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Old 16th December 2010, 05:17 PM   #1
Alaskan is offline Alaskan  United States
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Default Building a Focal Maestro

I am doing the reading to bring myself up to speed enough to start my first speaker and tube amp project. I have a ways to go, but I thought I would post this as an academic exercise.

I just ran across these speakers, and they look quite nice, and the review I read was quite favorable (they should be for the price!). The drivers are available (I didn't see the tweeter, but I didn't look too hard), and there is a diagram that could be examined to get ballpark dimensions. The crossover points are specified.

Questions:

Is this project relatively feasible? In particular, with the info provided, is the construction a shot-in-the-dark, or could this be modeled relatively easily to promote a favorable result?

Is this project even a desirable one? That is, the drivers are expensive and there could be equally "good" speakers designed and constructed for far less. I realize this is a super subjective query.

Lastly, being new to the DIY community and generally ignorant, what are the general ethical views and considerations regarding the use of a commercial design as a starting point for a project like this?

Thanks!

Focal Maestro Utopia III loudspeaker Specifications

Description: Three-and-a-half-way, reflex-loaded, floorstanding loudspeaker. Drive-units: 1.1" (27mm) inverted beryllium-dome tweeter, 6.5" (165mm) W-cone midrange, 11" (270mm) W-cone woofer, 11" (270mm) W-cone subwoofer with Damping Control System. Crossover frequencies: 90Hz, 220Hz, 2.2kHz. Frequency response: 25Hz–40kHz, ±3dB. Impedance: 4 ohms nominal, 3 ohms minimum. Sensitivity: 93dB/2.83V/m. Recommended amplifier power: 80–600W.

Dimensions:
57.9" (1470mm) H by 17.9" (455mm) W by 30.3" (770mm) D. Weight: 255.7 lbs (116kg).

Price: $49,995/pair!!!!
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Old 16th December 2010, 08:20 PM   #2
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Default It would be...

a big and expensive project - you can buy Focal drivers but they are very pricey, and many people feel they are outperformed by other, often less-costly drivers.

The cabinets are going to be a chore, and IMHO should only be undertaken if one is absolutely obsessed with having a commercial lookalike.

Then there is the crossover which, unless you can find a diagram for the real thing, you will have to design from scratch.

What is your budget, and what is your goal? A clone for the sake of a clone is to me is going down a somewhat misguided path, especially for a beginner. If your primary goal is clean, accurate sound there are dozens of established designs already out there that may suit your needs and at a far lower price point.

I stronly recommend looking at the designs of Zaph, Troels Gravesen, Humble Homemade Hi Fi, and lots of others that are all over this forum for your first venture into DIY speakers.
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Old 16th December 2010, 09:11 PM   #3
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The Focal drivers that are available to the DIY world are at least one generation behind Focal's current product. You can get a 6" W cone woofer, but it won't be the flower power version. The Be tweeter and 11W drivers are not available anywhere I have seen.

I like that look (The older versions were better looking to me), but it's a heck of a first project. If you want the look, how about starting with a two way that looks like the diablo utopia? I like the Seas W15CY001 better than a Focal 6W4254 except for the bottom end. The Excel is a bit cleaner.
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Old 16th December 2010, 11:02 PM   #4
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As it happens i'm actively looking to buy a set of Utopia III, used.
I've audited the entire range, except the smallest Diablo model.
Cloning a JM Utopia will be a whole lot of work, and costly, without a chance of getting even near the real thing, imho.
As a first DIY loudspeaker project i'd guesstimate it would turn out a disaster, i've witnessed awesome clone builds, but none were 1st time loudspeaker builders.
As a side note, LSP's as these Focal models beg for one heck of a system upstream. If you don't have that yet, your Jacques Mahul clones will be written off by the time you do.
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Old 17th December 2010, 03:40 AM   #5
Alaskan is offline Alaskan  United States
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I don’t really have any defined goals as of yet. I am in the stage of defining them, and really keeping my ears open to learn as much as I can. This post is the start of that.

My rationale for this speaker choice was that this was a highly regarded system at a an untouchable price point, and there was a possibility that I could get the same results for MUCH cheaper. Based on your comments, I imagine I can get even better results for even less! A clone project is probably off the table.

If I had to spurt out what I *think* my goals are now they would sound something like this:

To build my dream system that I couldn’t possibly afford in this lifetime were I to purchase the equivalent. I would like jaw dropping sound that I will appreciate each time I listen to it.

I would like to attempt this the first time through. I know how I work when it comes to my “hobby of the week,” and I will likely devote hundreds of hours to this project, learn a ton in the process, and then enjoy the results for a while before the bug hits me again later down the line. At that point I will devise a new audio project, but I will be able to do an even better job due to the increased skill set I will have from all the future hereto unknown intervening hobbies!

There is a huge educational component to this project--I wish to become fairly well-versed in speaker and amplifier construction and design. I have a career, and it is not as an audio engineer, so I realize that I will not have 1/10 the knowledge in the end that many on this forum have. I hope to read a few books on the subject and have a grasp for basic design concepts so that I can converse intelligently. In reality, I will be at the mercy of those far wiser than I. Therefore I am totally open to suggestions—in fact, I am relying on them. I realize that at this point I am probably naive as to the true complexity involved in such a project. The reason for the clone in the first place was to work off a tried and tested design.


Skills: As far a physical construction goes, I say “bring it on!” I am a decent wood worker, metal worker, fabricator, and have experience with digital logic and computer programming (if relvant to testing). I am terrible at analog circuitry, so this will be a huge part of the learning process--especially when I build the tube monoblocks of my dreams ;-) The complexity of construction is an invited challenge. The complexity of circuit design is probably going to end up as a shot-in-the-dark disaster without a fair amount of guidance/reliance on proven designs and/or experts.

Cost: I am not too afraid of spending a few bucks if necessary. I tend to be a pragmatist, so if I can get the same or better sound out of something less expensive I will absolutely go that route. If it costs $5,000 and 500 hours to go down this road, and the results are stunning, that is ok. If I could get that same result for $1,000, that is way more money for beer.

Musical Taste sampler: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Beatles, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Ben Folds, Cake, Bob Marley, Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Fiona Apple (had to throw a female vocal in there…)—and soooo much more. I never listen to Country or Rap. I listen to a lot more jazz than mentioned, some opera and virtually no classical.

I am not designing for a particular room since I tend to move a lot. I realize that the room is arguably one of the most important components in a sound system, but I just can’t control for that. We will say “medium sized.”

That is where I think I am…
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Old 17th December 2010, 11:09 AM   #6
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If you move a lot why not go with a high quality Sat/Sub combo?? Better flexibility with set-up and more portable. Easier to DIY as well in most cases. More money for beer and the ocassional concert

Rob
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Old 17th December 2010, 11:30 AM   #7
fabel is offline fabel  Germany
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Hello Alaskan,

how about building a developted design as a starter? In a german selvbuilding magazine there was a few month ago a three way speaker made mostly of the new Focal stuff - the `Triga Neo Pro´: Hobby-Hifi Triga Neo Pro Mike Koch Audio

I am sorry that the site is in German but you might translate it via Google.

A design like that could be something even a beginner could get along with. And the style of the speaker could easily be braught into the direction of the " original " by making it modular because the housing already consists off three parts.

In my opinion the best way of learning how to build a speaker as a newbie is to start with something that is deweloped by some one who knows how the cockie crumbles. Than you can e.g. start to tweak it by adding a second bass what will automatically lead to a rethinking of the whole crossover section. Or try a diffrent tweeter - as far as I know the Focal Beryliums are available as a car-tweeters. But there are some other competitors on the market now - for example from Scan Speak, Tang Band ... .

Or less costly but may be even better made of some of the best chassis money can buy :Visaton - Lautsprecher und Zubehör, Loudspeakers and Accessories
Althought the used material in the `Conga ´ is imo better ( e.g. distortionwise ) you will get away for about half the prise of the Triga. Visaton is available in the US for example at E-Speakers ( L.A.) .

The best way to deal with room issues is make at least the bass active - or build a Dipole right away .

All the best from a total snow white Berlin,

Fabian
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Old 17th December 2010, 11:46 AM   #8
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I used to have DIY Focal speakers but now I prefer ScanSpeak Revelator drivers. I also have a pair of Eton Symphony 7's. I'm thinking of replacing the Eton's mid-woofer with a ScanSpeak Revelator but keeping the ceramic encased magnesium Eton tweeter. All are crossed over with miniDSPs which makes tuning much easier.
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Old 18th December 2010, 01:02 AM   #9
Alaskan is offline Alaskan  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fabel View Post
In my opinion the best way of learning how to build a speaker as a newbie is to start with something that is deweloped by some one who knows how the cockie crumbles.
This seems to be a recurring theme in your responses, and I think you are all probably right.

The Troels Graverson site and the Humble Horns sites are great, thanks! The German site is a bit too...in a foreign language for me! The Visaton site is good too. I have a lot to digest...
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:20 AM   #10
fabel is offline fabel  Germany
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Hey Alaskan,

here is the link to the machine with the Focals again - but this time translated ( Google Translater works not too bad translating German to English and via copy and paste one can easily move url`s ): Google Translate

As You can see well in the picture on the website is that there is one compartment behind the tweeter that is exclusive for the crossover, underneath another for the midrange and at the bottom the biggest for the low frequency chassi.
So it is easy to split the housing into three seperate modular parts like the Maestro. Building a speaker modular has - besides the looks - the big advantege to be free playing around with different drivers without the necessaty of building a whole new cabinet every time when the desire for experimenting overwhelms the young speakerbuilder .
Another cool trick with this particular speaker is a highpass for the bassreflex sektion. But that is more an issue for an `experts ´dicussion .

Greets Fabian

Last edited by fabel; 18th December 2010 at 05:23 AM. Reason: c to k
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