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How to Build Custom Speakers

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Building your own custom speakers has got to be one of the most rewarding, straightforward and cost-effective DIY activities I've come across. I'm absolutely shocked that it hasn't had a larger presence on Instructables and in the community...well, until now of course.

Some speaker projects can be complete in a weekend, while others can go on for years. Budget speaker kits start around $100, while top-of-the-line kits and components can add up to several thousands of dollars. Regardless of how much you choose to spend on your speakers, you'll likely be building something that will sound as good as commercial product that off the shelf would cost as much as 10 times more.

So, if you've got access to a table saw, a jig saw, a drill, some wood glue, clamps, and a place to make some sawdust, then you've got the opportunity to build your own custom speakers.

This Instructable will cover the entire process, from sourcing components, to tips and tricks, to exotic and inspiring finishing options.

The images below show just a few of the speakers that I've built over the last 10 years.
 
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Step 1: Why?

Back in 1997 I attended the Home Entertainment Show with my father. We had the intent to build the best speakers that we possibly could. We listened to just about every manufacturers flagship model. I recognized all of the drivers from the DIY catalogs, wondering which one would reign supreme.

At the end of the day, after the votes were in, we both selected the JM Labs Grande Utopia's as our favorite model, hands down. Since then, it's been widely agreed that the Grande Utopia are among the best sounding home audio speakers in the world. The only catch is that back in those days, the speaker sold for $40,000, and now the updated model, equipped with a Beryllium tweeter, costs even more.

JM Labs uses affiliate company Focal brand drivers. Now here's where it gets interesting...the same line of drivers used in the JM Labs loudspeakers, can also be purchased from Zalytron. My father and I purchased an extremely similar set of drivers, from the same product lines that JM Labs uses, including "W" cone woofers and audiom inverted metal dome tweeters, and built our own "DIY Grande Utopias" for only $3,000. I would never claim that they are an exact copy of the Grande Utopias, but they do sound absolutely amazing, and at less than 1/10th the cost, it's hard to argue. That, my fellow Instructables users, is why I think everyone should build their own speakers.

Thank you for making this post! It really helped a lot when making my own.

AuralVirus9 months ago
Love the log speakers. very inspiring.
Nice job but can you put a PDF of it's sizes because I'm gona build them 
RangerJ1 year ago
"Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys is a fantastic test track. With the rich Hammond B-3 sound, the soft vocals, and the echoing high climax, it puts your system through a workout.
wats up with the golden rectangle spiral...? just filler or does it serve a purpose?
the golden ratio, persect beauties? well its this thing where every part i the ratio of the bigger one. search up golden ratio
i undesrtand the golden ratio, i'm just curious why it's here...?
same here... maybe were expected to apply it..
IIRC this shape is used as an ideal towards which the enclosure is supposed to be designed. It's been about 30 years since I thought about any of this, but there are a variety of types of speaker enclosures. For example, the famous Klipsch Horn speakers use a folded-horn enclosure, and I'm sure its design is related to this "golden ratio".
ah alright, thanks man
wats up. can u help me for making speakers.
fbigun ayhan133 years ago
slm ayhan isminden anladıpıma göre türksün:)
adım fatih istanbulda oturuyorum benim ingilizcem pek iyi değil o yüzden sana ingilizce yazamıyorum :(
acaba senin bu kabin yapımı hakkında bilgin var mı. bende kendime özel bir kabin tasarlamak istiyorum.ama bu işi profesyonelce yapmak istiyorum bana yardımcı olabilirmsin ?
ilgine şimdiden teşekkür ederim
dlhylton2 years ago
Great, now that you've made these speakers, all you have to do is connect it to a device in order to play out sound. Check out:

http://www.learningaboutelectronics.com/Articles/How-to-build-a-simple-speaker-circuit

for an idea on how to connect speakers

ASCAS2 years ago
What cheap mid range speakers can I buy?
aboby2 years ago
Hi great instructable :), just wondering if anyone has the dimension of the tower and the subwoofer ? thnx
I'm always looking back at this instructable and have finally aquired all the tools I need to make some decent units of my own for my home cinema system.
However, as a first project I was thinking of doing something a little different. I have an abundance of scrap Fire extinguishers due to my work, and was thinking that these might make interesting speaker cabinets for my office to use during presentations.
Perhaps a woofer in the bottom of a 9 litre Water extinguisher would work well as a floor facing unit. They're desinged to hang on walls, so brackets and stands are easy to make/re-purpose.
Would the cylindrical nature of the extinguishers make them sound rubbish though? or indeed the materials they're constructed from, either thin stainless steel or reasonably thick aluminium?
I might have to try it with some cheap old computer speakers I've got kicking about and see what happens.
bowmaster2 years ago
Hmmmm, if Skrillex sounds good on a 5" sub, I wonder how good it'll sound on a 20" sub....
gazoutg3 years ago
After a power problem in the electric line some of our appliance have blown off. One was a dvd/Ipod surround system. we tough about buying an audio/video selector (like a yamaha or Harman Kardon) but the guy at the shop said those would blow off our current speakers (the one that came with the surround system). My guess is he was trying to trick us into buying a new set instead. So is there something I should know about the drivers wattage and impedance before I link em together. If you build one with multiple drivers like in the last photo, what should you know first? do you link them in parallel or in serie? Thanks
Dude567 gazoutg2 years ago
That guy was telling you a crap load of lies. Does plugging a 40 watt light bulb into a lamp that had a 60 watt light bulb in it cause the 40 watt light bulb to be damaged? No, it doesn't. The same is true of speakers. You won't "Blow them," but plugging a speaker that draws 20 watts into a ten watt amp will cause distortion, and the amp might not be able to power them efficiently
gazoutg Dude5672 years ago
ok so he was really lying us since I wanted to do reverse:
plug low watt speaker on a bigger amp....
neon41 gazoutg2 years ago
yeah pretty much, same principal with car audio, always run an amp that is more powerful than the max rms of the speakers. what happens with a lower power amp is called "clipping" which causes flat spots at the peaks of the signal, which causes a speaker to hyper extend, which will kill them very quickly
bmcnabb Dude5672 years ago
Distortion is what causes speakers to blow. You are actually more likely to blow a speaker by sending too little power to it than you are with more power (and you can always turn an amplifier down). As for linking speakers together; most home theater amplifiers are designed to run at 8 ohms. If you run two 8 ohm speakers in series you will end up with a 16 ohm load. That's fine but the speakers will require twice as much power to achieve the same volume as one of the 8 ohm speakers by itself. If you run two 8 ohm speakers in parallel you will end up with a 4 ohm load. Running a 4 ohm load with an amp that is designed for 8 ohms per channel can fry your amp/tuner. Impedance DOES matter. ;)
djlewis7253 years ago
I made a deadmau5 head that plays deadmau5. I modified a deadmau5 helmet and modified it.
--i'd just like to point out that you said you "modified a deadmau5 helmet and modified it."
:)
oh lol Thanks. little embarassing.
jphipps2 years ago
the wooden horn with the caption that says coax is false, what you see in the middle of that fostex driver is called a whizzer cone. it is attached to the center of the larger cone around the dust cap and it moves on the same singular axis/voice coil
LkArio4 years ago
The horns look cool, how did you make them?
jphipps LkArio2 years ago
Most of those pictures are from DIY audio websites and other open media sites.
Theres a ratio for horn speaker to developing the curve and length to make the flare. one of the most common methods for modern horns is to use a circle of r radius suspended in air at n distance with a set of ropes or chains. R and N affect the horns distortion sensitivity and frequency range. there are quite a few different types of horn enclosures. there are folded horns that are built inside of a square box with a large opening. then you have your traditional cone horns and of those you can have front loaded (the front of the speaker fires into the horn) back loaded (the horn is attached to the back of the speaker) and then you have your special cases such as the unity horn and off axis push pull systems.

anyway back to how to make them once you have the dimensions of a straight conical horn that you need you suspend the circle and then tie the chains or whatever from a center point to the outer ring of the circle. gravity will create the natural curve for the horns flare. from there you can shape wire frames to the shape of the chains ect put a spacing brace between wires to retain the ratio of expansion and then fold it up so to speak to make the overall dimensions and footprint smaller. at this point you have your mold then make the actual horn from anything you want, paper and resin, fiberglass,aluminum ect ect
Caffiene2 years ago
Just reading through and the LDSG site appears to have moved or been taken down (the snippets.org domain looks to have changed owner). But for anyone interested, it can still be viewed at the Internet Archive.
Nice Instructable! I am a builder and designer and am very interested thus in engineering as well. I have designed and built very low budget sound stage and recording studios as a novice and bricoleur and have just followed my instincts. So it is my understanding that density is key to sound "proofing." I have found acrylic sheets to be some of the most sound deadening material there is as well as rolled roofing. Not so good in construction with the fire codes though. Polycarbonate is fire rated. I am trying to apply my limited undersatanding to your instructable and one thing that I don't have a huge understanding about is isolation. Which elements of design and engineering in your project benefit the most and least from isolation. How would "floating" joinery in the cabinet affect audio quality? Someday I will build my own speaker cabinets and I would be very tempted to use silicone as an adhesive depending on the answer to this question. Even further from there the concept towards "floating" isolated panels without biscuits. How would that effect the sound quality?
andybuda3 years ago
iv just had ago at recessing some speakers that im making with a dremmel and is not a bad job one tweeter recess was a bit funnky. and if i was doing it again i would have made the hole afew mm smaller and used the barrel sander to finnish off but you live an learn. thank god for crayons
im using a real wood vanier cut at 45 deg ( miterd corners ) and glued over 3/4 " chipboard. clasic box design. deep rarther then wide. 1 ft 2 ft 3ft with 10" driver
should be good
DIYDragon3 years ago
Those orange speakers are so BA. I don't know anything about speaker building, but I want to learn just so I can make those. = j
mpikas3 years ago
Hot glue or construction adhesive can be a source of rattles ... if it comes loose in a spot then you have a hard lump of something tapping against the side of the box.

I usually use polyfill which doesn't need to be attached to the sides of the box, but if I use something that does I'd recommend spray or brush/roll on contact adhesive, since it stays soft and rubbery and thin so there is no potential for making noise.

Whatever you use be careful that it doesn't have solvents in it that will attack the suspension material of the drivers.

If you're going with a home made design based on calculations using TS parameters make sure that account for whatever you use for sound deadening since it can have some interesting effects, instead of taking up volume it slows the waves in the box causing it to act larger than it actually is. Also, many calculators out there assume a loose plyfill filling in the numbers they calculate.
I agree about the dripage, but is it ok to wipe that up with a damp rag at clamping time, and not need the sanding off when it is dry ?
Wiping tends to make a bigger mess... let it dry or partially harden and then scrape it off with a cabinet scraper or a sharp chisel
mpikas3 years ago
I usually build 3 sides at a time, rather than 4 or if 4 I try to make it 2 adjacent rather than opposite sides... that makes any bracing or internal baffles much easier to install if you don't have 2 sides on the box yet.

If I get stuck doing them in the order that you're doing them, then I either use a set of the quick grip clamps like you have in a few of the pictures or pipe clamps with the jaws reversed to spread/slightly bow the box sides. I'd bet that would give you enough room to use the small biscuits that you're using.

Also, for most speaker designs you'll want to ease the hard corners of the support braces to minimize chances of wierd wave reflections in the box/standing waves/weird tuning issues.
mpikas3 years ago
OH, one other thing that I forgot... for smaller drivers (anything needing a 6" or smaller hole), forget all this and just use a circle cutter (one used in a drill with a single or 2 cutting "wings." Most will cut up to a 6" hole and the only layout that you have to do is mount the center point and adjust the cutter position to the correct radius, the whole thing will take less than a minute on a drill press, where a circle cutter on a router will take 10-15min including setup... (of course, I only have one router and it usually lives in my router table so I have to pull it out and swap plates as part of the setup.

This is also probably the fastest way of making cutouts for terminal cups (if you choose to use them) and round ports.
mpikas3 years ago
You're the first person that I've ever seen use biscuits... I'd probably try it if I had a biscuit cutter.

Most people use drywall screws, which is fiddly and ugly, and unless you predrill everything you're just asking for split pieces and stripped holes (If you're going to do that at least use coarse threaded drywall screws).

I usually use glue and 18ga brads (2" unless there isn't room for some reason). You get a tight fit up, hold incredibly well (try pull one out that you missfired, it's just about impossible) and a clean look, and I bet that assembly is MUCH quicker than with biscuits. I even have some boxes that ended up bare MDF covered in tung oil and once you sand them you can't see the brad holes at all. Another advantage with them is that they are so thin and soft that metal working tools, saws, router bits... will cut right through them without catching or dulling, so even if you fire one through an area which will get cut later they don't get in the way like screws will.
mpikas3 years ago
I'm with Fdiddy... the outside recess is much easier to do first, then cut out the center hole. Especially with round or larger driver openings.

Secondly, I usually cut them with the faces already mounted on the box, that way you have something with some size and weight to it keeping the thing steady instead of just the front baffle (usually the front baffle isn't big enough to clamp down and clear a circle cutting jig, especially with smaller speakers.
mpikas3 years ago
Are those fostex drivers in the rounded horn housings? How did they sound? I spent a bunch of time experimenting with them after reading great reviews and was never able to build an enclosure for them that I really liked... and the best were nowhere near any of the recommended designs/volumes. It seems like the TS parameters for them weren't even close to what was published, even after a friend of mine tried breaking them in for days, and then weeks
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