You Cant Buy It but you Can Build It


One of the things, well the primary audio thing that fascinates and pleases me to no end is superlative hand built systems. Not from boutique vendors but from audiophiles who want something they can't find on a shelf or buy.

  I am a minimalist and figure the fewer devices needed to get to great fidelity the better. I am in the camp that feels if you have to have a lot of devices or fancy exotic things in your audio stream then you began with the wrong speakers.

 My system consists of a Dell Workstation PC with the hi def Realtek driver installed. 1/8" jack out to XLR to either a Xilica XP3060 if the speakers need DSP and bi-amping or straight to the amp. From the Crown XLI800 amps to the speakers and that is it. 12gage zip cord from amps to speakers and crimp fork end connectors.

  The speakers are two way and consist of the following. A Klipsch K-402 horn with Klipsch 1132 drivers with the latest version phase plugs is the HF side of things. crossover point is 650 and 12db Linkwitz Riley with four PEQ's and gain set in the Xilica. Driver is full output to just over 18khz which is past where most of us can hear anyway.

 The LF bass bin is a horn derived from the Klipsch MCM 1900 MWM single fold bass bin. This bin was altered to have a 60" depth and 60" mouth (minus 17" in the middle for the woofer plenum)  and 18" chamber ht ID and to have a true 108" throat depth. Constructed out of 25mm Baltic Birch. Has a single K-43-K Klipsch woofer in there and goes down to 27hz before serious drop off starts. I have not figured out the exact DB efficiency of this system but figure it is somewhere north of 105db. There are four PEQ's and gain setting from the xilica for this bass bin also.

 

  What started this whole thing was I wanted to hear Bach Pipe Organ music like I was right there and the same for Cello chamber music. Or Japanese Fireworks or any thing else I could find of high fidelity that interested me. I have grown to like most things recorded well that I can find. Key here was life like reproduction as close as I could get using things I have heard in person as reference points. If the fireworks would impact me in person with a felt boom along with sound I wanted that. If the 32' pipe made things move around on table tops I wanted that. Now I rarely play at those volumes but if I want to I can. But I also wanted the true to life definition that would have accompanied this just like real life. I did not want someones idea of signature sound I wanted realism. Once the PEQ's are set I do not fiddle with PC EQ and leave it flat all the time.

 

  As a pure all horn system sound reproduction is effortless and the headroom creates superb sound at 75db as well as 105db and up if you care to go there. The Crown XLI800's are solid state and 200 watts per channel. I leave them up half way and adjust the rest with the PC sound card control which rarely goes above 50%. 

Total cost to build using todays prices and all new components would be about $7400. Frugal shopping for electronics will save you off that. My actual cost after hunting for a year of so was under $4000.

 Now a word about tube amps and DACs and all that stuff. The Xilica has the ability to basically tailor sound for almost any effect, if you take the time to learn to do so. Along the way you end up having to get Room Equalizer Wizard, or REW, which is free software for analyzing sound using your laptop and a calibrated UMike. These active DSP systems are NOT plug and play.

  Not all PC's will give you great fidelity. My Dell happens to be one of those fortunately. If you go this route make sure you download the latest Hi-Def driver for your sound card. If I was not happy with the sound card, or suspected it to not be good, I would get an aftermarket one.

 Peer validation is always nice and the stream of repeat visitors I have lets me know the pieces to this puzzle worked out well. I quit my search for better when I got these dialed in.

 

mahlman

My fingers are stuck in my ears.

So much for being a minimalist.

No vendors offer loudspeakers that I want most products are greatly hamstrung by profit margins, shipping- storage costs, products must have mass appeal toss in audiophile brand name pricing the old just add zeros. You also rarely see any advanced transducers in audiophile products the audiophile gets cheaper examples at later dates and with new house pricing. So it has always made sense for me to build what I want. For many, I don't think their skill levels would allow success many variables and a steep costly learning curve awaits them. But if you have skills it's easy to DIY better than you can buy. If you don't have the skills it is still worthwhile and you will learn much as you keep at it.

Working with a Faital HF146R on a machined Baltic Birch horn with a 6" depth, 1.4" throat and a 7" x 14" mouth. The detail is stunning and I doubt this driver will ever make it to commercial gear. The machined horn will never be massed produced either since they are cut on a mill one by one. To expensive for bean counters though they seem to have no trouble charging outrageous prices.

 You are right that this is beyond most with equipment and skill constraints but where there is a will a way can be made. Also tinkering with B&C's DCX464 coaxial driver and it has promise too. 

  There is tremendous satisfaction to be had when you do things right. I figure most audio types have never heard a competently built system and have only factory products to judge by.

You lost my interest when you mentioned the front end is a PC based Dell computer.   I had a high end Dell built to my specifications with a top shelf sound card and video card, Intel i9 processor, 64 GB Ram, 800 watt power supply, two 2TB solid state drives and it really sounds like crap, I am not kidding. Plus the computer had to be replaced a month after owning it and even the new one, now 2 years old, gives me trouble on a regular basis.  I guess you are one of the lucky ones.  Good luck. 

That's how I feel about my system, all analogue. Mostly built by me, the ESL speakers heavily modified. The cartridge remains in original condition.  The satisfaction is only part of it - you just can't buy much which is made without  compromise.

I bought my Dell off the refurb site with a good Quadro card in it I was intending to use for my sound and graphics. This workstation is also the PC I use for my machining and design programs. I never could get the Quadro to work for sound and was not real happy with what I was hearing. What made all the difference was finding out about the Realtek high definition driver and installing that. It was a whole different world. I also have  Dell Precision laptop and the sound from it is merely OK. I guess I was lucky on the PC pick where sound is concerned. Going on 4 years with it and I have had zero trouble and the sound is so good I am not looking further.

  Some odd things along the way that did effect sound. My secondary drive was a spinning platter and it had a noise you could hear when things were otherwise dead quiet. SSD's fixed that and I expect your SSD's are quiet too.

 The other odd thing was a corded laser mouse. When I moved it around you could hear it also.

  When this PC dies I might find out how hard it could be to get a good sounding one and only time will tell.

  Which Dell did you get?

"So much for being a minimalist."

  What I was thinking when I said this was how few pieces of gear I have compared to many here. It is not minimalist though in terms of implementation. Once you learn DSP though you can store up to 30 profiles you can switch to at any time.

I have never believed computers can or should ever be considered in the same league as dedicated audio equipment. At best, it is a hybrid compromise that never truly makes the grade.

I leave them up half way and adjust the rest with the PC sound card control which rarely goes above 50%.

Don't you lose some resolution  if you do it like that? Even with 24bit the limit is -24dB for digital volume control. I use a combination with digital volume control and Khozmo attenuators. That is for my feeling   the best compromise between not loosing resolution and at the same time keeping all the transients because I only need to shorten a tiny part of the signal to ground.
 

 

Well guys, it may be ones' approach to the 'puter involved; but y'all may be right, I may be just lucky....

Decided to dive back into diy'ing it, since I'm diy'ing my speakers as well.  Have used a couple of older HP's running AMT cpu's with reasonable results, but decided to grab the horns of the bull...

Already had in hand a CoolerMaster ATCs case that's N/A now; low-profile, matched the width and height of a 'typical' bit of OTS audio gear.  2 full-width drop panels on the face that mask 2 RWDVD drives on top, front connects on the bottom.

Asus 'gaming' mATX m/b, AMD Ryzen5 6core 2600 cpu, 16g mem chosen for speed, 500gb SSD, 1T hd, Asus Essence STX2 soundcard with it's breakout board.

Hasn't given me any trouble whatsoever, and quick enough for now. Fits into my rack on a rack shelf, and has room to improve if I get bored with something later.

Running one of the older HP's separately with just various monitor software; fast enough since it's just 'listening' to line/in-line/output as desired.

Win10Pro on both, gutted of any extraneous s/w...

The ceiling fan is the loudest thing in the space.  'Background' is 'black' enough for my tastes, more noise from the selection being played than the system.

Been doing audio puter since mid-'90s', and see no reason to stop.

But...I may just be stupid lucky.... ;)

Stop using OTS boxes is my suggestion, and build your own.

"Don't you lose some resolution  if you do it like that"

No I don't think so. I have had people pull the gear rack out looking for the hidden box that makes things sound so good and there is no hidden box. Gain can be further adjusted if needed in the Xilica.

 That stepped attenuator looks interesting. I am working on another two way system with a passive crossover and the HF side needs attenuation to not get ahead of the bass bin woofers. What Ohm value did you choose and why?

"I have never believed computers can or should ever be considered in the same league as dedicated audio equipment. At best, it is a hybrid compromise that never truly makes the grade."

  Until I stumbled across the Realtek Hi Def driver download I might have agreed with you. The PC now can go as high as 24 bit 192KHZ. I never use 192KHZ anymore and stay with 96KHZ on my files after running music files through Audacity. I have had loss of fidelity when going past 96KHZ. The problem now is finding good enough music files

This thread cracks me up; so much effort on the back end, but relying on an old laptop's sound module?  Give me a break!

Of course not all laptops or PC's are created equal and as mentioned the laptop did not sound as good. Laptops do have their place though when dialing in a system with REW and a UMike. You can sit right in your preferred spot and dial things in on the fly and no up and down across the room nonsense. So what has been your experience that caused your bias?

What Ohm value did you choose and why?

I use a 100K ladder type attenuator because I wanted the input impedance (100k) of my amp not below 50k after adding the attenuator. Input impedance should be in the range of 10 times or more the output impedance of what you use for driving the amp etc.

The other odd thing was a corded laser mouse. When I moved it around you could hear it also.

My feeling is that a USB interface with galvanic isolation and getting rid of some unnecessary background processes would already be a big leap forward while still using the Dell laptop. No more noise when using the mouse and less noise in general. The Xilica XP 4080 offers Ethernet and USB input. Don’t know about the XP-3060.

If the Xilica is only for DSP  you could also do it with software only like HQPlayer, writing the filters for the convolution engine  in REW, thus making it even more simple.

Interesting (and to me rather familiar) rundown on your audio setup, mahlman. All-horn, -active, DIY, inclusion of pro audio products, letting size have its say, PC-based source - hear you loud and clear. One senses the vitriol from some of the comments, because this - all of it, actually - rubs audiophilia quite the wrong way. And that’s how it should be, apparently.

It’s great that you’re able to maintain a 2-way speaker system running from ~25Hz to ~18kHz and a sensitivity across the board no lower than 105dB’s, it seems. Something tells though the bass horn is at its limits in the upper range crossing over to the K-402? The K-1132 apparently isn’t all too different compared to the EV DH1A (used in my main speakers).

My own speaker system is 3-way - that is, 2-way pro cinema Electro-Voice TS9040D LX speakers, run actively through a Xilica XP-3060 (same as yours) with a Belles SA-30 for the HP9040 horn + DH1A compression driver and a Lab.gruppen FP6400 for the ported dual 15" drivers. A Crown K2 runs a pair of DIY MicroWrecker 20 cf. tapped horns fitted with a 15" B&C unit in each, augmenting the EV’s from just below 85Hz down to 20-25Hz. Total output power sits at ~2.5kW per channel (the EV bass section sums into 4 ohm). Slopes across the range are 36dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley, though the high-pass on the MW subs at 20Hz uses a Butterworth slope style. I'm implementing 5 PEQ’s on the EV horn section (4 subtle notches and 1 peak suppression). The rest of the bandwidth is run sans PEQ.

What really makes a difference here, and where I find 3-way to be worthwhile, is high-passing the EV bass section at ~85Hz crossing over to the TH subs, which "sets them free" with a cleaner and more agile/expressive imprinting - it adds a bucket of headroom in this vital region. The DH1A is a monster, a sledgehammer in velvet gloves, and is crossed with the HP9040 at just over 600Hz. The TH subs are wholly effortless, smooth and quite visceral, and integrates tremendously well with the EV’s.

I use a PC source as well in the shape of a DIY music/HT server with a Marian Seraph D4 AES/EBU digital output interface to feed my DAC/preamp via a balanced Mundorf silver/gold digital cable.

I find it’s great that you’re using the system you do, actively and all and with the priorities you’ve made. I may end up with all-horn again (been there), but for now I’m very pleased with where I’m at. An important trait with the EV’s is their physical height of just over 6’ with the acoustic center sitting between the lower horn edge and upper edge of the EV bass cab. It’s an unrestricted sphere-like presentation that fills the room effortlessly, not unlike a large panel speaker (but with much better macro dynamics). A future upgrade may present itself with a pair of DIY high-order bandpass subs fitted with 21" pro neodymium woofers. They extend higher and cleaner in the upper band compared to my TH’s, and thus may further clean up the upper bass/lower midrange (the MW’s are run at their max upper ceiling). Fun stuff.

I have a pair of EV DH1A my friend gave me to try though I have yet to do so. Everyone who has had those have nothing but praise for them. The guy who gave me those has been after me to put a set of the LMAHL V2 tweeters I make in there and do a three way but so far I have been happy enough to not bother doing so.

I am crossing over at 650hz.

"One senses the vitriol from some of the comments, because this - all of it, actually - rubs audiophilia quite the wrong way"

If pure sound quality was the metric they use I can only think they have not heard such a system. I suspect however that there is a lot of snobery involved and it is just "not possible" that serious hobbiests can build better than the high end audio store offerings.

Good for you!  Glad you are enjoying the process!

In regards to DIY - I don't have the skill or patience and I'm glad foks that can enjoy the music and have the satisfaction of it being the fruit of their labor.

As a pure all horn system sound reproduction is effortless ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ WEll you are not the only DIYer minimialist here ya know Horns are not the only speaker that is effortless, I am a Full Range fan-atic . For me FR is the ideal minimalist speaker. I could not ever live with a horn, Aint gonna fly with my taste /preferences. Full Range as in DavidLouis No xover. But have readjusted my Thors to 1800 hz on the W18’s and 5khz-15khz on the tweeter

 

The Fr has 95db sensitivity. Anything higher than 95db is not going to work in my system,.

 

$550 a pair. hows that for minimalist.

- I don't have the skill or patience ~~~~~~~~~~~~any old cabinet will work, Just find any cabinet witha 8 inch woofer, take out woofer, install a DLVX8, replace the tweeter with your fav, with a Mundorf SESGO 6uf cap, and waaa laaa you are done.
105dB’s ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My tech wont let me go near a horn. at 100+++ db sens,, forget it. 95db sens is tops for me. 96db sens is 1db too high, 95db sens is the line in the sand. which is why AER and Voxativ wont work for me.

@mozartfan I really like my speakers - I'm not touching anything because if it didn't work I'd be really irate with myself.  And if it did work I'd second guess if I could do better.

Some of us are too critical of our DIY to be satisfied!

When DIY meets dedication, knowledge, and experience then it is the ultimate choice.

Through DIY you can express YOUR OWN DREAMS, and PROJECT YOUR VISION.

By buying gear you BUY INTO SOMEONE ELSES DREAM... which never ever matches yours with 100% accuracy.

Some of us are too critical of our DIY to be satisfied! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Oh I agree, Im going further in this DIY thing I'm fgoing dual FR, which some DIYers said,,**we already tried , it won't work...** I've done my own experiements, 2 were OK, 1 success. But I'm looking for even more success. have a DLVX6 arriving anyday,,its at the HK airport, DHL. Dual FR's. **Might work, might not, only out $400 if it doesn't work out. But if a success, = worlds best mid band fq speaker. The previous success wasa DLVX8 + DLW4. The DLVX8 + TB2145 was too thick in mids and the TB2145 has beam issues. The other experiement, DLVX8 (my reference FR) + DLW6 yellow cone, did not work oyt due to the W6's mids not up to par with the VX8. I bet the DIYers tried dual Fostex. Dual Fostex will not work. Fostex has some shout issues.

When DIY meets dedication, knowledge, and experience then it is the ultimate choice. Through DIY you can express YOUR OWN DREAMS, and PROJECT YOUR VISION. By buying gear you BUY INTO SOMEONE ELSES DREAM... which never ever matches yours with 100% accuracy. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Yes , this is accurate. DIY you build what you know will make the best sound for your music. I listen to classical, which has some massive orchestration, a xover type speaker will not meet these demands from a orchestra.

 

The xover point chops up the image. Bass and highs I can find via other drivers , its a seamless midrange band that I must have voicing classical. xover speakers are only good as assist, never ever as front center.

Wilson, Sonus Faber, Dali, Rockport, Joseph Audio,

 

none of these will work as a front center musical speaker.

FR is the Crown Jewel in my speaker system.

@realworldaudio I appreciate your passion.

I am not buying someone's vision - I'm buying an outcome based on constraints like budget, space and time.

@mrklas

I see your point. It also applies to DIY. When I DIY my outcome is also based on budget, space, time... Same constraints. 

 

It's still down to vision - no matter what constraints we work with, each component has its own personality. The commercial route is trying to blend different personalities to work together. With DIY you can modify and adjust the voicing of each component to work together with far greater effectiveness. Requires very high skill level though, not going to happen unless someone dedicates a big chunk of his life to it.

I gave it 20+ years, 10,000+ hours so no free lunch, no matter which road we walk. We can say that DIY in the end is actually far more expensive than buying a product. But after 20 years it got me to a point were no commercial product went for me, no matter the price.

"The Fr has 95db sensitivity. Anything higher than 95db is not going to work in my system,."

 I find that when I have to put a lot of watts into a speaker to get decent volume I have also lost some fidelity. On a two way double 12" woofer + a horn top I have built the least I considered was 99db on the woofers. These things have great crsip sound and tremendous fidelity and even with Bach organ up pretty loud you have to put your hand on the cone to feel the excursion since visually it is almost imperceptible. I also prefer cloth accordian surrounds which only come with more efficient woofers.

 I have about lost interest in 15" woofers which just don't sound as tight to me as a good 12". Impacts on percussion are sharper and realistic acoustic string resonance is more defined for example. 

I'm running dual W18E001's /Seas with my FR, 87 db, its low but very damp, no resonances.

Which woofer at 99 db is this??

I might take a  look and consider swapping out the Seas W18 at 87db for a  higher sens woofer.

I find that when I have to put a lot of watts into a speaker to get decent volume I have also lost some fidelity.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is what I have been trying to tell the folks here, the simply truth that higher sens speakers are superior to xover types. They refuse to listen Sure I have 100 true watts and have power to drive any Sonus Faber, Rockport, Wilson, Dali,,

but at higher gain on the amp,, = less fidelity.

This is a very simple truth but the xover camp does not wish to consider. xover types are dinasaurs.

Eminence Kappa 12A. The really nice thing is it is one of the cheaper woofers also but at 12" I doubt you can use it.

@stereo5 , sorry to hear about your experience with the Dell. You never use the sound card in the computer. You use a USB DAC or a USB to SPDIF converter to a DAC. IMHO for audio use Apples are better. With programs like Pure Vinyl and Pure Music you can go anywhere and produce state of the art results. 

@mahlman , your organ must not go down very low. When I crank mine with a recording of the Boardwalk Hall Organ the cones of all four 12" subs move an inch and your vision blurs. Fun!

@mijostyn it does go low. The difference is the proper tuned cabinet and good cloth surround efficient speakers make for yummy bass without all that excursion that tends to add distortion also. Bass seems to be enjoyed by most in two flavors. One is crisp and clean sound like what you would hear in person. The other is a sort of club thump that is not as accurate but appeals to many. It makes my ears hurt just thinking about what you describe and that is not what I am seeking at all.

I have been a long time advocate of DIY with regards to speakers. There are so many great, very high end level speaker kits available, by well respected designers. The end results are almost guaranteed to best the sound of commercially available speakers that would cost at least 5 times as much.

Designers such as: (the late) Jeff Bagby, Jim Holtz and Curt Campbell, Troel Graveson, Javad Shadzi, Paul Carmody, and quite a few more, have various kits, that easily rival high end speakers.

I am currently using a pair of Jeff Bagby’s "Auricle" speakers (RAAL tweeter, 6" SB Acoustics Sartori mid), sitting on a pair of Jeff’s woofer modules (10" SB Acoustics Sartori woofer). And a DIY powered sub.

Auricle

Woofer Module

I have about $2100 spent on the speakers (without sub) for the kits, the wood, the veneer, and miscellaneous parts. I have heard enough $10,000 speakers, to know, that my speakers sound as good.

I also lined the inside of the enclosures with mass loaded vinyl, and the front baffle is built using simple but effective constrained layer damping.

@simonmoon   That is my experience too although I designed and built the box for my double 12" woofer + horn speaker. 25MM Baltic Birch box + drivers and for a bit over 1G I have something that beats the doo doo out of 24G speakers I hear at the Nashville fancy speaker store.

 I used acoustic foam in my box as I was more concerned about standing waves and not box resonance.

I believe the OP asked which Dell computer I had problems with.  It is a XPS 8030, custom configured.  I replaced the chintzy 370 watt power supply that Dell put in a $2700.00+ computer with a state of the art 800 watt power supply.  I had lots of trouble when I was running a few programs and the computer would run out of power, causing it to reboot many times and then it didn't any more.  I had paid $400.00 extra for their best soundcard and it still sounded like junk.  I will never, ever buy another Dell.

@mahlman --

"If pure sound quality was the metric they use I can only think they have not heard such a system. I suspect however that there is a lot of snobery involved and it is just "not possible" that serious hobbiests can build better than the high end audio store offerings."

"High-end" audio is a genre, even; it is as much defined by character and limitations as it cultivates certain virtues in reproduction, while not least being overly expensive. Our "playground" would seem to challenge the narrative of audiophiles-at-large that it’s moved outside their field of interest. Indeed, one can only do so much to get them to assess with an open mind, if they ever meet up.

"I find that when I have to put a lot of watts into a speaker to get decent volume I have also lost some fidelity. On a two way double 12" woofer + a horn top I have built the least I considered was 99db on the woofers. These things have great crsip sound and tremendous fidelity and even with Bach organ up pretty loud you have to put your hand on the cone to feel the excursion since visually it is almost imperceptible. I also prefer cloth accordian surrounds which only come with more efficient woofers.

I have about lost interest in 15" woofers which just don’t sound as tight to me as a good 12". Impacts on percussion are sharper and realistic acoustic string resonance is more defined for example."

I was at one point hellbent on all-horn, and while this is still largely where I’m coming from there are variations in design to attain an end goal that is hugely satisfying. A departure of sorts early on was choosing Tapped Horn subs instead of the more classical Front Loaded Horn dittos, which is really about maximizing the potential of a given cone size using both its front and back wave while attaining excursion minima at the tune (as opposed to a FLH that has the driver placed in a sealed chamber and excursion max. at tune). Then came the experiment choosing dual, vertically placed and direct radiating 15’s to closely mimic the dispersion pattern at the cross-over from the large HP9040 horn for a better uniformity and coherency of sound. High-passing those 15’s fairly high means movement is reduced to zilch, even at close to war volume, and the 15" drivers in the TH subs only vibrate at volumes that are physically overwhelming. Next may be trying out another variation on the 6th order BP that shaves off a wee bit size (from 20 to 16 cf.) but adds pro driver size from 15 to 21" and has a variable tune. They’re dynamite in a relatively limited package, and it pays off in dividends with regard to smooth, effortless and natural bass reproduction also due to a cleaner and more extended upper range.

My preferred surround types are cloth and foam. Foam is very low loss and more modern foams last up to about 25 years. Cloth is also very good, lasts longer, but is usually best at limited excursion (as in your case). Rubber I try to avoid, and has for some time now.

@mijostyn --

"... use a USB DAC or a USB to SPDIF converter to a DAC."

There are other ways, equally well or better sounding to my ears.

@phusis , I did not say there were not other ways. They are generally a lot more expensive, not any better sounding and have limited functionality vs a full fledged computer. My system doubles as a theater. I can also stream videos and movies as well as any audio service. I can record records to the hard drive and AB various versions of ...you name it. IMHO music servers are an insane waste of money. It is like comparing the pricing of commercial vs consumer audio equipment. Hint, professionals are not as easily conned.

One last thing. The problem with ears is that they are connected to a brain and when brains are concerned all bets are off. Example. Have a dispute with your wife then go mow down 50 people with an SUV. Sometimes brains really s-ck. 

The material a surround it made from really does not matter. It is the design of the surround given the drivers intended use. Certain designs work best with certain materials. Subwoofers need a large X max and a long throw, low compliance suspension requiring large dual spiders and butyl surrounds. Foam surrounds are a poor choice for subwoofer drivers as the stress causes even the good foam to disintegrate. 25 years is not good enough. A suspension should never fail.

@mahlman , unless you are using an insanely large driver (21") you are not going very low at all. In order to move the amount of air required to produce a 20 Hz note a 12 or 15" driver has to move quite a distance especially at volume. Even at moderate levels the excursions would be plainly noticeable. If they are not then your woofers are not doing anything below 40 Hz. It is simple physics and it does not matter what type of enclosure you are using. Distortion does increase with excursion distance after a point. Modern subwoofer drivers can easily do 1 cm excursions without distortion, some up to 2 cm. Down below 40 Hz it is not what you hear that counts. It is what you feel. A 20 Hz sine wave played at just 75 dB causes my entire house to rattle. I have four 12" subwoofers in a 16 foot wide room and you can see the excursions across the room. I made my enclosures with Corian laminated to MDF with a layer of glass microspheres in between. Each one weights 200 lb. They are sealed. 

@mijostyn  On the two way with 12"double woofers I go down to around 35hz before serious drop off. The all horn setup however throws that rule out the window and now going down to 27hz is no issue and that gets me virtually all the common instruments. A horn will easily go down to 20hz or lower if I were to build one for that with little excursion at any volume I am willing to listen at. Really deep bass is not pleasant to me and I avoid it. I have never built with being a pure subwoofer as my intent.

  The Super MWM bass bin mentioned at the begining of this thread for instance was derived from an MCM 1900 Klipsch set designed for 600 seat venues.It can just loaf along and give more db's then I can handle.

Similar experience, but I don't do it because it's something I couldn't buy. For me, there's a satisfaction about building your own. Also, I don't like to waste money and DIY can be much cheaper. And I respect certain independent speaker designers because they focus on what's audible over what's saleable. My secondary system has DIY Linkwitz LXMinis with a chain of Amazon Music HD via Alexa (or FLAC on MusicBee cast wirelessly from a laptop) > DTS Play-Fi > Paradigm PW Link > MiniDSP 2x4 HD > AIYIMA A07 amps > LXMinis. When using Alexa, which I do 95% of the time, the system is completely voice-controlled. Even turning it on is voice-controlled, so I literally never have to touch anything. I even wrapped 12 gauge OFC speaker cable in braided sleeves.

The MiniDSP had the PEQs pre-programmed for this setup. The LXMinis are accurate when measured with REW, and they hit all the attributes when listening to the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration Disc, but I've always thought they could use more bass, which isn't going to happen because, besides a subwoofer or two, it would require a new $500 MiniDSP and new PEQ programming. And since this is a secondary system, I don't want to spend the money. Overall, this system cost less than $1,500, including the laptop and Echo.

My future primary system is partially built (lacks cosmetics and a suitable place to place them for now) and consists of DIY BFM Davids. They have been tested with vintage amps being fed by a SMSL Sanskrit 10th Mk II DAC sourced by my phone. If you consider my vintage Pioneer SA-8800 into the cost, this system cost less than $2,000. About the same as just one of my HT subwoofers cost new.

Since you've decided to stick with the Real-Tek, I suspect you've read the Tom's Hardware DAC test, which would give you comfort in your selection. I decided to go with the SMSL just to get the best measurements for the best value.

However, I would dissuade inexperienced DIYers from this endeavor if their goal is to save money because after they buy all the tools, supplies and whatnot, they likely won't. And it's very likely they'll screw up something, which will cost even more money.

@jssmith  RE the Realtek I had forgotten about Tom's. I used to go there for graphics card reviews but never thought about audio. I have heard a number of systems and the definition I heard with the Realtak was what kept me there.

  I find it interesting though that Tom's likes the idea of a PC based music server. I can mix and match and have a set for the day and another for tomorrow grabbed out of almost 2TB of music. I would have it no other way.

 I am going to try that Mini DSP HD on my smaller two way soon. I hear good things about it and it sure is cheaper than Xilicas.

I agree with the idea to save money is the only reason to start DIY you might not save any especially if you place a dollar amount on your time to learn. I am fortunate in that design software and a Haas VF-4 for milling were allready paid for from my metal working business so the tools to make things and skills were there.

DIY can still be cheaper though if you go with proven designs and flat packs and the associated proven drivers and beat the pants of virtually all the audio store offerings. #1 problem I have seen with inexperience is the idea you can just take all that stuff you have accumulated over the years and cut holes in wood, assemble and it will just sound wonderful. Does not work that way. 

@mijostyn --

"... I did not say there were not other ways. They are generally a lot more expensive, not any better sounding and have limited functionality vs a full fledged computer. My system doubles as a theater. I can also stream videos and movies as well as any audio service. I can record records to the hard drive and AB various versions of ...you name it. IMHO music servers are an insane waste of money. It is like comparing the pricing of commercial vs consumer audio equipment. Hint, professionals are not as easily conned."

Can’t really say what you’re after here, but I’ll bite: pro digital output PCIe sound cards from RME, Lynx and Marian, not least Word clocked, to my ears are the easy and generally cheaper equivalent to USB or USB to S/PDIF offerings - the latter of which have been the hot cakes in computer audiophilia for several years now, and are a true PITA to be brought to their fuller potential (go figure). No indeed, pro’s aren’t easily conned; naturally they’re not going for the latter option.

And regarding PC’s/music servers: mine IS a fully fledged full ATX-sized DIY computer with care taken into a low ripple and powerful PSU, mobo choice, processor, RAM, etc. and overall implementation. A lot more could be done here, but it’s a balancing act with other areas that need attention as well.

"One last thing. The problem with ears is that they are connected to a brain and when brains are concerned all bets are off. Example. Have a dispute with your wife then go mow down 50 people with an SUV. Sometimes brains really s-ck."

Getting down to brass tacks: if one’s ears deems it’s worth going for, it is. If not.. And let me bring it to you - peoples brains seem to f*ck up their decision making perfectly well without the aid of hearing. Often it’s all about the proper narrative, and if it wasn’t as much about spousal-imposed restrictions, aesthetics, conjecture, prejudice, convention, snobbery etc. and a little more about what hits the ears only, well, that’d be something to cherish, I find.

"The material a surround it made from really does not matter. It is the design of the surround given the drivers intended use. Certain designs work best with certain materials. Subwoofers need a large X max and a long throw, low compliance suspension requiring large dual spiders and butyl surrounds. Foam surrounds are a poor choice for subwoofer drivers as the stress causes even the good foam to disintegrate. 25 years is not good enough. A suspension should never fail."

That a suspension material doesn’t fail for several decades is just a convenience. Foam surrounds allow for application in designs that otherwise wouldn’t be properly implemented, so yes you’re right; it’s what the design dictates. Subwoofers don’t necessarily need long throw drivers with butyl surrounds though, but more on that below.

"... unless you are using an insanely large driver (21") you are not going very low at all. In order to move the amount of air required to produce a 20 Hz note a 12 or 15" driver has to move quite a distance especially at volume. Even at moderate levels the excursions would be plainly noticeable. If they are not then your woofers are not doing anything below 40 Hz. It is simple physics and it does not matter what type of enclosure you are using. Distortion does increase with excursion distance after a point. Modern subwoofer drivers can easily do 1 cm excursions without distortion, some up to 2 cm. Down below 40 Hz it is not what you hear that counts. It is what you feel. A 20 Hz sine wave played at just 75 dB causes my entire house to rattle. I have four 12" subwoofers in a 16 foot wide room and you can see the excursions across the room."

You make absolutes from a local context - your own. No, a 12" or 15" driver doesn’t have to jump wildly about to make to some rumbling at 20Hz, but you’re right that they will in a sealed enclosure with max. excursion at the tune - that’s also physics. I can tell you for sure that a 15" B&C pro driver with accordion cloth surround and +/- 9mm Xmax in a pair of tapped horns like I’m using only vibrates at levels down to 20-ish Hz that shakes the air quite violently, because the horn enclosure and the specific loading of the driver does the heavy lifting with excursion minima at the tune. They’ll each do ~120dB’s at the LP @ 20-25Hz and stay within the B&C’s Xmax limits - that’s a damn fact. Actually, add a few dB’s because they’re corner loaded.

Where it does get hairy is sub 20Hz into the infrasonics. This is where you need a couple of big a** drivers to produce proper pressure to make these ultra low frequencies matter as something that reverberates your whole body. To some a subwoofer (for the term to be strict) should cover down to 10Hz, but mostly that’s fruitless unless you have the right floor and room construction and über displacement capacity plus -wattages at hand. Horns would be quite big indeed to do the honors down that low, but you’d get away with using fewer drivers.

While it does use large excursion woofers from Tang Band, Danley makes a sub that goes down to 17hz with 8" woofers. THSpud | Danley Sound Labs, Inc.

There are plans to build these out there and the one I have which was given to me unfinished remains that way since real deep bass does not interest me much. Horn subs operate by different rules and what you need is a proper design. To go down low with small excursion woofers in subs means much more box volume and some pretty good length.

As Phusis says low excursion works just fine in the right horn for low bass. The Danley is a pretty small box so it has to have large excursion woofers to work.

I don't think you can get great sound from an internal sound card.  My system is also pc based- converted my best vinyl to 24-bit/192 kHz on a decent system (Benz Ref cartridge; Graham Mk 2 tonearm; Sota Cosmos w/ vacuum; Blue Electric Virus phono stage or Audio Research SP10 Mk 2 Preamplifier; RME Babyface A/D; to  Adobe Audition).  Played back directly from the PC they suck.  Played back via a decent USB DAC I can't tell the difference and haven't found anyone who can.

You can indeed get great sound but perhaps not from them all. The key as far as I am concerned is did you download the Hi-Def driver to use with y6our card? Made a really big difference for me.

  @jssmith  suggested this site and my experience with Realtak sound cards on my PC agrees with the Tom's review. Audiophile PC Sound - The Real Cost of Hi-Fi - Tom’s Hardware | Tom's Hardware

  What sound card and PC did you try?

@mahlman , you have to be very careful with specs when it comes to bass. What a speaker does at 1 meter is a far cry from what it would do in a room at 3 meters. Most woofers can move fine at 20 Hz but it does not mean they are actually radiating the sound with any authority.

@phusis ,I am honored that you would spend so much time analyzing my post.

It sounds like we are on the same side of the ile. We both use computer audio and not dedicated music streamers like an Aurender. I suspect you are a PC guy and I have to admit that my computer knowledge is somewhat lacking. But, the sound cards I have heard, and I have not heard all of them did not sound as good as an Apple driving a Berkley Alpha USB. They were obviously veiled for some reason and I suspect why many dis computer audio. I would not go any other way.

My point about brains is that each brain has it's own way of interpreting it's senses. Some interpretations are better than others. Just because someone thinks a certain something sounds better does not mean it will to other people. You can only trust the opinion of other people who interpret sound the way you do. I have two such people in my life. A multitude of issues will determine sound interpretation, looks and price are the two big ones. In my world they do not count one iota other than there are certain pieces of equipment I like that I can not afford, at least for the time being. 

You are quite correct. Horn loaded drivers do not have to work near as hard because they are impedance matched to the air. Very few people use subwoofer horns because they are extremely large and they tend to have their own resonance problems. Forgetting about horns everything else I said is true. Someone mentioned foam surrounds as being best. It depends on the design and intension of the driver. I will say if you see a subwoofer with a foam surround, run away. I have seen to many of them fail including the Velodynes I ran for a decade or so. One of them is now the base for a fish tank. The vast majority of sub drivers are made with butyl rubber surrounds for a reason. 

Take any pair of 12" or 15" sub drivers in an appropriate sealed enclosures. Put them in a 15' X 30' room, cue up a 20 Hz test tone and turn it up to 90 dB. What you will see are cones flying in approximately a 1" blur, a little less for the 15 cone. What you will hear is your whole house rattling. This is not my local context or my opinion. If you do not know this it is because you have not built enough subwoofers. What is "local" is that I only expect dynamic drivers to make noise below 100 Hz. Most residential folded horns run up to 350 Hz. K horns used to be 500 Hz. That is not bass anymore. Middle C is 256 hz. It is well into the midrange.Then you are faced with another huge problem. A large chunk of your midrange is five feet behind the rest of your speaker. That is a 5 ms group delay! In order to make that work you will have to biamp the speaker and put a 5 ms delay on the high frequency drivers using DSP. I always wanted to try that with K horns to see what you would get. I have another local problem. I use Line source loudspeakers. In order to match their radiation characteristics I had to create a line source subwoofer array using 4 subwoofers. On a 16 foot wall 4 subwoofer horns would be a site to see. I am working on a new system with 8 subwoofers. The four 12" subs I am using right now are working too hard and on occasion I run them into their bump stops. They have a X max of 19 mm. That is a 38 mm excursion. In a 16 foot wide room.  It takes a lot to make powerful sub bass, a lot more than most people think. I do not have any problem with multiple drivers. I would use larger ones but then the size of the enclosures would be prohibitive in my "local" situation.

 

@wvgraber , Nice System, my feelings exactly. 

@mijostyn  You are kind of debating yourself here. I have slight academic interest in subs that go that low and figure 27hz is enough for me. And I don't care how big the box is because I treasure precise low distortion sound over large excursion thump. We have different goals here and your 8 sub system sounds OK for Star Wars but I would not want to listen to my two channel music on it. neither of our positions are incorrect they address different goals.

  I am sitting here thinking of your needs a lot of power statement. I don't happen to have that need and 100 watts is enough to run one out of the room with my current setup.