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Build a Mini Line Array

Along with all my other interests in life, audio and speaker building is near the top. The first set of speakers I ever built had drivers that came from Radio Shack in 1978. The tweeters had a 10uF capacitor on the + lead and at the time, I thought that was all you needed for a crossover... Over the next 30 years I learned a quite a bit more. I was also very interested in line arrays as the concept always seemed like a good idea. A line array is a group of audio drivers (speakers) mounted in a row. It does a couple things for you. First, it allows each individual driver to use less power thus, in theory minimizing distortion as the driver does not have to work as hard. Second, all the acoustic energy couples together to provide a sound field that does not drop off at the same rate as single driver, which acts as a point source. For more information see this  and this.  This project started out like a lot of mine. Parts Express had a sale on 3inch audio drivers and I said “I always wanted to build a line array, let me order 16 of them!” three years later I actually got around to building them. I am actually glad I waited because there was more information I needed to learn before I built them.

There is a lot of debate around how good they are and what there issues are. On the down side, multiple drivers can cause interference and acoustic artifacts. Interestingly, the same argument is the same for why an orchestra sounds so good live. Next time you go to a concert look at the PA speakers... They are most likely set up as a line array. If you really want to hear how they sound lets build one!
 
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Thanks very much for this. Really helpful.

I'm looking to make an extremely compact highly portable PA system for voice and acoustic guitar. Low power - I'm getting acceptable results from a little 40W combo amp at present, and I mean portable on a bicycle. I'm thinking much smaller than a Bose L1 and no sub box

Do you think this would scale down? Maybe a single array of 4 slightly smaller drivers plus tweeters? And to save weight I might make the case by sandwiching foam between two layers of plastic for a stiff light construction. Any comments would be really helpful.

zephyr6811 months ago
Great instructable! One question. You mention that you would arch the tweeter array next time. Would the 3" drivers remain flat? Does it even matter since they don't beam like the tweeters do?
yepvegas1 year ago
Wow that was a quick reply I have read that some will filter one of the Tang Bangs speakers turning it essentially into a tweeter. do you have any thoughts or opinions on this or should I just stick with the plan and use a tweeter in the array.
DJJules (author)  yepvegas1 year ago
That would work but... I would either leave them as a full range (simplest) or use a crossover to the tweeters. Once the wavelength of the sound produced approaches the size of the driver all sorts of things happen. smaller drivers produce higher frequencies with less artifacts of directional lobes and other fun stuff. I have read that at most one driver shoudl only cover about 3 octaves of sound.

Jules
yepvegas1 year ago
Great looking build and thank you for the information. I purchased the same 3 inch speakers for my car. This is the first diy project I have seen using the same driver I have. My plan is to use them full range 6 per side a one tweeter per side in a horizontal line array spanning the entire dash of my car. I will be using an 31 band EQ to tame the smooth out the rough edges on the array. From there my idea is to use a cap to protect the tweeter and run the array on one channel of my amp. What are your impressions of the speaker now that you have had some time to play with them? Thank you in advance for your time.
DJJules (author)  yepvegas1 year ago
Thank you, it is very clean and low distortion. If you use a capacitor on the tweeters that limits them to6K and above it should really complement the 3" driver and sound great.

Jules
Bjorgulf2 years ago
Interesting project :D
I've picked up bulding speakers as a hobby only 2 months ago. Maybe for my next project I'll make an instructable too. Unfortunately I didn't document the building of my current system.
But I have a question for you:Why don't you use fullrange speakers instead of the two different ones? As a reference look at this project I found online at the shop I bought parts of my materials from. It''s german, but the technical stuff should be good to understand. 25 fullrange speakers for each array. packs of 5 parrallel and 5 of those packs in line.
Someone else even developed a line-array-sub to match them :D
speakers: http://www.lautsprechershop.de/index_hifi_de.htm?http://www.lautsprechershop.de/hifi/twentyfive.htm
sub: http://www.lautsprechershop.de/index_hifi_de.htm?http://www.lautsprechershop.de/hifi/twentyfive_s12.htm
DJJules (author)  Bjorgulf2 years ago
You really get a better sound field by crossing over speakers to cover different frequency ranges. You get lower distortion too. It has a lot to with the diameter of the driver and stiffness of the cone. There is a lot of info out there. There are some good full range drivers out there too but a 4" or 3" driver simply cant go cleanly above 7-10Khz without issues. they used to use Whizzer cones in the 70's but there are issues with those too.

Thanks for reading!

Jules
You have a point here. I used 4" fullrange speakers with whizzer cones for my sub-sat-system and the frequency response looks a little "funky" above 6 or 7 kHz. I have yet to buy a good microphone and take measurements. I only used data I got from the manufacturer so far. But, since my room is only 165 square feet, I don't have to turn up the volume much, and I think the sound is pretty good that way. Better than anything I ever bought. They sound shitty when I do though. high frequencies and distortion go crazy :D
Maybe I should double the number of drivers to get a liitle more volume. The speakers-boxes are twice the size they should be due to a calculation error anyway :)
bishopdante2 years ago
With PA line arrays, the tweeters usually have a waveguide, and are spaced out in a similar fashion to the fullrange speakers, although that's usually done for the reason of building separate boxes so that the array can be articulated and assembled in manageable pieces.

In the case of a home system, I'd use a few 1" compression drivers bolted into a waveguide, probably cast out of plaster or concrete using a CNC'd styrofoam former.
Why not build a full length line array? Your "what I'd do next time" picture is similar to what Don Keele has done with his curved line array, but he himself has said that it is a fix for those who don't want a full floor to ceiling line array. His design is an attempt to minimize some of the inherent problems of creating a truncated line array. Also why lump all the tweeters closer together? I understand that you want the drivers to be as close together as possible to extend the upper frequency response of the system but at the same time when you don't extend the radiating area all the way down the cabinet the line array effect is destroyed. Was this a budgetary constraint or a deliberate design choice? If it were for impedance matching reasons, why not go for a lower overall impedance? lots of speakers try and reduce the impedance of their speakers to gain efficiency (Apogee, Genesis etc.), and also I have heard that it deadens the resonance peak of the driver but I am having trouble wrapping my head around how that would work.

Cheers
Having a truncated tweeter array will not "destroy" the line effect. It will diminish it, but to what degree of audibilty is arguable (I and many others say "not much"). I did an array that had one tweeter. It was not as good overall as an array of 27 or whatever, but the speakers as a whole were superior to standard multiways.
DJJules (author)  jordon.gerber2 years ago
I bought 32 4 1/2" drivers on close out and plan on building another one of these. One of the goals of this was a "mini" line array and it works very well. I put the tweeters close together to prevent (or minimize) diffraction effects. they end up with a narrower than I would like beam pattern vertically but they still sound very nice. I should get around to the next array some time this spring. GOt a coupel other projects to knock out first...

Jules
Also, have you ever played around with this driver?

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=299-113

I am in the process of making my own 90" line array and am thinking about this driver as a mid/bass because of the price, aesthetics, quality, etc.
smirnoff043 years ago
I'm not an audiophile so the technical stuff is lost on me, but I really appreciate the fine craftsmanship on display here. A great looking set of speakers to be sure. I've seen a lot of peoples' diy speakers and while I'm sure they sound as great as they say, 9 time out of 10 they just don't look good. That may not matter to purists but to me a speaker should look as good as it sounds.

Keep up the good work!
DJJules (author)  smirnoff043 years ago
Thank you! I can't tell you how many speakers I have heard that sounded great but were literally unfinished MDF...

Jules
heiney DJJules2 years ago
MDF is the go to wood for building speakers & then veneered. I don't know one manufacturer that uses plywood. MDF is more dense, stable, great to cut & you don't have to worry about any voids which plaque plywood to no end & MDF is just easier to work with. And your choices of veneer is endless.

Older speakers the manufactures use to use particle board (also better then plywood) & then veneered the particle board.

It doesn't make a difference if the factory speakers are $100 or $10,000 there still veneered.
Pretty much like your birch plywood is just with a better substrate & well you can veneer a better surface for staining.
Birch just doesn't take stain well you should have used a pre-stain conditioner 1st.

Besides that I think the speakers look good.

Also on 2-way designs wire the tweeters out of phase with the low frequency drivers,
on 3-way designs wire the midrange out of phase with the tweeter & woofer.
This will eliminate any frequency cancellation at the crossover points.

Thats the reason why on some subwoofers you might see a 0/180 degs phase switch, its there just to make sure there is no cancellation of any frequencies at the crossover point between speakers, You probably will never hear the difference between one way or the other, but thought I would just put it out there as it is an easy thing to do.

Also there are online crossover calculators that you can use to design a crossover.
fwater heiney2 years ago
MDF is denser than plywood. It is not more stable (twice the hydroscopy). It is also not stronger. It is way cheaper than quality plywood, and THAT'S why it's used in commercially-produced speakers, and for ease of machining. MDF also stores energy to be released after it is excited, causing re-radiation of sound. It's inferior in every way to standard plywood except convenience. That being said, I use it almost all the time when I build speakers, exactly because of it's cost and ease of use.

Please don't ever use online calculators for crossover design. There's dozens of factors that make them mostly ineffective. It's like using a wristwatch to design a car engine.
Tachyon heiney2 years ago
You're right on all counts. AFAIR
DJJules (author)  heiney2 years ago
The crossover wiring you mention (in phase--out of phase) all depends on the crossover design. I assure you this one is wired correctly. I had help on the crossover and we measured the drivers impedance and frequency response and put all of that data into a pretty amazing spreadsheet. I need to find time to do an instructable on crossover design. I have a much larger line array in the works for a PA, will try and go into more detail on that one. Ahhh too many projects, too little time...

Jules
I agree they should look as good as they sound
Tachyon2 years ago
This design has me excited about using it as a basis for a project of my own. I can see modifying it slightly to make a clone of the polk SDA's, which I've always wanted to do.

Nicely done, thanks.
DJJules (author)  Tachyon2 years ago
You are welcome!

Jules
heiney2 years ago
To eliminate the "beaming" add an L-pad to the tweeter section in the crossover, just make sure the L-pad has the same impedance as the tweeter array, I'm guessing that would be 4ohms.
DJJules, this instructable could not have arrived at a more perfect time! i am one of those 'hold-outs' who is still watching his old 27" CRT Television. Not because I don't want to embrace the new Flat Panels, rather because the old CRT never stopped performing admirably. UNTIL JUST YESTERDAY, when all of a sudden the color has gone 'STUPID!' NOW it is time to replace it, with a flat panel screen and everyone says they have terrible sound! I have been looking for the answer to the question, "How do I get the 'Best Sound Possible' for the Buck?" And YOU, my friend, just answered that question. BEAUTIFUL pair of speakers, GREAT job, WONDERFUL! BUT!?! You raise several questions as well and I hope I don't make a nuisance of myself, But that is how you learn and speakers have always given me trouble! How do you 'Ohm Match' the Speakers to the amplifier? Doesn't pairing and quadrupling the speaker change the Oms? Four groups in parallel/series, doesn't that change the Ohms to 4 Ohm? Won't that over-heat a standard 8 ohm amplifier? Does that crossover have a terminal to which to connect the Sub Woofer? Can I, or should I, run DUAL sub woofers for extra presence and separation? (I do own dual Subs now!) I REALLY want to make this array a reality for my, fast approaching, New Home Theater System. I will GREATLY appreciate all the information you can provide. I am not afraid to jump all over this project and will rely on all the help you can provide. I already ordered the tweeters, cash was a little low this month. Next Month I have extra cash for the rest of the speakers and I already do cabinetry for people with BIG money! Let's ROCK this new speaker system!!
DJJules (author)  pddonovan20113 years ago
Thanks for your comments, the use of multiple drivers does require matching impedance's. IN a nut shell, if you wire two 8 ohm speakers in series, the become 16 ohm then you wire that with two other drives in series and you are back to 8. My final impedance is 4 ohms which is taken into account in the the crossover design. To your second question, you can use two subwoofers but really do not need them as bass tends to be non directional and does not need two for stereo separation. (Most low frequency sounds like bass and kick drums are panned center anyway)

Good luck and enjoy!

Jules
sysadmn DJJules2 years ago
Your explanation is a little unclear. I think you mean:

if you wire two 8 ohm speakers in series, they become 16 ohm then you wire that in parallel with two other speakers in series and you are back to 8.

In response to the original question, resistors in series add up, identical resistors in parallel are half the original resistance.
DJJules (author)  sysadmn2 years ago
Yea, I flubbed that one. In series they add in parallel it is 1/(1/Resistor1 +1/resistor2) or as you mention, on half the resistance if they are identical in parallel.

Thanks,

Jules
Excellent, really cool stuff! I was not thinking about left and right subs. I was thinking about front and rear subs. But first I am going to buiild my own arrays and then try them and see if the subs are even needed! I was also thinking about three additional Arrays 4 X 4 on the tweets and 3" speaks for the use of front and left/right back spekers!
weeniewawa3 years ago
square drive screws are way safer to use on something like this. actually always better to use. I used to do a lot of woodworking and just bought them online. http://www.mcfeelys.com/ has absolutely the best screws you can find, will not strip or break. It is also nice to be able to find Finish Birch locally. it gets expensive to ship.
Square drive screws are called Robertson screws and come in 4 sizes that are color coded to the screwdrivers: from smallest to largest: yellow, green, red, black. The most common size is red for pretty much everything and green for small work. Once in a blue moon, you'll use a "yellow handle Robertson" for something really tiny like a 4/40 screw. And once every couple of years, you'll use a black handle Robertson for something large. They are absolutely great screws but don't look as pretty as the Philips head screws.
mpep blanchae3 years ago
Thanks for that. Never knew the name of the square drive screws.
ellisgl3 years ago
Suggestion for your next build. Put the wire through the hole of the terminal, wrap it around the the terminal and then solder it.
jimvandamme3 years ago
Why didn't you use the cheaper Tang Band speakers...W3-1053SC? They're only ten bucks vs. 32 for the neodymium.
DJJules (author)  jimvandamme3 years ago
I already had these...
hi mr.dj jules i wanna ask something about the speaker you made...what amplifier did you use and how much watts?tnkz
DJJules (author)  jhulan_1118103 years ago
I run them on a Sony surround reciever that is 60watts a channel and set to "small" for the front speakers with a subwoofer. I have used these as a PA with a Carvin 225W per channel amp and an EQ to cut everything below 150hz and a Subwoofer.

Jules
jando9153 years ago
have you ever thought about making and selling these to ppl not everyone can can make something like this you can really make some good money doing it
ninjawasaki3 years ago
Nice work! I was thinking about building a line area out of those dayton sound exciters I saw mentioned on another project here. If you are into line arrays and learning about them, read up on the Martin array that we use. Technical sheets can be found here...it's wild how they work and the results are amazing.

http://www.martin-audio.com/softtech/technical.asp
txsmoke3 years ago
The vertical dispersion issue you note is one of the primary by-products of a line array- minimal vertical dispersion and wide horizontal dispersion. This dispersion pattern minimizes floor and ceiling reflections, contributing to the solid imaging you are experiencing.

This is also why they work so well projecting music and speech at presentations and concerts (and block parties :-).
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