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Building a Do-It-Yourself Loudspeaker Design

by July 02, 2013

It is nearly impossible to justify, to the average person, spending tens of thousands to millions of dollars on loudspeakers for personal enjoyment.  Such acquisitions happen as a result of an over-swelled bank account or the addictions of an audioholic.  If you fancy solid gold cabinets more than 7 million dollars, then check out Shape Audio’s organic harmony.  If around $100,000 is more your budget, the offerings from YG-Acoustics may be of interest.  Made out of aircraft-grade aluminum the Anat Reference II are large loudspeakers that make a visual statement and initially interested me in another way.  Before my eyes were a pair of very expensive loudspeakers based loosely on drivers available to the do-it-yourself (DIY) community.  At that juncture, I researched quite a bit to come up with a rough cost to produce something like this myself.  At the time, bank rolling a DIY duplicate of the Anat Reference II was too expensive.  I am extremely glad that it was too expensive because I would have learned a much harder lesson: owning a bad sounding speaker using top-of-the-line driv

After a few good books and a bit of forum surfing, I decided to jump into a much simpler 2-way mid-tweeter-mid design using pretty inexpensive drivers.  This small project taught me a few lessons I hope you will not have to learn the hard way.

  • Building your own loudspeaker cabinets is EXTREMELY time consuming and requires the right tools and plenty of patience
  • It will cost more than you expect at the beginning of the project
  • Designing a good and affordable crossover is very challenging, especially if you do not have a background in electronics or electrical engineering

The end result of my first project was a pair of speakers that sounded and looked pretty bad compared to a pair of $100 bookshelf speakers.  Looking at the project cost of approximately $275, I quickly learned that building good sounding loudspeakers is not easy or cheap.  A good crossover is much more complicated than throwing a capacitor on the tweeter.  If you have never designed a loudspeakers from the ground up, I would offer a fair warning: it will take more time and money than expected and there are no guarantees with respect to results.

If you are just looking to get excellent sounding speakers at much lower cost than what is available commercially, by all means, build someone else's fully documented project.  There are a ton of projects out there that, in my opinion, obliterate most commercial offerings at the same total build cost.  Just realize that depending on the level of completion, you may still have to build a cabinet, solder a crossover and troubleshoot inevitable issues.  In almost all cases, the sale of a completed DIY speaker will not return the cost of the parts of the project.  If you are willing to accept these risks then there is definitely something rewarding about telling people that you built the great sounding loudspeakers sitting in your living room.  I have built a few speakers designed by others and have found all of them to sound far better than anything I had heard in the same price range.  Just make sure you go with a project that has been built and reviewed by several others.  At the end of this article, I will mention a few projects that are well known and well documented to give you a place to start.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to walk you through one of my Do-It-Yourself speaker designs to give you an idea of what is involved and what I have learned so far.  Please note that the project covered here does not represent a great value but is meant to show the process of designing a loudspeaker for yourself. 

Concept Generation

The first step in developing a loudspeaker is obviously deciding what the goals are.  Do you want to build a 7 cubic foot behemoth or 0.1 cubic foot desktop speaker for your office desktop?  As the DIY iconic designer Troels Gravesen puts it, “Size Matters” and to get deep powerful bass and high efficiency requires a large enclosure.  It is possible to get pretty deep bass out of a smaller cabinet but the efficiency and total acoustic power are typically much lower.  For this sample project, we will set a reasonable design goal of +/- 3dB from 35-20kHz with the ability to generate a minimum of 100dB SPL at 1 meter with an impedance minimum of 4 ohms.  We will target a moderate sized loudspeaker cabinet for deep bass.

With the design goals in mind, the first step is to decide what kind of speaker will meet the technical requirements, budget and size limitations.  For a first design, a 2-way loudspeaker should be the limit as 3-way speakers are a little more complicated to pull off properly.  However, this article covers a 3-way design since this is what is needed to meet the design goals without any magic.  There are many different types of enclosures and methods used to extend low frequency response.  For the purpose of this article, we will show the development of a 3-way vented enclosure.

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About the author:

Joel Foust's experience in quality control, product certifications and do-it-yourself loudspeaker design bode well for the consistent application and development of in-depth loudspeaker testing. Joel is committed to providing accurate results that are comparable for each loudspeaker tested.

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Recent Forum Posts:

erinpreston27 posts on July 18, 2013 23:27
I just finished a quick read of this.

fuzz092888 posts on July 18, 2013 15:32
It's great software, but don't forget to factor in the cost of LMS as well. You'll need it. If you've never designed a speaker before you might want to go with soundeasy. It's much cheaper and does nearly everything that LEAP does.

audiofox, post: 977984
I always wanted to splurge and get a copy of this software for my speaker building hobby-this is the SW that Madisound uses for their custom crossover and speaker design services.

LEAP Software - Analysis & Design of Loudspeakers, Enclosures, and Crossovers
audiofox posts on July 18, 2013 12:58
I always wanted to splurge and get a copy of this software for my speaker building hobby-this is the SW that Madisound uses for their custom crossover and speaker design services.

LEAP Software - Analysis & Design of Loudspeakers, Enclosures, and Crossovers
Joel Foust posts on July 07, 2013 12:10
I've heard the art USB dual pre works in soundeasy and is decent for the money. I have no direct experience so I can't recommend it but it might be worth researching for < $100 interface. Anyone use it?
haraldo posts on July 07, 2013 11:55
TheWarrior, post: 976210
Thank you Haraldo! I'm gonna study up a bit more on Wine, and then probably go for that.

Also gonna search around for a product similar to the RME Babyface, just one that handles dual XLR only, without all the other options (and price tag).

Glad to help, good luck !
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