Design a $60,000 Speaker - Start here


Hi Everyone,

Just thought for interest I'd talk about one of the most expensive woofers in the 10-12" varieties, the Accuton AS250-88-552 CELL, actually an 11" aluminum honeycomb sandwich construction. Retail price at hobbyist volumes: $1,400, each.

In addition to the exotic material, the suspension and motor assembly are also worthy of note, as they leave a very large amount of unobstructed space directly behind the dome, allowing it to behave most ideally like a piston.

So putting this together into say a modest 3 way with all drivers from the same company and of the same level, I estimate around $6k / pair of speakers for the drivers alone. Add the normal markups, and this is a $60k speaker.

Will it sound any good? I have no idea. I just wanted to share with you all where some of these speakers that cost as much as a luxury sedan get their prices from.  Obviously, my estimates are rough, and go up and down. The point of this is just a general expose.

Best,


E

erik_squires
Erik,

I would say magico speakers falls into this category of speakers and look at their cabinet construction.

Off the charts in the coolness factor,
Sound quality that was only 3% better in some respects than my cheap Tekton DI's but at a cost much higher.
I'm referring to the q3's that I listened to and almost bought.

Just my opinion.
Kenny.
So putting this together into say a modest 3 way with all drivers from the same company and of the same level, I estimate around $6k / pair of speakers for the drivers alone. Add the normal markups, and this is a $60k speaker.
The same driver array like a Monitor Audio PL-500 will make it well over 100k!
ATC drivers have cost that much for years. ATC got started with the Supertramp tours back in the 70’s providing the best woofers available at that time for their live stadium performances.

There is definitely a market for overbuilt drivers just as there is a market for muscle cars or any other extremes required in performance applications.

For those who say it isn’t worth it or it isn’t great value - you are absolutely right - this kind of performance is rarely or hardly necessary in most domestic homes. However, for those passionate about sound quality and ultra low distortion at realistic SPL then these type drivers are the ticket to a whole other level of ultra-high performance.

Oh, I very much doubt the sound quality of your "cheap Tekton DI" woofers will hang together when driven hard in the same way this driver will perform. At moderate levels you could well be right but there is high fidelity and then there is truly HIGH FIDELITY and sometimes the difference can be as little as 3% at moderate levels or an extra 6db to 9db in clean SPL.

A $50 eminence woofer (like in my guitar cabinets and stage monitors) is simply not going to be able to compete with this Accuton at $1400 but for sure the Accuton wont be 28 times better at 28 times the price. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows about these things -diminishing returns....

"Oh, I very much doubt the sound quality of your "cheap Tekton DI" woofers will hang together when driven hard in the same way this driver will perform. At moderate levels you could well be right but there is high fidelity and then there is truly HIGH FIDELITY and sometimes the difference can be as little as 3% at moderate levels or an extra 6db to 9db in clean SPL"


Kenny is the head cheerleader in the Tekton hype on this site,maybe he has a vested interest in the company (so I take his posts with a grain of salt),who knows but most Id say who know anything about drivers certainly wouldn't stand up and shout  for Eminence.

I don’t think Monitor Audio and Accuton are comparable in terms of build cost.

Still, I am a big fan of Monitor Audio, and think that their price point is far too low for the build quality and design.

Making your own drivers is also a great marketing /cost cutting strategy. Since you make them, no one can compare driver costs like you can in say a WIlson or B&O or Sony, or an all Accuton speaker. Focal, B&W and Monitor Audio all take advantage of this somewhat. 

Best,

E
About Tekton - 

I really really wish people would stop attacking them. I think their price point is good and design innovative. I can point to at least one store brand that IMHO sucks, uses cheaper parts than Tekton and is the absolute darling of Stereophile and many here. 

Tekton offers very good price performance with innovative features. They should be evaluated on their merits.

Best,

E
@erik_squires   

+1 yes Tekton is excellent value for its performance and so is my Golf R but my Golf R is not a McLaren P1 and I would not begin to make comparisons of that sort as the Golf R is just not in the same league

Also Making speaker drivers allow you to make the very best - not just a marketing thing.




While I did want to talk about prices of drivers, and how this drives speaker cost (more or less) I think we need to be very careful in ascribing quality or worthiness to a driver based on this alone.

While Accuton has amazing tech, I have never listened to an Accuton speaker I would love to listen to every day, all day. They are NOT my brand. That is a personal / hearing thing. It may also be who is attracted to building them, but every design I have heard is a little too hot for my ears.

You don’t want to be the listener who trains him/her self to listen for expensive. You want to listen for musical and enjoyable for your listening style and environment. Then you can find amazing values. Monitor Audio is one of those brands, but there are others.

Let me talk about a line of tweeters (ring radiators) to give a good example. The Scanspeak R2605 / Peerless XT25. They are not exactly clones but prices are comparable. The SS is slightly better in distortion. At around $40 - $60 each it occupies a price just above "bargain."

You will find this tweeter in designs (some now old) from Polk, YG Acoustics, Krell, Magico, Sonus Faber, and of course my own two free kits. Truth is it is a fantastic tweeter, at this price point. Compare the best Be drivers run around $500 each, with diamond around $1,500 each.

This is definitely a tweeter you could say "Oh, well that’s crap, it cost under $100" or you can shut up and listen.

Shadorne,

Making your own drivers can go either way. Magico's hybrid approach is a very good one I think. They get very good motors from top tier makers, and apply innovative materials. 

For sure, it helps keep you out of the commodity speaker market / mindset of DIYers and audiophiles. 

Best,

E
I wanted to emphasize, this thread was just to talk about one way to get to a $60k price point. Not that it would sound good, of 30X better than a $2k pair of speakers. :) 


missioncoonery,
 
Yes you are correct I'm proud to be the Tekton's #1 cheerleader but with no vested difference.

The difference between me and you,is even though I get out and about and listen to all kinds of top speakers and if I Remember correctly you have never heard any Tekton's.

I have absolutely no need for spl's above 100db peaks at my listening position 10 ft away,I have taken care of my hearing all these yrs and can still hear above 15k.

Remember my budget for speakers could easily be 40k but I hear and see no reason to spend that much.

With all that being said I most definitely take anything you say with a grain of salt as well.

The Vivid speakers that I have heard were harsh from 2k in frequency on up and basically ran me right out of the room.

They do have a really cool style to them though.

Kenny.
Also, sorry should have been more clear:

I've never listened to Tektons. I meant the price/parts ratio is very good.

I'm talking about consumer parts here. JBL/ATC/TAD have what we may consider outrageous priced drivers intended for high power/continuous duty.

Better? I know of at least one mega movie score producer who gave up on his mega speakers because he could only hear them when played loud.

Listening style matters, as does lack of compression in normal use.

Best,


E
@erik_squires     

I don't know about Magico but modifying a mass market driver doesn't sound like engineering but more like tweaking. If a run of special drivers is made for them by the OEM then what happens when they run out - owners are left with no spare parts...no problem on a $500 speaker or $300 lawn mower but not good on something more costly that is meant to last decades.

Vertical integration allows companies to support their products for a lifetime which is a different philosophy and a different target customer. Obviously this  should be important to speaker owners in $10,000+ speaker market as it could be frustrating to find that your beautiful speaker is only good for the landfill after only 5 years and a costly mistake that blew up a couple of drivers....

Vertically integrated companies should have all the tools and equipment in house to make replacement parts long after those who use entirely outsourced manufacturers have long run out of spares. It is a very different philosophy with long term horizons with customers that do not intend to replace their equipment for possibly a lifetime....



Or you could buy some high-quality vintage drivers.  Let's see, a matched pair of Jensen M18 field coil woofers with Western Electric power supplies would be nice, but then that would eat up your entire $60K budget. 
@shadorne

That’s fine, but vertical integration:

- No guarantee of best parts
- No more or less incentive to have spares on hand than driver makers IMHO.

Pros:
- Hides cost and makes comparisons with other makers much harder.
- Increases profit margin for manufacturer.

There are some manufacturers that are vertically integrated I like a lot more than others. As a business owner however, I absolutely would want to be integrated. As a consumer, meh, I am going to build my own anyway. :)

I think that this is very often the goal. If you look at JM Lab / Focal for instance, it started as 3 different companies. A cabinet maker, a driver maker, and a loud speaker manufacturer (either JM Lab or Focal, forgot which was which). All three in close proximity in France. I believe cooperation and alignment allowed this merger to eventually take place.

Their strategist is a brilliant guy who focuses on increasing brand value in the minds of consumers and drives design towards this goal with all his energy, quite successfully.


Best,

E
Oooh, no.

As a manufacturer, I need to sell these speakers for $30k / pair, which means I must spend no more than around $10k to make them, including labor and packaging.

Let’s not even get into top end Copper Foil capacitors!

Of course, my goal is to spend no money at all, and sell you speakers, so I will engage a marketing and sales team to separate the retail price from manufacturing cost as much as possible. That’s where the profit lives.

Best,

E
@erik_squires   

I think we agree. There are advantages and disadvantages to each business model in different industries.

So I think the very issues you raise about performance or the best is a determining factor in choice to go integrated or not. If you can't make a better mouse trap then it makes sense to use the best mouse trap that fits nicely within your design philosophy. 

I strongly suspect that those making certain in house drivers for their speakers are doing so because they can't find a better mouse trap that works well or it is too costly to ask an OEM to make a special run of drivers just for a limited high performance application. OEM are going to chase high volumes with low margins or low volumes with very high margins.....it is just economics.
I wish I knew more about driver manufacturing. I mean, is there a show where I can go and buy a woofer press? :)


Erik
This would be a great MBA program exercise.
Off the top of my head, major cost categories to consider:

R&D (including any licensing fees)
Raw materials (drivers, electronics, cabinetry etc.)
Manufacturing
Warehousing
Distribution
Promotion (advertising, dealer incentives, etc.)
Warranty support
Financing (unless the business owner is independently wealthy, there’s going to be a note to pay off! ;-)

Each of these major categories can be further subdivided and refined.

Ttl. Costs/(1-Target Profit Margin*)=Selling Price

*as decimal per cent
60k??

how much are Sound Labs these days?

or the new Quads?

or Kii??

or cheap out and buy 20.7 Maggies

will a 60k speaker really sound better than the above?  will the result be room dependant?   or are you just trading one distortion for another?

you could buy one of the 4 above and then use the rest to build a facia with a $60,000 sticker on it...
Designing well-braced cabinets that work within the constraints of baffle-step is one thing.  The use of top-notch drivers is another point.  But it has been my personal experience that developing a good crossover is probably 75% of the effort and 90% of the actual time spent developing the system. 

A truly wonderful system capable of a very wide dynamic and frequency response range can be developed using a total of around $1200 of drivers, maybe less.  The crossover components will likely cost around $400 - $600 if simple crossovers are used.  But the crossover MUST take into account all the other facets of the system.  Voicing the speakers and maintaining timing and "pulse coherence" will be the biggest hurdle. 
2  European drivers per aluminum cabinet.  Charge 60k 
The point of my cost breakdown post is to illustrate that hardware is only one cost component going into the price of a speaker. Hardware won’t necessarily be the main determinant or best predictor of final cost or the price performance ratio of the unit.
Of course the cost of a speaker brand is much bigger than the cost to manufacture a single pair of speakers.

That's not what I meant to say. But rather, this is an important calculation that often appears.

The same type of analysis is done for restaurants where the cost per plate is calculated to be x % of the selling price of the dish. For a decent restaurant this is usually expected to be no more than 25-33%, and everyone who uses it accepts it is nothing but a rough estimate.  Mostly what we know is that if you are charging only 2x your food cost, you are usually going to be loosing a significant amount of money.

It is a fair number, but not precise and subject to a number of moderating factors.

Best,

E
There are a lot of great speakers out there . For most people way out of possibilities unless they win the big ones. I gave owned almost every type of driver, and type since the 70s. Lately I  just purchased Martin  logans totally 
Redesigned top  series the 11--A  which has  dual powered drivers per cabinet 
24 bit DSP and room correction.These  Electrostatic speakers are far better then 
Even 5 years ago. Myself being into modding and these have all electronics in their own tray under the bass only 3 capacitors, which I am already looking into 
Upgrading. ML have a 30 degree curve ,making sweet spot very similar yo s conventional speaker . If you have not heard these setup with Anthem room correction then you have not heard them at their best at $10-k  for the least expensive powered model they compete with speakers much more expensive 
And the speed and transparency are very hard to equal. I sold the larger Sonus faber Olympica-3: for these and  they were pretty well respected.  Everyone likes 
Something  different, and or unconventional. Being an Audiophile can be challenging to keep happy.
I never meant this thread to be how to design a "good sounding" speaker by the way. :) Just one that would retail for lots of cash.

Hahahaha. :)

Erik
*L*  I'm already making an 'exotic' Now...

I could sell you a pair for far less than 60K$ happily.  At 60K, I'd be more than ecstatic to give you a lifetime warranty, unless you blow them up on a weekly basis.  Then I might get a little irritated...*L*

At 60K, I'd rather buy a car...or build the house I'm planning now.

Don't laugh.  I Do that sort of thing with remarkable frequency...;) 
Easiest way to sell a $100k speaker is to license the Mercedes Benz logo from Daimler and then mount that on the front in 24k gold!  Or maybe Platinum!
" Easiest way to sell a $100k speaker is to license the Mercedes Benz logo from Daimler and then mount that on the front in 24k gold! Or maybe Platinum! "

That is silly nonsense you do not know what your talking about if you truly believe this why don't you build such a speaker then you will be rich! The truth is that people who can afford such an item are not as stupid as you want to believe it is all part of the confusion and sillyness here about what wealthy people can afford and how that makes some people here very uncomfortable.

I'm with Sal, above, on the Jensen M-18.  You can actually buy new replicas of that monster at G.I.P. Laboratories.  I know of a system that is being designed to use 4 of those drivers, plus G.I.P. 555 midrange drivers, plus the G.I.P. version of the 597 tweeter.  A custom Tungar power supply with hand-wound transformers will power all three field-coil drivers.  I don't know about the crossover.  The midrange horn is a modern-build 15A replica.  Just the drivers and horn are well past $100k in cost. 

On just a price basis, the likes of Accuton sell bargain drivers compared to companies like G.I.P., ALE, Cogent, Goto and Feastrix.

Vandersteen's cost to build the 7 mk 2 (not even including the aluminum woofers or the carbon fiber/balsa wood cones/driver that are built in-house and sent out to make the drivers to spec):  $1,800 for the mid and $2,400 for the mid-bass.  The open back, non reflective construction we are now seeing in drivers are part of what was originally, the patent for Vandersteen drivers. Eric you are quite aware of drivers, but must be unaware of what does and has gone into Vandersteen drivers.  The mid's of the 5A Carbon is the same as what's found in the 7's.  Quite unusual for speaker at this price. Are you only speaking about driver cost and build or also cabinet?  They also have double cabinets and are wrapped in carbon fiber.  Everything in house for total QC.  

Just thought I'd add, lol.  Interesting question though. 
It's a joke guys, I'm just following Erik in the theme of circling the drain. :)
I wish I knew more about driver manufacturing. I mean, is there a show where I can go and buy a woofer press? :)


Erik
The voice coil annual will take you, eventually..to someone or some group that can make that a reality.

Of course, you are talking about a cone press? Which is pretty basic, actually. You can make one yourself, but accurizing it will be your big issue.

Working with paper will be what makes it easier.

You can buy a smaller injection moulding set up and can have the moulds made for experimentation..for probably..under $20k. This is for plastic based cones, obviously. Since they are so thin, you are not restricted (relatively) due to a thing called shot size (volume of plastic per single injection). You could go from 3" to 12" cones on probably the same set-up.

Designing an effective mould and process for such thin materials is your biggest problem. The other way to do it is much like pressing records with lots of excess materials.

A paper cone cheapo set-up would be similar to a casting variant, or similar to a composite layered design/build set up.

A small CNC set up with good Z capacity (XYZ, maybe even rotation) can have you making your moulds for paper and similar materials..in quite a short time. A few dedicated months could get you there.

In the face of such things that require multiple disciplines be mastered and integrated... it is no wonder that machining of cones has taken off, and touted by some as being the best thing around. One can also machine and use that as a core for composite pressing, and so on.

Many possibilities out there that can each be touted in the given sales literature.

We quickly enter the ’different but possibly not better’ area in potentials, as we still don’t have a commonly known and utilized answer to what *exactly* the ear’s part is - in this equation. Lots of things still up in the air.

Which means argument without clear resolution.
@erik_squires

I've had this idea that the struts that go from the front to the back of the woofer need to be machined aluminum, and formed in a sort of airfoil, so as to minimize turbulence. So far I've yet to see any woofer that uses anything like that.

Do you know about MISCO?
@ctsooner

Not sure why you are interjecting Vandersteen and this thread and me personally together. Seems a bit of a word salad. I mean, I'm sure Vandersteen makes fine products, but you seem to be replying to something I don't remember saying. I have no reason to disparage or undermine them.

I don't think my point was that there was just 1 way to do anything. I just think this is an interesting way to look at speaker construction and costs.

Vandersteen should do everything they can to minimize costs while improving quality. In my own field that is how I work. Increasing the COGS for its own sake is a bad way to do business.

Best,


E
It is also very very bad for business if your customers focus on COGS. You want them to focus on value. In that are things bigger than technical performance. Modernity, aesthetics, sound decision making, exclusivity. Lots of reasons to buy a car/speaker/house or eat at a particular restaurant.

I'm not attacking anyone, it just is what it is.

Thanks for the list of driver makers I was not aware of by the way, very cool. :)

Best,


E
@atmasphere

Wut? I missed a few posts that would put your question into context.

E
^^ other than this thread, there is no context and even then not much. I'm a pilot and I think about aerodynamic issues sometimes. Turbulence around the basket of a woofer seems like a thing that if solved, could reduce distortion.

MISCO is a driver manufacturer in Minneapolis that can make a really wide range of drivers. They make custom stuff for some pretty well known high end speaker manufacturers in the US. 
Where I would first start is to look at the market and ask what is this $60k speaker going to offer that other $60k speakers do not? 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

That is called market research. Or you can also appropriately call it a feasibility analysis. I'd assume in this speaker making game that there'd be at least some rudimentary research completed to ascertain if there will be a market. But who knows, there are so many speakers and at all different price ranges.
Don't the Tidal loudspeakers use that driver?  I think they are more than $60k...

http://www.tidal-audio.com/technology-drivers/
Re: Tidal:

They are also using real diamond (not diamond powder) tweeter and midrange. This adds a great deal to the basic part cost.

Now ask me if a diamond midrange and tweeter are better than the best Be or AMT's. Answer is, I have no idea. :) The best AMT and Be tweeters are unbelievably good.

http://www.accuton.com/en/products/speakersystems/diamant-driver/


Best,


E
This brings up another kind of interesting / lopsided issue around audio. The cost of tweeters.

Wilson is one of the few companies that keeps this more or less in balance (again, not promoting, not a fan). The cost of high-end tweeters is kind of astronomical, and lopsided especially when you consider how LITTLE sound actually comes out of a tweeter. A tweeter may cover 3-4 octaves at most, but often commands half or more of the driver cost.

In my own speakers, I ended up spending $500/tweeter but only around $240/mid-woofer.

I think that if you slap Be on any speaker you can increase the value perception and retail price of it, regardless of whether it's any good or not. Same for Daimond, and even AMT.

From what I've seen, Wilson loves bass and he spends his money there, getting progressively less expensive as the frequency range goes up. Not a bad approach really.

In the case of the Tidal diamond and midranges though, that's probably 75% of the driver cost.  Astronomical.
Seems like more should be invested in midranges than tweeters.  In any event, I'd be interested in hearing those Tidal speakers, as website seems to convey that every little thing about them is magic.  (To borrow a turn of phrase....)


@erik_squires


I would agree with Wilson philosophy.

Mid range is most important followed by bass and finally treble.

The fact is that very good tweeters can be made for about $50 and the job they do is fairly easy - so why spend more?

A good mid range and in particular a good bass is where it gets expensive because the diaphragms must move orders of magnitude in greater excursion than a tweeter.

A accurate subwoofer driver is the most expensive to build with high required Xmax, however it barely covers an octave so I would rate the subwoofer last in priority.

My theory is that expensive tweeters are popular with designers because even an expensive tweeter is cheap compared to an expensive woofer and an expensive woofer requires an expensive mid range (to match sensitivity and high SPL capability) but an expensive tweeter can be combined with any old crap and the soeaker marketed as SOTA.
Customers generally find they are fighting to buy gear that  gives them detail, transient, and spacial cues (all born of the same considerations).

Down to the point that some end up with what another may call an 'unlistenable system' due to the spacial cues being where they want them, or expect them to be, but the rest of the package tripped up or exaggerated in an uncomplimentary fashion.

When it comes to the speaker part of the equation...ultimately this may be considered to come from the tweeter and it's integration with the given mid to mid bass driver. And a whole plethora of other aspects are at play.

Getting a tweeter to do it right is no small task, and yes, this is where a decent chunk of money is going to be spent.
Teo:

The other side of the coin is using tweeters that are deliberately ragged. By emphasizing narrow bands, it can seem like you are getting more details. And you are, but at the cost of other bands.

This is a particularly good way to sell a pair of speakers. Compare to a neutral system, you’ll suddenly discover new notes! Well, it’s artificial. << sigh >>

Compare say Magico on one side and Wilson on the other. Magico is bright (to me), but smooth as glass.

But buy what you want. :)

Best,

E
Went through the list of driver manufacturers.....*Yawn*

SOS.....MHO....
Isn't the cost of the drivers only 10-15% of the total parts cost of the speakers and the cost of the cabinets more than half? So its fairly simple to consider a $60K pair of speakers using only $8K worth of drivers.
I have been modifying speaker's for 25 year's,  my next step will be building my own speaker's,  I  do appreciate this thread,  however,  I have been saying for year's that speaker's are the most over priced component in every given system,  next, certainly would be cable's,  How many time's have we all listened to substantially cheaper speaker's outperform costlier speaker's?, This is the reason I never judge anyone's system until I listen to the system,  Believe me,  I have had my fair share of being  laughed at by audiophile's that are ignorant for believing that costlier speaker's are automatically better!, so,  you can understand why I appreciate this thread🥃🍷🍸🍹,, cheers.