Pulsars and the Mythical Armchair Speaker Maker

There’s another thread going about Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers which I did not want to derail, but it is showing up some common logical fallacies and dead ends I wanted to talk about.

As anyone who has read my posts knows, I’m a huge proponent of DIY for speakers and cables especially. Not that I think you should only go with DIY but because the more audiophiles who can build their own we have in the community the less snake oil gets spread around as fact and there’s less worshipping of the price tag as the almighty determiner of speaker performance.

The myth I want to talk about is kind of related. It is the idea that we should value speakers based purely on driver cost. JA’s Pulsars suffer from this because they seem to use off the shelf components, in very nice cabinets, with perfectly executed crossovers. The thing that I don’t understand are buyers who look at driver cost, and say "well, these speakers should cost no more than x amount, so I’m not buying them... "

I call hogwash. Speakers are more than a collection of parts. They are curated components brought together by a designer and manufacturer. Those same people who are likely to engage in this behavior:

  • Can’t actually design a speaker themselves
  • Would NEVER build a DIY speaker even as a complete kit because it doesn’t have a brand, nor would they buy an assembled DIY speaker.
  • Would probably go with a speaker with in-house drivers which have an even higher markup
  • May not have very good ears anyway

My point is, knowing the price of the parts does not make you at all qualified to judge what the final price should be. That is, fairly, in the hands of the market, and it doesn’t actually make you a better listener or more informed buyer. I would argue you end up buying speakers for brands with even more of a markup and more likely to have questionable performance.

It’s perfectly reasonable for a manufacturer to charge for parts, and skill. So, yes, talking tech and drivers and crossover components is always fun, but please stop evaluating the price of finished goods until you’ve attempted at least designing one pair yourself.

And again, DIY is a lot of fun, and if you want to go that way, you should, but let’s not denigrate high value, high quality manufacturers and delers by reducing them to part assemblers any more than you'd judge a restaurant based on the cost per pound of chicken.

Thank you,


Showing 17 responses by erik_squires

Some people find overpriced restaurant meals or expensive clothing objectionable. Why should overpriced high end speakers be any different?

It isn’t, totally different argument.

Judging the price of the meal by the cost of chicken at the store is a horrible way to judge a restaurant. Judging a shirt by the cost of a bale of cotton is a terrible way to judge the value of clothing.

Most commercial speakers are actually worse than diy since they use passive crossovers that have no advantages over active.

Most DIY speakers are passive, so this statement makes no sense.

In addition, I disagree with the statement I think I can discern, which is : "Active crossovers are universally better than passive." Dear lord do I disagree with that for home use.

I agree that custom/ bespoke makers, including my buddy Fritz and Taylor, have amazing value and performance.

They’re struggling. Why? Brand recognition.

At a recent audio Show, myself and a pair of musicians from Blue Coast rated Fritz’ speakers best of show. Few people have the internal discernment to say "yes, these are great, and a bargain, I’ll buy them"

Instead, they revert to part price comparisons, and end up buying branded speakers which are no better values.

This is why I call BS on all these arm-chair builders.

I agree about the Tektons. I've written at length here defending their technical execution (mostly) but no way would I allow one in my home! It's just too ugly.
I’ve made the same financial points before.

The same people think that a restaurant can stay in business by selling meals for the cost of the raw ingredients.

If you are a pure factory, you can run on a small markup, but no one is. You have salespeople, administrators, warehouses, package designers, shipping costs, and greasing reviewer’s palms to think about.

The basic calculus is that you must sell speakers for 10x the driver cost, at a minimum. If you can get higher you are more likely to stay in business. And again, this presumes all speakers are designed equally well, which let me tell you based on listening, they are not! :D
And I am among the most frugal, but making my own speakers, and working through the math, I can respect what it takes to be a manufacturer.

And yes, I meant Tyler Acoustics, not Taylor.  Sorry buddy.

Let me make a very concrete example. I present to you all my SNR-1. My main daily speakers.

Tweeters alone will set you back a grand, $500 more in the woofers, and $300 or so to execute the crossover well.  Tweeter similar to used by Gryphon, mid-woofer used by Gryphon, Wilson and others. A bargain compared to retail. 


will make you the cabinets for about $900 a pair.

I've yet to meet anyone who actually built another pair.

Assuming I attempted to go commercial with them, there's just no way I could list them at a retail store for less than $15k.

I've yet to meet another DIYer who would put down the cash.

Which proves my main point:  Using speaker driver cost alone as the 'worthiness' of a speaker is an absolute farce.
Also, @kenjit : Those are my qualifications, so before you go critiquing, lets see your work. 

You won't just be allowed to critique until I've seen you demonstrate reasonable speaker acumen. Criticizing the work of others without being able to make anything yourself is exactly the type of conceit I meant to point out in this thread.
@kenjit Read the article, it has links to full simulation files.

Why pay more when you can get better results for less?

Which is actually the point. The point is you should buy performance, not parts.

If you can get better for less, do so. That's what the market is about. Denigrating a particular brand solely on part cost is the opposite of buying performance.
plumbers are well known for overcharging. DIY will save you money with plumbing too. But lets stick to discussing speakers.

No, lets stick to the value of work and skill.

That’s the argument. What kind of work do you do, because I’d like to know how you think your work should be valued.


I agree with Prof.

If you don't know the effort it takes to build something you have little business critiquing based on part cost. It's like, you value parts, but not skill or labor. Imagine being a plumber, and only being allowed to charge for the pipes. What a ridiculous setup.

Thanks Kenjit for demonstrating every single fallacy I meant to point out at the top of the thread.

And again, the ONLY thing that allows anyone to weigh the steak is the off the shelf drivers.

If they had an OEM maker turn them pink and call them custom made, this meat weighing would end immediately.
And ... we’re back to comparing the value of a meal by the weight of the steak.
Hi Gang,
The cost of the Seas Diamond is $6,800 for a matched pair (only sold in pairs), and I think people are misreading that as the price of the speakers. Can anyone point me to the price of the actual Ascend speakers?

JA at Stereophile did a _terrible_ job of reviewing the Crystal Cable Minissimo Diamonds which are $20k.

But again, we are weighing the cost of the steak, instead of thinking about the satisfaction of the meal. I’ve heard plenty of diamond and Be tweets I thought were crap sounding. No one is here talking about B&W and how much they overcharge for their drivers, because no one has any idea how much they cost. Same for Focal.

Measurably, and audibly, the quality of "custom" or in house drivers is an absolute crap shoot. But hey, the price is hidden. It’s like eating a rare dinosaur. Well, it’s $55,000, and I don’t know what the meat costs, but others say it’s good ...

So again, as a DIYer, and audiophile, I think these are nonsense ways to evaluate speakers.

If this is you, then go eat at Burger King every day, and stand outside a nice steak restaurant and tell the diners they are being overcharged.

I don't see your goal in evidence, Kenjit.  

You state parts alone determine sound quality, and measurements trump experience.

So, what box of parts have you landed on??
And here we have the majority of the lack of understanding : @Kenjit has no idea how to make a passive crossover and believes active are the only way to go. He has no idea how to make one that sounds good, or how those subtle choices can alter the entire speaker's character.

The truth is that the majority if DIY speakers and kits use passive crossovers. While active and DPS crossovers are fun, they have their own list of issues. Like, why bother buying a $2k DAC when you are going to AD/DA the signal again after? Not to mention noise and distortion that can be added in that chain.

Then there's the amplifier issue. You need at least 2x as many amps. So getting the same quality amp you became an audiophile for takes 2x as much.

Also, I've seen plenty of DIY active crossovers that were configured as absolute garbage, and the user used DSP eq to bang it into submission.

If that's good enough for Kenjit, that's just fine. Really, Kenjit enjoy what you have, but it is by no means the holy grail for all listeners.

Hey @kenjit

What exact speakers do you listen to?

What commercial speakers and amps do you like?



Regarding Ascend: I've only found information about a custom build, but no actual prices.

There appear to be threads which misquote the tweeter price ($6,800/pair) as the speaker price. I think this caused a great deal of confusion.

It is  unclear to me whether they were done for a client, or as a proof of concept to evaluate the quality of the performance vs. the Raal ribbons.

Raal makes amazing ribbons and transformers behind them, by the way, so at any price, they are tough to beat.

In any event, the idea that throwing a diamond tweeter in a speaker and therefore it will be better than those with less expensive parts is utter nonsense. Crossover, cabinet design and personal taste matter. I know lots of people who would take a thousand dollar tweeter and make it sound like crap. :)