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My experience with DIY and it's many frustrations that are not talked about.

badspeakerdesigner

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Howdy, I don't feel this website is the most active in terms of DIY speakers, but I feel my opinions may be of more value here than other sites. This will probably be quite scatter brained and I'm going to be as open as I can be maybe touching on some deeper personal issues in the end.

I got into DIY speakers a long time ago, starting with PA speakers. I transitioned into home stuff a few years ago, mostly sparked by the things I've learned here at ASR and the fact that I started to get older and not like the loudness as much (I can probably fix this with some good custom molded earplugs). I've made some kits and eventually tried my hand at my own designs. I thought I'd share some of my frustrations in hopes that more experienced folk may confirm or offer counter arguments. This is largely stemming from what I'd consider recent failures.

1. Celebrities - Boy this hobby has a lot of celebrities in it, and while at first I listened and absorbed their information, the further along I get the more I realize many
designers are simply propped up by users with little reference as to what good sound is and not so much that their designs perform well. I see A LOT of popular designers utilizing what
I'd consider very dated approaches to design delivering sub par performance. I've had to take a hard stance and only consider designs that have extensive and trustworthy measurement suites.

I'd consider this design one of dated design principles and a poorly assessed speaker.

And this is what I feel is a well done speaker with what is really the minimum amount of data.

2. Everyone wants to sell what they think is best - Go ask for driver recommendations at DIYaudio.com and you'll likely get a mess of recommendations that are nearly impossible to gauge. How does one know who is a reliable source of information there? When requesting data on things, I find many are still neigh on militant towards communities like ASR. It feels like much of the DIY community lives in it's own bubble.

3. The difficulty of making a GOOD speaker is vastly underestimated - I'm very guilty of this. I was under the impression that with time I could create something special, but I think I can admit defeat here without a hit to my ego. The analysis process can be daunting and many environments are not friendly to getting accurate data. You'll definitely figure this out if you embark on your project.

4. You can run into problems that will ruin a speaker and won't know till you make it - I made some big three way speakers that are basically paper weights because of a resonance problem that I'm unable to fix. I have fairly high standards for what I need a speaker to do and sadly with most resonances, once you hear them you can't unhear them.

5. It's hard to make something better than what you can buy for the same costs - Companies that make speakers have time and money to throw at making prototypes, I wager the average person doesn't have either of those things in the order that a manufacturer does. I tried quite hard to make some great speakers but ultimately none sounded as good as my friends Kali LP6. I make music and I often just go to his place to work on a mix, which is why I'm going to place an order for either LP6 or LP8 soon which will be augmented by subwoofers.

6. I fought the science and the science won - A lot of my speaker builds are more spur of the moment things that could probably use more preparation and thought before the build starts. Many times I ignored things like optimizing off axis response which I should have taken into consideration more or simply underestimated how the issues would effect the final product.

7. Drawers full of useless parts - At this point I consider myself at the end of my DIY journey. I learned a lot, but I feel I mostly learned that I find DIY far too cumbersome and time consuming to be worth it. I stare at my drawers full of drivers that are too cheap to justify the shipping costs to sell, and there is no market other than giving away my less adequate designs. What is one to do with all this waste?

Ultimately though I find that building speakers has really cut into my enjoyment of music. Part of me says "keep going, you're almost there" but this feels almost like an addiction that will never pay off and leave me fully satisfied. This may be over dramatic but as someone who loves to overthink and is usually a perfectionist to a huge fault, I was genuinely in tears recently considering all the time and money I had spent over the years trying to best even some $400/pair monitors and coming up short. I feel as though DIY for me has turned into something that has stifled my own personal growth. I've met some other DIY speaker folk in person and often times I feel like I see some similar things, it's like an addiction for them as well and their relationships appear to suffer. Being a musician, my musical output has declined dramatically since entering the DIY space and I feel more unsatisfied with life than ever. Nothing brings me more joy than creating music, and nothing gets in the way of that more than trying to build speakers it seems. The thought that I can just stop at any time though has been freeing and I must entertain the idea rather than walk by my pile of drivers and wonder what I could do with them.

I'd really love to hear what people think, not so much on the technical criticisms of it all, but the more personal and spiritual aspects I described.
 

bargainguy

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When DIYing your own speakers, you don't know what you don't know. Until you come across what you don't know and don't know how to fix it. Then you really don't know.

Now if I felt a need to sideline into a DIY speaker project with not much expectation of the final result, sure. No harm done, maybe a few dozen hours spent of trying to make something work, but not being too bothered by a lack of results.

But if the goal is to produce something better than what you can buy currently, we're back at not knowing what we don't know. So I vote not going down that road unless your expectations are extremely low. Otherwise likely an exercise in frustration. Lot easier to just buy something you like and not worry about not having built it yourself.
 

droid2000

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Just quit DIY immediately. You don't owe anyone anything. You're the only one that cares about your speakers. And from the sound of it, you aren't enjoying the process... at all.

I'm sure there are many others like you. So take it all out back, pour some gasoline on the pile, and flick a match. Next thing you know you'll have people from all around the world wishing to attend your Burning Stereo Man Festival.
 

Doodski

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I don't know your background or education level that would be transferable to speaker design but I do know that if you don't have formal training in reactance and the principles of electricity that it will be a very tough grind to self learn the comings and goings of speaker design. I have seen some peeps that are very adept at learning the stuff but they have advanced university degrees that enable them to understand and use the maths and principles of electricity within what appears to be a short time frame. I commend you for going at what is actually a very technical and deep subject requiring multi disciplines at a higher level.
 

Ricardus

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Another forum I'm on which is more about pro audio had a new user create a thread about speaker design, and this was basically what all of the smart people up there said. This is hard and you don't know what you don't know.

Now I've been DIY'ing all sorts of electronics projects for years and that has been very fun and rewarding. Some home hifi preanp stuff, but mostly recording gear like preamps EQs and compressors.
 

ppataki

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I agree with @droid2000 you shall probably stop DIY, apparently it does not provide you with any joy whatsoever.....and what is the point of doing it without that?

To answer your question about the personal side:
To me it is definitely an addiction. But for me the whole 'hi-fi' thing has been an addiction since I was 10....
And I enjoy it a lot
It is a bit frustrating when I try to supercede my own designs and it does not always work but I consider that as part of the journey.
The speakers I design sound way better (to me!!!) than any of those that I had previously owned and/or the ones that my acquantainces have so that is definitely a huge driving factor.
As long as that remains the case I will keep on pursuing my DIY journey
 

kemmler3D

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When requesting data on things, I find many are still neigh on militant towards communities like ASR. It feels like much of the DIY community lives in it's own bubble.
I haven't really found that to be the case across the board with DIYAudio. If you ask for spins or measurements of a driver nobody really bats an eye over there. Hificompass etc are considered good.

There are some "purely by ear" folks over there, but I think they're in the minority and easily ignored.
I ignored things like optimizing off axis response which I should have taken into consideration more or simply underestimated how the issues would effect the final product.
This was the biggest eye-opener for me when I started looking into DIY. I haven't actually built anything yet, but my biggest concern is how to match directivity at the crossover. Waveguide and hope for the best, or run the speaker too high/low seems to be the tradeoff you face in the BEST case.

What is one to do with all this waste?

Slap together some frankenstein cabinets, put a WiiM pro on it, EQ as best you can on-axis, and use it as a bathroom speaker?
Nothing brings me more joy than creating music, and nothing gets in the way of that more than trying to build speakers it seems.

Sounds like DIY speakers is a huge mistake for you. The general advice experienced DIYers give newbies is don't even think about DIY speakers unless you enjoy the process.

You're much better off taking the time you'd spend on DIY scouring secondhand sites for good deals on genelecs or Kalis, and get back to making tunes.

Either put the drivers into some kind of godawful "party system" or whatever for the hell of it, or just list them on craigslist for $OBO and be done with it.
 

pierre

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Great post! I agree with most of your points esp. 5. In Switzerland, for the cost of wood alone, I cannot build a speaker on par with Kali for ex.
I can do a great speaker similar to JBL M2 but it is not cheap either (and takes a lot of time).

What I have found useful:
- use simulation program (Vituix is greaaat)
- if you design a horn there are various possible software (and they remove the guessing part) see ath for ex.
- I am crap at doing analog crossovers so I go full dsp. That's much easier (for me), easier to correct and cheaper in the modern world where the computer does the dsp and amps are cheap. You have some risk of blowing tweeters if you get the config wrong.
- cnc / 3d printing is working great with plenty of shops doing it for you

And issues:
- Cost is an issue in practice
- Look&feel at the end. So far I have not been able to build a speaker my wife would agree with in terms of look.

Overall it was great learning experiences for me.

P.S.: on "This is hard and you don't know what you don't know". I believe that people can learn whatever if they are motivated. Of course it is easier if you already have a degree in science but that's not a requirements. Look for a local DIY or Audio community. I am sure they can help.
 
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Gorgonzola

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Ultimately though I find that building speakers has really cut into my enjoyment of music. Part of me says "keep going, you're almost there" but this feels almost like an addiction that will never pay off and leave me fully satisfied. This may be over dramatic but as someone who loves to overthink and is usually a perfectionist to a huge fault, I was genuinely in tears recently considering all the time and money I had spent over the years trying to best even some $400/pair monitors and coming up short. ...
So I've made a center channel speaker and a pair of stand-mounts of my own design. They are currently in service in my modest HT system. They don't sound bad, especially with some EQ.

But my most successful effort was building to a published design using a kit consisting of drivers and pre-assembled crossover networks and knock-down cabinets. The effort produced a great pair of 2-way floorstanders that cost me about US$1800 inclusive; the speakers are easily the equivalent of finished, commercial speakers costing perhaps $5000. See Zaph Audio ZRT (Zaph Revelator Towers).
 
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badspeakerdesigner

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I'd argue that the construction process brings me much joy, but the design process is just endless frustration and second guessing.
So I've made a center channel speaker and a pair of stand-mounts of my own design. They are currently in service in my modest HT system. They don't sound bad, especially with some EQ.

But my most successful effort was building to a published design using a kit consisting of drivers and pre-assembled crossover networks and knock-down cabinets. The effort produced a great pair of 2-way floorstanders that cost me about US$1800 inclusive; the speakers are easily the equivalent of finished, commercial speakers costing perhaps $5000. See Zaph Audio ZRT (Zaph Revelator Towers).

This was probably where my success was as well. The costs comparison seems strange to me though, kh310 x2 is ~$5000, surely something like that would walk circles around the ZRT which looks like your typical dispersion mismatched two way.

Great post! I agree with most of your points esp. 5. In Switzerland, for the cost of wood alone, I cannot build a speaker on par with Kali for ex.
I can do a great speaker similar to JBL M2 but it is not cheap either (and takes a lot of time).

What I have found useful:
- use simulation program (Vituix is greaaat)
- if you design a horn there are various possible software (and they remove the guessing part) see ath for ex.
- I am crap at doing analog crossovers so I go full dsp. That's much easier (for me), easier to correct and cheaper in the modern world where the computer does the dsp and amps are cheap. You have some risk of blowing tweeters if you get the config wrong.
- cnc / 3d printing is working great with plenty of shops doing it for you

And issues:
- Cost is an issue in practice
- Look&feel at the end. So far I have not been able to build a speaker my wife would agree with in terms of look.

Overall it was great learning experiences for me.

P.S.: on "This is hard and you don't know what you don't know". I believe that people can learn whatever if they are motivated. Of course it is easier if you already have a degree in science but that's not a requirements. Look for a local DIY or Audio community. I am sure they can help.

I did run most of my speakers active, but those sorts of setups are not at all friendly to integrating low latency inputs commonly used when recording.
 

DVDdoug

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I've been happy with my DIY speakers and I think at the low-to-mid price/quality range you can do better by building yourself. Especially, if you economize on the materials & finish. And you can build a BIG subwoofer if you like... Bigger than what you "typically" find retail. But of course it is a gamble and you don't know what you're going to get 'till you're done... (I did use design/simulation software for my subs.)

A the higher-end I doubt I could build something as good as I could buy.

I used to build electronics and I'm powering my subwoofers with an amplifier that I rebuilt when it died. It actually died more than once and I re-built-it when the parts were no longer available. And it's been more reliable since,, or I've abused it less. ;) I used the case, the power transformer, the "big" capacitors and probably some of the other power supply components but the audio circuitry was completely replaced.

But electronics is now cheaper, and I wouldn't even attempt to build a DAC. Now I only build something electronic if it's something I can't buy. (Sometimes I make lighting effects and probably my latest build was a "giant VU meter".)
 

hex168

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In my experience, DIY for speakers is good for two things:
1) Fun. If you do not enjoy it, don't do it.
2) To build something the market does not address. If you like the presentation of floor-to-ceiling line arrays, you pretty much have to build them. If you need a speaker to fit in a specific spot, you can build something the right size and shape. And, for some strange reason I do not understand, if you want something small and efficient that will not play full range but takes best advantage of a sub, you either have to build it or spend quite a lot.

Edit to add: and there are few good center channel speakers either.
 
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DavidMcRoy

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I’ve been doing this for some years with a fair degree of success, especially by “cheating” and sticking to active designs with independent DSP and amplification for individual drivers. Passive crossovers are like gaslight in this day and age in my opinion. The very first thing I’d recommend to anyone who aspires to DIY speakers is to buy something off the shelf that is known to be reasonably neutral and transparent as a reference. It needn’t be the ultimate, just good enough to keep you familiar with where you ought to be headed, like JBL LSR305, JBL 305p Mkll or Adam Audio T5V as just a few inexpensive examples. (Note that their imperfections have been identified and documented in a few online tests, so study those.)
 

kemmler3D

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I think DIY can get you slightly better results than store-bought in the $200-500 range, (good quality drivers using a proven design) and better results for your money in the >$3000 range (fully active hypex, all purifi, waveguides, etc.) but I'm not sure if there is much point aside from enjoying the build, in-between.

One build you can do that's cost-effective is an M2 clone. The genuine parts are available for sale and the woodworking is not super-advanced, people have more or less reverse engineered the internal and external dimensions and DSP setting. You can do 2x Hypex 503 and only sacrifice 100w from the reference design.

However, for some reason my wife isn't stoked that I want to build 4' tall DIY speakers that will still cost $5K all told. Weird.
 

tmtomh

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Develop and build speakers when you want to learn how they work and how to design them.
Build Kits when you like woodworking and making your own furniture.

But don't DIY speakers when your goal is just having good playback quality in you room...

I think this is the answer. @badspeakerdesigner - of course you should feel free to simply give up completely on DIY speaker building. As others have written, you don't owe anyone anything, including yourself - you've clearly worked hard and tried your best, and IMHO you can hold your head up high and be proud of that.

But if there's part of you that feels sad or discontented about dropping the hobby altogether, I think @Kwesi 's advice is very helpful: DIY can be a lot more fun and relaxing when you're not trying to build your primary critical-listening speakers. If you have any use for stereo speakers in your shop, or garage, or with a TV, or as test speakers if you ever collect and work on old amps and such, or maybe as L-R rear surrounds in a home theater setup, then your standard changes from "has to be really really first-rate" to "has to be fun or interesting to listen to, even if I swap them out for something else in a month or two."

Of course, if you feel you can't change your expectations like that (or you don't want to), then that's up to you. I'm just saying that you might find you can salvage both some enjoyment and all that "waste" product you've worked on if you repurpose for non-mission-critical uses.
 

alex-z

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In all DIY hobbies the reward is the journey, not the destination. Every DIY speaker builder eventually runs into problems and has to overcome them or go back to commercial designs.

With something like the Pit Vipers, Paul Carmody is upfront about them being cheap and loud "party speakers" that need a lot of bracing + damping. There are a lot of obvious areas for improvement, like doubling baffle thickness and switching to a passive radiator. No shame in building new cabinets to incorporate improvements, professional designers working for brands like KEF still go through physical iterations even with high-end CAD+FEA in their toolbox.
 

kemmler3D

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No shame in building new cabinets to incorporate improvements, professional designers working for brands like KEF still go through physical iterations even with high-end CAD+FEA in their toolbox.
To underscore why it's hard to beat commercial designs in 2023: In maybe the 50s-70s there was some math involved, but also more trial and error in commercial designs. Today you have whole teams of engineers simulating beyond the capability of DIY folks before they walk over to the 3D printer and fabricate a whole cabinet in one go.

They also get their parts a lot cheaper than you do.

Their one disadvantage is they have to ship and sell that speaker at a profit, which is why there is any daylight at all for DIY designs.

But if you can't beat commercial designs with a soldering iron and a can-do attitude, well, that is nothing to be ashamed of. We're up against highly trained professionals with really expensive tools.
 

levimax

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I think it is an interesting question about whether DIY was "better"/ "more competitive" with commercial products in the past. Today a hobbiest just has to buy a USB MIC and he has access to free REW with capabilities even the biggest and best commerical companies could only dream of in the not so distant past. Combine that with free CAD software and the huge knowlege base and parts sourcing available on the web and I could make a strong argument this is the "golden age" of DIY. The only thing is DIY is very much out of style with convieniece some how now the most important thing to many people. DIY is not for everyone, OP included, but it is certainly a valid option if you have the interest and time.
 
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