Impressions of a DIY speaker (vs S38)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Chris Tsutsui, Sep 22, 2002.

  1. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    The unknown AV3 loudspeaker rises from secrecy to do battle with the closely priced JBL S38. Read on to find out if this kit will live up to the expectation to compete with Paradigm 100s and B&Ws, in which case certain annihilation of the S38s is eminent.
    Hello, In case you don't know me I spend most of my time in the DIY and Speaker forums trying to go as deep in the audiophile rabbit hole as possible. Today I just heard my first hour with my now fully assembled GR-Research AV3s. Soon I'll be doing a more in depth review but for now I'll post my inital impressions and build. The speaker I can direct compare these to is the JBL S38 which I purchased for $245.
    Kit arrived this Friday after ordering them on Monday, shipped UPS. Total came up to $340 + $33 for MDF and fiberfill making a grand total of $373 for the pair. Kit included wire, speaker terminal, spike stands, and not to mention flashy gold emblems, solder and shrink wrap tubing. The wiring diagram was fairly easy to understand though it did take some thinking in assembling the crossover.
    The building instructions were very easy to understand and it only took myself and my friend 8 hours to build two pairs of enclosures. (One pair is for the builder and one for me) We only had the parts for one kit so only one was fully completed. Sometimes I find it hard to believe how fast we work on projects like this, I guess it helps to have a master carpenter as a friend. [​IMG]
    (I took pics of the build process and parts so they'll be added to a page soon enough)
    Well let me start...
    First the vintage equiptment list:
    Stereo Amplifier: Pioneer A-X900 (about 55 watts x 2)
    DVD Player: Sharp DV-710 (can't play CD-Rs and no optical or component video out!)
    Generic 16-18ga radio shack speaker wire
    I know some of you might be asking why does this guy use such horrible equiptment? Well, at least when you listen to them on your equiptment it'll sound better and you don't have to worry about me using $10k equiptment some can't afford. Besides this is my temporary downstairs jig. Tomorrow I will be moving them upstairs to a dedicated HT where they'll be teamed with some decent Rotel separate amplification and full blown acoustic treatments. [​IMG]
    Upon first firing up a random CD I found nearby (Titanic Soundtrack) I noticed an immense warmth in sound during music. Before I concluded that that's how I wanted to describe them I thought about break-in and then began to swap some other CDs such as Andrea Bocelli, Avril Lavine, Diana Krall, Brian Setzer, and some other soundtracks.
    I still concluded my S38s sound not only bright in comparison, but the highs are just plain raspy and artificial. When comparing, the S38s sound grainy, the vocals are coarse and the highs are a lot more fatiguing. It's as if I can listen to the AV-3s at a much louder volume, and longer periods of time than the S38s. My taste for music is that I LOVE warm sounding speakers as long as they stay away from sounding muffled or restricted of highs. Perhaps the highs could be a little more enhanced but then I'd fear it would take away from the immensly euphonic (pleasing) sound.
    The AV3s were remarkable upon my first critical listening session, to describe how it sounded would be like having a huge dampening wall and discrete sounds coming from different locations. The isolation was like adding cubicles around each music source so I could acoustically locate them, and easily focus in and out of them. Rather than having overlapped sounds playing from different locations, the sound was more focused as well as I could differentiate what was an echo (reflected sound) and what was direct. The depth was an immediate improvement since I never heard sounds come from behind the back wall before. However the width of the sound stage seemed the same, and the width of each source was the same. The main difference was the separation.
    The Bass extension is a -3db down point at 40hz while the JBls are posted down to 45hz. To me they both performed very close with regards to bass and I'd highly recommend a separate subwoofer for either. Because the response was so close, it was easy to compare them and notice that they both produced voices/tones the same way, it was just that one was more articulate in doing so. The mid to upper bass was very clean and smooth, much similar to the JBL though the S38s were a tad lumpier/muddier (Barely). It was the upper-mids and highs that had the startling difference.
    After music I fired up Star Wars TPM and Time Machine in 2 channel stereo mode. My first reaction to the AV-3s was that it made the room feel like it was acoustically treated. The sounds were discrete and clearly separated from eachother and I could clearly hear more details and isolation of voices. The left right transfer of sound was seemless just like the S38s though the depth of sounds was better. I played the pod race scene in pitch black so that I could visualize from just the acoustic information. During a couple parts I could easily tell how the pods were moving and where. This could also be done on the S38s but not without some ear discomfort. I could easily "listen" to an entire movie through just these speakers which was only done previously on my Sennheiser headphones. A funny point to mention is during "Time Machine" I wasn't paying attention and the main character said "Hello?". I turned my head and scanned the room because I literally thought somebody was in the room.
    Though I have not directly compared these speakers this is purely by memory of previous auditions: I prefer the sound of the AV-3s over Paradigm Studio 100s, Martin Logan Aeons, Energy Veritas, and Monitor Golds. Keep in mind the current equiptment used for audition of the AV3s are very low end and the room and placement were not exactly ideal. I could easily hear humps/dips in the response but my emphasis wasn't about testing response or noticing slap echoes.
    In conclusion I'll rate them:
    Out of 10 I give the JBL 8 for being the best commercial speaker I've heard for under $250. Their sound is accurate to how I want it to sound with regards to pitch (frequency), but the timbre (quality) could be improved in the upper spectrum. They're great for casual enjoyment or the average enthusiast but I have been aching for something more. It was the day when I just couldn't enjoy music like I used to when I decided to shop for a DIY solution.
    The AV-3 outperforms the JBLs in all aspects, in some ways more than others. I'd give them an initial 9 as I do feel that they arn't significantly better than other $2,000 speakers in the price range. I believe that the highs could be a pinch more live/forward in the AV3s. I'm really impressed with the similarities the AV3s have with quality headphones. Listen to any pair of $100 and up Sennheiser headphone and you'll hear a similar pleasing sound. To me, It is the soundstage and presence that puts the enjoyment of the AV3s over headphones. Like most speakers, it isn't perfect, but it did met all my expectations.
    I would definitly pay an additional $100-200 to upgrade S38s to AV3s. $500 would be pushing it and I'd rather buy the S38s. (However, I still love my JBLs and won't be parting with them anytime soon [surround duty])
    Of course this is my preliminary review as there'll be another when I use the better room/equiptment and can direct ABA test them again with them all broken in. Sorry for being blunt, I have some enjoyment and breaking in to do... Yep, I havn't done any enjoying yet... only critical listening. [​IMG]
    Did you really read all of this? You must be as bored as I am an audiophile. jk
     
  2. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Nice review, but Avril Lavine?

    I am assuming you must be younger than me, because I just have a hard time taking songs like "Sk8r Boi" serious.

    Good read nonetheless.
     
  3. Adam Bluhm

    Adam Bluhm Supporting Actor

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    Not to get off topic, but evidently she writes all (or most) of her songs about guys she's either been with or are friends of hers. I guess the feller that song is about is some kid trying too hard to create an artificial image. [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    In regards to A. Lavigne, I don't like Skater Boy, never did.
    I Listen to tracks 2 (complicated) and I try to isolate the 3 guitars during the intro and I focus on the bass. I play guitar and piano so I like to download music so I can play it myself. Often times when I can play all the parts of a song I begin to love it. I remember not liking John Mayer all that much until I started practicing his difficult tabs. In Avril Lavigne, Track 4 is my favorite as it's pretty toned down and her vocals are nice and clear. I guess I like track 5 because I heard her sing it live and I tend to like bands more when I've heard them sing it differently. 8, and 9 are ok, the rest are average.
    If you havn't checked I'm 20 years old but I still have a wide taste for music. I just have a feeling that now you ppl know my age my review lost most of its credibility. [​IMG]
     
  5. Martice

    Martice Screenwriter

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    Chris I've always enjoyed your past posts. You obviously have good taste in speakers [​IMG] so that's a foot in the right direction. I've read many of your posts and never thought that you were a minor [​IMG] and find most of them informative and insightful. Besides, this is a young hobby technically speaking and it is new ideas that fuel most of the techno wizardry that we love about our processors while viewing movies. The age factor doesn't come into play because experience doesn't always mean expertice. Time does not always mean mastery. What may take me 20 years to master may take you 10 or 5 years.
    Now that I've kissed your a$$ enough, let's talk about you building these cabinets one day huh?
    http://www.angelfire.com/sports/RCcars/archive.htm
    I still like the modified AV1+ floorstanding speaker cabinets in the above link that you were considering earlier and would love to see you post it.
    Not bad for a young whipper snapper eh?
     
  6. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Chris,

    Nice review! I can't wait to hear your impressions with your other system.


    Martice,

    I finally got to hear the A/V-1+'s this weekend! I'm very impressed so far! My dad is completely blown away!

    Brian
     
  7. Martice

    Martice Screenwriter

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    Hurray!! Finally Brian!! Whew! I thought this day would never come. Now that it has finally arrived, let us all sit and sip fine wine and talk about the glorious days gone by and the many to come with such a wonderful speaker.

    Let's talk about the smooth highs and the punchy lows which are constant characteristics when describing these offerings of such musical ability.

    Let us rejoice and become drunk in the soundstage and level of detail that these speakers are capable of when mated with the right gear.

    Ah yes, let us rejoice and sing songs of new beginnings and reflect on past bad purchases which came at much higher prices.

    Let us scream from the mountain top for Brian Bunge has finally heard the legendary GR Research AV1+ speaker.

    Let us sing. Let us dance. Let us be merry and most of all, let us listen.
     
  8. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    These were my dad's three A/V-1+'s. Maybe I'll get mine done before the DIY Atlanta event! [​IMG]
    Brian
     
  9. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    Thanks guys,

    Today I'm driving the speakers to a friends house to demo them for a family. I'll find out how they sound with a marantz receiver in a large vaulted living room

    Yesterday my dad used them to watch the academy awards. It's the first time my dad said he really liked something I built. He didn't really care about the tempest or my JBLs but he loves the AV3s.

    I havn't painted them so i'm gonna put on some primer and then paint. I guess I have to tape the drivers and carefully use a brush to paint them. I used a hot glue gun and zip ties to mount the crossover and every joint is soldered with my 2% racing silver. I decided to use silicone to seal the joints because it was easier. I actually took pictures of the crossover (it ain't that pretty) but I still need some time to put them all on my site.

    Can somebody explain to me how the "eyeball" looking tweeter works? The silk dome doesn't seem to vibrate at all.. is there something on the inside that produces the sound?

    Oh, and do you think I'd be able tell the difference if one of the drivers had switched polartity? I'm pretty sure I wired it all correctly but was worried that I may have done something wrong that I just can't notice. What had me worrying is I was noticing a lot of the drum cymbals sound slightly to the left of the sound stage. (Audiophilia Paranoia perhaps?)
     
  10. Danny Richie

    Danny Richie Stunt Coordinator

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    Glad to hear you are happy and having fun Chris.

    Just thought I would jump in to interject a few things to you in regards to your last post.

    I would recommend removing the drivers to paint the enclosures. Especially around the tweeter. I couldn't image taping it off in a way that would not touch the dome.

    Besides they won't take but a few minutes to de-solder them.

    Oh yea, the solder that was supplied in the kit was SCI's best solder. It's 4% silver.

    Also if you have a heat gun or a really hot hair dryer use the heat shrink to seal the connections. It's easier and less messy than Silicon and the type I send out in the kit is glue lined and will make an air tight seal.

    How the tweeter works could be a long story. In short, there is a voice coil wound around a former that is the same diameter as the "eyeball" diaphragm. It rest within a gap surrounded by a motor structure just like a woofer or any other diaphragm type driver.

    The reason it does not appear to move it because it only covers very short wavelengths. If you were to lightly touch it as it was playing you will be able to feel it vibrating. Of coarse the louder you have it playing the more likely you will feel the movement. If you have to try this for yourself be very careful not to put any real pressure on the dome.

    If you did have the polarity wrong on any of the drivers it will make a noticeable difference, especially if you reversed the polarity of one woofer. Just one more good reason to pull those drivers out when you paint them just to double check eh?

    Keep having fun.
     
  11. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    Thanks dannie, I used the shrink wrap wherever I could, I saw how yours had some type of plastic inner part that melted on the wire. But there were other connections I couldn't use the shrink wrap so I used silicone.
    (I know pics are worth a thousand words)
    I'll take your advice and desolder them when painting. This way I'll be able to sand them a lot better. [​IMG]
    I tried the included solder and it didn't seem to have an rosin core or flux. I used your solder to pre-tin the wires and my 2% solder to connect the joints. If I had known yours was 4% I woulda used it all and bought some flux. [​IMG]
    The speakers sound terrific, I listened again and heard another cymbal slightly to the right of the center sound stage. this leads me to believe that what I'm actually hearing is the width of the drum set. If that's the case, it's a first for me. [​IMG]
    I'm on a demo spree so expect some orders in the next couple of weeks.
     

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