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

JohnBooty

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No, but if your goal is "do better than commercial at a given price point" then the DIYer has a good chance to "get rekt". If you read OP's build thread, he was trying to make speakers that sounded like ATCs or at least competent studio monitors at a lower price point. As you note, this is insanely hard, difficult even for relatively significant commercial brands. If you go in with that expectation, disappointment is likely.
This is one of those discussions where a few different things are being discussed. While there are some big DIY proponents like me here, I don't think anybody would claim that a passive DIY design can reasonably compete with a well-designed active commercial studio monitor. That requires a pretty high level of integration between electronics and drivers.

The confusion and crosstalk IMO stems from OP who kind of slagged off DIY speakers in general (many would disagree) but seems to clearly want an very specific and niche thing -- an objectively excellent large format studio monitor. (I don't think anybody claims DIY competes in that arena.... hell most commercial manufacturers don't compete in that area)

The keys to a decent finish are patience, steady hands, and lots of 400+ grit sandpaper.
Or use wood that is stainable. I tend to stick with baltic birch when feasible. Pretty easy to achieve nice results that way!

Alternatively, wood veneer is probably lower on the difficulty scale than achieving a great high gloss paint finish that's free of "orange peel."
 

JohnBooty

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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.
From what I've always been told, parts cost for commercial speakers is usually like 5-10% of MSRP.

A $500 pair of passive speakers might have $25-$50 of hardware. There are some hard limits there that can't be entirely overcome with clever engineering and bulk discounts. This rules out beefy cabinets and higher-end woofers with big magnets and cast rather than stamped frames. Heck, you're lucky if you find speakers with rollovers on the baffle to tame diffraction in that price range. Any commercial passive speaker for less than $1Kish is going to be highly compromised and that's the price range where DIY really competes.

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.

I agree that it is not a job for amateurs unless they are willing to devote themselves to serious study and lots of hours which is why I stick to community-vetted designs instead of attempting to roll my own.

But on the other hand.... designing a two-way bass reflex speaker using well-regarded off the shelf drivers is not exactly rocket science, either. And an amateur speaker designer is of course piggybacking on the engineering work done by the driver manufacturers, who have after all designed these drivers to be reasonably easily integrated with other drivers in 2-way and 3-way systems.
 

kemmler3D

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From what I've always been told, parts cost for commercial speakers is usually like 5-10% of MSRP.
It can be more than that, but it really depends. IME 10% would be on the low end, 5% would be a rather profitable speaker. At my previous job it was 30-40% but that was quite a struggle and mostly because we were too small to work in big volume.
 

Scgorg

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I think a big part of the reason why people come into loudspeaker DIY with such big expectations (as compared to building an amplifier, for example) is that making something that works is so much easier than most similarly technical hobbies. Creating a loudspeaker that just plays music requires a bare minimum of effort and skill, while the barrier of entry to designing something like an amplifier is significantly higher, meaning that the people who pursue the latter know what they're getting into.

A lot of people then make the unfortunate (false) connection of "making a loudspeaker is easy" = "making a good loudspeaker is easy", which couldn't be further from the truth. If you're going to compete with the big players, the ability to take decent measurements is a requirement, and probably the hardest one to fulfill for hobbyist builders. Ideally you want a large open space where you can get significant gate times, as well as the ability to make ground plane measurements. You can take every precaution to ensure a good design, but if you're not able to get good measurements of the drivers mounted in your enclosure, getting anywhere becomes an educated guessing game at best.

This is not to discourage anyone from DIY, but it can be a good idea to actually look at some of the build threads of competent speakers over at DIYaudio to get an idea of what is actually required for competing with commercial offerings. User hifijim on DIYaudio has some good threads for example (lots of measurements along the way, and of course measurements of the finished speakers).
 
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badspeakerdesigner

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After his initial Amiga design in 2009, Vifa updated the tweeters some years ago and the revised version is 2dB hotter. I wonder if that's what you're hearing. Carmody suggests an easy fix for this.

It's not, these have the updated the xover parts, PE switched those over in the kit a long time ago. It's very clearly shown in the data why I hear what I do.
 

Gorgonzola

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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.

Humm ... well perhaps you haven't checked the price of new, commercial speakers lately? The Neumann KH 310's aren't really comparable, so how about a pair of Revel M126be; with stands they have an msrp of US$5000. Will they "walk circles" around Zaph ZRT? Not so sure.

OK, the M126be's have beryllium tweeters, granted, but that would make them better by a small margin at best. Meanwhile the ZRTs have ScanSpeak Illuminator D3004/6600 'AirCirc' tweeters and ScanSpeak Revelator 18W/8531G-00 7" mid-rangers -- both pricey, very low dispersion, high power-handling drivers with a proven history.

So if $5k sounds like an exaggeration it isn't by much. I checked the Madisound price for the ZRT kit with accessories and air-core inductors: $1450 + shipping. Add tower cabinets to that and ZRT's DIY price today (vs. when I bought them) will easily exceed $2000 for parts alone. Find me a pair of new, commercially finished tower speakers with those or comparable Scan-Speak drivers for under $5000 and I will concede your point.
 
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Bach

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Three ( at least) major areas of concern:
1. The price of a commercial grade, costum made cabinet makes about half of the total cost of the project.
2. No check in advance of the sound of the speaker. Only estimations based on technical data.
3. Forgotten to check the WAF. Unless your speakers are meant for your study or mancave.
4. Low second hand value: ads to the TCO over the lifetime.
5. Do not expect that someone will say your DIY speakers sound better than his ones of a brand with good reputation nor are cheaper.
 
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badspeakerdesigner

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Humm ... well perhaps you haven't checked the price of new, commercial speakers lately? The Neumann KH 310's aren't really comparable, so how about a pair of Revel M126be; with stands they have an msrp of US$5000. Will they "walk circles" around Zaph ZRT? Not so sure.

OK, the M126be's have beryllium tweeters, granted, but that would make them better by a small margin at best. Meanwhile the ZRTs have ScanSpeak Illuminator D3004/6600 'AirCirc' tweeters and ScanSpeak Revelator 18W/8531G-00 7" mid-rangers -- both pricey, very low dispersion, high power-handling drivers with a proven history.

So if $5k sounds like an exaggeration it isn't by much. I checked the Madisound price for the ZRT kit with accessories and air-core inductors: $1450 + shipping. Add tower cabinets to that and ZRT's DIY price today (vs. when I bought them) will easily exceed $2000 for parts alone. Find me a pair of new, commercially finished tower speakers with those or comparable Scan-Speak drivers for under $5000 and I will concede your point.

The driver talk gets way too much into boutique audiophoolery for me. It's been shown that you clearly do not need to spend a lot of money on fancy drivers to get state of the art performance.

I don't understand how KH310 are not comparable, the comparison was made because the post I replied to referenced that specific $5000 number. Zaph doesn't even have off axis info on the speaker, but I don't need it to know that running a 7" woofer into a 1" dome is going to have dispersion errors that that KH310 won't. The revels would probably sound better than the Zaph as well thanks to their waveguide. Do you have experience with speakers with good dispersion vs. poor? IME the ones with minimal DI errors sound considerably better.
 

Colonel7

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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.
Thoughtful post and good that you're recognizing the psychological makeup aspect. One thought before I forget is whether you've ever considered teaming up with a good crossover designer and you make the cabinets. You've clearly got talent on the construction side that so many of us struggle with and are just hacks.

DIYing is definitely my main hobby now but it didn't start out that way. I didn't wake up and decide it's my hobby for sure; I tried that with fly fishing and it didn't stick; at least I could sell that stuff quickly 2nd hand.;) I'm certainly not good at DIY although I hope to be eventually. There are every type of DIYer, from lousy to fantastic. Some only build others designs but it is great for creativity, design, and using your hands to make something. If I want to try an open baffle, a waveguide, cardioid, sealed vs ported, extended bass shelf, etc. I just do it. I'm also fortunate that my wife is very tolerant of my audio hobby of things I build versus finished commercial products.

Psychological makeup side, a perfectionist probably won't love DIY. There's just too much and too many systems to not have everything be perfect. There's also a difference between FOMO and not being satisfied with almost anything, whether xo design or finish. It is about the process and making mistakes and learning from them. Many people don't enjoy that and I don't blame them. I like that part. I've learned over the years that patience and troubleshooting (not necessarily solving or fully fixing) mistakes is part of the process. If you're not tolerant of stuff like less than perfect spinoramas, orange peel, the slip of an exacto knife, a faulty driver that needs to be returned, then it's not likely to end well. And I was like that my 2nd build and then realized there is more important stuff to worry about in life and I found that patience does lead the realization that almost anything can be salvaged. For counterpoint, my neighbor asked my 11-year old what he wants to be when he grows up. First thing out of his mouth was "I don't want to be an audio engineer!" before he said he wants to be a pro soccer player like Mbappe.

Tallying costs for any hobby isn't going to be great. Try boats! I think I've got 4 sets of 10" drivers that I've been testing and doing experimental stuff with cardioid monkey coffin prototypes--realistically it'll probably take me 1.5 - 2 years to finish the design and build. Not good for costs for the final 3-way design. Then it's all the tools and everything else. Some people spend a ton of $ on negative vices.

One thing that's got to be consistent methodologically is to be anal about taking measurements. Over and over and exactly the same. All drivers and not just one speaker of a stereo pair. As you said it's hard and there's a lot of difficulty with weather, weight, cutting corners etc. It's difficult not to jump to conclusions either without doing some serious engineering type fault analysis on your particular build of your own design or someone else's design. And some faults like cabinet resonances are just mitigation that can't be "disappeared" without another tradeoff. Until measurement set up, implementation, and breakdown become easy or at least 2nd nature it's tough. And with passrve xo design it takes tons of iteration like a 2nd language.

You can burn out. Zaph walked away from DIY and never came back and he had his own driver design and regularly consulted with manufacturers. He just didn't enjoy his hobby anymore and moved on to others. It happens. If you want to walk away, don't beat yourself up over it.
 

Sokel

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Nice looking speakers and reasonably price. For whatever it may matter, they don't used the Scan-Speak tweeter.
No,only woofer is Scan Speak,the other drivers are decent too though.And there's enough room for them in terms of price if they fitted the design to go to 5K.
 

Gorgonzola

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The driver talk gets way too much into boutique audiophoolery for me. It's been shown that you clearly do not need to spend a lot of money on fancy drivers to get state of the art performance.

I don't understand how KH310 are not comparable, the comparison was made because the post I replied to referenced that specific $5000 number. Zaph doesn't even have off axis info on the speaker, but I don't need it to know that running a 7" woofer into a 1" dome is going to have dispersion errors that that KH310 won't. The revels would probably sound better than the Zaph as well thanks to their waveguide. Do you have experience with speakers with good dispersion vs. poor? IME the ones with minimal DI errors sound considerably better.
If I were looking for new speakers today I might well look for powered speakers. In practical terms I would be looking at speakers around US$2000, certainly less than $3000, which would exclude the KH 310's amongst many other speakers, active or passive. The real question is whether the ZRT's are good value as DIY speakers, not so much how they compare on price with commercial speakers.

Granted, no dispersion measurements are provided for the ZRTs but the doesn't prove they don't have good dispersion regardless of the surface-mount tweeters. For one thing, crossover design significantly affects dispersion, typically by having to high or low crossover point, or having sub-optimal slopes.
 
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badspeakerdesigner

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If I were looking for new speakers today I might well look for powered speakers. In practical terms I would be looking at speakers around US$2000, certainly less than $3000, which would exclude the KH 310's amongst many other speakers, active or passive. The real question is whether the ZRT's are good value as DIY speakers, not so much how they compare on price with commercial speakers.

Granted, no dispersion measurements are provided for the ZRTs but the doesn't prove they don't have good dispersion regardless of the surface-mount tweeters. For one thing, crossover design significantly affects dispersion, typically by having to high or low crossover point, or having sub-optimal slopes.

Actually it looks dispersion measurements are provided. Don't really need them though to know that the tweeter will still have too much off axis energy in the middle of it's passband, this is typical of trying to mate a 6-7" woofer with a flat faceplate dome.


I see the typical bloom in the lower range of the tweeter that is common in two ways. Zaphs scale is kinda insane so I zoomed in on it and that makes the issue more apparent.

zaph off.png


Ideally I feel a speaker should do something more like this.

 

jaakkopetteri

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These seem like pretty great value and I'm sure you could find an even cheaper tweeter to get total cost with a chi-fi amp around $200
 

JohnBooty

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About 4000$/pair,close enough.
I don't speak for Mr. Murphy, but isn't Philharmonic Audio run as something closer to a community service as opposed to a traditional big-margin business? It seems like they're selling things for close to cost. Or maybe that was just true for some models like the departed Affordable Accuracy Monitors.
 
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JeffS7444

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@badspeakerdesigner, at the very least, why not take a break?

I enjoy DIY audio, but I assume that the Dunning-Kruger Effect applies to me as much as anyone else. Hence, I do not make many freelanced alterations to someone else's designs, and when I do, it's generally done for practical, rather than ideological reasons.
 

Gorgonzola

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Actually it looks dispersion measurements are provided. Don't really need them though to know that the tweeter will still have too much off axis energy in the middle of it's passband, this is typical of trying to mate a 6-7" woofer with a flat faceplate dome.


I see the typical bloom in the lower range of the tweeter that is common in two ways. Zaphs scale is kinda insane so I zoomed in on it and that makes the issue more apparent.

View attachment 303331

Ideally I feel a speaker should do something more like this.

Fine, I see what you're saying ... here's my heightened FR version with scales included ...

ZRT-FR.jpg


The FR variation 500 to 10k is no worse than about +/- 1.5 dB (yellow line) -- hardly terrible. Also, the on/off axis consistency is pretty decent. Overall not bad if not up to the top Genelec / Neumann benchmarks. EQ will render these small deviations irrelevant.
 
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badspeakerdesigner

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You should get better than "not bad" for how much those cost in parts and the time spent building. 8030 are not much more and will perform better and you can shoot them with a gun and they won't care (love them metal cabinets).

The fact that you just traced on axis response makes me feel like you don't actually get what I'm saying.
 
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