Do It Yourself, High Efficiency Speakers
No survey of high efficiency speakers would be complete without at least a nod to the world of DIY (“do it yourself,” for the uninitiated) speaker building.
The DIY crowd tends to be a pretty passionate bunch. There are entire online forums devoted just to this pursuit and they are rife with builders comparing drivers, crossovers and cabinet plans. (For example, there’s this forum sponsored by Parts Express and this one by Madisound.)
Why would otherwise sane, practical people build their own speakers rather than buy them already made?
- They find it fun and personally satisfying.
- They enjoy the process of experimentation and discovery.
- They want something that they can’t find in the ready-built marketplace.
- They want to save money.
This last point bears some closer attention. One kind of bragging rights on the DIY speaker forums seems to take the form of, “I could build something as good as a Wilson Alexandria for $273 in parts.” (Or words to that effect.) I’ve seen posts on speaker building forums centering around “tear downs” of brand name speakers in which the posters tsk-tsk over the total cost of parts compared to the retail asking price. This seems (for some) to be part of the sport.
There are two factors that have caused me to shy away from trying to build my own speakers. First, home-brew speakers (unless based upon a popular design, and even then…) tend to have very low resale value. Unlike brand name models, which you can sell (albeit at a loss) on the online market in order to recoup some of your investment, home made speakers seem to fetch pennies on the dollar on the used market.
Additionally, in order to truly build a speaker from scratch, you are moving beyond the skills required to build an amp like the ANK Kit 1 as documented on this blog. In particular, you have to consider the special equipment, tools and skills required to build speaker cabinets, pushing you far beyond the soldering iron and screwdriver into the realm of sandpaper, veneer, saws, clamps and glue.
Of course, you don’t have to be quite that hardcore when it comes to the meaning of “from scratch.” Various Internet businesses offer support and resources to those determined to take a whack at home built speaker projects. These resources range from cabinet plans, to “flat pack” cabinets supplying precut sheets of cabinet material, all the way to entirely finished cabinets complete with fancy veneers. So the prospective speaker builder can decide how deep down the DIY rabbit hole she or he wishes to descend.
DIY Speaker Building Resources
Parts Express is one of the larger resources for do it yourself speaker builders. They stock a large range of crossover components, drivers, cabinets and complete speaker kits. I didn’t see a lot here that would mate well with a low power tube amp, but perhaps I didn’t look in the right place.
In contrast, Madisound is an Internet firm that caters specifically to speaker builders, stocking a very wide range of parts and kits, including drivers, cabinets and crossover parts. They also have an entire section devoted to high-efficiency, single driver kit designs.
Another source for kits, some of which seem suitable for SET applications, is DIY Sound Group. Prices here are quite reasonable.
Pi Speakers offers a number of different, high efficiency designs for the DIY’er.
GR Research is the home of products by well respected designer Danny Richie. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot here that’s SET friendly but the site is still well worth exploring for the information and variety of designs it offers.
There are plenty of other sources for speaker DIY projects, but I’ll close this survey by mentioning Commonsense Audio, maker and distributer of Audio Nirvana full range drivers. David Dicks is the owner of Commonsense Audio; we spoke on the phone when I first began my search for high-efficiency speakers. (He also sells this 300 B SET integrated amp for only $1550 delivered in the USA, which, especially at that price, I’d love to review one day.) Commonsense sells a huge (even bewildering) range of drivers. All come with free speaker cabinet plans.
This concludes our survey of SET-friendly speakers! I hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you’ll leave a comment if you spot any omissions or corrections, or if you just want to let me know you’re following along. 😉
Special Review Feature Coming!
Check back soon for our first Steve’s Audio Blog review: The Fritz Speakers Carbon 7 SE monitor.