Value of commercial vs. DIY

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Mark.Louis, Oct 21, 2003.

  1. Mark.Louis

    Mark.Louis Stunt Coordinator

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    Greetings to all - I have been debating for several days whether to just plunk down a few hundred dollars and buy some JBL speakers for a HT set up (50% HT, 50% music), or whether to put money into DIY speakers.

    As someone who is not an audiophile and who has been listening to cheap speakers for quite some time, can someone please le me know whether the extra money and time needed to build DIY speakers are worth the effort?

    Meaning, does a $300+ kit from Adire or GR (excluding enclosure) really sound that much better than a pair of now inexpensive commercial speakers like JBL S38? Would the completed kit speakers be comparable to commercial speakers at 2x or 3x the price?

    If so, then I see the value. If the only value, however, is the pride in doing it yourself, then I may pass since the quality of my work would probably suck anyway.

    thanks for the help.
     
  2. Dustin B

    Dustin B Producer

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    Depends where you buy the commercial speaker. At your typical brick and motar store the intial price will break down something like 50-75% markup for the dealer. Before that markup, 50% would be profit and cost covering for the manufacturer. The small amount left would cover the materials in the commercial speaker. And of the materials the enclosure will typically be more than half the cost (bulk of it being labour to produce the enclosure).

    Now compare that to an online kit. Not sure what their profit margins are, but being internet direct for the most part profit magins will be a lot less than 50%. And the entire amount you are paying is going into the drivers and crossovers.

    I'm sure it's less than this, but lets say 25% profit on the $300 GR-Research AV2. That's $225 for just the drivers and crossover components. Add a decent manufactured enclosure (being real generous here) lets say $200. That brings us to $425. Double that for manufacturer profit and expense covering. That's $850. Then double that again for the dealers markup. That's $1700.

    And from all reports on this and other forums, that's the price bracket where typcialy speakers that can compete with the AV2 start.
     
  3. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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  4. MikePenn

    MikePenn Auditioning

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    Well... as someone who struggled with this question for some time, I'd like to weigh in.

    I'm currently in the process of building a DIY design from speakerbuilder.net (I'm building the PeeCreek).
    For a long time, I struggled with the idea of building a published design/kit vs. just buying some speakers and being done with it.
    The cost savings was something that I thought would entice me, but really I doubt that I'm saving any significant $$. My design has a "estimated cost" of $200 for crossover components and drivers. Unfortunately, when you add in all of the hidden costs (like wire, polyfill, eggcrate to line the cabinet, termninals, etc) its more like $250. Then I'm having the cabinets made for me at a cost of $100 (mdf would have only cost ~$20, but I don't have the tools to make a proper cabinet). Add in the cost of finishing the enclosures, and I'm sure I'll spend close to $400 total.
    There are some very nice commercial speakers available for that money. Will my speakers sound better? Maybe, maybe not. I may never know. But, I get the fun of assembling and finish a set of speakers, which I view as a unique and worthwhile experience.
    My decision was based on my interest in the process, and the pride that comes from being able to use something that I made myself.
    I'll let you know if it was a smart decision when the speakers are done.

    Mike
     
  5. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    I finally moved on from DIY subs to DIY speakers and I don't see myself ever buying a speaker again...well at least not for a long long time. There's a lot of satisfaction to having people ask who made your speakers and you replying that you built them[​IMG] I think that at the lower price points there might be less difference between the comercial units and DIY's as far as over all sound quality goes but even moderatly priced DIY kits will sound very good when done properly. For me I've convinced a friend to build the same speakers I did instead of buying the Totems he was looking at and those were $$$ speakers. Of course mine weren't cheap to build either but for the first time ever I have no desire to change my speakers (and if you knew me that's saying something!)
     
  6. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    andrew, what diy speakers did you biuld?
    and did you get to compare them to the Totems?
     
  7. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Geno

    Andrew built a sealed variant of these

    [​IMG]

    A thread about them is located HERE The project is completely detailed a 3 part article published in the Sept/Oct/Nov issues of AudioXpress
     
  8. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Actually I've since rebuilt one pair of those thomas into a larger ported box as seen here...they're not the greatest pictures though. Looks like I have a lot of web work to do cleaning up that DIY area as its sadly out of date now. And yes I have compared them to the Totems and I prefer mine[​IMG]
     
  9. VinhT

    VinhT Second Unit

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    Mark, you mention that you most likely would not be satisfied with your own work should you attempt to build the speaker enclosures yourself. If that is the case, then the DIY path will save you very little money.

    For instance, say you chose to go with Adire KIT81's all around, five speakers. The parts alone cost $725. Since you will need to hire a third party to build the enclosures, the cost of the finished enclosures will easily exceed $500. Therefore, for a home theater set of "brand name", finished DIY speakers, expect to pay well over a grand. By then, you are no longer comparing speakers in the same price range, and certainly not within the same performance class.
     
  10. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    VinhT's partially correct in that good cabinates can be tricky but all is not lost just let. Take a look at the new cabinates on the PartsExpress site as they're affordable and very well built. They'll increase the cost of any DIY project but not so much so that its a deal breaker...esp if you factor in otherwise having to buy tools.
     
  11. David Gindler

    David Gindler Auditioning

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    I agree with Andrew, if you can't build the cabinet yourself, the Parts Express is a good option. I haven't built speakers yet, as I am moving into this realm also. But, I have put together a center and a sub.

    I got a Shiva and the amp from Adire and got a cabinet from PE. All for around $300. I found no comparison to anything sold at Best Buy or Circuit City. I felt what I built was comparable to something in the $800 to $1000 range.

    I am getting ready to build an Adire kit 281. I feel this kit will sound similar to some PSBs in the 1800 range.

    So bottom line is, start small and work your way up if you catch the bug. I don't think I will buy commerical speakers again either.
     
  12. Kevin Deacon

    Kevin Deacon Second Unit

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    I've built two pairs of the GR Research AV-1's. The crossover components are top of the line. Compare almost any commercial speaker's crossover components to what you can get with DIY and the difference is amazing. Commercial speakers use very cheesy xover parts. Also, try the knuckle test on those JBL's. The cabs are probably 1/2" particle board. Compare that to 3/4" MDF and DIY wins.

    The AV1's IMHO kill anything in the consumer superstores(Best Buy, Circuit City, Ultimate Electronics,etc..) and beat many $3000.00 monitors in the boutique shops. You can get the kit along with oak enclosures for 490.00 for a pair.

    So for 1230.00 you could own 5 high end speakers. All you have to do is assemble the crossover and put the drivers, connectors, xover, port, and stuffing in the pre-built box and voila.

    I have no affiliation with GR Research, just a satisfied customer.
     
  13. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    Kevin, do you use the soniccap upgrade?


    man, I was just living in phoenix for a while, it would have been good to get a test listen on a pair.
     
  14. Kevin Deacon

    Kevin Deacon Second Unit

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    Hey Geno, I built a pair for my Mom and another for a friend and since they don't have higher end electronics feeding the speakers I didn't get the upgrade. I also didn't use the Black Hole lining. I used 3 layers of 30# roofing felt and some fiberfill for stuffing.

    Good luck.
     
  15. TimForman

    TimForman Supporting Actor

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    To me the value of DIY is in the experience and the knowledge gained. The bonus is that you can, with the right drivers and some time, get some serious bang for the buck. If all you want to do is acquire some speakers and then not mess with DIY anymore I can see where one would question whether or not it's worth it.
     
  16. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I started much as david did, bought a sub and amp and a cabinet, my next was a pair of the cheap dayton bookshelves from partsexpress, gave me good xover building experience, then I built an MTM center from speakerpage, but I had them precut the cabinet for some rediculously cheap cost (like 30 or 50 bucks) so all I had to do was assemble the cabinet, build the xover and put it all together, my next project will be a kit with my own cabinets.

    I'm NEVER happy with my workmanship, but that's just me. The speakers sound great and look like a million bucks, I just know every little defect, that's all.

    the PE cabinets have always been too much $ for my tastes. You might look at the www.speakerpage.com floor standers, I think you can get the baffle pre cut pretty cheap, the sides, back, top and bottom should be cake.
     
  17. Mark.Louis

    Mark.Louis Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for all the information. I was wondering if anyone can point me to a link on this forum, or an easy book somewhere, on building a crossover (preferably one that the manufacturer; e.g., Adire, GR Research; has already designed).

    I am pretty handy with wiring and a soldering gun, having put together several electrical guitars over the years, but have never built a crossover. I'd rather not pay a manufacturer $40-50 to do it if I can do it myself. any thoughts on the difficulty of this or references where I can learn?

    mark
     
  18. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    All the major kit sellers provide complete instructions and documentation for making their XOs. It's really dead simple construction, certainly no more complicated than your guitar projects.
     
  19. george king

    george king Supporting Actor

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    Geno,

    I have built 3 of the AV-1s with the Sonicaps upgrade and the BH5. Kevin is not kidding when he said these will beat botique speakers easily up to about $2500. I have expensive taste on a beer budget. I listened to a lot of monitors, before I went the pseudo DIY route (bought the GR kit, and unfinished cabs from Brian - total cost with all the upgrades, maybe $500). The only speakers I liked better were the new Kef Ref 201s which list for about $3.5K, and I listened to most of the audiophile favs, B&W, Dynaudio, Revel, etc.

    They are really smooth, great for both HT and Music, and very forgiving of the electronics.

    Hope this helps.
     
  20. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    george, I am veri interested in the GR speakers and am pretty much sold on 2 av-3's and 3 av-2's but I am still trying to save the $ for the parts and cabs. My car decided to spew oil all over and cost me $2000 [​IMG] hopefully by Christmas, I will have enough. it would be a great Christmas present for myself. [since no one else i know understands why i invest so much into HT but the still come to watch [​IMG]]

    As far as cabs go, I will probably have them made of MDF with rounded corners and a clear finish. nothing fancy.

    just gotta wait...
     

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