Take on Speaker Building "Or; Spend up to Ten times More on Retail Speakers!"
Speaker building takes time... that's the worst part about it.
Is DIY rewarding?
But to achieve the highest possible sound quality; arm yourself with the best speaker construction tools...
First we need to know; how do speakers work?
In a conventional speaker cone type system the cone of the speaker is attached to a voice coil. The voice coil is basically a cylinder of wound copper that is glued to the speaker cone (the part you can see from the outside)(its glued to the back of this cone).
The voice coil former
On the one end of the voice coil wire is the positive lead, on the other, is the negative lead. The wire basically wraps around the former (usually fiberglass or similar material) the length of the voice coil height. The former keeps the wire in a perfect cylinder shape so it doesn't break apart and short out on the walls of the magnetic gap.
Sometimes the cylinder of wire is a little less than the total length of the former. The speaker cone is supported by a spider beneath the cone and a surround that is visible from the front of the cone. Need to know more about driver spacing and crossover point selection?
This voice coil rests inside a gap within a magnet.
The magnet and magnetic gap
The voice coil does not or should not touch the sides of the magnetic gap. The gap looks like a circular channel that is cut into the magnet assembly and it is just big enough to allow the voice coil to fit into with a bit of clearance on both sides.
The center piece or inside of the magnet, (attached to the magnet structure) that is on the inside of the voice coil is called the pole piece.
Wires are attached to both the positive and negative ends of the voice coil.
When current is applied from the amplifier, the magnetic field when introduced by an electrical current will push or pull the voice coil out or pull into the magnetic gap (depending on whether the charge is positive or negative).
When the coil is forced in and out it causes the speaker cone to move along with it (as they are attached).
Cone movement creates the sound my moving the air
This movement of the cone moves air is what causes the sound waves to be heard from the speaker cone. All conventional cone speaker systems work basically the same way. The complexity of motor systems can be vast but this essential design component is the same.
Drivers that you can use in speaker building are the same basic drivers as in retail speakers. There are very high quality drivers available.
What are the tools of Speaker Building and how has the technology changed over the years?
Why DIY speakers?
In the last few years some new and exciting things have been happening regarding speaker building and design.
The computer is changing the way loudspeakers are designed and built. Initially computers were used to control the machinery that cut out the pieces of the speaker cabinet.
And they could control machinery that built the drivers as well as using computers to do the actual design work of the speaker cabinet and other parts. Most of this occurred around the same time and by several major companies.
In the last few years something new has been happening.
I’m not sure who came up with it first; but some creative software designers began offering software programs that could serve the speaker crossovers, speaker controllers, and room correction all in one neat software package.
And all of these functions can be done while in the digital domain of nearly any up to date home personal computer. This is much more incredible than it seems.
How the PC is related to Speaker Building
Back in the early 2000’s a few companies began rolling out room correction and speaker controller packages such as the DEQX and TACT digital controller units. These units were intended to solve some of the problems associated with prior room correction equalizers and analog speaker crossovers and controllers.
These products took the digital signal from a CD player and fitted a correction filter to the digital output stream using what are called filter taps. Then the digital filter was converted to analog and exited the rear of the box just like any normal stereo preamplifier.
Here’s how it works; you make a measurement of your speaker’s output, your room response, (by playing some prerecorded sounds in the room and recording them at the same time). Then the digital machine would introduce some inverse filters to smooth out the response.
The result was intended to be a more accurate clearer picture of the recorded sound. And these systems work pretty well. Both DEQX and TACT still offer these products and can be used even for DIY speaker building.
Fast forward to 2010:
With the recent processing power of modern computers, any consumer can build their own computer controlled, speaker controller/ speaker crossover, and room correction system for a fraction of the price.
Nearly any modern PC can do this with the addition of some basic hardware and software that is readily available. The applications of these products are just a bit different than they were originally designed.
But they work perfectly for the job with no modifications because of how they were made.
Don’t think for a second that these pro level devices will offer inferior acoustic results. They are incredibly transparent, musical, and dynamic devices.
So, how does this digital manipulation work?In the pro industry engineers use something called a “recording interface box”, also known as a “music interface” or “firewire interface”.
They use them to pipe multiple tracks of sound (typically from mic feeds) into a PC or Mac, then they can apply processing, make changes or whatever they want while in the digital domain of the computer.
This also offers the ability to output that signal any way they like through the outputs of the interface box.
Sometimes these serve as a multi-track or multichannel music and movie mixers or as a stereo mixer.
These multiple channel “digital mixing desks” as they are sometimes called, are the key to getting any digital or analog signal into or out of the PC.
The digital to analog and analog to digital converters are generally of high quality even in the cheaper units.
In fact you can purchase as high of quality a unit as your pocket book allows.
And with many of them, you can string multiple units together if you were to use this type of system in a home theater environment to fulfill your multi-channel speaker building needs.
How does this relate to Speaker Building?
Where does this lead us?
By having a machine that can take either an analog or a digital signal; run it into a PC, and apply correcting functions while in the digital domain you have just given yourself tremendous flexibility.
You can play back a high resolution music file of uncompressed music in 44.1/16 bit, 96/24, or 192/24 and send this pure signal straight into a digital crossover program.
The digital software crossover will split the signal of each speaker for the tweeter, midrange driver, and bass drivers.
You can also make corrections for room modes and problems that you found while measuring your room response.
And all this is done while in the protection of the digital realm and not using a single passive speaker crossover component or filter.
Passive crossovers introduce huge problems, anomalies and distortions into the signal chain avoid them like the plague if you can.
Why isn’t everyone using this technology? The market is flooded with passive speaker technology.
Using active and digital crossover slopes is nothing new, but when a marketing system is in place it is very difficult for consumers to change directions.
We tend to want to do what is popular; or what everyone else is doing and that would be using the antiquated passive technology that is the current business model.
We as a community have shown we are not ready to move into the efficiency of the digital age. As long as we do this retail speaker manufacturers will make only what the public is buying in mass quantities.
By the way; did you know that we hear in digital?
It’s true; your ear drums transmit an analog signal caused by the movement of air on the drum, then it’s converted into digital pulse and transmitted to the brain – our ears use an analog to digital conversion to calculate sound. That’s another subject for another day!
What does this do for the average Speaker Builder using Custom Speaker Box Plans?
It gives you nearly unlimited power over the quality of speaker system you are able to build. The normal limitations of analog passive crossover networks and crummy room response are a thing of the past.
Making changes to the speaker’s crossover system can be done with the click of a mouse in a few seconds. You can even take on a build HTPC (computer build) project; assembling a computer is incredibly simple.
If you move your audio system into a new room of your home; you can make new acoustic measurements, readjust the speaker crossover/ room correction software, and have a much more user friendly and accurate music and movie system.
This is a big deal as each room will sound different than the next.
You also have independent control over the balance between bass, midrange and treble. This is much more important than most audiophiles/ movie buffs realize. You don’t even know how great it is to be able to adjust this balance until you have heard it.
Every single person hears a little bit differently, and we all have our own tastes. This level of flexibility is critical to finding your musical nirvana.
I could literally go on for pages and pages with my opinion of why this is the greatest thing since sliced bread; but nothing will take the place of your own experience.
I suggest you find a retailer that offers an active or digital speaker system and give it a listen.
Meridian makes a line of digital speakers that do just what I’m discussing here. ATC is another company that offers active speaker systems.
Both companies com highly recommended and I think they are awesome indicators of what this technology is capable of for DIY speaker building.
And this gives you a realistic way to build your own speaker system. If you use quality components, speaker drivers, and carefully build an excellent speaker cabinet you won’t believe the results you can achieve even on a budget.
My opinion is that speaker building done this way simply cannot be beat! I haven’t heard anything to this date that would change my mind about this.
If you get the chance; take on your own DIY speaker project and find out for yourself just how great this type of music and movie entertainment system can be.
Learn More about Speaker Building and the DIY speaker:
• HTPC Build - learn build HTPC or home theater computer yourself.
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