DIY To The Max

Would you suppose that the speaker shown in this photo is some new commercial speaker selling for six figures?

Actually, it was built from the ground up—cabinet, electronics, everything—by an audiophile in the UK, who is obviously a skilled cabinetmaker as well. He built the pair of speakers shown here with only commonly used hand and power tools; no CNC machine was used. (CNC, or computer numerical control, is computer-controlled cutting, shaping, and routing, and it's the only practical way to make those multi-faceted front panels in commercial quantities.)

I discovered this design accidentally while following a link from a DIY website. The associated thread is nearly 180 pages long! Obviously, I haven't read it all and may never get through it, but the few bits I sampled while scrolling through it to find this and other photos revealed that the speaker is multi-amped with DSP crossovers and room correction. The main speakers and electronics alone appear to have taken over a year to complete.

The speaker is certainly big, but it may be a bit smaller than it looks since the large woofers are only 8-inchers. The drivers are very expensive, premier models—the woofers and midranges from Audio Technology and the ribbon tweeter from RAAL. Each channel includes three cabinets that are modular and stacked together. The builder's plans also include a matching tower subwoofer with four 10-inch drivers plus a center-channel speaker and surrounds, though he apparently never built any of those. In fact, in his closing 2008 comments in the original thread, he said that he was getting out of DIY for a while, and I can certainly see why!

But he recently returned. The new thread shows some of his ideas for similarly ambitious but smaller speakers. He may market them, but on a very small scale under the Adept name. His estimated prices for the smaller designs appear unrealistically low given that they also include DSP processing and power amps for these multi-amped designs! From the computer renderings in this thread, he is also clearly very talented at CAD. Even a rear terminal "photo" is computer rendered.

I've discussed do-it-yourself computer design and building in the past. It's not for the weekend tinkerer, but it's a viable approach if you are prepared to climb a steep learning curve, acquire some measurement and woodworking tools (and skills!), and can accept the risk that, speaker preferences being what they are, the result may not turn out to your satisfaction. But the DIY speaker niche is populated by a wide range of passionate hobbyists.

There is also a vast assortment of online DIY speaker plans and kits, many (but not all!) from individuals as knowledgeable about the art as any designer of commercial speakers. Even if you don't plan on getting into this side of the audio hobby, you can learn a lot about speaker design from many of the sites—though how much you already know will help you weed out the duffers from the pros and near-pros. Sites to visit (some of them international in flavor but all in English) include HT Guide, DIY Audio, Troels Gravesen, Zaph Audio, Linkwitz Lab, Humble Homemade Hi-Fi (check the history link), Madisound, Meniscus Audio, and Parts Express.

MonsterDude's picture

Thats a awsome one, i need to up grade.

juanseva_2's picture

...but until that point it is worth investing in a large sum of money? really worth it? or other types of speakers can approach the performance level that can have this wonderful piece of engineering?
I think it also depends on amplification equipment and processing of the first level as well as having well-trained ear to appreciate and enjoy the full audio quality.

K.Reid's picture

A project of this magnitude takes some serious know how. I imagine it could also be cost prohibitive for most people. The real question is does the speaker sound good. Listening to Scott Wilkinson's podcast with John Atkninson really made me think about what an exceptional speaker should sound like.

Another point - many quality companies like Rockport Technologies, B&W, Dynaudio, Adam Audio, Wilson Audio, Magico and YG Acoustics have much more resources at their disposal than the average DIYer.

Pluse most probably engage in sophisticated measuring techniques such as finite element analysis. I would think they all fine tune their products by ear which brings up another question - does the average DIYer have enough listening experience to be able to know if a speaker he/she created is accurately recreating the live performance or recording, whichever camp one falls into.

Also, I would imagine it would be hard for the DIYer to make a cabinet like Magico's or YG Acoustics aluminum constructed cabinets with the same level of precision.

I must say again that that speaker in the photo is very impressive looking.

Perrin1710's picture

Just wanted to let the HT crew know that I really value the inclusion of a great DIY project. There are many enthousiasts in this field and some make awesome setups. I am a tinkerer myself, resorting to DIY for my HT front speakers. It is extremely gratifying to hear your own project sounding as good or better than commercial products. Keep up the good work!

theo's picture

I really miss some of the features that were on the site. It would be nice to see a broader inclusion of stuff.

gmed's picture

for all who do not believe the DIY speakers can match or even outperform commercial speakers, I challenge you to take a look at them yourself. I have been building DIY speakers for more than 10 years. My most recent speakers I build few years ago, were designed in a cad software, cut with CNC router, and built by hand. I used very high grade drivers, made by SEAS which you'll often see in $20-30K speakers. I used baltic birch plywood, stacked on top of each other.

I've seen $10K german speakers that use $10 chinese drivers. So just because they are commercially made and cost a lot of money, does not mean they are quality and sound great.

the performance you can get from DIY speakers, is far greater than comparable priced commercial speakers.

mjaudio's picture

There are many excellent DIY designs and the speakers featured here by Shinobiwan are just about the top of the heap.

Many company's started out DIY, I remember an article about DIY which featured one of the founders of SVS and his DIY cylinder sub.

I mainly build subwoofers my-self but it's not for cost savings, it's only for performance. The last subwoofer I built easily outperformed the JL Audio Fathom F113 I owned which bested the Velodyne HGS-18, Revel Ultima Sub-15, Vandersteen 2Wq, Earthquake Supernova 12 and 15, Dual SVS Ultra's, Triad Platinum 18 and many other high end subs.

I did use an 18" driver in my DIY design which sells for $925 so I am not saying that any cerwin vega 15" you have lying around your garage will outperform a Wilson XS. I am just saying the sub I built would retail for about $6K to $8K easily. I am able to spend the time and not have to cut corner's when I build it my-self, this is the real benefit of DIY when you have the knowledge.

mjaudio's picture

I thought I should add onto the sites already listed a really cool new site from an avid DIY'er. He is providing flat packs so people can build there own diy speaker designs if they don't have the tools to do it themselves. I built a pair of the Anarchy flat pack subs as I wanted to learn about horn loaded subs and the quality is outstanding.

He is just starting out but plans on having a lot of designs available in the coming months.

Just wanted to mention it as the quality and service was excellent especially considering the price.