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 balanced treble is no treble to others. 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 two good wines. You
won't know the taste 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.
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 wasn't really 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 4-5 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 may be well justified but to some ears it just 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.
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.
Thousands of commercial
speakers have been made over the last few decades and they
may vary from tiny 2-litre 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 card cones and tizzy ribbon
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 for review are actually given to the reviewer as a payment for
the review. Pure business. The best you can do is attending hifi shows
and hear a lot of different brands and make up your mind on size,
My suggestions below
are only pointing to my own constructions, but these are only a very
few examples found on the web. There may be a lot of other
constructions out there that may suit your needs and money better.
Please do not ask what to build, which speaker sounds the best
and what is the difference in sound between two speakers.
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...
Well, 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!
If it must be really, really small you may take
a look at
or similar designs. A 4 liter "bookshelf", which, by the way, do
better on a pair of solid stands. This is probably as small as it gets
- if size is a no-no and it still has to be decent hifi. You may add a
small 1 cu. f./30 L sub somewhere in the corner to get some deep bass
if need be, but there are limits to how loud a 4" driver will go if
you also think of throwing a Saturday night party. Usually very small
speakers also have very low efficiency, so 30-40 watts may be minimum
and never expect 4" drivers to throw a huge soundstage in a 40 m^2
living room. They can't.
I highly recommend the
Discovery-12, delivering outstanding performance
for the money.
If you have room for a little more, the
may be an option. 7 liter net volume and we get more bass from the 5"
driver compared to the 4" driver. Still you won't get it all from this
speaker unless you invest in - or build - a pair of solid stands and
get it out on the floor. Efficiency is still very low and a decent amp
is required. No rock parties either from this speaker.
If 10 liter
net volume is OK, there are more options like the
Ellam 9800 and
Ellam Discovery 15. The
projects describe a number of speakers in this category where the
CA15RLY provides a lot of good sound for the money. Latest addition in
this range is
SEAS CURV, a very
neutral sounding speaker.
If you want the
best bass possible from a 10 litre speaker I suggest taking a look at
Ellam 9800 or
So, why more bass from this speaker compared to the SEAS-5INCH
speakers? All the SEAS 5-inch speakers have a 75 cm^2 membrane area
and have higher efficiency (except for the W15CY001) compared to the
ScanSpeak's 95 cm^2 membrane area. The price to pay for more bass from
this design is reduced efficiency. Nothing comes for free when we're
dealing with loudspeakers. Remember, when we reduce efficiency by 3
dB, you need twice the amount of power to render the same sound level
- and don't be too sure your drivers like it at all.
So, what's a medium size speaker? Let's say 10-20 litre and either a
stand-mount or a small floor-stander. I have a serious lack of this
size standmounts in my portfolio. Why? I never could figure out why
people would buy a 20 litre stand-mount + a pair of heavy stands - and
occupy the same floor space as a pair of true floor-standers would do.
It must be something visual. Apparently we perceive an e.g. 15 litre
stand-mount as a smaller speaker compared to 25 litre true
floor-stander despite occupying the same space in our living room.
With the floor-stander we may have 10-15 litre more cabinet volume and
for the same money we can significantly increased sensitivity and bass
extension, both things so much needed. Stand-mounts apparently have
higher WAF compared to a similar sized floor-standers. Dealing with
commercial speakers, a given stand-mount may have just the sound you
like - and that's another story. No objections here. If you find
the one-and-only among the huge number of speakers available in
this category, then go for it. The only stand-mount I have in this
range is the
which is a serious investment, I admit, but I don't think you'll be
range provide a more affordable range on constructions and size can be
varied from 13 liter to ~22 liter. And the
is worth a look in this range. Standmount or bookshelf?
addition is the SBAcoustics,
SBA 61-NAC, lots of
see-through for the money - and size.
Usually we're dealing
with a 6-6½-7-8 inch basic driver here and we may even try a 2½-way in
this category depending on bass driver parametres. Quite a range here:
The ScanSpeak drivers will deliver deeper bass compared to
the 18W- SEAS drivers. The SS 18W/8531 driver is bigger and seems
build for bass, where the SEAS drivers may deliver better midrange.
is my favourite despite not delivering the deep bass of the 18W
ScanSpeak drivers, but combined with the excellent SEAS T29 tweeters I
find it more lively and the lack of colouration is almost as good as
the magnesium drivers. A 2½-way SEAS 18WNX001 has been finished:
In the SEAS low-cost section we find the
3-Way Classic mkII and
Poor Man's Strad,
both highly popular according to responses. Both speakers deliver some
90 dB sensitivity and an easy load on valve amps.
2½-way speaker from Peerless drivers and
ScanSpeak Classic 3-Way. I can't recommend this speaker
enough if you're looking for a cost-efficient speaker that delivers a
midrange that compares to speakers 2-3 times its price.
And take a
look at the new (2010)
too if you have a valve amp that loves high impedances - or just want
the magnificent midrange quality of the JA8008 driver. My new
favourite middle-sized two-way.
Icing of the cake is the
AudioTechnology 3-Way Classic,
not cheap, but something special. Latest addition in the range of
3-way classics is the
links to all current 3-way classics:
SEAS 3-Way Classic mkII
ScanSpeak 3-Way Classic
SBAcoustics 3-Way Classic
AudioTechnology 3-Way Classic
Quite a range here too:
Ellam FLEX 3W,
Ekta Grande. We're entering a range of speakers that will deliver a
significant soundstage. The EktaG may deliver the
deepest bass of them all followed by the ATR25 (unfortunately
discontinued). The Ellam FLEX 3W, Acapella NEXT and ATR25 are my favourites
here. Sensitivity of
Ekta Grande is around 90 dB/2.8 volts but like most SS
constructions, it takes a powerful workhorse to deliver its best. The
Acapella NEXT and ATR25 are both speakers that can deliver the
best from only 50 watts. The constructions listed here will set you
back some 1,500-3,000 US $ and don't be stingy on the quality of
crossover components. Use good baked coils and super caps where
needed, in particular for mid and tweeter.
BTW: I have had reports
back on the Ekta Grande saying it's simply too bass-heavy for their
rooms. So don't put the EG into a smallish 12-18 square meter room. It
can (and should) handle a lot more space.
Last, but not least, the
Only thing to say about this speaker is this: Make sure you have good
amps and source players.
If you are looking for a speaker for
corner/near-wall placement, a tube-friendly speaker also, you may take
a look at this:
Latest addition is the
SBAcoustics SBA-10. And not just for the money, one of the best I've
The Jenzen speakers fall into this range
(174 litre brutto) and for the time being
Jenzen SEAS ER
is the economy candidate, but you get an awful lot of speaker for the
is the ER's big brother
and comes at twice the price, but delivers the goodies. The
was a corner stone in the development of the Jenzen speakers,
delivering a level of transparency I hadn't had in my living room
before. If you know the ScanSpeak drivers, you may take a look at
Icing of the cake is the
Jenzen ATS, my current reference speakers.
These most recently supplemented by the
ATS-4, the best speaker
I've made - to my ears!
The ATS4 has recently been
Illuminator-5. ATS4 or
Ill-5? A matter of taste - and money.
Latest addition to this range
Illuminator-4, very much like the Illuminator-5, but
Jensen 1071 (Jensen, not Jenzen)
was made before any of the Jenzen speakers and has been made by quite a few
I've only made the
in this volume range and they are in the high-efficiency category of
speakers (read below). I've never built a conventional
"low-efficiency" speaker this size - and probably never will. Not that
it wouldn't be great fun, but the trouble of getting rid of it again
is enough for not engaging. I have never made any profit from making
finished speakers for sale. A few times I get a price equal to the
cost of the components, but all the working hours I have to let go for
free. The number of good second hand speakers here in Denmark is
humongous and often diy speakers are sold at ridiculously low prices.
I have a lot of requests from people who want to discuss their dream
speaker, double 10" bass drivers, etc., and I've promised to make the
crossover, but when they start realising the amount of work going into
cabinets, overall costs, etc., I usually don't hear any more. Please
think it through before writing.
Take a look at this one:
If you have the room and the patience for proper set-up of
one of these monster panels, take a look at
I dare guarantee the OBL-11 will deliver a live feeling that none of
the other speakers mentioned here will ever do. WAF is low, so take
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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 US $?? For 2000 US $ 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
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Efficiency as such is more of academic interest. Efficiency is usually
expressed as dB/1 meter/1 watt. As speakers' impedance may vary a lot,
sensitivity is what we have to look for, that is:
dB/2.8 volts. For valve amps the impedance profile is of particular
interest as most valve amps do not like impedances below 4 ohms, where
well-designed solid state amps sometimes deliver twice to nominal
power in 4 ohms compared to 8 ohms.
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
efficiency speaker constructions:
Obviously you have to pick a speaker project providing a system
sensitivity that your amplifier can cope with. If you have a fine
little 10 wpc class A amplifier, a 2.5 clone may not be the best
choice, although I've seen exactly this set-up, but this person never
did play very loud.
I see a lot of people building 8 wpc 300B
amplifiers, but apparently they often run these amps on 85-88 dB
speakers! I don't say you can't enjoy the midrange of a 300B amp on
these speakers, but they may never reveal all the qualities of your
modern speakers have very low efficiency compared to the speakers of
the Fifties and Sixties. Low efficiency drivers came around due to the
availability of high-wattage solid state amplifiers and the need for
small speakers providing decent bass extension, e.g. the "acoustic
suspension" (closed box) speakers from Acoustic Research. To do this
we need a membrane with high mass and a magnet with low strength and
to some people this means "modern hifi" = dull and unexciting
reproduction. To others it doesn't matter - and taste cannot be
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