Why Not DIY

I offer these remarks because many folks become overzealous upon the discovery of DIY loudspeakers and underestimate the endeavor.  I offer these remarks because the potential DIY’er might desire some insight about how much time and resources are invested into a speaker before completion.  I grossly underestimated the time required when entering this hobby, but have truly enjoyed the education and the people I have encountered along the way. 

There are several ways to approach DIY loudspeakers.  I will address them from the perspective of enjoyment, and personal investment (time).  The most appealing approach is to choose the drivers then implement them in a completely personalized design.  This takes a huge quantity of time!  The time can be significantly reduced by building a loudspeaker kit and individually calculating a custom bass reflex enclosure.  The time can be further reduced by building a time-proven loudspeaker kit with a pre-designed enclosure.  I will use my experience to depict the typical time investment at each of these levels of DIY speaker building.  I initially approached this hobby with the hunger to learn about loudspeaker building.  I could have purchased a pair of B&W Nautilus 805’s, but my wife and I agreed that building speakers would be a good learning experience.  While building a very good loudspeaker was a goal, it was not my primary goal.  I wanted the education.   Education takes time! 

There is significant time and money involved in building a completely personalized loudspeaker.  My loving wife estimates that I spend about 1200-1400 hours on this hobby annually and have maintained this level of involvement for 4 years.  Also, as a CPA, my wife lovingly informs me occasionally about the fairly substantial amount of money I spend on speaker building.  This is solely because I keep building more speakers.  Previous to my substantial time investment I gained a solid background in electronics, woodworking, math and physics.  I conservtively have about $500 in measuring equipment, $200 in miscellaneous crossover components, $5k+ in woodworking tools and a huge quantity of miscellaneous associated “stuff”.  At this intellectual and financial level I am fully capable of developing a speaker with paper/poly/soft Kevlar drivers that is equal to any 2-way commercial speaker of similar construction.  More complicated drivers are at the fringe of my ability and big 3-way speakers with low frequency crossovers remain elusive.  This means that it is reasonable to expect the ability to completely design an excellent paper/poly coned 2-way speaker with about 4000 hours of education and a several thousand dollars in tools.   I am not the only person who has made these investments.  There are other folks with much more time invested in this hobby.

Dennis Murphy is one of these people.  He has considerably more time invested.  I estimate that Dennis has been involved with loudspeaker building for 30+ years.  I make this estimate based on a few remarks from Toby Goodman.  Toby and Dennis have known each other for many years.  Toby’s mother gave Dennis piano lessons as a child.  Dennis and Toby have a wonderful life-long friendship.  Toby informally remarked that Dennis began his quest for good home-built speakers in his late teenage years.   Dennis is currently in his 50’s, and remains very active in the hobby.  Dennis is fully capable of exquisite crossover design with ease. 

I mention these things because:

         Obtaining excellent results in a completely personalized loudspeaker is NOT possible with limited time for education. 

         Obtaining excellent results when building a kit loudspeaker requires significantly less time and education.

         There are different levels of loudspeaker kits.  The dividing line seems to be the enclosure design.  All loudspeaker kits are generally furnished with a well designed crossover and driver layout. 

         Some loudspeaker kits require the builder to design his/her own cabinet. 

About one year into this hobby I built a very good loudspeaker kit based on the SS8545 and SEAS T25-001 that did not have specific cabinet instructions.  After a year of education I was fairly comfortable with Thiel&Small parameters and enclosure concepts.  I enjoyed the education and the SS8545/T25-001 speaker eventually produced very good results.  I managed to successfully calculate and design my own enclosure with excellent success.  

With a time-proven kit having a good crossover AND cabinet design it is possible to build a very good loudspeaker with 20-40 hours of work.  This requires a little education, the ability to read a simple schematic, and the ability cut lumber.  It takes me about 18 hours to construct each pair of 1801’s.