DYI Speakers. How good can they be?

Ive been doing alot of research into DYI audio. About 3-4 months ago i was getting kinda sick of my job and realized i dont want to do telecommunications my whole life. So what do i want to do? I love building things and i love Audio gear.

I recently went out and bought "Loudspeaker Cookbook", and "Designing Building & Testing your own Speaker System". I have recently ordered a book on electrostatic speakers and im looking at the local college for some physics, electronics, and mathematics courses. Im considering learning some metalurgy and taking some welding classes as well. It will be a while untill i can get all the tools i need, untill then i need to sharpen my most important tool for this task, my knowledge of speakers.

There is alot of complex stuff involved in these, but then again, my current job is extremly technical and complex. So i dont have any doubts of my ability to learn this stuff. It looks like ALOT of fun as well.

Im hoping that in 15 years or so i will be able to produce my own line of High-End speakers, but first i would like to complete at least 50 different speaker projects including electrostatic as well.I have been scouring the internet getting as many speaker recipes i can find, and i plan to build a speaker of every plan i can over the next 5 years or so. This will get my hands dirty and heelp me learn alot of the do's and dont's of speaker building before i start to design my own line of speakers.

Every now and then i think about Speakers from companys like Wilson, Vienna Accoustics, and such, and wonder if i could ever build something as refined.

Then i realised everyone who designs these things has to start at SOME point, and every line of speakers out there started as a DYI project.

I hope withint the next 10-15 years have a marketable product of my own design (of course) that will definatly have my personal sonic signature, and be something all of you will enjoy.

That being said, What are your experiences with DYI Audio? Have you ever run across a set of home-built speakers that put a good percentage of high-end speakers to shame? Im not looking for recipes, i'm just curious of anybodys experience with really well done homemade speakers.

I cant think of any job out there more satisfying than one that challenges you to think, requires you to use your hands, and shows significant progress or a finished product at the end of the day.
I listen to my own DIY speakers right now on my present system. I have made my own speakers for most of my life, but have purchased a few commercial pairs too. I've been doing it for about 25 years. I've made 2,3,4,and 5 way speakers, different types of crossovers, cabinet types and tunings, and now I have single drivers in Voigt Pipes. One thing you definitely will learn, is that there is no perfect speaker, and you will learn the art of compromise in design. There are alot of ways to do it, but it does take experience. Good luck.
Voigt Pipes are also on my "Too-do" list.

Yeah, there is definatly alot of truth that there is no perfect speaker. Yet. hehehe

well, im going to build to my own tastes, see where it gets me. The great thing about the internet is all the speaker recipes out there. Lots of stuff to try out, see how it sounds, and hopefully learn to sucessfully integrate the traits that i like all into 1 pair of speakers.

I also have a few wacky ideas of my own i have been stewing over, things that i think might work out very good and solve some of the problems that keep arising. Im no engineer, but ive got a knack for problem solving, and im pretty creative. I havent seen any of these ideas used, but then again, it might be because they failed.

Hey, If nothing else and all of my dreams get squashed, at least i will get out of it with a few good pairs of speakers.
The first thing your need to learn is how to design and implement digital crossovers and parametric EQ's. Soon designers are going to do transducer engineering from the standpoint that minimum distortion and maximum extension, over today's need for highly linear transducers. Check out the designs of Meridian and Infinity thought Meridian is so far ahead of the curve it is not even the same playing field.
Best of luck,
Let me disclose that I'm one of those Magnepan nuts.
That said,I know that Madisound kits are more assembly than do it yourself but the "orignal" odins and the cygnets(sic),the only two pairs of Madisound speakers I've heard, are astonishingly good for the money.
DYI speakers can surpass commercial designs. I'm running a home brew rear loaded horn speaker using a single Lowther driver with supertweeters and a sub (sometimes two subs). These speakers sound better than any commercial speakers that I've had, including Quad ESL63s.

With regard to building speakers for a living.....
Finding a niche won't be easy, as the speaker market is overloaded with inexpensive and excellent designs. However, in the single driver arena there is room for a lower cost alternative to Carfrae, Beauhorn, Lamhorn and Rethm to name a few.

In the area of conventional multi-driver speakers it would take a massive advertising campaign to break into the ranks of B&W, Infinity, and Polk. Or for that matter Sony and Panasonic. As an example/experiment, buy a set of Acoustic Energy 2 speakers (excellent and inexpensive) and see if you can better it for one-fifth of its retail price (which is the standard manufacturing cost and retail price ratio). Take into account the labor it costs to build the cabinet, parts and assembly. Don't forget the little things like the box and packing it comes in. And advertising budget.

Lastly, as an aside (and I do not intend to discourage you), in the commercial speaker market, knowing how to advertise is more important than knowing how to make a great sounding speaker. Just remember: Bose.
They can't be anywhere near as good as DIY speakers.
Ultrakaz, you bring up some very good points, and all of them are discouraging.

I would absolutly love to make loudspeaker construction a living, i cannnot think of anything i would rather do. However, the things you listed above are the reasons i have not quit work and applied for a business grant.

i have a few ideas that i dont think i have ever heard of being tried before, that might give me a little bit of an edge, but it is true, marketing is about the most important aspect when it comes to revenue.

With all the loudspeaker companys and designs, i doubt i will ever see my stuff in best buy, but im not too concerned about it.

There was a time where word of mouth is how things traveled. With the creation of TV and Radio, that word of mouth came to a whole new level.

However, with the internet revolution going on, every now and then you will find yourself a part of a community where word of mouth still has an impact. Right now, audiogon is one of those communitys.

When i start building high quality products of my own design, who knows if audiogon or audio asylum will even be around? But there will be others that will replace it.

If i can make a successful living off of it, it will require a very good product, and alot of "Talk" about it. Even then i doubt i would get rich, but if im gonna set a goal for myself, im going to set it high.

Look at the Wright brothers for instance, bicycle mechanics working off a shoe-string budget while thier biggest rival had an army of engineers and vast amounts of funding. And you see who won.

Its things like that that let me know there is always a possibility, maybe not a big one, but sometimes it just takes common sence, dedication, and a different way of looking at things.

Even if only a few audiophiles buy and enjoy my equipment, then i would know i made something worth having.
Isnt that the piont of making something? :)
It depends on how good you want speaker to sound.
In general, it's a difficult task and requires professional measurements in echo-free place or using electro acoustic devices that can factor-out the room acoustics and show the real characteristics of the final product.

Today's audio acoustics can be divided onto few categories:
someone mentioned mass serial production speakers such as Kef, Bose, Tannoy, B&W, JBL, Polk...etc... that mainly built-up on very cheap drivers. Repeating such speakers will not bring a desirable result since they've been matched to their best at professionally staffed labs; speakers such as Proac, Totem, JM Lab, Gershman, AudioPhysics, Vandersteen...

What we DIY-ers can do in that case? We can spend equal to Kef monitors and get the rich and full sound of a floorstanding speaker but drivers will cost $200 for woofer and $75 for tweater for each speaker instead of $20 and $5 respectively.

What professional builders can do? They also can get high quality drivers and match them up to their very very best in echo-free or suited and staffed lab for speaker building and in this case I guess homebrews will factor out.

To build speakers for living you need to spend arround $6k for software, measurement devices, microphones and microphone amplifiers.
Carefull measurement and matching not only important to adjust crossover(usually used electronic first to bring-up the values of passive elements), reselect drivers, etc... but also important to be on the specification. Homemade DIY speakers are basically the ones that have no precise specification with exception to the specification placed on DIY kit that in reality can alter in sufficiently large decibells. Marketing skills are also a big plus i.e. you should know what is the best marketed specification and how close your specification to marketed:-)
I wish you luck but the Wright Brothers maybe shouldn't be your role model. They may have been first to fly in 1903, but after an initial burst of business success they fell behind and were struggling 8 years later. In 1912, Wilbur Wright, worn out from legal and business problems, contracted typhoid and died. Orville, his heart no longer in the airplane business, sold the Wright Company in 1916 and went back to inventing.
Firstly, I believe DIY speakers can be better then commercial designs. But if you want to make a living out of it, they're not DIY anymore....... at least not to the buyers. Then there's the question of the finish of the design. It's a lot of work to make them as good-looking as professional speakerplants make them, you need to invest in a lot of machinery. And if you'll do it all by hand, and want to make some profit on them, your speakers will be extremely expensive due to the time you spend building them.
Hmmm...... When I started writing I onloy wanted to wish you luck and congratulate you with the courage to do something with your dreams, but that's not what it says now I'm almost done. Maybe, if you done your studies and come up with some good designs, you could join an existing, high-end small-capacity speaker brand? Well, whatever you do, good luck!!
There is a website dedicated to bulding a DIY clone of the Proac Response 2.5 which is a great speaker, and will save a lot of trial and error! The cost of this project is somewhat more expensive than some DIY projects, but well worth the end result, and considerably less than the Proac version. Here is the address: http://www.geocities.com/diyproac25/
Hope this helps and good luck!
It's certainly possible. Some examples:

http://www.magico.net/ - this guy is basically a one-man-band who has taken it to the next (ultimate?) level - he's still on the DIY/BASS speakers list and contributes ideas from time to time. But, he's also doing exotic commissioned speakers for big money. He's done several pairs of very unique speakers - follow through his site to see some of them. The quality of the work surpasses everything I have seen from Wilson, (insert favorite commercial manufacturer here), etc.

http://www.cain-cain.com - Terry Cain & his wife, also a small operation (with a few folks that work for them). He is an accomplished woodworker that has moved into building speakers a few years ago. He's met with commercial success, and most of all his work looks and sounds great, for reasonable money. It fills a niche that is not covered by traditional manufactured speakers.

http://www.electronluv.com/ - while not speakers, Josh has also taken his passion (building tube amps) to a commercial level - his stuff is great, it's not cheap and the wait for it is long, but in the end it's worth it.

Bruce Edgar (Edgarhorns) has also done some great work, as mainly a one-man operation. I think the time is ripe for something similar from other folks (maybe you?) - a compression-driver based 3 way horn system, maybe ? It's a niche without many players.

I'd suggest you would find the best success with something rather exotic, both in design/build and perhaps in appearance, something that no one else is doing or at least not doing well. Go for the small-volume, higher-price market, rather than trying to make and sell 1000 pairs a year. At this level, appearance matters at least as much as sound (not that it should.....)

have fun,
That is a major aspiration. Good luck! Need to pull together acoustical, mechanical and electrical systems. On top of that you'll need to be a great businessman too.

If you have not already looked, there are several folks at the Madisound speaker board who, I believe, have similar aspirations. If you have not checked it out, take a look at a few of them: John K's, Ellis Audio, etc.. They are all a bit ahead of you down the road. Probably learn something from them.


Remember speakers are part of a system and its good to understand the demands they put on the rest of the system.

Good luck Slappy
I remain
Superb and a great value. I have built speakers as kits and from the ground up and have been very satisfied with the results. My current stereo rig uses the SEAS Thor based on a Madisound kit. They cost about $1500 for the pair with preassembled and finished cabinets and easily compare with the mega-buck systems in clarity and refinement. Give it a try!
When I got into this hobby, virtually all speakers were DIY. You bought the drivers of your choice, and used plans put out by the manufacturers to build a cabinet. There were some good cabinet kits. Electrovoice was one that I put my Warfedale 12" driver (with wool flanel surround) in. Complete speaker systems came in with acoustic suspension (AR systems, then KLH, Advent and others). This was because the cabinet was a more critical part of the design.

DIY permits you to use higher quality components for the same money, but it may take careful design and subsequent tweeking to make you speaker sound as good as a finished commercial system that uses lesser components.

I guess this is like building your own airplane. (My other hobby). Most people spend more time building it than flying it. You have to enjoy that aspect of the hobby.
Rkeman...I agree that Madisound Kits are great. I have three Dynaudio Gemini from Madisound, which are very good (for a box). However, I don't consider assembly of a Madisound kit as true DIY.
Thats to everyone for the replies as well as the links, several points have been brought up that i have not considered, but i havent even started this yet, im still educating myself on this for right now. The building will start in about 5-6 months of other peoples designs to get my feet wet in the process.

Once i DO start, i will be sure to post pics and testing data. I will probably also ship out some demo speakers to some individuals on the 'gon if they would be willing to check them out and give a non-biased blunt and true review.

Herman, Sorry, i diddnt get that far on the discovery channels' wright brother special :)

Thats an idea i have been playing around with. If you want a normal looking speaker that sounds good, contact almost any high-end retailer. To find something with an exotic and artistic flair that still sounds great, get ready to pay out some big bucks. Maybe there is something in there, i will just have to see where this takes me.

Just remember, in 10-15 years if you see speakers called "Haunts, spectres, ghosts, etc etc, check for the "Slap" stamp on the bottom. That will mean it is by me!
Hey Slapster- I dunno where you live, but NMSU has a great engineering program that has many scholorship's available through the generosity of Paul W. Klipsch and his widow Valerie (I think the engineering school is named after Paul). I'd bet your aspirations might have some pull there. Worth looking into perhaps if you were really going for the higher education route. Not that I think that is at all necessary. I know too many self-taught geniuses, both creative and technical to ever buy into the necessity of higher education as a means to getting someplace. Besides, once you've got that Nepal apprenticeship under you belt you can bank on being a shoe-in virtually anywhere in the High-end industry. How do you think a certain very distinguished member of our A'gon ranks just got his job? He'll never tell anyone but he spent six years working on perfecting the proper mixture of natural oils for the Perch project that you will be spearheading!

Seriously, cool beans on following your passions and pursuing your dreams. I'll be looking forward to following your progress here. Hey, if you haven't read it, pick up a copy of a book called, "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. A wonderful little fable about following your dreams. It's a quick and easy read along the lines of "The Little Prince". I need to give it another read....I'm in need of a boost! It's a great step you've made just writing about your intentions here. Writing something down and sharing it with others is a POWERFUL gesture! Thanks for sharing...Good'on'ya mate! Can you see the little tear welling up in the corner of my eye!!!??

If you want to succeed, I would suggest a design which does not currently exist.
Like a floorstander designed to go up against the wall (Naim is the exception - Naim is always the exception and is one of the most highly regarded names in Hi-Fi in UK so I am told)).
I saw a 3-way with each driver mounted in an appropriately sized plastic plumbing tube. Drivers hung in space by only a thin metal frame. The designer's holy grail. $3,500 is a salesman holy grail :-).
I can't imagine you can go head to head with B&W, Monitor Audio, etc who put, what, $100,000 R&D into their $450 speakers. I just made my own single driver speaker because it is not commercialy available. That's the angle I think you need to succeed.
Good Luck!!!!!!!!!
Designing your own speakers involves:
- driver choices
- box design and woodworking
- crossover design and tuning

Each of these things is an art in and of itself. Trying to pull them all together without a huge amount of time, research, money and trial and error is a huge effort. Many speaker DIY'ers have been doing this for decades and still get it wrong occasionally.

Do yourself a favor and build a proven DIY design - there's many options discussed on the Madisound board, and other places. And YES, these designs can be far, far, far better then a retail speaker at the same price point. And with a little bit of extra tweaking (e.g. better quality caps, binding posts, damping material, etc.) they can be made even better still.

yeah, im definatly gonna make plenty of proven DYI designs, i think that would be a fantastic way to learn about what works and what doesent.

Ive been thinking of molding the cabinets, using only 2 pieces. Ive had some fun experimenting and modifying different molding compunds. I used to do some sculpting, i absolutly loved it but it kind of fell by the wayside in life. I made some stuff about 5-6 years ago that was very strong, very solid, and not -too- heavy. It felt alot like granite. I cant remember what all i used, it was some stuff thrown together for prop-building in a haunted house. I just got to remember exactly what all i put into it.
Either way, this might be a good way of going at it. It would be alot easier to avoid box shapes, which i kind of want to do.

Plus, once i find a design that works, i can stamp out models faster than i can buy the drivers and build the crossovers. im sure there will be 100 cast design failures for each sucess, but hey, i got time. :)

Fun fun stuff!:)
Nah, not corian, but ive been looking into that as well.
Everything i have found on Corian are already finished products, like countertops etc etc, Im hoping to be able to build a cabinet out of two molded pieces without flat surfaces anywhere except the bottom and face of the speaker

Im getting pretty interested in Fulton MG, that looks right up my ally for what i want. Plus it can be done to look like metal, marble, etc, etc. its as strong if not stronger than marble, and can be finished to look like wood, metal, rock, etc etc.
Check out Norh - they make speakers out of cast synthetic marble. Pretty cool. ADS used a novalith-type ceramic (?) for their CM (compact monitor) series of speakers in the late 80s/90s. I had a pair - interesting. They were 2 pieces, both cast/molded/machined. The head of ADS at the time is now making speakers under the Aerial name (Mike Kelly - great guy), he uses Novalith for the 'head' of the Aerial 10T - also a cast piece. Very expensive, but very dead and dense. He told me one time that fully 1/2 the cost of the 10T was in the 'head', not sure if that included drivers or not, but either way - clearly an expensive proposition for that material.

have fun,