Introduction: Upcycle an Old Speaker System Into a Modern and See-through One!

Picture of Upcycle an Old Speaker System Into a Modern and See-through One!

Some of you may know that I made a monitor with a plastic stand out of an old laptop lcd which I use to play on my playstation! The only downside is that because it used to be a standalone monitor, it doesn't have internal speakers! I normaly use my headphones anyway, to not disturb the misses but I prefer to have proper speakers if she's not around! I remembered a very old pc speaker system that is probably a good 7 years old now! I managed to find it in the basement and was amazed to see it was in a fully working order. It even sounds really nice. The only thing is: It was effing ugly! In the olden days, they obviously build stuff to work and last, not so much to be pretty. I tought about my last acrylic project and took up the challenge to give it a new look by using seethrough acrylic for the base and the satellites! I'll try and explain everything I did, but should you run into difficulties, don't hesitate and leave comment, I'll try to check in daily!

Here's what you'll need / what I used

an old speaker system which you don't mind to crack up (search around ebay or local thrift store)
a Soldering Iron and some solder
a hot glue gun
a rotary tool with a 3mm drill bit, a sanding drum and a cutting disk
an adjustable wrench
acrylic sheets (got mine precut from ebay, see step1)
super glue (cheap from local diy store)
EMA 57ml Plastic Weld Cement (again, ebay)
a heat gun (first time using one to bend acrylic)
around 25 x 3mm machine bolts, nuts and washers
safety glasses
a compass
a pair of old tights for the speaker cover
fine sandpaper (optional, I used it to "frost" the front )
some zip ties to tame the mess inside your box
a small paintbrush to apply the plastic weld
one or two clamps

Step 1: Get Some Acrylic!

Picture of Get Some Acrylic!

I bought my acrylic cheaply online from a very nice seller called trent-plastics. They offer a variety of colors, thicknesses and even a free cut to size service which is very helpful to get those nice straight cuts!

I chose 3 x A3 sized blue tinted 4mm thick acrylic sheets and asked them to cut them down for me:

One of the a3 sheets will have to be cut in half resulting in 2 a4 sheets.
The second a3 sheet will also have to be cut in half, but one of those halfs will also have to be cut in half, resulting in 2 x a5 sheets. The other a4 sheets will have to be cut longways in 3 equal sheets (9.9 cm x 21 cm, if I'm not mistaken) [2 for the speakers and one spare if I make any mistakes]

The third a3 sheet will have to be cut in half aswell, resulting in 2x a4 sheets. Both sheets will have to be cut into longer strips (29.7cm x 14.8cm)

I also asked them to send me any excess left, so I could practise heatbending it with the heatgun (like some of you suggested in my laptop-monitor project :) )

Step 2: Gut That Old Subwoofer!

Picture of Gut That Old Subwoofer!

Next thing on the list is to crack open that ugly subwoofer and get the precious circuits and all the other important bits out! My subwoofer was reasonably well built, meaning I had a lot of trouble getting the stuff out of it! The plastic front popped out easily, the wooden case was made out of thick MDF took me a good 2 hours since I only have very limited equipment!

Take care when doing this, since you don't want to cut or even break the connection to the volume and the other knobs on the front!

Step 3: The Funny Bits - Desoldering

Picture of The Funny Bits - Desoldering

As the title of this step says, we've come to the funny part of this project, desoldering everything!
You'll have to look at your circuit and think about which wires need to come out of the box. Your powercable will most probably come out the back, so you'll need to desolder that from the circuit. You might have to do that as well for the speaker wires and the big  subwooferspeaker - at least I had to. I took a closeup-photo of every wire I knew I needed to rewire in order to resolder it back in it's original place, I'd advise you to do the same thing, it will save you the hassle of trying to remember and worry about a lead being soldered on the wrong place!

Step 4: Marking the Holes for Your Circuit and Feet

Picture of Marking the Holes for Your Circuit and Feet

My subwoofer came with rubber feet, which had a hole in the middle and were simply screwed to the bottom of the wooden box. I wanted to keep those feet and reattache them to my finished product!

Take a look at the bottom sheet and imagine where your circuit should sit. Once you're happy with how to position your circuit, mark your acrylic sheet by taking your drill bit and putting it thought the holes in your circuit board, marking your drill hole. If you are using rubber feet, like I did, simply do the same on each corner.

After marking every spot, put your safety glasses on and drill the holes. You can already bolt your feet in, but wait with the circuit, ince you'll have to solder the wires back on it.


Try and leave the plastic cover on as long as possible to avoid scratches and more importantly fingerprints from the actual acrylic! It would be very annoying to seal the box only to find fingerprints on the inside of the box!

Step 5: Making the Front

Picture of Making the Front

To make the hole where the subwooferspeaker will pop out from the front, I took a compass and measure the diameter of the speaker. After that, simply trace it on the protective paper on the acrylic. Be sure to be accurate, you can always cut down more of  your material, but you can't add some! after you've traced the circle, mark the holes where your bolts are going to be put through, with the same method as in the step before.

I'm sure there is an easier way to cut out the big hole, but again, I have limited equipment! The way I did it was to take my rotary tool and drill many small holes tracing the circle and then using the sanding drum to smoothen things out. Take a look at the attached pictures! (I forgot to take some pictures during this step but had to do the same with the satellites seen in the pictures!)

Figure out where to put the other knobs on the front (or whereever you want them to be) and drill out the holes for them aswell!
Mine has a small red LED that lightsup if the system is powered. I managed to keep this led and drilled a small hole in the front where I've wedged it in and secured it from the inside with superglue.

I used some fine sandpaper and moved it in a circular motion to create a frosted look on the front.

After you made a big enough hole for the speaker, cut out a big enough piec out of the old tightsand put the around your speaker. I f nescesaary, secure the hole thing with a tight rubber band. Now screw the speaker on the sheet and cut off the excess on the back, but be careful not to cut too much off, risking to let the cover slip out!

Step 6: The Back

The back is pretty straight forward, all you have to do is to grab the sheet and imagine where your powercable (and in my case the speakerwires aswell) should come out and drill a hole as big as the wire itself out. Now pass your powercable through and make a knot on the inside of the box, so that you won't damage your circuit if you accidently pull on it! If you have to, do the same for the speaker wires!
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Step 7: Resoldering the Components

Picture of Resoldering the Components

The next thing to is to resolder the powercable and all the other wires you had to desolder and pass through your back! Hopefully you followed my advice to photograph of the circuit before desoldering the leads and labeled the ends! If you didn't I feel bad for you son, I've got 99 problems but a wire ain't one. Anyway. Make sure everything is soldered to the right place and hook up your system to the mains, to see if everything still works!

Step 8: Learn How to Plastic Weld!

Picture of Learn How to Plastic Weld!

Plastic welding is used to "glue" two acrylics together. Except it isn't glueing. The chemical softens both edges and welds them together so that they basically become one part, forming a strong bond.

Start by pressing one of the sodes to the bottom sheet in a 90 degree manner. Use what you have on hand to get a straightright angle. I had a couple of right angle brackets that I taped down to my tablet and gently pushed the bottom towards it. It worked surprisingly well!

I used some zip ties to clean up the wires, but if you like the look you don't have to do it!


It might be good to put on your glasses again since you don't want to spray that chemical in your eyes!

Grab your paintbrush and dip it into the plastic weld. brush along th small gap between the two sheets. hold them together for a couple of minutes until they start to bond. After about 5 minutes you can let it go and they should stick together. Leave them for about 15 minutes to bond even more. After that time, grab your glue gun and gently apply some glue on the inside to the corners seal the box and make it as airtight as possible. You will want to do this carefully, as you don't want to create an unregular "glueblop"-pattern (like I did... )

Repeat those steps for the rest of the box!

Once you finished your welding and sealed the box you will notice that you couldn't hotglue the last sheet. You could do this on the outside. Or not, the choice is yours!

Step 9: Admire the (almost) Finished Product!

Picture of Admire the (almost) Finished Product!

And that should be it! The box for the subwoofer should now be sealed shut and fully functional! Admire your hard work for a minute and come back to make the small sattelites!

Step 10: The Making of a Satellite

Picture of The Making of a Satellite

The smaller speaker pretty much depend on how your system is build. Mine had a cinch input connector each on the back, so I had to figure out how to design it to be practical and still be asthetic!

But first things first, like the wooden subwoofer, you'll have to figure out to get to the goods inside the smaller speakerboxes. Mine were made out of ugly but sturdy plastic.  Yours might be held together by a couple of screws which should make the whole thing quite painless. Fortunately, mine were hold together by said screws. Unfortunately, they were quite deep into the casing and my small screwdriver couldn't reach them...

So I had to figure out how to get them open without proper tools.

I figured out a way by drilling small holes around where the screws are fixed and just openend the casing like that.

Once you've done that with both speakers, you should be left with only the speakers and there connectors.

Step 11: Getting the Hole in the Stand

Picture of Getting the Hole in the Stand

To get the hole in the middle of the sattelite, you can try different approaches, but do to the lack of equpiment, I used this method. I am sure there is an easier way to do this!

The first thing I did was the same technique as with the suwooferspeaker. Take your compass and trace the diameter of the speaker in the middle of your acrylic. Now take your drill and drill a row of holes INSIDE of the traced line and gently push out the circle. Now take your rotary tool with the sanding drum and even out the hole. You might want to round the edges with the sandpaper, they can be quite pointy!

Step 12: Grab a Heatgun and Start Bending!

Picture of Grab a Heatgun and Start Bending!

Many people commented on my last acrylic project and told me to try out heatbending the sheets. So I did.
I tried out bending the scraps I got from the ebay seller and figured out how to do it.

This video I found on youtube shows an easy way to do it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGwZfKqalkw

Make sure to try it out on scraps first, to get the technique right and more importantly so you don't get a different angle at the end!
I measured 11cm from the top on each side and very lightly scored a line between those points as an orientation.

Step 13: Final Push!

Picture of Final Push!

You're almost done! Once you've bend the sattelites the way you wanted, grab the rest of the tights and cut out a circle bigger than the speaker. Place that tightcircle on the table and put the speaker on top of that. Fold your tightcircle around your speakerand secure it with an elastic band. Plaxce the hole lot inside the hole of the speaker stand andmake sure it's snug. If everything fits, CAREFULLY glue the edges with a little superglue. Don't be too generous with the glue, otherwise it might drip down from the speaker and onto the acrylic and ruining it!

(if that happens to you, you could either make a new one or sand down both sides to get rid of the excess glue and to frost them, which might look cool aswell!)

Let the whole thing dry and do the same with the other speaker!

Step 14: You're All Done and Ready to Blast!

Picture of You're All Done and Ready to Blast!

Once your speakers are glued and completely dry you can go ahead and try out your new system!

I hope everything was clear and easy to understand but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a question in the comments and I'll try to answer it accurately. I will try and look at the comments daily to not let you guys wait!


I've entered this project into the Green Electronics Challenge, if you liked this, please vote for it!

Comments

pmölder (author)2014-06-17

These speakers are a nice concept, but they have several flaws regarding audio performance and design.

1. Using thin acrylic for the sub. Since you chose to go with a closed design, the enclosure will become a radiating surface. I see, that you used 5mm material. Too thin to resist flexing. So its going to distort your bass with internal resonate waves you cannot control.

2. Choosing a closed design for the driver/amp. These el cheapo sets have really minimalistic approaches. That means, the amp is optimized with output performance for a low impedance response on the low end. The driver is chosen for bass-reflex. To design a closed box for such parameters means making it smaller and dampening the motion of air inside the box.

3. Using the original dimensions of the previous enclosure. That volume is tuned for bass-reflex. The driver cannot fill the volume with enough speed to keep the sound in phase. Especially with a closed design, where the driver will experience an impedance gain. It will distort.

I have rebuilt such systems for friends over the years. Ranging from Logitech to such no-names. The above mentioned flaws are pretty much a rule of thumb for such projects. Since you don't design the whole system from the ground up and focus on the mechanical side of the design, you have to have a genius mind or know how to make these work. The only redeeming factor is the use of open baffle design on the satellites. You could have made these speakers work better than the original design. But you opted for the "wow" factor instead

I will not upload my builds, because mainly they were a learning curve for me(will include mistakes) and secondly, I wish to make my own audio design company one day. Not with recycle-rat projects, but could be one part of it.

Antiundead (author)pmölder2015-04-07

Why should anyone believe what you say, if you won't back it up with actual instructions on how to build a better speaker?

You can't be scared that others will steal your "genius" designs. I'm sure entire companies like Bang & Olufsen or Creative have a lot more experience and research in sound technology than you do. So just write an instructable or stop complaining on other people's speaker designs.

michaelgc (author)2014-08-20

Beautiful look

amulder1 (author)2014-06-04

Again a nice job, how is the sound though? Can imagine that acrylic doesn't have great acoustics.

Damutsch (author)amulder12014-06-04

Thank you! I had the same concerns, but I managed to get it pretty much airtight and the bass is really crisp! Then again, I didn't have high hopes as it was such an old system to begin with!

mephisto1969 (author)2014-06-03

Seriously mate, buy yourself some decent tools. I want to see what marvels you can create when you have some considering what you can do with the minimal ones you've got at the moment. You definitely have some talent.

Damutsch (author)mephisto19692014-06-04

Thanks for the compliment :) Yeah, I'll have to at some point ;) Just don't really have the time, money nor the space for them at the moment :/

emilkaram (author)2014-06-03

awesome

Damutsch (author)emilkaram2014-06-03

Thanks a lot :)

OrangePanda120 (author)2014-05-08

I voted! How do you know which wires to keep?

Damutsch (author)OrangePanda1202014-05-08

Thanks a lot! You should keep all of them! Make sure to label them and/or take close up pictures so you're on the safe side! Test the system after resoldering everything and before welding the case shut to know if you missed something! Good luck and let me know if you need anymore help :)

PirateLabs (author)2014-04-24

Very good looking project and very well explained. Nice job.

Thank you for sharing it.

Bill

Damutsch (author)PirateLabs2014-04-25

Thanks for the kind words :)

tylerwhitworth (author)2014-04-24

Well done.

Damutsch (author)tylerwhitworth2014-04-24

Thank you!

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Bio: I enjoy making things, taking stuff apart, learning how different things work and love creativity! Pardon me if I made any mistakes during my instructables ... More »
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