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Matthew P. 20th February 2007 06:53 PM

CSS El3 review
Hey Folks,
I have benefited from the forums tremendously, reading a lot and asking a couple of questions so I thought I’d post a couple of projects that I did this year and attempt a review of one of the kits – the Creative Sound Solutions EL3.

All of my projects so far are on flilckr:

I had built the first two of the new entry level kits from Bob at CSS and was very impressed with both of them. I have posted some thoughts about the fr125s previously, and so I thought that a good review of the higher end EL3 kit was in due order. I was super impressed with the FR125s as a nearfield monitor (What I’m using them for)…particularly, the midrange was very detailed and smooth, surprisingly low bass in both the sealed and vented enclosures that I had them in (they are vented now – the efficiency went up quite a lot, the vent seemed to let the speaker breath through the mids a bit bettter). Since I was so impressed with this little driver, I thought that my parents would appreciate entering the world of proper listening so I decided to order and build the EL2’s for them – a wr125 and a hivi tweeter per side. I finished them with an oak veneer in a small vented cabinet tuned to specs. The hi frequency range was unbelievable…it seemed to open up a whole new realm of atmosphere compared to what I had before (monitor audio’s).

Then came the EL3’s, of which I promised Bob a decent review. These are 2 wr125s and a hivi tweeter per side with the wr125s wired individually and a simple 2nd order crossover. I built these speakers in a 14 liter cabinet using the port tunings that came stock with the kit. I like the look of speakers that have a bell shaped cabinet, so I decided to build the El3’s similar to those to test my enfeebled woodworking skills. This required kerfing the insides of the ¾ mdf about ½ inch deep with a thin blade in the table saw. The kerfing allowed a bend of about 1-1/4” inwards. This seemed to work alright, but required immediate bracing – so I used a brad nailer and glue to hold everything in place. I am now currently in the process of finishing the speakers in maple and walnut. I have re-made the baffles using 1” rough cut maple that reveals the heart of the wood, making the front baffle more interesting. I will trim the rest in walnut veneer and maple veneer when I suddenly come upon some time during the writing of my dissertation. Anyways, If you look at the pictures from the link above, you’ll see most of the process of building.

Being a Mennonite, and hence a bit frugal, I was very intrigued about the DIY audio thing, and these speakers confirm how amazing this DIY world is. I always thought that the quote that DIY speakers can compare to commercial speakers 5-10x the cost invested in speaker parts would be a bit of an exaggeration, but these prove me wrong. It may be a bit of an understatement, to my ear anyways. Before this year, I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be able to afford something that sounds as good as these speakers. So, I was very excited to listen to these speakers and see how they compare to other speakers, and wow, I’ve been giddy about these things since I’ve built them. Despite the shallow price difference between the three kits, this one is surprisingly different and disproportionately better. The EL3 has a substantial depth compared with the previous two kits and quite a bit higher power handling capability. These have a very full, nuanced, and clear sound to them. The detail is spectacular, and the mids are enveloping.

Since my speakers are close to the wall, they tended to have a bit of a LF (around 70-80hz) bloom to them that was corrected by plugging the ports. Plugging the ports also helped me integrate a sub with them without further crossover working. I am also just in the process of trying to finish the sub. I had my little 8” car sub in a 13” cubed box, but I decided to get something a bit more substantial. (this one had some fairly terribly harmonic distortion below 35hz. So – if anybody has suggestions for a good, inexpensive driver that can fit in a small enclosure, please let me know)

I haven’t watched movies through these yet, since my place isn’t really set up for that, but I have listened to everything that I possibly can through the EL3’s. I have some favorites – Pat Matheny’s question and answer; Fretwork Ensemble’s recording of Purcell’s Odhecaton and the William Lawes consort cycles; HIM; Tom Waits Mule Variations; SO Percussion from the cantaloupe music label; some heavier music –Helmet, Cryptopsy, etc. I won’t talk about all of these, but just a few highlights. The Pat Metheny album in particular sows the strengths of these speakers, but is still fairly old – 1990? So, pretty much an analog album that went digital to CD. But the production quality of this CD is amazing and these speakers reproduce this very well. These speakers represent this very dynamic recording with lots of air between the dense and complicated instrumentation. The drums in particular sound spectacular with these speakers – you can notice the individual timbres of the various rides and crashes, and the snare work is particularly extremely dynamic that produces the highest peaks on the CD that sounded more compressed on my other speakers. The El3’s reproduce this dynamism incredibly, giving a neutral sound to each instrument, without any coloration. As well, since this is such a technically complicated and fast jazz album, slower speakers tend to mud things up whereas with the EL3’s, everything sounds precise and very crisp. The fretwork recordings are all produced extremely well, and these speakers really bring out the complex sound of the traditional baroque instruments. The speakers help bring out the wooden sound of the instruments and highlight the harmonic overtones that are specific to the baroque instruments themselves (as opposed to contemporary strings). SO Percussion uses a mix of acoustic and live instruments and electronic ones in a more avant-garde format heavily influenced by Steve Reich. This CD is also highly dynamic, with both acoustic drums and electronic, and the acoustic instruments are highly altered (tempered piano, etc..). I first listened to this CD on a 10,000$ set of berylliums (I think that’s the name of the speaker) and decided to buy the album to listen on my speakers. These speakers did not buckle in shyness or humility compared to the Berylliums, but rather showed me that I will never buy another commercial pair of speakers again. The EL3’s held their own in comparison to the expensive ones in the high frequency and mid ranges, and we just won’t talk about the LF comparison, because it might be a little unfair. Regardless, one might think that the entire comparision is unfair, but the EL3's still hold their own in a lot of respects. That all being said, I'm extremely happy with these speakers. And if anybody is in the Edmonton, Alberta area, they are welcome to come and have a listen, I usually have a couple of beer in the fridge.

Overall, I want to pass along congrats to Bob from CSS because these are wonderful speakers and can provide the foundation for a very high quality set-up, IMHO…and also, I want to say thanks to Bob for all the help and information – a stand-up fellow and business man.
Let me know what you all think! :)
Best Regards,

RAW 21st February 2007 01:51 AM

Well done.
Not to bad for the simple design I must say so.;)
Both for the crossover were kept simple orders yet retain good dispersion over all.

Matthew P. 22nd February 2007 03:46 PM

I agree...the X-over was simple to put together as well. I don't really have the best place for listening to music, but the speakers definitely throw a big soundstage with sounds appearing from beyond the boundaries of the speakers. I have just finished the front baffles made from solid maple with heartwood. I think they'll look very nice. I also made a table top from this wood as well to go on the re-built subwoofer that will be downfiring. My first time jointing two planks. I'm excited. I'm trying to find some ambrosia maple veneer right now, but only have only found one place in the states to ship it up. any suggestions from a veneer master such as yourself, RAW?

RAW 22nd February 2007 03:57 PM

Glad you like them Matthew:nod:
As far as the veneer.Well I have found some good spots on Ebay but the veneer is RAW veneer not paper backed and is a little more difficult to work with.But still able for most of the DIY.

If you would like some veneer LMK as we have a lot we will be clearing out and we have some birds eye maple in RAW slices as well as a few sheeted up un backed but seamed together.

Other than that Ebay is a good spot to look justy some of the auctions are for larger lots of 15-20 pieces but if you are after a species that is the best prices to get the veneer from.
One we use lots is Rosebudveneers on Ebay.

We get a lot of the figured Koa from him on Ebay as well as ordering direct if the time is a an issue.

In Canada try pro ply in Toronto.They stock a lot of species and then sheet them up.
Ask for Anthony.

Matthew P. 22nd February 2007 05:22 PM

2 Attachment(s)
I'll check those places out, thanks. But, I may be interested in the bird's eye maple if its a medium figured. I think that would look nice and probably match the sugar maple baffle pretty well. B.E. Maple is very expensive here at windsor ply, and i haven't checked with lee valley, but can't expect it to be too much better. I may prefer a paper-backed veneer right now, I used a sheeted veneer for the EL2's and had a difficult time with them. When you veneer do you use contact cement or wood glue? I used wood glue and it took a while to set and had to be rubbed for about 1/2 an hour before it took properly. and even then it bubbled at times. The end result was fine, but it was still very frustrating let me tell you...So for these, I'd like to go as easy a route as possible with nice results.

here's a pic of the new baffles and sub table-top

RAW 22nd February 2007 11:03 PM

When we veneer we use a vacuum press or the new veneer glue from

For those who have not see my post before on veneer glue .I wanted to bring this in as a thread for those to try this product and get away from contact cement
We have used this product for a few months now and for the DIY this works great.
Just apply with a roller nothing fancy.
Let both the veneer and cabinet dry.
And iron on the veneer, the heat is what activates the glue.
That easy as well the glue is very thick and only 2 coats at the most is needed on the end grain of the MDF.
Easy to use and safe.

And no I do not sell this product just find it great for those who are looking at veneering but not aware of this product.


what advantage, if any, this product has over your standard Titebond or Titebond II
yellow glue doesnt fully harden even after several years. This softness allows the veneers to "creep" or move on the substrate (caused by seasonal humidity changes) which can lead to edges lifting and occasional bubbles.

Heat Lock has a cross linker in it. After 48 hours, the cross linkers have locked together and the veneer will not creep. So panels that are veneered correctly with Heat Lock veneer glue do not come apart.

Thick consistency helps prevent "bleed through"


the seams pulling apart as I ironed it on
No matter which glue you use, heat will always cause veneer to shrink.
The FAQ sheet that comes with Heat Lock says that it shouldn't be used
with veneers requiring seaming.

However, there is a "work-around" for the problem. To solve the
shrinking problem, you can place a straight piece of clothes hanger
wire about 2" away from the seam. Then iron down the seam. Next, pull
the clothes hanger wire out and iron down the bubble that it left
behind. This will force the seam tight.

This technique requires a bit of practice but it does work well.

The sheet also says that Heat Lock doesnt work well with bubinga and
crotch mahogany. These veneers typically have wood cells that are so
densely packed, that splitting is highly likely.

As for the veneer send me a email and I will take some pictures of what we have and give you a list of the sizes as well.

Matthew P. 23rd February 2007 04:11 PM

I had seen this stuff before and wondered about it. It does seem like it would be a lot easier than standard wood glue. Where can one find it?

RAW 23rd February 2007 06:26 PM
And yes they deliver to Canada.

Tell joe I sent ya.
Joe will answer any questions you have on the process.

Hardman 24th February 2007 11:26 PM

Has anyone ever used this glue ? I always use paperback veneers with contact cement, but need to try a new glue solution. I like the way contact cement sticks on rounded over edges and wonder if this product will perform in a similar fashion. I must confess I have never tried the iron on method.

Hardman 25th February 2007 08:23 PM

For some reason the above link does not take you to the product in question. I am looking for someone who has used Flex-Pro (available from, and can comment on its performance. I normally use one piece of veneer to cover the whole speaker (1 seam in the back with rounded-over edges).

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