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Finalist - My Covid19 Isolation Project

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  • Finalist - My Covid19 Isolation Project

    It's been a number of years since I've posted anything in the Projects Forum. A quick walk around the house reveals I have no legitimate need for another pair of speakers, but there is the social isolation aspect of the pandemic which in my case must be addressed. My first week of self imposed social distancing made it overwhelmingly clear that I needed something to occupy my thoughts and time. There is only so much yard-work one can do in the Sonoran desert this time of year.

    A quick review of available designs and and my stash of drivers determined that all I needed were Vifa NE149's in order to build a pair pf Finalists. Hmm, another highly regarded Jim/Curt design. While I am very happy with my Statements and over the moon with respect to the Statement Monitors, did I want to become fan boy? Ultimately yes, but that's a part of the story for another time.

    While reviewing bass reflex and MLTL cabinet drawings I posted a plea for a pair of the Vifa drivers. Much to my surprise I quickly received a couple of offers and ultimately purchased a new pair from a forum member. Name withheld to protect the generous.... Anyway, ultimately the monitor cabinets seemed to provide the requisite bass performance while not taxing my temporary shop space and limited toolbox. A couple of minutes entering panel dimensions into Cutlist Plus and I knew a single sheet of 3/4" MDF combined with a half sheet of 1/2" MDF were all I needed to be in cabinet making mode. So off to the big box store to stand in line to enter.

    Just like many others I am increasingly reluctant to fill my shop with MDF dust, breath the dust, wipe it from my glasses and wash it out of my clothes, etc. On a positive note it's cheap, easily found and consistent sheet to sheet. Only the dust and exposed edges are my issues. For years I've made a habit of gluing a piece of door skin or 1/8" material on cabinet tops to eliminate any chance of edges showing through veneer. This time my thought process was, why not spend an extra week gluing 1/8 Baltic Birch to all exterior surfaces? No print through, time and material wasted in the pursuit of mental stimulation, blah, blah, blah.

    Let's get to the pictures! As designed and assembled the cabinets need careful fitting with attention to the mid-tunnel placement. The front baffle is thicker than my router bits will cut through from one side, which for me meant cutting the mid-range opening from the backside, assembling the baffle and then cutting through from the front. Careful alignment of the drill bit results in clean openings, front to back. in hindsight there are probably easier ways to assemble the cabinets.

    Attached Files
    If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
    ~ Johnny Carson

    Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

  • #2
    More cabinet assembly pictures...Attached photos appear to be in reverse order, but the the clamps show a front baffle glued and clamped. A leap of faith that the mid-tunnel is aligned and my hole routing efforts will not disappoint. Spoiler, everything aligned as planned.

    Since I do not currently have access to my vacuum press, platens and clamps were the order of business for the Baltic Birch and paper-backed Walnut. First and second photos are a plywood panel being edge routed and the fully skinned cabinets. The resultant cabinets are possibly my best effort ever at this point in construction. Edges are uniform and sharp, no MDF edges to print through and nice clean surfaces to veneer. Since they are simple, mid-sized boxes there is not much to say about the veneer phase.
    If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
    ~ Johnny Carson

    Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

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    • #3
      Lacking round-overs or bevels veneering goes much faster than usual. Veneer was laid-out and cut and stacked in order of application in one operation. My preferred veneer glue is Cold Press and with a 30-45 minute set time in the desert heat all the veneer was done in 2 days. Much to fast during a pandemic. Photos show my clamping method, veneered boxes sans finish and drivers placed for first impressions. In the spirit of dragging this build out my plans was to do a French Polish. My desire to hear music short circuited my finishing plans. More photos to come tomorrow.
      If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
      ~ Johnny Carson

      Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

      Comment


      • #4
        Ed, they are looking great so far!
        You are making much quicker headway than I am with my isolation build. I am stuck on building the complex, series XOs...
        Keep it up.
        ​​​​​​​Andy.

        Comment


        • #5
          Andy, Thanks for commenting. I was beginning to think my life was a Twilight Zone show, were I woke to find I was the only human left. Seriously, the Finalists are completed and playing. I just need to finish the photo uploads and performance comments.

          On another note, I don't envy you having to build a 3-way series x-over, particularly with the number of components on your schematic. The Finalists by comparison are all second order slopes.
          Ed
          If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
          ~ Johnny Carson

          Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

          Comment


          • #6
            With veneer finished I tend to get antsy about hearing speakers and these were no different. Driver cut-outs had been started from the back of the baffle, so all that was needed was to find the center holes behind veneer and finish the cut-outs. A photo showing the drivers test fit is attached above. Lower cabinet walls and rear baffle are lined with 1" rubber sound dampening with PSA backing. Conidering the convoluted path to the upper portion of the cabinet I reasoned it would be OK to leave it unlined. Listening impressions indicate it was not a problem. Figuring I had nothing to loss the same backing was used to line the last 6" of the mid-range tunnel. Trim pieces routed from 1/8" Baltic plywood are used to finish the mid-tunnel.

            On a side note, 6" pipe was the hardest part to source, unless I wanted a 20 foot length, which I did not. My wife finally found it at a big box store in 18" lengths.

            For no good reason the x-overs are on two boards, one for the tweet and mid and another for the bass. 100 uF capacitors are large and there are two of them as well as a large iron core inductor. Like I said, I tend to get antsy about this time and forgot to take a pic of the woofer board. In any case, these might have been one of the simplest x-overs I've every assembled. Nothing to see here folks. The mid/tweeter board is shown below, prior affixing components and soldering connections


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            If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
            ~ Johnny Carson

            Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

            Comment


            • #7
              After 2+ weeks listening to the Finalists it is time for me to try to document my thoughts on performance. It is always interesting to read what a good writer has to say about the sonic characteristics of a speaker. Not as much fun to try and write my observations in a manner that will be informative and entertaining. So here goes…

              In a previous post I revealed that I have built both the Statements and Statement Monitors. To provide something of a benchmark that PE members will be familiar with, my comments will be in the form of a comparison to Statement Monitors. My Statement Monitors were built about 10 yrs. ago, using MDF and a solid 1-1/4” Western Maple baffle. As a side note, the baffles have held up very well during this time, despite a move from Western Washington to the Phoenix area. Changes in humidity have had no discernible effect in movement nor splitting of the baffles.

              If pressed to choose, the Monitors are my favorites of, at least of the Statement line which I have heard. In fact, they have been my go-to monitors when listening to acoustic music. For small to medium sized rooms they have a smooth and balanced presentation. Bass has good depth, impact and tonal qualities, very satisfying in an appropriately sized venue. Mid-range is full and accurate up until they are pushed to hard, at which time they take on an edge that presents only at higher volume and is not a fault of the speaker but rather the operator. The Fountek ribbon tweeters are a standard and do not disappoint in the Monitors or the full-size Statements. In the Monitors they smooth with sparkle, pure of tone and do not standout in any objectionable manner.

              When Monitors are properly distanced from the front wall presentation is holographic and wider and deeper than speaker placement might suggest.


              In contrast, the Finalists are more similar than different. There are differences which is why a comparison is worthwhile, but they are generally subtle in nature. One of those differences is a build omission and so should be revealed before going any further. My Finalists, as built, do not have a switch for near-wall and far-wall setup. I am a proponent of pulling speakers into the room and of open back mid-range systems. With this preference in mind and a general placement location already chosen I decided to forego this feature. As a result of my thriftiness I can pat myself on the back for having saved $5 to $10 on this build.

              As illustrated in the accompanying photo, speaker placement is straight ahead, approximately 5 feet from the front wall and 7-8'ish feet apart. The listening position is ~12 feet from a line drawn between speakers. The current set-up consists of modified Carver components, a CAL Icon II Power Boss CD player, a modified Ariston RD10 with Rega tonearm and Benz Micro Ace cartridge. Speaker wire and interconnects are whatever was on hand. I am not a proponent of the snake oil school of wire/interconnect marketing.

              Finally, the contrast. On first listen the Finalists presentation was somewhat constrained and maybe lacking some detail. By no means, a shortcoming of the speakers, just not as open as I had anticipated. Over the next 24 hours of continuous play these characteristics were replaced by a very dynamic and detailed presentation. Two changes were particularly dramatic, mid-range took on a front and center position, meaning that there was inner detail, excellent dynamics and a top to bottom integration and presentation comparable to some of the best I have heard.

              Bass presentation became more tuneful and detailed. Having studied the measurements on
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              Speakerdesignworks
              I expected good bass performance. I was not prepared for the level of output and micro detail presented after 24 hours of break-in. String-bass, kettle drums, baritone are presented exceptionally well. Lest I commit another sin of omission, let us not forget the RS28F tweeters. Truly they were a mainstay in many designs, capable of performing much higher than their price point. Jim and Curt’s implementation in the Finalists is no different. Treble is presented accurately, without sibilance or distortion even when pushed hard. Simply stated they are industry standards and workhorses that perform like thoroughbreds in this implementation.


              Overall, Finalists seem to be masters of presentation. Good recordings are a pleasure and the best recordings are sublime. Both male and female vocals are presented accurately and with detail that reveals subtleties of tone and texture not often heard from speakers in their CBT (cost to build) range.

              Next to musical accuracy, sound-stage is something I am always aware of, even when not listening critically. With these speakers placement is not especially critical to a good presentation, either tonally or in terms of sound stage. The sound-stage is presented detail such that performer placement on stage is clearly discernible, and further is not constrained either in depth, width, or shortened height. Good sound stage is typical of what you might expect from a high-end monitor, and the Finalists deliver, despite or because of a large 25” H x 11-1/2” W x 15” D cabinet.


              In contrast to the Statement Monitors, I have not found any hint of mid-range edge, even at ridicules SPL’s. The Finalists just seem to play louder, even into dB’s that are uncomfortable. The music simply gets louder, same even presentation with no discernible impairment of dynamic range, driver emphasis or apparent distortion. Realistically, there is a limit, it is just higher than I am willing to endure.

              Speaking of enduring, to those of you who have read to this point, Thank You for indulging my need to share during this period of social isolation. In my first post about this build I mentioned my concerns about appearing to be a fan boy. Given the excellent performance of these Finalists my fears are well founded. My Thanks to Jim and Curt for making this design available to the DIY community. I only wish I’d built them earlier when drivers were readily available
              . Ed


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              If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
              ~ Johnny Carson

              Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

              Comment


              • #8
                Nice looking work Ed! The Statement Monitors were on my wish list to build for the longest, but unfortunately other builds took their place. Haven't visited Curt's site in a while, do the Finalist use the old RS28's or the new one's? BTW, great write up on your impression of the speakers, from the sounds of it, they are fantastic!
                My "No-Name" CC Speaker
                Kerry's "Silverbacks"
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                • #9
                  Hi Ed,

                  Excellent write up and expression of your thoughts. I was very sad when drivers for the Finalists started going NLA. It was one of the designs Curt and I collaborated on that I felt was superb and was a great value. As always, Curt's crossover work is why they sound so good. His crossover work and voicing capability are second to none!

                  Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying them.

                  Jim

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Kevin K. View Post
                    Haven't visited Curt's site in a while, do the Finalist use the old RS28's or the new one's? BTW, great write up on your impression of the speakers, from the sounds of it, they are fantastic!
                    The Finalists use the RS28, not the RS28T. I was unusually luck in that I had bought 2-3 pairs just prior to the RS28's being replaced. As for the Statement Monitors, I believe all of the drivers are still available. While there are many newer designs, Statement monitors are worth the effort to build. I kind of liken them to AR3a's or JBL 100's, in that they are a high point in DIY and will always be a benchmark against which others will be measured.
                    If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
                    ~ Johnny Carson

                    Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jim Holtz View Post
                      Hi Ed,

                      Excellent write up and expression of your thoughts. I was very sad when drivers for the Finalists started going NLA. It was one of the designs Curt and I collaborated on that I felt was superb and was a great value. As always, Curt's crossover work is why they sound so good. His crossover work and voicing capability are second to none!

                      Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying them.

                      Jim
                      I share your disappointment that the drivers are NLA. I would still like to build both the MLTL version and a center channel. Maybe I had better turn my attention to the Travelers, before it's to late. Ed
                      If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
                      ~ Johnny Carson

                      Bungelow Ed's Photo Album http://techtalk.parts-express.com/album.php?u=8594

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                      • #12
                        Beautiful work, Ed, and great write up on your thoughts. Those are very elegant and classy with the veneer choice, and the finish work. Glenn.

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