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A roommate of mine in college used to build speakers of much higher quality than those you could buy — and for less cash, too. The trick is knowing how to calculate the box size(s) properly. Add to that a little bit of crossover savvy and some basic woodworking skills, and you’ve got $2,000 speakers for more like $250.

Just plug “speaker building” into Google, and you’ll find zillions of resources to get you started. Radio Shack still sells a book with the required calculations, but now you can find all that material online just as easily.

And don’t forget to stop by my favorite online parts provider, Parts Express. I’ve bought tons of parts from them with good results. Of course, if you have a better source to recommend, by all means post it in comments. I can always use another entry in my little black book!

(Thanks, Dieter Karner, for the great cc-licensed photo.)

Speaker Building [Google Search]
Parts Express [Corporate Site]

 

18 Responses to Project: Build Your Own Speakers

  1. Dave R says:

    I have been looking for years at sources and no one can beat Parts Express for the selection and pricing. Check your local library for books on speaker building. If they don’t have the book you want, ask them to order it. A little known secret is that libraries will purchase books based on a patrons request. You get the book you want and the library adds to their collection.

  2. Adam says:

    Parts Express is just west of me in Dayton Oh, and I can definitely say that they have a GREAT supply of hobbying and a/v parts. Sometimes I’ve bought connectors and other small items from PE cheaper then at Digikey! A good company. Try some Dayton speaker company loudspeakers for home studio / pa applications- they’re pretty doggon decent.

  3. I have to call BS on this. You ARE NOT going to going to build a pair of speakers for $250 that are going to sound better that a $2000 pair. Prettier maybe. Custom application maybe.

    Yes there are some simple calculations you can do to make a speaker box that sounds OK, but to get accurate frequency response over the entire audible range is both complicated and a black art.

    You may think expensive speakers are cheaply constructed because they are made from particle board, but particle board has superior acoustical qualities to solid wood or plywood.

    My credentials you ask, I took two semesters of Acoustical Engineering, the second semester was at Bose — the same course they give their new engineers.

  4. ned.ludd says:

    I built some fairly decent speakers (approx $500 for drivers/crossover parts + MDF) about four years ago, and have been very pleased with them. I had most of the tools already, except for a good circle jig for my router, which I really think is worth the @@@. But after all this time they’re still in raw MDF.

    Why?

    Because it’s going to be cheaper to break them apart, dump the boxes, move the components & tools to my new place and rebuild. They don’t have to be pretty to work great, and you can drop that last $200+ on the fine burl veneer when you get to the promised land.

  5. King Tubby says:

    It is entirely possible to build a set of speakers for cheaper than purchasing them. I built my speakers and AKAIK there are not too many companies making open baffle speakers using the Visaton B200 driver. I use one of my old bass cabs for a subwoofer. They sound great and I spent less than $300. I like them more than my Vandersteen 2s.

    DIY Audio is alive and well and not limited to speakers. Don’t let the “experts” tell you you can’t do it. Try it yourself and you will see how easy it can be.

  6. I don’t have golden ears, but I have heard enough bad sounding DIY speakers for one lifetime. I’m not an “expert” either, I just know what goes into making higher quality speakers, you’re not going to reproduce that without some serious modeling.

    My point is that expensive speakers have lots of engineering behind them and you’re not going to match their performance with a DIY cabinet.

  7. I just thought of a better way to getr my original point accross.

    Nobody buys $2000 speakers because they want a system that “sounds good.” You buy $2000 (or lots more) speakers because you want accurate reproduction. I have nothing against speakers that sound good. My favorite speakers were my 12″ Vegas I had in college.

    You might build speakers that “sound good” but you are not going to be able to match a $2000 pair of speakers in accurate sound reproduction without some serious modeling.

  8. ned.ludd says:

    @Benjamen Johnson: What you say is true, but a lot of people spend way more than $2k on their speakers just because they can. It often has little to do with how much better one component is than another, and just boils down to having prettier/more expensive gear than the next guy.

    Toolmonger is the last place we need a golden pinnae flame war to start up, but I kind of see the same thing happen with tools: the used Biesmeyer fence and rebuilt arbor on my old 10″ Craftsman doesn’t make it a Unisaw, but getting 75% of the cabinet saw experience for less than a quarter of the price is a very attractive thing.

    As far as DIY speaker building goes, I’d recommend anyone that’s interested in the subject to begin by looking at a variety of PUBLISHED projects. Try to find some that have a fair amount of builder/user reviews, and often a couple will have been evaluated using calibrated instruments to give somewhat accurate representations of their performance. One forum that’s a good place to start is over at http://www.diyaudio.com

    I didn’t work for Bose, but I am an EE that studied electroacoustics with a Prof formerly of Bruel & Kjaer. Also worked instrumenting shock & vibration tests for Uncle Sam for a while. It’s not for everyone, but a good classical acoustics text like Kinsler’s coupled with something contemporary, like the book by Dr. Leach down at GA Tech will provide a lot of the background needed to really understand the subject. But all that is pretty much overkill if you just want some tunes to sound better than average, and have a good time building some speakers in the shop.

  9. Gapsard de Coligny says:

    Ben-J…

    Dude… You said ” but to get accurate frequency response over the entire audible range is both complicated and a black art”

    And then… you said…

    BOSE

    And you can keep a straight face ?
    The saying “no hight, no low, must be Bose” is not an internet meme, it’s a painfull truth that you can enjoy in every electronic shop…

  10. Chris W says:

    allelectronics.com has some hard-to-find stuff at good prices. I picked up a couple of generic power door solenoids for $5.50 ea. They worked fine in my Tahoe.

    I am a broadcast engineer and have installed some very good and very expensive speakers. Speaker design is important, but proper speaker placement and listener position can make properly designed $300 speakers sound better than misplaced $2000 speakers. And don’t pay for oxygen-free speaker wires.

  11. Bart's Dad says:

    Alot of comparative listening is very important when chosing speakers and the rest of your audio system. The environment and equipment is as, if not more important to the final sound than the speakers themselves. Room acoustics and quality/clarity of reproduction equipment all leads to the final product.
    To pick a set of speakers out of a catalog and put them in a homebuilt cabinet and expect studio quality reproduction on the first attempts in just unrealistic, but at the same time if this is your thing get out in the shop and build. I’m sure all of our first projects didn’t live up to the grand dreams we all have.

  12. Crispy says:

    Diymobileaudio.com is a good place to go for car audio stuff but a lot of it can carry over to home theater application.

    What happens in when you get prepackaged speakers the raw drivers they use are pretty crap. These people doing it diy use microphones and active crossovers to make sure they are getting a balanced response over the entire frequency range. And they can get it done in the worst acoustical enviroment there is, a noisy car.

    I know for a fact that if I had $2000 to spend on speakers the last place I would head would be the store. I’ve give it to one of those guys on that board or any other diy audio board and let them choose some quality drivers, like SEA’s, Vifa’s, etc, make the crossovers for those specific speakers and I would come away with some phenominal speakers.

    Check out http://www.madisound.com for some quality drivers for your home speaker building adventures.

  13. Gapsard de Coligny,

    I never said that I liked Bose Speakers only that I took a course there (not worked there as somebody else implied) — I’m not a really big fan. But the principles of engineering are the same whether they are used by Bose, or who- ever, it’s just how they are applied.

    Crispy, thanks for supporting my point about DIY, that you’d have somebody who knows what they are doing design you speakers.

  14. L.Bombus says:

    I would like to say all of you are correct a little bit, you can build DIY speakers that sound better than 95% of the mass produced junk that you will find in Bes#B#y or the likes. On the other hand saying that they will out perform a 2000$ set of hi-fi speakers in the realm of Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) or moving up into something like Thiel (http://www.thielaudio.com) is crazy talk like b.Johnson is saying, it simply will not happen for $200, now you can buy DIY kits at VMPS or MADISOUND that will get you there with very high end drivers and components but not for $200. There is very thick line that separates speakers that sound good and hi-fi……if you don’t believe it go down to your local hi-fi speaker shop and sit in the room with those $10K Krell’s and see if you can walk out of there without a wet spot on your pants!

  15. Phlavor says:

    Like Benjamen Johnson I also hold a degree in Audio Engineering but unlike him will go as far as to claim to have “golden ears.”

    The best speakers I’ve ever heard were built by a friend of mine with no name paper coned 12″ woofers in a six foot tall, four foot deep, wave guide enclosure with a compression driven horn handling the highs. You closed your eyes and it was like you were there. Cost him a bit more than $250 (but not much) and a finger tip cutting the wood but long story short, do a lot of research then build away.

    And as an aside about audio in general; Trust your ears. If you are buying, building or just listening. Get together a CD or another source with tracks that you know and that represents the music you listen to and play it on everything you can get your hands on. In stereo shops, friends houses, where ever. Ask if you can hear different amps on the same speakers and vice versa. Once you hear comparative differences you can start to evaluate “quality” verses price with often surprising results.

  16. r mccrae says:

    Phlavor – any chance you can provide detailed description of those speakers?

  17. Newbie says:

    I had a friend growing up whose dad built his own speakers. it has always intrigued me. I have a set of 150 W pioneers I got about 18 years ago that I do not think that I would throw away for sentimental value. Also I have a pair of athena towers. Now you all may think they are trash, but I would like to build my own set of speakers now. My aim is to make them convertalbe with different cones for different types of music, I have only started the project in my head, but have to believe that I can build some pretty decent speakers if I take some sound physics into mind. Do you know of some good resources to start this search of mine?

  18. Everette says:

    I know this web page presents quality dependent posts and other data, is there any other web page which provides these things in quality?

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