Speaker manufacturers or box manufacturers with off the shelf drivers?

This is nothing new, it has existed for decades.  There are several good makers of speakers that make their own drivers and those that build boxes and put ScanSpeak or some other "purchased" drivers in their boxes.  

This is not ment to be demeaning or a put down, it is more of a question.  With so many speaker "builders" using off the shelf drivers...is this simply a "high-end" version of Radio Shack or are these legit high-end products? 

 I do not know if other manufactures sell their drive units to box manufacturers....

If you build your own, your profit margins skyrocket.

If you don't, you have to sell speakers at least 10x your driver cost.

And yes, you can get genuinely world class speakers either way. The panache of exclusivity is harder to maintain when pundits can go to a local source and try to price out your speaker themselves.

Hi whatjd,

I'm the expert here when it comes to questions like this. 

Speaker design is basically a game of trial and error. The speaker designers will deny this because A) some of them really believe they know what theyre doing and B) others will be too embarassed to admit they dont. 

A typical speaker is an mdf box. Some use harder materials like rock. The box is glued together just like a table or chair might be. Drivers are then screwed in. The last part is the crossover. This is automated with the use of 'puter programs. Then comes the finish. This is done by the design department. 

Now speaker designers have been using this method to churn out hundreds of designs over the last few decades and it looks like it will just keep continuing for the foreseeable future. 

Unfortunately if you want the best sound, you will need to use a different method than the one just described. 

Part of the problem is the issue of TRAPPED REAR WAVES. Even Magico has not been able to solve that. 

In conclusion, all speakers on the market are flawed. They are all mass produced using the same method and are not custom tuned to your needs. 

Do not spend any money on these expensive items. That is my recommendation.
I'm the expert here when it comes to questions like this.

I'm the expert here when it comes to questions like this

Yeah, right.
Who who let him on Audiogon, Mr speaker expert.
To the OP
certainly a legitimate question. There is a LOT more to speaker design than just catalog shopping drivers or even inventing your own. In a dynamic driver speaker, creating your own from scratch is daunting to say the least and IMO sort of stupid because it completely ignores the law of comparative advantage, however there are areas where it makes sense to collaborate- to wit the magical Vandersteen pistonic carbon and carbon balsa core drivers built on seas and Scanspeak baskets/ magnet assembly. Since 1977
Kenjit what would you reccomend the OP or anyone else do? Not own speakers of any kind cause they all suck? 
I’ve been wondering this same question lately, since I’ve been looking at buying some speakers from a small company that uses high end drivers.

My questions are how much better is the r&d and testing methods of large companies like kef, dynaudio, etc, come into play in terms of sound quality.  These smaller companies do not have these test facilities.  Also, it seems like the fit and finish of large companies nears perfection, whereas small companies look, hand built shall we say.

And my other question is does the real magic lie in the sum of the whole  of the parts?  Can a speaker built by a master speaker builder, in his shop, tuned by ear, sound better than anything comparable?  I mean, I assume its possible to have speaker “a” with $50 drivers, $100 crossovers designed well, stout enclosure, sound better than speaker “b” with $250 drivers, $25 crossovers and an enclosure with lots of resonance.

And lastly, I’m thinking that its easier to resell large brand name items, Focal, Kef, Klipsch, over small boutique companies.
Perhaps this all why I have enjoyed some of my times with Magnepans, they are not off the shelf drivers places in a MDF box. 
Again, simply asking a question.  With some of the replies it would seem that dynamic drivers in a box is what people think of for speakers.  Planer, Electrostats, the Heil driver and others seem, at least to my memory, to exist. 
OP take a look at Buchardt or PS Audio speakers if you think there is no new.
Whatever you do ignore the know nothings around here. 
You know who they are.
Rule #1, never take anything kenjit says as legitimatize advise.
My speakers are Audio Note AN-J/lx's, Audio Note makes their own drivers and is obsessive about matching drivers in a stereo pair. From their website:

Consistent performance is a major issue in loudspeaker design and unfortunately all drive units vary slight from each other, even if they look the same and have the same basic specification. Many loudspeaker manufacturer’s will tell you that they provide “computer matched” crossovers, and whilst this may be true in one sense (each crossover may have been matched to have the exact same capacitance, inductance and resistance) this essentially “passive” method does not adequately take into consideration the mechanical and acoustic variance present in the drive units themselves, where minute differences in acoustic behaviour will result in quite substantial differences in performance and sound. Therefore, to obtain the best possible combination of drivers and crossovers, we have developed a dynamic matching process. This ensures that each loudspeaker in a stereo pair matches a ‘master curve’ and also its partner, to within 0.4dB; to the best of our knowledge, no other loudspeaker manufacturer achieves such close matching and tests 100% of its production.

Also kenjit is an expert on trolling but not speakers. :D
The design is as important as it's execution. And too many do not ever address even the easy details. Let alone the hard one's.
I Think it comes down to being a smart consumer an educated audio enthusiast and training your ear/brain. Speaker design is an art and a science and its up to you to decide if a speaker represents a good value for your budget and tastes.

Also don’t forget that driver designers are experts at what they do and make them often at an economy of scale that would be much more if they were bespoke for each speaker company.

To use a car analogy, a lotus Elise
I once rented had a Toyota engine and transmission. It was a fantastic exhilarating ride and if I didn’t live in a NYC I’d probably own one. Did the Commuter car components (though tweaked) take anything away from the car? No, in fact it made it affordable and reliable.
This is fascinating.  I am a small speaker manufacturer and drivers to me are one of the thing that stressed me less.  There is a lot of work that goes into choosing the right driver in terms of testing with your cabinets and materials but there are lots of bigger manufacturers that use stock drivers that make AMAZING speakers.  
To name a few, Wilson (small mods in some cases) Avalon, Marten, Joseph Audio  all use stock drivers.  These guys make some of the best products in the world and they use stock drivers from Scanspeak, Eton and Accuton, Accuton and SEAS from the companies above. 
I have been told that Revel has since moved production internally but the drivers in The Performa3 line were SB Acoustic when it launched.  Doubt this?  I still have a pair from years ago with SB drivers in them.  The tweeter had a waveguide designed by Revel.  That was what made it their own.  
There are crappy speakers out there and you can spot them and avoid them.  Check out this series of articles from audioholics:


See links at the bottom of the page for other relevant topics like this one on the explicit elements of a driver:


in the series they touch on all aspects of speaker design other than utilization of exotic cabinet materials (aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fiber, stone, etc...) but those materials are clearly superior to MDF based on guiding principles outlined in this series.  
I will admit that i designed my products so that if Audioholics took them apart, they would be pleased with what they found.  
Good luck to you in your shopping.