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Very Nice Cheap Kit Speakers: HiVi/Swans DIY 2.2A & 3.1

GGroch

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#1
If you are looking for an interesting way to spend a few winter evenings building kit speakers, I can recommend these.

Last year I put together the HiVi 2.2a speaker kit, 2-Way 6.5" Passive Monitor (floor stand) speakers that sound far better than a $220 kit should. If you lack the skills, space, or time for fully DIY woodworking these are a nice choice. It took me just a couple of days, with 2-3 more for spray lacquer finishing. I have owned small high quality passive speakers for years, these are well designed, and have very high quality components for the price.

I think they are an excellent value compared to other kits. For example, the 2.2A I am using features a 6.5" HiVi woofer that was originally designed by ATI in Canada as a Dynaudio copy. 3" Voicecoil, they sell for $80 each on Parts Express....so Parts Express price for the 4 drivers alone is $200. The new Totem Audio Signature One ($2650 a pair) uses a very similar ATI by HiVi Woofer.

Here is the Amazon listing. Hivi DIY 2.2A and 3.1.
Here is the current Swan Speaker Kits Site
Here is an AVSForums link of builders of these kits.
Finally, Zeos Built the 3 way 3.1 kit and provides a 4 part video reference for how it can be easily done if you, like me, had no previous kit experience. You will probably get a kick our of his rudimentary soldering skills...but the tape & strap method of assembly he uses is a lot easier than what I did for putting together mitered cabinets before someone on AVSForum pointed out this right way to do it.

I bought both the 3 way and 2 way...but have been so pleased with the 2.2A that I sold my ACI Sapphire XL's (they are better, but not MUCH better) and have been happily listening to them for the last year. The attached photo is not of the set I made, which are white lacquer.

DIY 2.2A:
DIY22a.jpg
 
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#2
Hi GGroch,

Thanks for sharing. I found it interesting that you think the ACI Sapphire XL is not much better than the HiVi 2.2A. This comparison is informative to me, as my 1st pair of DIY speakers based on a purchased kit was built from a kit (2-way, also called Sapphire IIRC) from ACI. That was almost 30 years ago. Later I bought and built another kit from ACI that used RD-75 line sources. Those speakers are still the best among all the speakers I have built.

Since you have both the 3.1 and 2.2A, could you comment on how they compare to each other? The price of the 3.1 kit is not much higher than the price of the 2.2A kit, and the 3.1 uses a ribbon tweeter and a dome midrange. One paper, the 3.1 seems to me to be a more promising design for not a lot more money. Is there a strong reason not to go for the 3.1 instead of the 2.2a?
 

GGroch

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#3
I am sorry, I have not yet built the 3.1 so I cannot comment. If you follow the link above to the discussion on AVSForums you will find much more information on the 3.1, which seems to be the more popular choice. There is also discussion of simple modifications to the crossovers to provide a flatter response. I do think the ribbon/dome mid drivers are intriguing.

The ACI Sapphire XLs are the best speakers I have owned, but I did not own them concurrently with the HiVi 2.2A, so my comparison is from memory. I generally live in moderate sized urban apartments, so simple 5-7" two way designs couple with the rooms well, and provide what I think is a smoother more coherent sound than most 3 way designs. Plus, I was spoiled by the Scanspeak Revelator woofer in the Sapphires...and having experienced what a premium driver like that can do in a well designed cabinet, the HiVi 2.2a seemed more likely to come close to that experience.

I have directly compared the Jamo C-103, and also the 3 Way Polk LsiM 703 stand monitors to the HiVi 2.2, in my room with no equalization the HiVi sounds better to me- More detail, smoother overall response, and tighter bass. I listen at low volumes, to jazz, classical, and acoustic folk music most of the time, so smoothness /musicality are higher priorities for me than high SPLs or extended frequency response.
 
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#4
Thanks for the reply. I misinterpreted your statement "I bought both the 3 way and 2 way..." to mean that you have bought and built both the 3.1 and 2.2A kits.

It has been a while since the last time I slapped together a pair of DIY speakers, so I am feeling bored and itchy to build another pair. After reading your original post, I was intrigued by the idea of building the HiVi 2.2A, but after some pondering I realized that I don't really need another pair of "conventional" two-way speakers. I am now listening to fully horn-loaded speakers, and they blow the JBL LSR305 speakers (I got two pairs) out of the water. I like the bass and big sound the horn speakers can offer, and it would be hard for me to go back to small 2-way speakers with relatively small woofers. :)
 

GGroch

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#6
HiVi posted an excellent series of videos on YouTube showing how to build these kits. The instructor, Frank Hale, was a co-founder of the original Swan Island Maine Swan Speaker company that HiVi purchased and added to their branding. Googling shows Frank was a senior designer for HiVi for many years.

In addition to providing an appropriate old geezer folksy tone (and owning a dog with perfect comic timing demonstrated at the end of the 2nd video), he shows how to assemble the cabinets using no clamps, just tape and glue. Because the cabinets use mitered joints a lot of us were confused on how to best assemble them. Turns out you may not need to clamp them at all.
 
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invaderzim

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#7
Am I the only one that ends up at a site that tries to load bad stuff on my computer when I click on the 2nd link in the first post?
 

GGroch

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#8
Sorry, updated. They now have a site aimed only at the kits. The "Helpful Links" section on the new site is helpful. It appears the new marketing angle is "don't text, build speakers."
 

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