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Step 2: Speaker Theory

I built my first set of speakers as a high school student over 10 years ago. I've been making them for friends, clients, and now for Instructables as a prize for our Art of Sound Contest ever since. Over the years I've generated a few simple theories about speaker building that I think are relevant.

Yes, they do sound better, and no you don't have to be an audiophile to hear the difference
  • Sound quality has been steadily declining as heavily compressed digital audio, iPod docks, and bottom dollar stereos have proliferated around the world over the last 10-15 years. Listening to music on a great set of speakers is the single biggest change you can make to your stereo to get better sound quality. If you want to blow $200 a foot on oxygen free speaker wire made from precious metals, great, go for it, just make sure you've already invested a lot of time and energy in making the best possible speakers your finances and skill level allow.

Spend more money then you thought you were going to
  • If you're about to build your own custom speakers, you'll likely be spending at least 40 hours on the project if you've got experience with woodworking, electronics, finishing techniques, or have built your own speakers before, and even longer if it's your first pair. Depending on how you value your time, you'll have thousands of dollars of free labor (your own) invested in the speakers. If you happen to find yourself deciding between a $5 paper cone, no name woofer, and a $25 poly cone made by some brand name, please, get the more expensive one. Like tools, speaker components are an investment that you'll have for the rest of the your life, so reach a little and get the best stuff for your project that you can afford.

Start with a kit
  • Get started by ordering a kit from a supplier. It takes a significant amount of knowledge and work to design your own crossovers and calculate your own box dimensions. It's much easier to tackle your first speaker project by standing on the shoulders of experienced audio engineers. So, get a kit from one of the retailers listed in the next step and get started on your project today.
<p>your title for this article is wrong !</p><p>It should be how to make a speaker box</p>
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.<br>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.<br>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.<br>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?<br>I might have to try it with some cheap old computer speakers I've got kicking about and see what happens.
I know it's a long time ago, but you mentioned you were thinking of making speakers out of fire extinguisher bottles.. Did you ever do that?
<p>Hi Marty, actually sold my fire extinguisher company. I do have some nice antique units, but think these might be used for lamps, rather than speakers. If I do make a speaker system I'll post it on here you can see how they work.</p>
<p>Is there any problem sound-wise with using thick hardwood instead of high density fibreboard? Mahogany is pretty dense. This would only be for small speakers.</p>
<p>Sound wise it shouldn't be much different, however, hardwoods can warp with changes in humidity as there is often a strong grain pattern. This is mitigated with MDF as it has no grain structure to warp.</p><p>If you only want Mahogany as an aesthetic consideration, then veneers can easily be applied to MDF or plywood.</p>
<p>if you use a sealer on both sides of material nearly any material can be used!</p>
<p>I used to own an Audio shop specialising in car audio, during that time we were stockists of Focal/JM Labs. I collected Focal 'W' cone Utopia and Utopia Audium drivers intending to make my own Grand Utopia speakers.</p><p>They have been sitting in their boxes in storage for about five years now and it looks like I'm never going to get around to building these things.</p><p>If anyone is looking for a project email me on vautman@icloud.com and I can send you pics and details of the drivers, I will only sell them as a set.</p><p>Chris.</p>
<p>With this project having been posted 7 years ago, a lot of the web links are no longer valid.</p><p>Do you have some new links that would be wise to follow?</p>
<p>I enjoyed reading this post with all the comments. A few things really hit the mark for me. I do like Focals. I used their 5&quot; W sandwich woofers with phase plug and inverted dome tweeters to build my last set of speakers (transmission) lines and I love the way they sound. I also find Zalytron has some great prices. I used to get lots of help from Elliott senior back in the day.</p><p>Although it is satisfying to build kit speakers I really enjoy designing my own unique speakers (that way I have the only ones). Designing crossovers for two way speakers is not really too hard (lots of information on the internet) but be prepared to do some tweeking (I bought True Audio RTA software to test the speakers as I built them). Easy to use and inexpensive but you also need to buy a decent test mike (test mics are also not expensive compared to microphones for vocal recording).</p><p>I haven't built anything now for at least 5 years but I have been itching to build another transmission line (this time using something like a 7&quot; Scanspeak woofers and Hiqufon tweeters).</p>
<p>Can you post an less ellaborate speaker system for beginners? Thanks!</p>
<p>Nice instructable. I think the recommendation to buy a kit if this is one's first build is crucial. So much can go wrong (especially if you are not familiar with electronics, woodworking, or both) and having that kit can really give an understanding of speaker design without the expensive trial and error. One can examine it like a puzzle, rather than puzzle over it, if that makes sense.</p>
<p>The Blackhole 5 Link (as of April 2015) listed in this Instructable.</p><p><a href="http://www.soniccraft.com/product_info.php/blackhole-p-50" rel="nofollow">http://www.soniccraft.com/product_info.php/blackho...</a></p>
so how would you just do regular computer speakers? like the green wear that goes into it. sorry im not a electronics person. are the computer speaker as intricate as stubs like what your making?
I made a deadmau5 head that plays deadmau5. I modified a deadmau5 helmet and modified it.
<p>Sounds awesome! Do you have it online to show?</p>
--i'd just like to point out that you said you &quot;modified a deadmau5 helmet and modified it.&quot;<br>:)
oh lol Thanks. little embarassing.
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 <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20090430212255/http://ldsg.snippets.org/">Internet Archive</a>.<br>
<p>Thanks!!!</p>
I love this instructable. I have a question, what type of mask do you use while you'are cutting the wood? I use a 3M mask.
<p>Congrads for a nice Instructables and the ability to build speakers. That is about as nice as I can get. You build speakers, but its not very difficult to build something, if the design and know-how is done for you. As a hobby speaker designer of 9 years, I find your lack of dedication to the art of sound disturbing. High density fibre board (which is a good substitute for birch ply), nice drivers and filters in a pre-designed box...can't go wrong with the average I guess. </p><p>You give a good introduction to the world of speakers. No doubt in that. But to inspire people in the art... I will give you a challenge: build speakers without filters. Or without an enclousure! It takes intuition, imagination and a good ear to design speakers. But it takes a pair of hands to build them! </p>
<p>I built a set of speakers out of two consecutively cut, hollowed out tree rounds from a historic diseased elm tree. I found that design to be rather unique and challenging, but I do hear your point if you compare that to building speakers without any enclosures at all. Thanks for your feedback and glad to hear you enjoy making speakers as well.</p><p><a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Tree-Speakers/">http://www.instructables.com/id/Tree-Speakers/</a></p>
<p>As an exercise in different materials, I made speakers out of metal. A closed, omnidirectional woofer with a point-source fullrange. It's rather difficult indeed to design speakers when the calculators have been modeled for ply-mdf (even the original Thiele-Small calculations are optimised for plywood). There is a whole range of different situations for different designs. In audio, it truly is a case of: &quot;If its designed for everywhere, it works nowhere&quot; That's why I use calculators for base volume and imagine(I have trained for this) different responses in a room. Kinda like a wide range simulator in my brain. </p>
<p>Is there a reason for not using a joint of some type on the face (biscuit, mortise &amp; tenon, etc.)?</p>
<p>Thank you for making this post! It really helped a lot when making my own.</p>
Love the log speakers. very inspiring.
Nice job but can you put a PDF of it's sizes because I'm gona build them 
&quot;Good Vibrations&quot; 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 <em>here</em>...?<br/>
same here... maybe were expected to apply it..<br>
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. <br>
slm ayhan isminden anladıpıma g&ouml;re t&uuml;rks&uuml;n:) <br>adım fatih istanbulda oturuyorum benim ingilizcem pek iyi değil o y&uuml;zden sana ingilizce yazamıyorum :( <br> acaba senin bu kabin yapımı hakkında bilgin var mı. bende kendime &ouml;zel bir kabin tasarlamak istiyorum.ama bu işi profesyonelce yapmak istiyorum bana yardımcı olabilirmsin ? <br>ilgine şimdiden teşekk&uuml;r ederim <br>
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:<br> <br> <a href="http://www.learningaboutelectronics.com/Articles/How-to-build-a-simple-speaker-circuit" rel="nofollow">http://www.learningaboutelectronics.com/Articles/How-to-build-a-simple-speaker-circuit</a><br> <br> for an idea on how to connect speakers<br> <br>
What cheap mid range speakers can I buy?
Hi great instructable :), just wondering if anyone has the dimension of the tower and the subwoofer ? thnx
Hmmmm, if Skrillex sounds good on a 5&quot; sub, I wonder how good it'll sound on a 20&quot; sub....
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
The horns look cool, how did you make them?<br />
Most of those pictures are from DIY audio websites and other open media sites.<br>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. <br><br>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
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 &quot;proofing.&quot; 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 &quot;floating&quot; 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 &quot;floating&quot; isolated panels without biscuits. How would that effect the sound quality?

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Bio: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs ... More »
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