DIY build sound better than a good commercial design in a side-by-side comparison? - diyAudio
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Old 15th November 2009, 06:09 PM   #1
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Default DIY build sound better than a good commercial design in a side-by-side comparison?

Has anyone compared their DIY loudspeakers side-by-side with a commercially available design of similar cost? Which did you prefer?

There are some incredible DIY designs from Troels and Zaph that use sophisticated crossovers and high-end drivers. But I just wonder - the finished loudspeakers are voiced and tweaked to the preferences of one individual in a limited number of listening rooms. On the other hand, mainstream manufacturers might voice and tune their speakers to appeal to a wide variety of listeners and have many different acoustic environments to test in.

Troels and Zaph are also restricted to standard drivers from Scanspeak, Seas, etc. (except for Troels' Janzten collaboration), whereas commercial designers can ordered special editions of the very same drivers with optimized electromechanical parameters and materials for a particular application. They can also match drivers and specify closer tolerances than what we could probably get from Madisound, for example.

On the other hand, manufacturers may need to make compromises to reduce overall cost, since the retail markup over manufacturing cost is probably 5-10x.
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Old 15th November 2009, 07:10 PM   #2
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I haven't build my own speakers yet, but as far as I can see there are two main reasons to diy beside the pride in doing it;

1- get the same quality for less money than the equivalent commercial speaker
2- create a speaker to own's own taste as it's not commercially available

Looking at #1 I'd say any decent designed diy speaker will outperform the commercial version.
So far I've also only read reviews from complete kit builders that state the same.

Those that can order batches of drivers at a manufactor can indeed ask for specific parameters, but I doubt if that will make a big enough difference with the diy offerings that it's something that can't be achieved in diy with a few modifications
After all, it's not that they will all of a sudden make the magically perfect 1-50.000 Hz driver just beause someone wants to order a 1000 pieces of that. :-P

I think you're asking the wrong question, and that the question should be if someone has build a speaker that they feel has outperformed the best in the commercial field (multi million buck installations excepted ofcourse :-) )
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Old 15th November 2009, 08:18 PM   #3
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Put this simply - the woofers I used recently feature in a pair of £600 floor standers. I paid £150 for the whole project. You can therefore imagine what they'd do to speakers in the same price bracket.

I'd say DIY will always beat Commercial stuff, simply because it's yours and you can design it for your needs - if you need to fill a large room, you can do that, if you want it to sound a particular way (ie, less bass for corner loading), you can. With commercial, you'll have to look around for ages to get something that will suit, and it will cost 4x as much as the ones you just made.

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Old 15th November 2009, 08:43 PM   #4
rjb is offline rjb  New Zealand
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If you want to save money, buy commercial. If you want to have fun, DIY.

If you cost DIY time into the equation, the cost of tools, etc, the Commercial product will win hands down.

Commercial builders pay much lower prices for their drivers, and can produce much better cabinets than the average DIY'er. However marketing is a major cost.

If however you only price in materials, DIY wins.
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Old 15th November 2009, 08:57 PM   #5
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No direct comparison except a set of Tannoy Definition (single 8" co-ax), diy by a mile. The only thing of note at the local hifi emporium to catch my ear was a set of $20k Sonus Faber Ellipsa... you could pay for my whole system on the sales tax on those.

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Old 15th November 2009, 09:02 PM   #6
Glowbug is offline Glowbug  United States
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Quote:
On the other hand, mainstream manufacturers might voice and tune their speakers to appeal to a wide variety of listeners and have many different acoustic environments to test in.
I think you're giving some of them too much credit
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Old 15th November 2009, 09:23 PM   #7
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Default Not quite

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjb View Post
If you cost DIY time into the equation, the cost of tools, etc, the Commercial product will win hands down.

Commercial builders pay much lower prices for their drivers, and can produce much better cabinets than the average DIY'er. However marketing is a major cost.

If however you only price in materials, DIY wins.
Only up to a certain price point though. If you have to do everything from scratch, yes, then you can't beat commercial up to x hundred bucks because they can push costs by mass production.

If you look at complete kits (that includes the wood panels) you will at least break even with the cheaper kits as you don't need the tools, let alone if you go for a high end design.

Besides, I don't think people will buy tools for several hundred bucks only to build a 100 buck speaker if they want to save money. ;-)

And I doubt diy means inferior cabinets per se as I've seen the use of exotic woods and CNC crafted aliminium parts, high gloss finishes, and heavily braced interiors at least equaling commercial speakers.

You mentioned marketing, the figures I've seen from people in retail add another 40% or so to the price. I know one shop that gives you a 20% discount if you order equipment that he doesn't deal himself. He doesn't lose on that. :-)

All in all, a cheap speaker can't be made cost effectively from scratch, but a serious diy design will beat commercial speakers at pricepoint (unless you earn so much per hour that you don't even bother bending over to pick up a 100 bucks from the ground :-P).
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Old 17th November 2009, 05:44 PM   #8
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I listened to a DIY budget-version of Troels' Ellam (15W + D2904/9800, $1200+) and compared it to the B&W CDM-1 (6.5 kevlar + 1" metal, $1100, but prob now ~$1500 equivalent). I slightly preferred the Ellam because it sounded more natural and detailed, especially in the highs. The bass extension was surprisingly beter than the B&W with the larger woofer. However, the Ellam seemed to suffer from lack of BSC, and the 100-300Hz region dropout made the speaker sound thin compared to the B&W on some material. The Ellam was also very inefficient from a db/W stanpoint. Comparing the Ellam to a higher end B&W (CDM9NT, retailed $2400, prob now $3000 equivalent), there was absolutely no comparison. The CDM9NT sounded better in every respect.

Does anyone else have similar experiences?
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Old 17th November 2009, 06:58 PM   #9
Dr_EM is offline Dr_EM  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjb View Post
Commercial builders pay much lower prices for their drivers, and can produce much better cabinets than the average DIY'er. However marketing is a major cost.
Can produce more attractively finished cabinets in some cases mabye, but better acoustically? I'm not so sure. They might have better simulation/measuring capacity, but they are limited by shipping weight. Many DIY cabinets are teriffically heavy and well damped compared to commercial offerings for this reason. At the very high end though this is no longer an issue as many ultra high-end commercial offerings are also overbuilt.
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Old 18th November 2009, 08:39 AM   #10
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Dr Em is spot on the money, and the original statement that DIY cabinets are not built as well as commercial is insulting when you look at the effort that goes into some of the builds illustrated on here. The Amish 45/97 that I just built is considerably better in terms of structure and damping, choice of material thickness, etc.

Smellygas, have you opened up any commercial speakers and had a poke around? What your find is cheap chipboard, very little bracing, a token piece of foam and some very cheap crossover components in anything under £1000. Being the inquisitive type I have opened up my Monitor Audio Silver 9i, TDL RTL3SE, Mission 771, Tannoy 607 and JPW Gold Monitors. They are built to a price and the company has to pay for design and testing, staff costs, fatory & tooling, advertising, H&S, shipping & distribution, there is dealer mark-up and profit. The actual cost of materials is going to be pretty small after all of that.

So in answer to the question, and in agreement with others here, yes they can beat them especially as you move up the price range (where you start paying more design overhead on speakers, as they sell less of them). I am particularly impressed with the Amish, which has cost me in the order of £500 to build and easily betters the MA's which I paid £500 when they were on half price offer. This is not to say the MA's are a bad speaker, do a google search and they get something like 4.93/5 from user reviews.

Hope this helps you to move to the dark side!
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