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DIY Loudspeaker Designer's Selection Guide (the LDSG)
Tuesday, 09-Sep-2008, 20:58:52 GMT
Last modified: 25-Mar-2007, 19:49:49 GMT
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DIY Perspectives
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Guide to the LDSG
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After an absence of a couple of decades, I got the urge to design and build some new speakers. Since my technical skills and knowledge of available components were both woefully out-of-date, I set myself a research project to refamiliarize myself with the resources currently available.

This document (hereafter referred to only as "the LDSG") is an attempt to share what I'm learning. As such, it will hopefully grow and increase in value as I progress. This is a living document - comments, additions, corrections, and even flames are welcome. Send them all to:

To be as useful as possible, I've included links to not only specific vendor sites, but also to specific data and pictures for individual drivers where available. In addition to the various vendors whose products are represented here, I've also included links to sites or graphics from a number of third parties. Among those who have provided graphic, measurement, and other data are:

 Note:  The LDSG is not a comprehensive buyer's guide, but a compendium of recommended drivers. As such, it is updated at frequent intervals. Based on recommendations, caveats, and driver availability, entries are constantly being added and deleted. Check back often for the latest revisions. The latest revision dates are noted in each separate Section page, or click on the "What's New?" button above.

Other SNIPPETS.ORG audio resources…

In addition to the LDSG, several other audio sites are hosted on the SNIPPETS.ORG server. You are invited to visit these as well…

DIYspeakers mailing list/discussion group home page.
John Whittaker's research into the dipole application of acoustic line sources and planar loudspeaker systems, and their interaction in real-world listening environments. Also, the design and construction of true ribbon line source drivers.
Library of interesting audio topics.
John Pomann's analog active filter designs, crossover applications, kits, and DIY resources.

Jason Cuadra's passive and active elliptical filter implementations.

John Sheerin's site devoted the horn theory, projects, and links.

DIY Perspectives

Basic DIY facts (business perspective):

No manufacturer is going to keep his doors open producing reasonably-priced drivers for the DIY market. Loudspeaker driver manufacturers stay in business by supplying divers for commercial loudspeaker systems manufacturers. Many of them also supply the DIY market - some actively, some only as a sideline.

High-end drivers are a slightly different matter. In many cases, there's insufficient market to keep prices within reason, so supplying DIY'ers not only helps amortize engineering costs, but also serves as an outlet for units which don't quite meet their systems clients' specs. It also serves as an R&D showcase which helps bring in more commercial business.

Basic DIY facts (technical perspective):

Although there's still an aura of black art involved in the manufacture of speaker drivers, it's actually a reasonably mature technology. Almost anyone with the proper training can design and produce decent quality drivers in reasonable volume. As with any engineering discipline, some are better at it than others. Also, there are the usual tradeoffs between cost, performance, and tolerance.

Perhaps a non-obvious corollary of the preceding is obvious when you start looking at the drivers used in various commercial speaker systems. Some might expect to see a short list of vendors dominate their competition by virtue of their clearly superior technology, but this simply isn't the case. Some vendors are quite well represented in many highly-respected systems, but in many cases, the drivers used aren't even their highest-tech units. How is this so? Simply put, a well-designed crossover can correct a multitude of driver sins. It's often much more cost-effective for a speaker systems manufacturer to use a less expensive driver and apply subtle contouring and phase correction in the crossover design. The only critical feature of the drivers is their unit-to-unit consistency, which will allow mass-produced systems to all sound alike.

Why DIY?

Based on the preceding discussions, it's obvious that only DIY'ers (aside from the handful of cost-is-no-object vendors) have the luxury to select truly superior drivers since they needn't be concerned with the economics of mass producing something as costly and labor intensive as speaker enclosures.

Another excellent reason to DIY is that the popular brands most people are familiar with are, quite frankly, not very good (and that's being charitable!) For a DIY'ers perspective on the top-selling Bose system, click here.

Why not DIY?

Building a really good speaker system - one that compares favorably with audiophile commercial systems - is still not a cookbook process, book titles not withstanding. Even with all the parts and virtually identical woodwork, assembly technique and a good ear can be vitally important to the success of a DIY project. Even more important may be a good grounding in the theory of how and why the "cookbook" rules work as they do. Finally, if you're really serious about achieving a truly competitive system, you must be prepared to invest in some minimum level of instrumentation and CAD system. All this implies at least a few months of education time plus a few hundred dollars invested before you even get started.

A shameless plug for the DIY Speakers mailing list:

Many of the driver recommendations in the LDSG came from the DIY Speakers mailing list (nee "the Bass List"). In addition to the usual helpful discussions, DIY Speakers list members get discounts from many vendors. I therefore advise and recommend that if you're serious about DIY speaker design, you subscribe to the DIY Speakers mailing list! Using either web sites or email, there are several ways to subscribe. About the easiest way is to Link to the subscription/unsubscription form at:

the DIY Speakers web site

Guide to the LDSG:

The remainder of the LDSG is a guide to vendors and technologies you can use in steps three and four above. Note that there is an inherent pitfall in this whole process - the myth that there is a "best" driver. It should be obvious to anyone paying attention that many fine speaker systems have been built with a variety of drivers from a variety of vendors utilizing a variety of technologies. What's "best" depends on objective factors (the system configuration and alignment plus the exact mix of drivers) as well as subjective factors (everyone's ear is a little different than everyone else's). For this reason, the LDSG only offers guidelines based on the collective experience of a number of different sources.

Following this introduction are severnteen sections, each with subsections, and eight appendices. The sections deal directly with driver selection. The appendices discuss loudspeaker design information not directly related to driver selection. Both the sections and indices are arranged in a progressive format, so if you're unsure where to go next, you can usually click on the "Next" button. Click the "Index" button below to go to the master Index.

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