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

@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.

@mahlman , no I am not debating myself. Being the SOB that I am I am simply stating reality for what it is. If you want to cut yourself short for whatever reason that is your business but trying to convince people that you can have decent bass with woofers that do not move is another thing all together. Then you back that up by saying you do not like it (bass). If it does indeed hurt your ears that is awful and I do sympathize with you.

My subwoofers were designed for music not Star Wars although they do the Star Wars thing just fine. That was not the intension. 

Feeling like you are at a live concert requires low bass. There is no way around this. Without it you have a run of the mill Hi Fi. Might be a great run of the mill Hi Fi but, it will not be convincing in the least. Having said this rather harshly I have to admit that realistic sound is not everybody's goal for one reason or another but, nobody has ever told me this is not the ultimate target for the serious hobbyist and my point of reference when evaluating systems.  What other reference can you have?

Assiduous application of solipsism. Your reality not mine.

Back in 1999 I got the idea to build a DIY fully horn loaded system with folded corner horns back in the corners and wide range horns (Oris 150 horns with AER BD3 drivers) and Fostex t900a bullet tweeters out in the room where they would provide a better image. DSP would correct for the great difference of distance to the various drivers.  It was 2004 before I found a DSP that would accomplish everything I wanted.  That was a DEQX  HDP4 Preamp/DSP.  After I got everything together and playing I was less than thrilled with the results.  Since then I have changed woofers, bass horns, wide range drivers, all three power amplifiers and reprogrammed the DEQX a dozen or more times including one final reprogramming using the services of a factory trained DEQXpert.  The final results exceeds all my expectations.  My audiophile friends and I agree that they sound great.  In addition to beautiful music I am also rewarded with the tremendous satisfaction of having conceived of my ideal speakers and then building them.  A photo of my horns may be found in my profile.