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Old 20th July 2006, 12:20 AM   #1
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Default the complete package?

First, I did search and found nothing. Second, since speakers are one of the most important parts of an audio system, I decided to post here. If mods feel this is in error, please adjust.

What I was looking for, and possibly other people are too, is a DIY or partial DIY approach to a complete system. I have been searching here for years, as well as posting on AVS and HTF but I haven't come across a full audio system that people agreed was "legit". By "legit" I don't mean possible, more along the lines of you assembled something that works very well and would qualify as a good critical / semi-critical setup.

It seems as if Steve likes his MTM tower with his solid state amp, and Susie enjoys her digital monitors straight phono!

What I was hoping to compile is a setup that you have put together, or heard of being put together, that works well and can be done partially DIY or full DIY. This would be an audio input device (most likely CD), amplifier(s) and speaker(s). If you have vast knowledge, maybe even breaking different setups in to different budgets would help.

I personally am in the 1k to 2k range for an "audiophile" type setup (not that I am one, I just appreciate music). I am going from B&W 602s with Marantz 125W amps and a CD player.

Thanks for any input, and I'm sorry for the long confusing post!
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Old 20th July 2006, 05:04 AM   #2
sqlkev is offline sqlkev  United States
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Tough one!

I think you have to consider other things besides equipment though. Room/enviroment and listening habits also affect one's opinion of a speaker/system.
For example, a small fullranger with tube amp might work well for one in a smallish room. But, in a rather large living room, that combo might not work too well as soon as some SPL is required.
Listening habits might include to one person prefer nearfield critical listening, where he chooses to sit on his computer chair for hours enjoying his favorite mix. On the other hand, another might enjoy sitting a bit far away with a beer in one hand enjoying the music at high SPL concert level.

IMO, you have to find what's best for your situation and know what you preference is.
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Old 20th July 2006, 05:42 AM   #3
Nanook is offline Nanook  Canada
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Default CCarigan..

depends on what you want.

speakers and an amp are readily available as kits or proven designs here..

lots of amplifier schematics on the internet, but, for something completely different..

a chip amp (well documented on this site), a digital amp (again well documented, here) either as a kit or a premade amp..or even the $137 tube amp.....sources are quite a bit tougher. A well set up Sony Greystation is very cool and prettty cheap as well... so that leaves ya something like $600 for a decent turntable (or make your own or replinth an existing one), an arm and a cartridge, and some $$$ for some decent homebrewed interconnects adn speaker cables.. and a stand, and if you're carefull, maybe some lps and a pair of tickets to a concert that you think you'd enjoy...

But before you do any of it do as sqlkev suggested. Know what parameters that you want to fill. What environment will it be used in, what are your listening biases (what's important to you?), what kind of music?

It all can be done and in your price range, but for example, you may not be able to afford earth shaking bass (cause bass is expensive). Maybe that breaks the whole concept.

So if ya give the forum enough information, you will get some helpfull responses..and more in context to your situation.
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Old 20th July 2006, 01:02 PM   #4
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I was hoping that people would have items that they think worked very well together as opposed to some other threads I have read where they spent all of the time making the speaker/amp/input combo and were disappointed. Something like:

MTM kit from www.mtmkit.com
Tube amp from here
Used Sony CD 33333 source

And then maybe "I tried the Paragon amp 554, but it sounded harsh/loud/bad".

For me, I am looking for more of a critical listening setup. Something that I can come home to, sit down, pop in Norah Jones or Diana Krall or Brian Setzer's Orchestra and just relax. I have a sealed 12" subwoofer already that might fill the task for bass, so just the speakers and amp and source. Thanks everyone!
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Old 20th July 2006, 09:00 PM   #5
Nanook is offline Nanook  Canada
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Default so that helps, ...

But, what about the accoustic space.?

Ok, I'll go out on a limb..

buy a schp1001 or 1002 Sony Playstation. Quite good with no mods, but with a couple of minor mods very good. $25-30 or so. No fancy nothing. Sony Playstation as cd Player . You may already have one that perhaps your kids have discarded.

Pair of BD designs dipoles (cheap even if you buy Fostex drivers or others similar), see planet 10's page . Also see his plan library. do a search for "Zaph audio" as well (there are many others listed in the loudspeaker forums).

a "Son of T amp" amplifier is very good and pretty inexpensive. Not sure if any mods being done on these yet.

or check out these chip amps , tube amps , and class D

There are simply too many options available to list everything, but , I can tell you that there are many gifted here to help (I'm no designer , but lots hang out here). Diploes, horns, high efficiency, full rangers, etc. you decide the flavour. You may also want check out .North Creek

Good audio need not cost much. I've built systems for as little as $40 that compete against my "big rig" but costs less than 1/150 of what the "big stereo" does.

If your Marantz is capable (perhaps a 2250 reciever or a 140 amp or similar), you'd be shocked how well it works with better speakers. If a Marantz AV piece, the $30 T-amp will kill it in terms of fidelity.

BUT... again, I must emphasis that if you do not give complete info regarding exactly what you are seeking, it's hard to give "absolute" recommendations

welcome to the neighbourhood..
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Old 20th July 2006, 09:22 PM   #6
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I guess my goal isn't one that can come true, and the posts show me that. My dream was a place where you could say "I have the Son of T amp with the BD dipoles and the PS2 CD player give me great sound, almost reference" and then everyone could post things like that about setups they know work. But I guess every situation is different.

In my situation, I'll be using it in a medium sized room and it wouldn't be used for anything but audio. I have a separate system for movies, etc... Looking for a speaker/amp/CD system that is capable of semi-critical listening of jazz, blues, and rock. Thanks for your assistance, those links were great, but as always there were thousands of choices and it's hard to know what would get best together.
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Old 20th July 2006, 10:28 PM   #7
Nanook is offline Nanook  Canada
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Default CC...

excellent, finally some better info. What is a med room, 13X19? how tall are the ceilings, etc?

a sketch of the room maybe helpfull or a picture that you could post.

I will say that the Playstation betters my $700 cd player (when new). There is even a fellow in Germany that mods them and sells em for something like 3k Euro.

Good full rangers "sound" like they could be a wonderfull answer. Even if you cannot build a thing, some "vendors" offer enclosures, or you can salvage a pair of enclosures and put the required drivers in the boxes (or have a "handy " friend do it for you).. Or buy a complete speaker from some of the smaller more critical manufacturers like planet 10, North Creek, the Horn Shop, etc. You could even get your choice of finishes. Don't forget speaker stands and equipment racks, and cables as needed.

Read as many reviews of things like the T-amps or the "BrianGT" kits (Gainclones). Complete kits are out there, I think (again search the chipamps and D class amps sections). One of perhaps the best systems I have ever heard (some topping $100k) is not the most expensive.... Basszilla's with a single 2.5 watt/channel amp, 2A3 "JE Labs" amplifier..no subwoofer , in a 8'X 13'X19' room.. $300 for the tube amp parts (with good parts). The speakers were expensive but lower cost "versions" can be made. I again shall promote the idea of the "JE Labs" open baffles.. simply an incredible thing for so little money. My modded version does plenty of bass on it's own. My friend with the Basszillas thought he could easily live with my plywood open baffles and whatever full range driver he has (he's using AER drivers now in the Basszilla's, he pulled the Lowthers 'cause he didn't like em as much).


I will guarantee this: If you choose a "son of T", a modded T-amp, a 2A3 tube amp or Pierre Daniel's or Brian GT's (same kit), you will not be disappointed. If you have an efficient OB, the amps will easily drive them and you can experience a boxless sound , perhaps for the first time. The great thing about these 31.5" X 35" OB speakers is that you can always modify them to accept various drivers, so if ya get a taste of an OB and like em and have the space, an easy upgrade is a better driver..and you did say that you have a 12" sealed sub to help out if need be. "Vintage" drivers that have a high "Q" value, like old instrument type full rangers do well as do many of the more expensive , more modern full rangers.

It would all be killer. If I knew this a few years ago, I could have saved a bunch of money ($7K or so) and would have a system that I know I could live with and enjoy, every single day.
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Old 20th July 2006, 11:18 PM   #8
ScottG is offline ScottG  United States
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System "synergy" is highly variable..

Though it shouldn't come as a surpise (given the particular forum), I think your best bet from a DIY perspective is to start with the loudspeakers and go from there. Why?

Well ultimatly the quality of your speakers limits every aspect of performance much more than any other system component. Also, considering cost vs. value/variabilty, a speaker can often provide a better overall value than purchasing retail (vs. other components).

There are a few things you want to look for with a speaker IMO:

1. A fairly flat near 8-ohm impeadance curve from the midrange to the treble region - this will allow for numerous amplifier choices, choices that will alter tonality to some extent.
2. A reasnably eff. design - say around 90 db 1 watt/1 meter. This invariably gives a more dynamic character to the sound that less efficent designs do not have.
3. A Good design with a fairly flat response and good off-axis behaviour.
4. A design you can acutally build. I.E. it needs to be well documented, and it needs to be within your skills *or* within the skills of someone helping you.

With such a speaker you can try out less expensive DIY amplifiers to hear which one you fancy, AND it allows you to borrow more expensive amplifiers to see what "route" you might want to "continue on with" in the future (..funds permitting).

Note that here you don't want the speaker to be the limiting factor - instead you want something that is so high in quality that it "exposes" the virtues and faults of all associated equipment.

With all of the above in mind - this is currently my favorite overall design that has few "weaknesses" and many "strengths", and is neither costly nor overly difficult to build - and should provide you with good reference for many years to come:

http://www.troelsgravesen.dk/PMS.htm

Note that there are some crossover parts I would change:

1. ALL the capacitors (including the 47uf) to SA grade Clarity Caps (found at www.e-speakers.com).
2. ALL of the real resistors (not the red values) I would make myself out of copper wire (.. comercial resistors can do more to harm a good loudspeaker than anything else.)
3. Make sure you purchase the *exact* inductors he has spec'ed, or find ones that have the same inductance AND resistance from another supplier.

..just a suggestion.
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Old 21st July 2006, 04:29 AM   #9
Nanook is offline Nanook  Canada
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Default speakers the most important?

I don't think so.

some follow the "source first" approach--best source,, then amplification then speakers.

some follow the "speakers first" priority, as ScottG points out.

I follow LJK Setright's "hierarchical" approach. In cars, audio, motorcycles, etc. It always works:-) Basically it always alows that a correct mix can be attained regardless of price or other "hiearchical" methods, and sometimes something performs way beyond price or any other criterion. I will never be without at least one pair of open baffles for the rest of my life. I'd give up all other speakers I have (and some of them are pretty well respected, Castles, Music Fidelity, Seas, Dynaco, etc), if I could only have one pair. When he died, old LJK was probably one of the most under-rated writers of all things cool. Even in death, his ideas are still "revolutionary"

If ya can cut 2 pieces of 31" X 35" good quality plywood, you've basically just built the JE Labs OB speaker. Install the full ranger of your choice or budget (mine are actually scavanged Oxford drivers from an old organ and a pair of Vifa tweeters mounted coaxially (impressive way of saying "hung infront of woofer with coat hangers"). Do a search for open baffle friendly full rangers . I guarantee that you won't find an easier "enclosure" to construct. Like I said in a previous post, my friend who owns "Basszillas" which cost him in the neighbour hood of $2500 cdn to build himself, thought my scavanged speaker/open baffle speakers (total cost to me $40 cdn for a sheet of good quality plywood, free speaker units) could be easily lived with. He's planning on building a pair himself with better drivers.

Again as long as the Marantz amplification is not a plastic POS, and not an AV receiver, you'd have plenty to go on from that. A great quality 2A3 amp can be had cheaply or build it yourself, or buy a good old tube piece off of epay, audiogon , etc(or even check the for sale section here). Better speaker do everything that ScottG mentions, except that "speakers first" can force you to taylor the rest of your choices to "balance " the system (which is kinda a no-no).
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