Going from 0 to 5.1... on a budget

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by James Hearn, Dec 1, 2002.

  1. James Hearn

    James Hearn Auditioning

    Nov 24, 2002
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    Hi, I've been lurking here for a couple of weeks now, and think I've finally done enough reading to pose some intelligent questions.

    I've been looking to upgrade my stereo system in the living room to a 5.1 system. However, since I'm on a fairly tight speaker budget (say $800) I thought I might try my hand at building speakers from a kit.

    I have access to my dad's woodworking equipment, which consists of a table saw, a scroll saw, a belt saw, a router, a drill press, and various other tools. I imagine I have most of the tools I would need.

    What kits should I look into in this price range? Or should I be looking at buying a commercially manufactured set of speakers instead? How long does it take to build a kit set like this? I'm thinking about trying to do this over winter break between semesters. Realistically that gives me about 3 weeks to get the brunt of the construction done.

    Right now I'm using a pair of Cerwin-Vega 3-ways bought at Radio Shack in 1986. I've also got a pair of Realistic speakers bought in 1976 gathering dust in the basement. They work, I just don't have a use for them at the moment. Is it possible to get some more mileage out of these speakers? The Cerwin-Vegas in particular sound pretty bad. Incredibly dull and lifeless. (this is the "get new reciever and limp along with current speakers" option.)

    The room I'm trying to fill with sound is 11' by 16', and is divided from the adjoining kitchen (11' x 12') only by a 3' high dividing wall. That makes the space 11' x 28' total, as far as sound is concerned. (I think. I'm not sure what that dividing wall does accoustically) Not a large room, but I will likely be moving in the future into a larger space. Speakers that could easily make that transition are a plus.

    Also, there is an unfinished basement directly below the room in question. Would it be reasonable to mount sub drivers in an infinite baffle configuration in the basement? Would that be easier than building a sub cabinet? What advantages would it provide? I should mention that the powers-that-be have a severe dislike of boomy bass. That will probably affect my choice of subs.

    I think that's all of the issues I've been kicking around in my head. If I've missed anything, please feel free to ask for clarification.

    Many thanks in advance for your advice.
  2. Dan Hine

    Dan Hine Screenwriter

    Oct 3, 2000
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    I'm about to hit the sack but (lol, sacbut...sorry, trombone joke) wanted to give you a link first. Check out Sound Clearing House. I got to listen to a pair of their bookshelf speakers and was quite impressed with the sound. There are a few other speakers I'll suggest sometime tomorrow (unless someone beats me to it) but I'll have to find the links again.
    With the tools you have I don't think the actual building process will take you too long depending on how fancy you want to get (recessed drivers and the like). For many, the time is in the finish. But that will of course depend on how you choose to finish them. I don't think banging out a 5.1 system is unreasonable over winter break if you go with a kit design (highly recommended). But don't put any unnecessary pressure on yourself. Take your time and do it right. If it takes longer, so be it.
    Dan Hine
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    If you want to forego the cabinet building process, there's a decent kit from Parts Express, the Dayton BR-1, which includes everything you need to put together 2 speakers for $140/pair. 3 sets would set you back $420, and that leaves $380 for a driver and plate amp, and enclosure. It could be done on a $800 budget.

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