If you’re looking for something to level up your setup, or maybe you’re just an audiofile who simply has a love for all this noise, then maybe the concept of DIY equipment has popped in your head maybe once or twice.
There are lots of benefits to having a DIY speaker rather than a store bought one, the biggest ones being the fact that you can have good quality speakers for a fraction of the cost of prebuilt speakers.
You can build your speakers from scratch, or you can buy a DIY Speaker kit which makes things even easier!
In this article we’re going to look through a few of those DIY Kit options (including the Overnight Sensations speakers and C Note Speakers) and what the pros and cons of each one are, and hopefully it will help you find something that fits your budget and your needs. But first, a history lesson!
DIY Audio: When did it start?
Audio DIY gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Audio reproduction was relatively new and complex, and in particular high performance equipment wasn’t offered at the retail level.
Kits and designs were available for consumers to build their own equipment. Famous vacuum tube kits from DYnaco, Heathkit, and McIntosh, as well as solid state transistor kits from Hafler allowed for people to build their own high fidelity systems.
Books and magazines were published which explained new concepts regarding the design and operation of vacuum tube and transistor circuits.
At this point, audio has become easily accessible in the current day and age, there still exists an interest in building and repairing equipment, including things like preamps, amps, speakers, cables, CD players and even turn tables!
Today, a network of companies, parts vendors, and online communities exist to foster this interest and help folks who are just getting started. DIY is especially active in loudspeaker and in tube amplification.
Both are relatively simple to design and fabricate without access to sophisticated industrial equipment.
Both enable the builder to pick and choose between various available parts, on matters of price as well as quality, allow for extensive experimentation, and offer the chance to use exotic or highly labor intensive solutions, which would be expensive for a manufacturer to implement, but it’s much easier if it only requires the personal labor by the person building it, which is another big source of satisfaction too!
What are the benefits of DIY Speakers?
When you’re thinking about expanding your sound systems, yes, you could always buy pre built speakers.
They’re easy to get a hold of, but depending on what exactly you’re looking for and the quality of the speakers you’re looking at, you might be looking at a couple hundred to a couple thousands of dollars.
If you aren’t on a budget, maybe this is a perfect option for you! However, if you’re just starting out or just don’t want to fork over two thousand dollars for a speaker, DIY might just be the way to go for you.
DIY is always worth it, just so long as you are willing to put in the work required! It’s fairly easy to get a great sound out of an existing and popular design. The real trick is making it look good.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not too difficult and building kits help out a lot, not to mention on the videos and forums you can look for that give you a step by step process.
DIY makes more sense if you can’t buy what you want off the shelf, and don’t mind making design compromises that err towards the performance side of things.
In general, cheap commercial speakers are going to be tough to match as they have economies of scale that’s not accessible by most of us when they buy a zillion of them.
Start looking at the used market and it’s an even harder proposition to match. Another benefit is the ease of customization.
If the looks of your speakers and gear are important to you, building your own set of speakers is a great way to be able to customize them however you want.
A lot of the expensive costs of speakers comes from the manufacturing and the finishing of them, so doing it yourself cuts the costs in half.
There are also boutique manufacturers that you can hire to help you with the detailing, but again if you’re on a budget it’s better to just do it yourself.
If you’re thinking about making your speakers yourself, remember that the DIY option isn’t for everyone. You need to have the space, the tools, and the time in order to complete something like DIY audio things.
With this in mind, let’s start talking about building kits!
Overnight Sensations vs C Note
This speaker kit comes with nearly everything you need to build a solid pair of speakers in a pretty small amount of time.
These speakers are designed to be a quick and economical build while still putting out a surprisingly big sound in a small box.
This particular pair is great for gifting to audiophiles, a curious teen, or a quick weekend build for those looking for something more casual.
For it’s driver arrangement, the speaker’s designer Paul Carmody selected the Dayton Audio ND20FA-6 ⅗” neodymium silk dome tweeter and combined it to the HiVi B4N 4” aluminum midbass woofer.
To extract as much bass as possible, Carmody decided on a cabinet size roughly 0.16 cubic feet which is tuned to 53 Hz using a 1-⅜” diameter port that is 6” long.
Here’s an overview on some of the specifications:
- Power handling: 25 watts RMS/50 watts max
- Frequency response: 45-20000 Hz (-3 dB)
- Impedance: 8 ohms
- Sensitivity: 83 dB1w/1m
- Dimensions: 9” Hx6” W x 8-⅜” D
The compact C note bookshelf speakers pack quite a punch for speakers so small. The company that manufactures the speaker kits did whatever they could to keep the costs down without sacrificing the quality.
The result was a small pair of speakers that provide an extremely flat response with much more low end than you would actually expect. The C Note controlled dispersion delivers accurate imaging with a surprisingly wide soundstage.
Dayton Audio’s DSA135-8 5” Designer Series woofer is used for the midrange and low frequencies.
It has an aluminum cone and a strong motor designed for low distortion, this woofer produces a strong bass tone while staying smooth through midrange frequencies.
The higher frequencies are handled by the ND25FW-4 1” soft dome tweeter, also by Dayton Audio. The waveguide-loaded tweeter controls high frequency dispersion for smooth off axis response and natural sound.
Another advantage of the waveguide design is that it allows the voice coil to set further back from the baffle for an almost perfect time alignment with the woofer.
The surface mounted woofer is easy to install and the kick comes with nearly everything you need to build a good set of speakers.
The specifications are:
- Power handling: 60 watts RMS/120 watts max
- Frequency response: +- 3 dB from 43-20000 Hz (+-2 dB from 60-16000 Hz)
- Impedance: 8 ohms
- Sensitivity: 85 dB 1W/1m
- Dimensions: 11” H x 7.5” W x 9.5” D
Alternative Speakers: GR-Research X-LS Encore and TriTrix
This speaker building kit came along as a direct result of the success of the Gr-Research X-LS Classic design.
The Classic was setting new performance standards for a mini-monitor in a budget price point, and winning industry awards with every reveiw!
The biggest strength of the X-LS Classic was its woofer. The M-165 woofer had a very smooth and accurate response that needed very few components in the signal path to control it.
It had a mid-range and clean bass response, and the crossover parts used were also very good. The tweeter they used at the time, while good, wasn’t one of the best dome tweeters at the time.
The obvious decision was then to upgrade the tweeter to the Peerless T26SG.
The tweeter was selected because of its low Fsm high sensitivity, well damped rear chamber, high quality materials, high quality workmanship, and a smooth response.
The X-LS Encore kit comes with everything you need minus cabinet material. Assembling the speakers is easy and good for someone with no prior experience making speakers.
The Encore, like its Classic counterpart, is an 8 ohm laid and has 87 db sensitivity. The -3db down point is 55 Hz.
The low 1.8Hz crossover point allows for a great driver integration and consistent phase relationship of the drivers over a wide vertical range.
The vertical and horizontal off axis is great so the in room response is smooth and consistent.
The Encore was also released as a small floor standing speaker with an optimal ported air space.
This version, however, was tuned lower allowing a -3db down point of 45 Hz. Speaker stands aren’t needed, and the lower section of the cabinet can be filled with sand for some added stability.
Here are some specifications:
- Weight: 16lbs
- Dimensions: 13” x 10” x 10”
- Connector upgrades: Standard Binding Post Cup, Tube Connectors
This TriTrix speaker kit boasts a compact design that still delivers high performance full-range audio without going over budget.
It has an F3 in the 50s and an F10 around 40 Hz, so you can expect solid low end from the compact enclosures. The TriTrix is known for its smooth frequency response and its ability to make even poor recordings sound great.
It comes with paper cone woofers and soft dome tweeter, so the speaker delivers a natural response with an easy to listen sound.
Curt Campbell designed the TriTrix, and when he did he did his best to search for drivers that would offer the best bang for their buck. For the woofer, Campbell selected the Dayton Audio DC130Bs-4 5-¼” Classic Series.
This woofer provides a pretty impressive bass performance, smooth overall response, and a low price, it’s no surprise that it’s one of their more popular woofers.
The Dayton Audio DC28FS-8 was chosen for the high frequencies.
It was an easy choice, since the DC28FS-8 offers an impressive European design and performance at a fraction of the cost of similar audiofile high frequency transducers.
The speakers feature solid MDF enclosure panels that are all CNC milled by Denovo Audio to tight tolerances ensuring easy assembly and feature a ¾” thick front baffle.
The knock-down enclosures include a center brace tying all sides together to minimize cabinet resonances. Recesses for flush mounting the drivers and the opening for the port are pre-cut, which makes the assembly even easier.
Here are some of the specifications:
- Power Handling: 40 watts RMS/80 watts max
- Frequency response: 45-20,000 Hz
- Impedance: 6 ohms
- Sensitivity: 85 dB 1W/1m
- Dimensions: 12’ H x 7.5” W x 8.25” D
If you compare the Overnight Sensations and the C Note speakers to the two mentioned above, you’ll find a lot of similarities. They all have good sound quality while also being pretty easy to build.
The biggest difference between the speakers is that the first two are in a more beginner category; they are easy to build and have good audio quality for the price.
The X-LS Encore is a bit bigger, but has a similar impedance to the first two speakers. The TriTrix is smaller and has an impedance of 6 ohms, less than the other speakers, and therefore the electrical signals flow better through it.
The Encore speaker lets you choose your wood finishes, as well as letting you choose what capacitor and connector upgrade you’d like to have.
It also happens to be the most expensive building kit on this list depending on the components and finishes you decide to go with!
Overall, if you’re looking to expand your sound system while still being on a budget, building your own speakers is a great way to get a sound quality that you’re happy with while also having the satisfaction of building it yourself, as well as customizing it in the way you want.