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Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

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  • Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

    Part 2 – My thoughts on the current state of the art of DIY speaker building.

    While it’s true that Arnie Nudell began Infinity in his garage, this does not represent what DIY speaker building was really all about at that time. When I began my interest in this hobby it was 1979 and I was in college. At the time most speaker builders were like me – we went to Radio Shack and picked up drivers (8” woofer, 50Watts, 20Oz magnets – that’s it for specs), put them in a box with little understanding of tuning, and used first order crossovers, sometime only tweeters. I guess there are quite a few commercial speakers made the same way today, but I digress….

    In the first couple of years my curiosity led me to discover AES journals in the library and I began to learn more about speaker design from the experts. Needless to say much of it was way over my head, but I was still able to learn about alignments and pick up some formulas and began to discover that some drivers came with T/S parameters that would tell me what box to put them in. What a leap in my understanding!

    In the 80’s I built speakers using a calculator and notepad. My crossovers were beginning to use Zobels and things like that, and I was probably moving into the upper levels of the DIYer world at the time just by doing so. Commercial products however, were light years ahead. They were measuring frequency response and impedance and designing complex crossovers that most of us in the hobby didn’t even understand. There was a huge chasm between what they could do and the average DIYer hobbyist. The birth of Speaker Builder magazine in the 1980 helped a lot, but we were still far behind the pro’s.

    As the 90’s rolled in this changed slowly with the creation of on-line bulletin boards and email lists, like the old Bass List. Madisound had a bulletin board you reach via modem. Then in the late 90’s the internet began to open the door and Madisound’s discussion forum became the haven for discussion. I discovered it in 1997 and quickly settled in. I have been Jeff B. ever since. This was where I connected with people like Paul V., John k, dlr, PEB, Rick Craig, Ron E, Andy G, and many others. It was working with Paul V and John K that I began to create my spreadsheets. These weren’t built in a vacuum, there was a huge exchange of knowledge taking place. I have hundreds of emails from discussions that went off-board as we worked together on tools for designing. Pretty much everything I learned of VBA I learned from Paul, and John taught me math that went well beyond my schooling, but I’ve always been able to pick things up and run with them.

    Some well-known names would frequent the board. One of those was Siegfried Linkwitz. I still have a post of his that I copied off in the early 2000’s where he posted an encouragement to the community that we DIYers had the means to surpass what was commercially available because we were not forced to compromise in the way a commercial design needed to. I was inspired by what he wrote and decided to push even harder for more understanding. If Linkwitz thought we could do it, then I wanted to do it. It was during this time that I began to create Passive crossover Designer, as Paul and John, and others also began to create design tools that would all work together. The FRD Consortium was born. The Consortium was Paul’s idea and he hosted. FRD’s by the way were file format from LAUD by Bill Waslo, who just happens to be one of us.

    Now, let’s leap frog to 2012. Attending gatherings like the InDIYana gathering in Fort Wayne or the MWAF in Dayton reveals the current state of the art in DIY speaker building, and it reveals that this state is quite high. In the early gatherings I attended there were a handful of impressively nice speakers, but there were also some speakers that, well, I wouldn’t be able to brag about much. But now, this is no longer the case. Sure, there are imperfect speakers, but it is rare now to get any multiway loudspeaker that doesn’t have reasonably flat response and isn’t based on a decent design philosophy. Then when you look at the craftsmanship…. Wow! It is amazing what these guys can do. The fact is, for a small investment, tools like OmniMic and DATS give the DIYer a very easy way to measure almost anything you would ever need to measure to design a good set of speakers. There are other tools available that help to design crossovers and predict speaker behavior like diffraction and polar response even before you build. When you couple this with uncompromising design and craftsmanship you quickly realize that we have reached that point where the DIYer (any DIYer who really wants to) can meet or exceed the performance of almost any commercial product available today.

    Twenty years ago very few of us could make the measurements or use them like a speaker company could, but that is no longer the case, today we can do almost exactly the same things (believe it or not I have been contacted by several professional engineers asking for permission to use my design tools on their jobs). And because of this we have reached the point where Siegfried’s statement enters in – we can do this and not compromise anything if we don’t want to. For a one-off-speaker for ourselves we can choose drivers, crossover components, and cabinet construction that mass producers just can’t do unless they want to sell for Wilson Audio prices. Take Dan N’s Echelons, for example, what would a commercial version of that speaker be priced at? $20,000? More?

    I came away from the MWAF convinced that we are there. We have, as a community, not just as a couple of individuals, reached the point where we can build at a level of performance comparable or exceeding that of the finest commercial offerings. You can quote me on that – I won’t take it back. I saw and heard too many excellent examples of what I am referring to as proof for my statement. This is the current state of the art of DIY speaker building, and it is state of the art.

    I want to close by calling out a couple of designs that really impressed me in one way or another. First, this was the second time I listened to Dan’s Echelons – without a doubt one of the best sounding speakers I have ever heard in my life. It is certainly on the same plane or higher as the Salk Soundscapes or Archos, two speakers that I was involved with personally. 6th Planet’s open baffle design was beautiful, very creative, and sounded very nice. One of the highest scorers on my list was Tom Zarbo’s curved Cellos. I was disappointed that they didn’t win something because they were one of the best sounding and best looking speakers of the day in my opinion. This just shows how high the bar has been raised. Dave Pellegrene’s Dragsters show what kind of creativity exists in the group. And Wolf's designs are always impeccably voiced.

    There were many more designs that were excellent, but it’s impossible to comment on all of them. I can only say that I am impressed, and I am humbled by the level of skill I see demonstrated which is some ways is well beyond my own. I am thus honored to be included in this group of hobbyists.

    Jeff B.
    Last edited by Jeff B.; 07-23-2012, 09:18 PM. Reason: spelling
    Click here for Jeff Bagby's Loudspeaker Design Software

  • #2
    Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

    Very nice Jeff!
    .

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

      I am a relative newcomer to this community, but I just want to add a simple "Hip hip!"

      You guys are great.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

        Very cool Jeff. What a positive thing to say. Thank you for writing this. Very encouraging.

        And thanks for developing all those tools. I'd still be guessing much like you were back in the ratshack days if it weren't for your tools.

        Any chance you could post Siegfried's statement in whole? That was cool to read about.

        And I agree on all points. This is an interesting age. Like I said, I'd still be spinning my wheels if it weren't for the internet. Just to bad I didn't think to look here until I did. I didn't even know there were other people interested in building speakers, ha. I would ask my profs in college (2001) about this stuff, and it turns out the internet was there all along :D
        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm2...oSKdB448TTVEnQ

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

          Of all the things I have done for fun, speaker building has been the most rewarding by far. Being involved with a community of like-minded people of considerable knowledge has been the biggest attribute to my understanding of concepts and processes. And when the subject gets a litttle to deep for board discussion, I pull out a book or reference material and read it (again :-). I really enjoy the learning process, even if for the second or third time!

          I have been to RMAF a couple of times and to some DIY gatherings, and I fully agree with Jeff: DIY speakers compete very well with commercial offerings, and very often outclass them.

          Anyway, this is a good spot to thank all the board members for their contributions to the hobby and my understanding of it.

          Bill

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

            Great retrospective Jeff. Thanks for the kind words. I remember building my first speaker back around '69. Much like you said, it used a 12" Utah woofer with an 8" Utah coaxial for the mid and tweeter. I used a very scientific method of tuning the box. I played a sine sweep through the system and watched how the flame on a match reacted to the air flow through the port. I did this repeatedly while adjusting the port length. It actually worked pretty well. Crossover? What crossover! The coax came with a cap on the tweeter. That was it. The boxes were huge. I had read that big boxes were more efficient. Jimmy Hendrix, the Airplane, Santana and the Grateful Dead never sounded so good.

            By the 70's I was using that same sign wave generator and a scope I salvaged form the town dump to make impedance measurements and calculating T/S parameters. I wrote some FORTRAN codes to simulate crossovers based on those crude impedance measurement and eventually started measuring frequency response with a Rat Shack SPL meter and test record which had pink noise bands (still have it). I went into business with my partners in 77 and I had hoped that maybe I could convince them to put a little overhead money in to some real measurement equipment and engage in a commercial venture. The idea was not shared by my partners and I have some regrets about not going that route on my own. I was trying to build my own version of the LS3/5a by then as well as 4-way that had elements of the Dahlquist DQ 10a and the Sequerra Pyramid 3. But the business grew and I didn't have the time to continue in that effort. I put DIY aside until just before I retired in '97. You have nicely summarized what happen from that point. It was, in a sense, a golden age of DIY speaker building.
            John k.... Music and Design NaO dsp Dipole Loudspeakers.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

              Very awesome writeup Jeff. Thanks to all of those who have worked so hard to make it all possible.
              HAGD,
              Marc

              Even though I try to tell everyone upfront, understand that I am still a Newb. I wish the status of Seasoned Veteran/Senior Member, etc. was earned with time not posts...

              TMWW thread

              Maurbacs DCR Tower

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                Great thread Jeff thanks for writing it as well for enabling other hobbyist by providing the tools you've made for free. I don't think I'd have had any of the results I've had without you're tools or the initial pioneering in the hobby.

                Take it easy
                Jay
                "I like Brewski's threads, they always end up being hybrid beer/speaker threads based on the name of his newest creation." - Greywarden

                Breakfast Stout - HiVi RT2 II/Aurasound NS6
                Imperial Russian Stout - Vifa DX25/Fountek FW146/(2) Fountek FW168s - Built by Fastbike
                Ruination 2.5 way - Vifa DX25/Fountek FW168
                Levitation TM
                - Vifa BC25SG15/Fountek FW168

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                  I built my first speakers for college in 1976. Got the speaker and plans from Radio Shack. No tweeter or crossover needed, it had a wizzer cone!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                    Originally posted by ryanbouma View Post
                    Very cool Jeff. What a positive thing to say. Thank you for writing this. Very encouraging.

                    And thanks for developing all those tools. I'd still be guessing much like you were back in the ratshack days if it weren't for your tools.

                    Any chance you could post Siegfried's statement in whole? That was cool to read about.

                    And I agree on all points. This is an interesting age. Like I said, I'd still be spinning my wheels if it weren't for the internet. Just to bad I didn't think to look here until I did. I didn't even know there were other people interested in building speakers, ha. I would ask my profs in college (2001) about this stuff, and it turns out the internet was there all along :D

                    I thought I posted this earlier, but it's not here, so I'll try again. Here is Linkwitz' full post. It was not a reply to me at the time, but I took encouragement from the part I put in bold and used it to push me to dig deeper into what I was trying to do:

                    I regret that so few seem to be genuinely interested in understanding and furthering the science behind sound reproduction and what detracts from its accuracy. As DIYer you have more freedom to design and explore than a speaker company. It is certainly within your realm to surpass the performance of even the costliest commercial products with very few exceptionsS. Linkwitz (On Mad Board 5/26/2001)
                    Click here for Jeff Bagby's Loudspeaker Design Software

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                      here, here!!
                      could be a great forward for a book.
                      " To me, the soundstage presentation is more about phase and distortion and less about size. However, when you talk about bass extension, there's no replacement for displacement". Tyger23. 4.2015

                      Quote Originally Posted by hongrn. Oct 2014
                      Do you realize that being an American is like winning the biggest jackpot ever??

                      http://www.midwestaudioclub.com/spot...owell-simpson/
                      http://s413.photobucket.com/albums/pp216/arlis/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                        Originally posted by Jeff B. View Post
                        I thought I posted this earlier, but it's not here, so I'll try again. Here is Linkwitz' full post. It was not a reply to me at the time, but I took encouragement from the part I put in bold and used it to push me to dig deeper into what I was trying to do:

                        I regret that so few seem to be genuinely interested in understanding and furthering the science behind sound reproduction and what detracts from its accuracy. As DIYer you have more freedom to design and explore than a speaker company. It is certainly within your realm to surpass the performance of even the costliest commercial products with very few exceptions. After all, you have access to just about the same drivers and components. But in the end you reach the same plateau that this industry has settled for, unless you look further than the techniques that everybody is using. But then again, you may be just interested in building your own inexpensive speaker, which is fine and a valid reason for DIY, but I am not willing to spend time on that part alone and therefore do not post in such discussions. “
                        S. Linkwitz (On Mad Board 5/26/2001)

                        Interesting he notes you can exceed most commercial offerings with very few exceptions. It does remain true, even more so today.

                        I am looking forward to Iron Driver to see what can be had for little investment. If this thing plays out as expected there are going to be about a dozen amazing designs hitting the DIY world of all shapes and sizes that will easily exceed commercial offerings at 10x the price (drivers and x-over). All done by members here, all for the greater good of learning, sharing, and growing the hobby. It is not just the tools that have become available, it truly is the community and those like yourself, linkwitz, DLR, John K that have helped the newcomers/generations fulfill their pursuit for great sound.

                        I remember cloning my first speaker... Or further back: Taking apart an old raidoshack speaker, stealing the midranges and putting them in a shoe box to make my first, pro logic center channel. This was in 1993... You guys were WELL on your way. I designed and built many speakers before I came to the board, but it was not until I came here that I got (literally at times) sence slapped into me. It was a tough time for me in my personal life as well and this hobby, the people here, and the love of music kept me going.

                        Alright... Not trying to hop in :o, but you did get me thinking of the things that really matter.
                        .

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                        • #13
                          Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                          Thanks for the plug, Jeff!
                          Regards,
                          Ron E (the one and only ;))

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                            Originally posted by Jeff B. View Post
                            But in the end you reach the same plateau that this industry has settled for, unless you look further than the techniques that everybody is using.
                            S. Linkwitz (On Mad Board 5/26/2001)[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]

                            Hi Jeff,

                            Looks like Sigfried Linkwitz has foreseen Ultimate Equalizer Technology.

                            http://www.bodziosoftware.com.au/

                            Best Regards,
                            Bohdan

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Personal Commentary on the State of DIY Speakerbuilding

                              The names of four audio pioneers come to mind (among others) who provided key tools we DIY'rs routinely use today in some way.

                              A. Neville Thiele, Richard H. Small, Richard Heyser and Siegfried Linkwitz.
                              Live in Southern N.E.? check out the CT Audio Society web site.

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