Build Speakers: A great Idea or a Foolish Endeavor?

I think it takes some guts to build speakers for the first time. But most audio enthusiast think speaker building is much harder than it actually is.

In my experience; making the decision to build speakers for home theater systems or high end stereo is worth the effort.

The money saved versus performance level is extraordinary. You would have to spend 10x more if buying retail to match the performance in many cases.

But many of you would be wondering: “isn’t it too hard for me to do myself?”

Well, possibly…

… but in my experience most people can find a way to learn what they need to know in order to accomplish the task. And in most situations the results are more than just encouraging, with some of the systems approaching ‘state of the art’ status.

We are running a Sale on our Speaker Plans!Digital Audio Speakers and Speaker Plans page.


Let’s Fight HungerTogether

This article will focus on the crossover since that’s the
difficult part to get right

The most common type of speaker is a passive speaker or one that uses a passive crossover network. These are what you typically see when shopping at retail stores. They have one set of speaker wire binding posts that connects to a single amplifier channel. Some passive speakers may even have multiple binding posts, but these are still passive but with the provision to biwire the speakers.

Active speakers are different than passive in that they have no passive circuits within the speakers themselves. So they would need one amp channel to drive each of the different speaker cones within the speaker. (that’s a very simplified explanation)

Active technology is widely accepted amongst the pro audio crowd, and it has major advantages which I will spell out at the bottom of the page.

My personal preference is active speakers (using an active crossover).

There are several forms of active speaker systems.

How does Active work?

An active speaker merely implies that the speaker uses a crossover at ‘line level’ before the amplifier stage.

This can be done in several ways:

1. An active monitor. These are widely used in the pro recording industry. What most consumers are not aware of is that these can also make great home theater speakers.

You do not need a powered receiver or amplifier with these speakers. They can be driven from the sound card or directly from a preamp or surround processor.

2. An external speaker controlleror speaker crossover such as the Behringer unit in the carousel to the right.

3. A speaker software crossoversuch as Thuneau Allocator Lite. With this type of speaker system the computer can take the place of the CD player, music server, room correction, and most importantly the speaker crossover. The digital crossover replaces the passive crossover inside the speakers.

4. A speaker crossover design program to help you build your own passive speakers.

TheSound Easy Speaker Crossover Software is a well known and respected passive crossover solution if you have your mind set on passive networks.

Why go with an Active Crossover?

What makes them Superior to Passive Crossover Networks?

Okay, so what makes an active crossover superior when you build speakers? Here are a few factors.

• Driver control

• Amplifier damping factor

• Power loss from passive components

• Transient response degraded by passive components

• Phase distortion (introduced by passive crossover)

• Phase shift (introduced by passive crossovers)

• Heat distortion (Passive crossover components absorb amplifier power and convert it to heat.)

As they heat up there values change creating distortion from operating outside their design parameters.

• Amplifier matching is only done properly with active crossovers because it is possible to match the amplifier specifically for the driver it is connected to.

Example: use a tube amp for the tweeters. A nice solid state amp for the mid drivers. And a powerful pro amp for the bass drivers.

Why do Active Speakers Seem more complicated? (they aren’t)

If you have a stereo pair of 3 way speakers You will need 6 amplifier channels, one for each individual speaker driver.

The reason is that with an active speaker system each driver type has it’s own amplifier channel.

You will also need 6 preamplifier channels and a multichannel D to A (digital to analog) converter to get the digital signal out of the computer.

Obviously, this increases the expense of this project somewhat.

But remember you don’t’ need a CD player, and you get the room correction practically for free. So we think it is a fair trade in that regard.

Are there any products on the market today that you don’t have to build from scratch?

Yes, DEQX and TACT are both companies that make a good active system that primarily does the room correction, speaker crossover, and preamp functions.

You would still need amplifiers and you would build speakers and a music server.

The Active Crossover:

What I want to help you do is create custom speaker boxes and system components with a more complete system approach. However, you would not have to perform your whole system assembly from scratch.

For example: you could get the speaker plans we provide, and have a cabinet shop execute thespeaker cabinet design from plans that you supply.

Then you would only assemble the speaker drivers into the speaker cabinet, and internal wiring into the them.

You could also buy an off the shelf active crossover to build speakers similar to what is used for pro systems. Keep in mind this is not as transparent as the digital PC crossover that is described in this site.

I would say the active digital crossover gets you the largest jump in transparency and musicality.An Example System and How it Works:

1. playback program in computer (like foobar, or itunes)

2. room equalizer in computer

3. crossover in computer (splits the signal for each driver)

4. signal exits to a multichannel sound card or interface box (this can be internal or external)

5. D to A conversion takes place within the interface box

6. analog signals exit to multichannel preamplifier

7. preamplifier controls amplifiers (volume control)

8. amplifiers drive each individual speaker driver (one way per channel)

Build Speakers – Gain Total control over the final product!

Making the decision to DIY speakers for yourself can be a bit intimidating.

But you don’t have to do it all yourself. Much of the work can be hired out. Use your imagination.

I think the fear people have is they are concerned that they will go to all this trouble and end up with an inferior product in the end.

You need not worry!

There are simply too many factors that are superior to the passive crossover speaker systems on the retail market.

Why should you go with DIY speakers?

Return to Building Speakers page 1 from: Build Speakers page 2
DIY speaker cables
DIY Speaker Projects
Return to Best Home Theater System from: Build-Speakers
Return to Home Speaker from: Build Speakers