3D Printed Nautilus HiFi Speakers

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About: Designer, Maker, CNC Enthusiast, Audio Lover

This has been by far one of my favorite projects to work on and so i'd like to share with you my process for making these inspired speakers!

The nautilus represents the very top of perfect audio in terms of sound and beautiful aesthetic and although I could never really compete with the original, here is my own take on it!

Please don't forget to vote for me in the audio contest and also check out my other work here on Instructables and on my website at Makealittlemore .

Step 1: Inspiration

These speakers were of course inspired by the great Nautilus Speakers from Bowers & Wilkins which I have always loved and drawn inspiration from in past projects.

I came across a few articles and a Thingiverse post about a 3D printable remix of the famous nautilus speaker. I decided that this would be my opportunity to make my own twist on the concept and produce a pair for myself. My idea was to better represent the natural shape and beauty of the nautilus shape and bring it back to a more natural look.

This project is an amalgamation of all of my fabrication skills utilising hand work along with CNC machinery and this also helped me with the creative inspiration as I was able to think of new and different ways of producing certain parts.

Step 2: Tools Used

The main tools used in this project were my digital fabrication machines which include my Shapeoko 3 and my Prusa i3 MK2-X.

The Shapeoko 3 is a capable CNC router made by Carbide 3D and is my workhorse in the workshop cutting everything from MDF through to acrylic and even aluminium and brass. It allows me to turn ideas into designs quickly, much quicker than 3D printing.

My Prusa i3 MK2-X is a modified printer from Prusa3D that has been modified with a rigid aluminium profile frame and produces excellent, reliable prints. This was the main tool used in the project as the entire body of the speakers was printed.

I use cheap filament off Amazon, mainly from AMZ3D which produce very cheap filament that I have found to be fairly reliable!

Step 3: Design: 3D Printed Parts

I downloaded the parts from Thingiverse and inspected them thoroughly. This print was going to use a lot of material and so I wanted to make sure it worked first time!

There were a few issues with the parts so I fixed them and scaled up and smoothed over some bits to make the shape a bit better. To do this I used Meshmixer as it is a powerful tool that allows you to edit STL files directly unlike with Fusion 360 where they must be converted to a T-Spline for editing. I won't go into too much detail on that as I intend to do tutorials on this in the future!

I have attached my repaired files, the differences are subtle but should increase print quality and part fit.

I intended to use Dayton Audio Reference 4" woofers for this build as they were the right size to allow a nice ring to go around the woofer and fit onto the printed parts nicely. For this I had to modify the hole pattern slightly to work better.

The parts when then processed through Slic3r to be printed on my Original Prusa i3 MK2. The total printing time took about 36 hours which consumed about 1.5 kg of filament due to a high infill being used to aid with acoustics.

Step 4: Design: Aesthetic

As I mentioned earlier I was keen for a very natural look to the speakers so wanted to avoid the smooth high gloss finish that the original nautilus speakers had. I had seen that some people had used wood-fill filament to print the part which looked interesting but didn't really match the aesthetic of the 'shell' but I liked the idea of using some oak in the design to aid the natural look.

My idea in the end was to use a stone effect spray that kind of resembles a rough granite look and has 3d texture which really makes a nice effect. The addition of wood will also complement the design I had in mind for the speaker spikes that support the speaker.

Step 5: Design: Speaker Spikes

In researching speaker spikes to buy they seemed to be pretty dull and ugly so the obvious option was to make my own.

My idea was to use some long bolts that I could sharpen to a point and the add a little oak sleave that I could machine on my CNC.

Step 6: Printing + Finishing

After the long printing time the parts were ready to be finished. I decided to keep the printing lines as I think they really add to the texture of the finished item and highlight the curve and spiral pattern.

The 3 parts for each speaker were joined with epoxy and then filled using regular wood filler and sanded smooth around the edge.

I used a special plastic etch primer in grey to give a nice layer for the stone spray to adhere too and it also acts as the base colour for the stone effect.

After a few coats for primer and some more sanding, I applied a few coats of the stone spray allowing it to dry for a few hours between coats.

Step 7: Making Speaker Spikes

Cam for these parts was simple and I used a block of endgrain oak so I could machine a scalop down to produce the conical shape. Boring the central hole was tricky due to the thin top part of the cone.

Once the parts were machined, I cut the ends off the bolts and sharpened them on the belt sander. The sides were scored with a file to allow the glue to hold the wood parts on better.

After the parts were glued together with epoxy I sanded everything smooth by hand. The use of the bolts makes attachment to the main body of the speaker easy and they can be replaced if needed.

The fit was then tested on the speakers to ensure a snug fit and they stand correctly.

Step 8: Speaker Faces

Again this was a simple part to CAM although the only oak I have is 20mm and I have no thickness planer to bring the material down to 10mm which is what I designed to keep the oak ring more subtle. It would have stuch out quite oddly if I had used 20mm thickness for the speaker ring.

To overcome this I simply pocketed a large area of the material down to 10mm before cutting the rest of the shape out.

Some sanding and a clear coat of lacquer and the part was done!

Step 9: Sound Quality

I haven't really focused on audio quality as I am more keen at the moment to focus on design. I have learnt a lot from feedback on previous projects from the community about how to produce a better sound and this is something to focus on more in the future.

Some stuffing was added to the speakers which has certainly improved the sound quality but the large volume doesn't complement the drivers very well and it is noticeable.

I hope to add some sound samples to this instructable soon!

Step 10: Finished Product + Improvements

I am actually surprised with myself as to how well this project turned out. From the outset I was keen to be meticulous and pay more attention to the details and it seems to have paid off. This definitely paves a way from my future projects as I can build on my improved attention to detail to produce more refined and clean projects.

If I were to do this project again (I have had a few requests from people to buy a pair of these speakers!) I might experiment with an aluminium or brass ring around the speaker instead of oak. I like the natural look of the oak but it would be cool to add a nice juxtaposition with some polished metal in the design.

Audio quality needs to play a greater role in the design, I did no calculations and this has definitely harmed the acoustics. A bigger driver with perhaps an integrated tweeter and some determination on how big to make the internal volume would produce a better sound.

I would also like to attempt to make a bigger version but this would require me to outsource the printing as this was the biggest size I could print with my printer!

As mentioned before, if you liked this project please check out my other work here on Instructables and at my website: makealittlemore.com

Thank you for reading :)

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    68 Discussions

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    JohnLake

    10 days ago on Step 10

    Hello Nickolae
    The nautilus speaker is an interesting looking project - well done. I note your comment on the sound quality. You could perhaps attribute that to mainly three issues: 1. Each driver works best if the enclosure volume is at its optimum value and that volume will depend on whether or not the enclosure is vented ( I seem to recall the volume of my enclosures when I used 4" drivers was about 9 litres.) 2. The enclosure walls are perhaps a bit thin and are resonating. I understand the restrictions with the manufacturing process but it might be an idea to re-visit that. 3. The angle of the driver pointing upwards likely won't improve the listening experience.
    Having said that, I love the funky design. I wonder if a person could fabricate them from laminated wood on a CNC router? It would be difficult to get down to the fine detail that is within the shell, but it could still look good. I think perhaps the inside volume would be done first with some reference holes so that when it's turned over the the outside shape can be referenced to the inside. In fact the inside only needs to be a volume it doesn't necessarily have to have the same shape as the outside.
    You have my brain cells operating. I wonder if the shell was inverted so the driver is at the top?...just a thought.
    Regards John L.

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    CJnyc3

    Question 26 days ago

    I saw this when you published this.. Just got my hands on a 3D printer, So I'm definitely making this very soon. Thank you for your modified files. Just wondering what were the dimensions of the wooden ring to mount the speakers?

    Also, how did you keep it from lifting off the print bed?

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    btma

    7 weeks ago

    That's great and artistic I like it.

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    jbrusco79

    8 weeks ago

    These look great. I've made more than my fair share of loudspeakers in my day and actually used to work in the industry. I've sold and setup the actual B&W Nautilus speakers, and was one of a handful of people that B&W flew to England to tour the factory and meet with engineers about their products. If you ever wanted to build a more scaled down attempt at these, I'd be happy to assist in the project and give you some pointers as to their design. The big deal with the Nautilus was that it was a full active system and the shape was such that the entire backwave of the speaker was supposedly not reflected due to the nautilus shape. They are actually quite large in person and stand about 4' tall. They also need to be placed way out into the room. You could probably do an attempt at an active 2-way or even 3 way system of this in the future.

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    Nickolaejbrusco79

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    I'm very jealous that you have been up close and personal with the Nautilus, I have only been able to listen to them a few times. Perhaps when I finish University I will have a crack at a larger scale replica of the Nautilus and I will definitely seek your advice!

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    jbrusco79Nickolae

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Few people have even been able to listen to them, so there's that. They are notoriously hard to position, need a tremendously large room, and obscene amounts of amplification. Since they are an active 4-way system this means 4 stereo amplifiers or 8 individual mono-block amplifiers. The install I did back in the day used 8 Linn Climax Monoblock amplifiers. These were $10,000 each, so the combined cost of amplification and speakers was $120,000. I spent about 7 years in the high end audio business and also built speakers on my own for quite some time, still do. I got to hear, sell, and setup pretty much all of the best systems in the world. If you want my top speakers of all time, here's the list.

    1. Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage - The one speaker I should have bought when I had accommodation pricing. The most magical 2-way on planet earth.
    2. Dynaudio Special 25 - Should have bought a pair of these as well, although I do have a few sets of other awesome Dynaudio speakers.
    3. Dynadio Evidence Master - Sold a pair of these at $85,000/pair. Downright amazing
    4. Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy - Sold a few pairs of Wilsons including grand slams, but still like these better.
    5. B&W Silver Signature - Place in my heart for these 1990s gems.

    You might note that a lot of these are simpler 2-way designs. I tend to be a huge fan of this more elegant and less complex speaker type. Especially today you'll find that a well engineered 2-way speaker can dig down to 35hz or less in some instances. Trying to build a larger 3-way rarely adds any significant value. It may gain you 10-15hz on the low end, but often it just creates a much more challenging design problem, increases your volume of the enclosure, your crossover design complexity, and makes it such that if your room is too small, you've actually built something that will sound worse in your specific scenario.

    My two cents for your next Nautilus build... Passive 2-way system with a totally kick butt mid/woofer. More manageable size to build this and you'll have a speaker that will be able to adapt to a number of different rooms/scenarios.

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    Hack42Mack

    2 months ago

    If you have the chance to upscale the design to a 5" speaker I can recommend the Tang Band W5-2106. It's a affordable and good broadband speaker with a range of ~60Hz to 18kHz.

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    wobbler

    2 months ago

    Great design!

    It would also make a great design for an Amazon Echo Dot holder whilst possibly also increasing the sound quality.

    The old version 2 Dot has a really odd way to throw out the sound, through a narrow slot somewhere on the bottom rim near the front. You can find the location easy enough just by running your thumb around until the sound stops. I've experimented with putting the Echo Dot on an upside down solid plastic plant pot with a 1cm hole in line with that point and the rim sealed to the plant post, which I then line with foam and placed a couple of 15mm holes in the sides for the sound to come out through. The result was a much better sound, less tinny and a bit more mellow.

    The new version 3 Dot though has a much better sound and the speaker seems to have a much bigger exit on the sides so that wouldn't work.

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    oz5es

    2 months ago

    Wow, this is great looking, hope the sound makes it worth.

    I have a couple of Coral flat 5" that I'd like to make the same design, but it's way above my skills.

    10 thumbs up for this one ;-)

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    attosa

    2 months ago

    Just great! You've absolutely got my vote!

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    jimmilt

    2 months ago

    There are high-end speaker manufacturers who place tweeters concentrically with the woofer; these are products that sell for many thousands of dollars and garner rave reviews (Zu Audio and Thiel) from the audiophile press. I'm not sure about whether or not there are HQ 4" drivers, however. There are those sold for in wall mounting for home theater applications; not sure how well they'd work in this enclosure.

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    ccrome

    2 months ago

    Very cool! Now, you just need to add a tweeter somewhere (and a crossover and EQ) and they'll really sound fantastic. You can see those speakers' directivity starts going wonky at about 3-4kHz (which is as good as you can hope for in a 4" speaker), so a tweeter would make all the difference. Get the tweeter to operate at 3kHz to 20kHz, and it'll be a truly fine speaker. Of cource, the question is.... where to put it in this design...

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    Nickolaeccrome

    Reply 2 months ago

    They have a quite a rich sound, a bit bassy due to the large volume but i'm happy so far! something to work on in the future for sure!

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    jimmiltNickolae

    Reply 2 months ago

    There are speakers available with concentrically mounted tweeters.

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    ccromejimmilt

    Reply 2 months ago

    There are precious few that don’t stink. The automotive ones that mount the tweeter in front of the woofer are pretty horrid. Thiel makes really good ones with the tweeter literally coplanar with the woofer.

    [edit: Oh! I didn't know speakers like https://www.parts-express.com/dayton-audio-cx120-8-4-coaxial-driver-with-3-4-silk-dome-tweeter-8-ohm--295-384 exist at a reasonable price! This is a $35 speaker that has a coplanar tweeter! That should actually sound really good!] Thanks for the pointer.

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    deankosmacccrome

    Reply 2 months ago

    This kind of speakers (caoxial) plays music really shitty and Dayton's are far from a quality driver. Far better option would be to add a tweeter just above this design and keep a full-range driver as it is (even better if he could add mid as well).

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    ccromedeankosmac

    Reply 2 months ago

    I agree, every coax speaker I've seen before have been really truly horrible. But the Dayton coax/coplanar design at least tries to do it right (putting the tweeter coplanar & coaxial with the woofer) I haven't listened or measured them though, so I'll reserve judgement. Of course, the final sound quality is highly dependent on crossover and EQ design, and traditional 2-way speakers definitely sound good with a good crossover & EQ.

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    deankosmacccrome

    Reply 2 months ago

    Every coax speaker is made just like this - > putting tweeter in area where sub's dust caps would be. That makes sound go bad for two reasons: sub shape is more firmly if it has dust cap, and sound disperses more evenly, the second is that two different range drivers should not mix in the same area. Lows low and highs high.
    Crossovers are factory made on such drivers (coax), and EQ should not improve how they sound, since they should provide a flat linear response. But yeah in any other 2-way driver a crossover should do a trick.

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    ccromeNickolae

    Reply 2 months ago

    I haven't done the simulation, but I suspect the 'a bit bassy'-ness is due to the volume being too small, also probably some resonance due to the nautilus shape. Did you fill it with poly-fill or something? That should help dampen out any nasty resonances from the back chamber shape. [edit... I see that you did this already... good. Perhaps I should read more carefully]

    Generally, if your rear enclosure volume is too small, it will do two things: it will reduce the low bass you get, but it will also create a resonant peak that is quite undesirable. It will sound 'too bassy' because of a big boost at the low end, but then you loose all the frequencies below that. I think you're inspiring me... Maybe I'll design an acoustically very good version of these... I'll have to play around a bit and think about what makes sense. Thanks for the inspiration :-)

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    JohnC430ccrome

    Reply 2 months ago

    where did you see the response curve for the speakers? i could not even find the product name....