GR Research and Adire, plus others recommended to you.
     
  9. Bryan Michael

    Bryan Michael Supporting Actor

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    i am just begening at bulding speakers and so far i have got a
    tabble saw $99
    power drill cordless $99
    roughter $60
    also have a wet saw
    they are all robie but they work good maybe if i get alot better i will get some better stuff like dewalt or porter cabble but the tiils i have are good for my skill level
     
  10. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    John, for the bookshelf-size SCH speakers, here are my prices:
    Bare MDF cabinets with grills: $90 Each
    Oak veneered cabinets w/grills: $130 Each
    Black dyed oak veneer w/grills: $142.50 Each
    Maple or Cherry veneer w/grills: $150 Each
    For the K05C25 Center Channel:
    Oak veneered with grill: $165
    Maple or Cherry veneer w/grill: $185

    The reasons for the significant difference from the SCH direct prices are that I make ALL the cabinet parts with 3/4" MDF, round over the front vertical edges and for veneer, I finish with your choice of tung oil or high-grade polyurethane.

    Let me know what you think.
     
  11. JohnVB

    JohnVB Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Hank,

    Thanks for the price quotes. I'm not sure what I think yet Your offer is very tempting. If I go with DIY speakers, I'm going on faith from testimonials here that they sound good. On the other hand, if they don't sound good to me, then I haven't sunk that much cash into them, so it's not such a big deal.

    Would you be able to make matching stands for them too?

    What about full towers?

    I'm looking for something I can load with sand (for either the stands or full towers) to help prevent them from being knocked over by my two small kids.

    BTW, (perhaps I should ask this elsewhere) what is the primary difference in sound between full tower speaker cabinets vs bookshelf-sized speaker cabinets on a stand (assuming the same size speaker drivers in each)? Do you tend to get a fuller sound out of a full tower, or is it primarily a difference in style?

    Thanks,

    - bones
     
  12. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    John,
    I'm sure Hank could build matching stands as well. Also, SCH does offer a tower speaker using an 8" woofer and a 1" tweeter. Hank has built the older design with a different tweeter. Since he's built all their kits he could better tell you how they'd sound than me.
    Usually with a tower you get better bass extension but not always. Some people just prefer towers. It's not always a logical preference though.
    BTW, I was in Austin back in July and saw Hank's work first hand. I can tell you for the price that he quoted you there's nothing you'll find that will have the same quality finish and attention to detail. I'd put Hank's rosewood veneered towers right up there with the some of the finest furniture that I've seen.
    Brian
    P.S. Why the hell am I kissin' up to this old man? [​IMG]
     
  13. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Brian, kid, for the last time, as I was telling a 26-year-old babe last evening, I'M NOT OLD! Old is a negative state of mind. Old people don't SCUBA dive in caverns on the Yucatan penninsula or climb the pyramids. Maybe it's my tequila and beer vitamins. You're probably kissin' up out of guilt for calling me old on this and other forums[​IMG]
    John, generalizations aren't very accurate, but generally, tower speakers will have lower bass extension, as Brian mentioned. The SCH towers are a second generation design, with a new tweeter, but with the same nice 8" woofer that the guys at SCH designed. They say they've tweaked the crossover further and that this generation sounds a bit better. I haven't heard the new tower. The boolshelf models are new, with new woofs and tweeets. I just bought a pair of the entry-level model to buld for a neighbor kid who does my lawn. BTW, some people like the precise soundstage of small monitors, but as in other aspects of speaker design/selection, there are tradeoffs. '
    I suggest a planned approach. Visit hi-fi/HT stores and listen to several monitors and towers with well-integrated subwoofers. Pick the type that sounds best to YOU. Or, for minimal monetary risk, buy the complete kit of parts for the K05B50 monitors, including all the pre-cut MDF. Do the same for the K05C25 center channel. If for some reason you're not satisfied with the monitor sound, you're only out that money and can use them for surrounds, or for another room. If they're good for now, you could upgrade to towers or a higher-end design from another company in the future. That's a fairly painless price of entry.
    I could build stands, but for least cost you could build copies of some that people have posted on the forums.
    All the above assumes you're looking for decent sound at the lowest possible cost. Think about it.
     
  14. Hank isn't old. He is very well preserved [​IMG]
     
  15. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Tony, thanks for the politically correct kind words. Quality of preservation has a lot to do with it. Don't buy the stuff in the plastic bottle from the bottom shelf.[​IMG]
     
  16. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Tony,
    Don't you mean embalmed? Seems to have worked well for Keith Richards! [​IMG]
     
  17. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Brian, you just won't let up will you? Careful, or I'll reveal on the net that you are the sole inheritor of the fabulous Bungee Cord family fortune and you'll have new "friends" coming out of the woodwork. [​IMG]
     
  18. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    I can think of worse problems to have!
    Actually, I must say you are pretty damn cool for a guy your age. I really don't think of you as being that old. Sorry, that's the best compliment I can give at the moment.[​IMG] Well that and your speaker cabinets kick ass! BTW, Kay even mentioned how nice they looked! So it's obvious which is the better half in this relationship!
    Brian
     
  19. ChristopherD

    ChristopherD Stunt Coordinator

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    Hank is the coolest guy ever.
    (Yes, I'm starting my DIY next month and need to butter-up the vets before I innundate them with questions.)

    Anyway, I bought a router and now need to pick up a T saw. My budget is $1-$200 at this point. Any suggestions?

    Hank-my wife and I did the cavern diving and Yucatan for our honeymoon...awesome!
     
  20. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Christopher,

    Look at the little "Limited Edition" table saw that Craftsman sells. I think it's between $150-$200. There's also a $99 on sale right now, but the LE one is nicer as you can cut up to 24" wide with it. I've had one for a couple of years and it's nice for a small, inexpensive saw. I was able to build 2 fairly large cabinet subwoofers using it so it's decent quality.

    Brian
     

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