Please do not ask what speakers to build.
do not ask the difference in sound from two speakers.
Please do not
ask what amplifiers will suit a given speaker.
I often have the quest
for describing the difference in sound from two speakers. The
thing is that describing sound just doesn't make sense. I might write
a book on both speakers and still you wouldn't have a clue to how they
actually sound. Potent bass is no bass to some people, smooth midrange
may be harsh to others and some may find balanced treble is no treble.
Adding percentages to sound is ludicrous. Is this speaker 90% of that
speaker? It doesn't make sense.
I know that magazines are filled
with sound descriptions and still, you won't know what they sound like
before you have heard it yourself. It's no different than describing
the taste of wines: Subtle, Delicate, Elegant, Crisp, Thin, Finesse,
Bright, Floral, notes of this, notes of that, etc. Rubbish! You
won't know until you've tasted it yourself.
Your room is half the system! What kind of sound you get from a pair
of speakers is highly
dependent on the room, the size, where in that room you place the
speakers, the amount of acoustic absorbent, etc. There's an infinite
number of variables that have an impact on the sound you hear from
your favorite seat. Even from a thorough description of your room I can't tell
a given pair of speakers will perform in that room. Sorry, not
I wish all speakers had
front grills. Immediately when we see something our brain
starts preparing our perception of what we hear. Many people hear with
their eyes rather their ears. If something looks gorgeous it must
sound good as well, and we may even start making excuses for that
speaker if there is something may may not please our ears. I invite
people to hear new speakers and one time I made a speaker with a
grill, it caused confusion, because all of a sudden they had to listen
without knowing what they were listening to. Some people may even find
this uncomfortably because you have to rely on one sense alone,
Being a newbie
in diy-loudspeakers, the #1 question obviously is this: What
am I going to build? What will suit my needs, my system, my room, my
wife, etc. HiFi magazines are full of mails posing the same problem,
because we can't hear them all and in particular when we're dealing
with DIY, it takes a lot of practice to "read" a project and get some
ideas on how it will perform. Actually it may take many, many sheets
of MDF and experience with a huge number of drivers. I could have
bought a pair of extremely expensive speakers for the money I've
invested in speaker drivers - but it wouldn't have been the same fun!
Those of us having made a large number of speakers will know the
excitement of setting up our finished speakers and thinking this is
the best thing since sliced bread. After a couple of months, post
honeymoon, we may start thinking this really wasn't the stroke of
genius we thought it was - and start planning for the next project.
If I had to
help you picking the right speaker for you and your room, I would have to know you
personally, your spouse, your room, your equipment, your musical
taste, how loud you play, etc. And even then
you might think my suggestion wasn't exactly what you had in mind.
And please remember: What I
hear is not what
you will hear - and
describing sound just doesn't make sense. So -
Please do not ask what to build!
And please do not ask
if any speaker driver is value for money or how they compare. A
low-cost, well implemented driver may do just as well as any high-end
driver costing ten times as much. Producing a 6" speaker driver can be
done for less than 10 USD and in many ways do as well as a driver
costing ten times as much. The suggested increase in performance of
high-priced drivers may be well justified from dynamic head-room,
distortion, etc., but to some ears it doesn't matter. As in any
hardware trade we're into the area of diminishing return of our
investment. We may pay dearly for small increments in performance and
whether it is value for money is a futile discussion like the value of
a Rolex watch or Gucci handbag. Beauty and value is in the eye - or
rather brain - of the beholder.
I have quite a few
questions regarding the amplifiers, turntables + cartridges,
CD-players, DAC, etc., I use, and only thing I can say is that what I
have suit my needs. Whether this will be good for you, I can't tell.
Generally tube amps are more fuzzy compared to solid state with regard
to hum and noise, and I take no responsibility whatsoever for your
purchase or build. I have to add that with the EAR Yoshino gear I have
never had any trouble with noise or hum. Tim knew what he was
Thousands of commercial
speakers have been made over the last few decades and they
may vary from tiny 2-litre shoe boxes to humongous monsters of 150-300 litres, and the sound coming from these speakers can be like night and
day and we may favour one particular brand of speakers or speakers
with polyprop cones and softdomes - or hard cones and tizzy
tweeters, or we just love 15" bass drivers with huge midrange horns
delivering PA transient response.
We may have read a lot on
speaker design and some writers are better than others and we may
think this guy's got it right and when we know what we're listening
to, we may also like this particular speaker better because we
have learned it is right. I'd say knowledge is a serious
hindrance for objective evaluation. If we had to pick our speaker from
behind a black curtain we might pick something we seriously never
would have done if we knew what it was. That said, a lot speakers are
bought based on looks rather than sound and because it looks good, we
may also seriously argue the sound is good. It just must
when it's so damn good looking. We know that magazine reviews are not
objective in any way, because reviewers rely on adds and sometimes
items are actually given to the reviewer as a payment for
the review. Pure business and backslappers. The best you can do is attending hifi shows
and hear a lot of different brands and make up your mind on size,
Please do not ask what to build, which speaker sounds the best
and what is the difference in sound between two speakers. Thanks!
consider size, cost, complexity and your current skills in loudspeaker
building before engaging.
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This may seem an odd
place to start, but nevertheless: You must have an idea about what
size speaker you're aiming at. What is the size of your room and do
you have a wife who thinks loudspeakers are ugly and should be stuck
away on shelves in upper corners of your living room? You need to
address these issues first. No point in dreaming about a 100 liter
floor-standers if it means divorce.
What I have experienced
from mails coming in is that people may have chosen a (small)
low-efficiency speaker and "compensated" by buying a powerful amp, and
they find out the speaker really can't play that loud all the same...It doesn't work that way. We must look at
the size of the main driver, and if we're dealing with 55-75 square
centimeters of membrane area (4" drivers) it simply cannot move a lot
of air. You may have heard a speaker with a 10-12" bass driver and
we're talking 300-500 cm^2 membrane area. Up to ten times more
radiating area compared to a small mini-mini!
Even a 6"
driver, typically making some 130-155 cm^2, won't move a lot of air in
a vented or closed enclosure. A high-efficiency 6" in a huge
rear-loaded horn may be another story, but few people build these
Generally people have too high expectations from their diy
projects and buying high-quality small drivers won't compensate for
the lack of radiating area. So, size matters!
Whenever you fall in love with a
design, make a mock-up from cardboard and tape to see how it fits into
your room. Here from someone making the Ellam FLEX 3W in cardboard next to a 6+1 stand-mount.
Very good idea!
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Take a deep look into your pockets and decide what amount of money you
want to spend on your speaker adventure. Be prepared it will cost more
than you think when you scan driver specs and think: Well, a pair of
drivers - can't be that serious. You need at lot of components before
the project is completed and you may even have to buy additional tools
to finish your cabs.
So, is it going to be 500, 1,000, 2,000 or
4,000 EUR?? For 2000 EUR you can build a pair of speakers that will
compete with some serious high-end commercial speakers at 5-10 times
the building cost - that is - if you choose the right combination of
drivers and have someone design a proper crossover. Sometimes
commercial speakers are priced deliberately high, because we may think
that a cheaper product may not be as good as an expensive one.
Bear in mind also that diy speakers will never have the re-sale value
of some well-known commercial speakers. I've seen used ProAc Response
2.5 speakers sold for horrific prices, alone due to the ProAc badge.
Speakers are also a show-off thing, something people may want to
own to impress friends - like cars or whatever paraphernalia we buy to
create attention. B&O score high here in Denmark for show-off. People
may think you're filthy rich (and well, you have to be well off to buy
serious B&O stuff!) if you own a whole bunch of B&O gear, where
"hardcore" hifi gear like huge horn, fancy turntables and glowing
valves may only produce sympathy for the poor spouse having to live
with these ugly monsters.
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have very different expectations when it comes to overall bass
performance. We may all be acquainted with earthquake subs at hifi
shows and would like our home speakers to shake our guts as well, but
we won't experience anything alike from a modest 22 liter/6" woofer
floorstander. I can't be done.
To clarify your requirements on bass
extension, visit a hifi store and listen to a range of speakers based
on 4", 5", 6", 2 x 6" and bigger bass drivers if available and try to
imagine how this will perform in your own listening environment.
You may think that in order to produce decent bass, you need speakers
with a linear response down to 30 Hz. Now, 30 Hz would be nice - if
the room allows - but I wish it was possible to demonstrate to all
first-time diy'ers what it sounds like when we compare a 6" bass
driver with -3dB @ 30 Hz to a 12" bass driver with -3 dB @ "only" 50
Hz. Most people would probably agree that bass can mean a lot of
Some useful into here:
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Efficiency as such is more of academic interest.
Efficiency is inversely proportional to the
moving mass - and proportional to the square of the product of cone
area and BL. Please read
Efficiency is usually
expressed as dB/1 meter/1 watt.
Loudspeaker manufacturers usually
claim a given sensitivity for 2.8V input measured at 1 meter distance.
And be prepared, many manufacturers claim some 3 dB more than what it
really is. Read John Atkinson's measurements in Stereophile.
people think a 4 Ohm speaker is better than an 8 Ohm speaker because
it will play louder for the same volume setting on your amplifier.
Well, it only plays louder because it draws more current from your
amplifier. If we look at the watts going to your speaker it may not
look that favourable.
Read some background info here on speaker
Efficiency: My favourite subject, but I won't get into details here,
but refer to my pages on high-efficiency speakers listed here:
Speakers intro, discussion.