Bill Fitzmaurice vs The World (a "what PA speakers to buy/build" thread)

Doggyboy

Member
2010-06-14 8:31 pm
Hello, I havent been active in a long time because life got in the way, was going to create a new account here then realized I already HAD one a long time ago when things were... better. :p (pre-corona world, more money available, etc.)

Anyway...

So i'm planning on building some PA speakers. There's no rush, because I wont have anywhere to store them for like a year, it's just what I like to call a "slow research" project. I might get busy with life for a month or two, remember I have the same problem needing solutions and come back, just so people know.

I'm a big fan of Bill Fitzmaurice's designs. Or at least i'm a big fan of his logic anyway, I mean it all makes sense to me. Short version I plan to finally order his all everything CD sometime this year and once I have the storage space start building things - even if i'm not sure what specific things.

What i'm wondering is what ELSE should I consider building, ordering plans for, or outright buying on the used market?


I should probably start over from zero so were all on the same page though. :)

I'm looking for advice for how far DIY PA speakers can take me. On one hand i'm between bands (for a long time now) but was wanting to get back into music, build some things up as a hobby, and eventually play smaller gigs. I've also been taking some sound production type classes going back to college after many years as well and slowly learning about everything up to power shaded inverted J-stacks - but i'm guessing for insurance reasons and other hassles flying speakers MAY be more than i'm looking to do. I would also like to have stuff to borrow to kids/nephews/friends if they want to go run a PA rig for a little side cash (not planning to really do this myself, too busy). If someone wants to rent it - fine with me long as it doesn't blow up - but it's not going to be big shows needing tech riders playing for 10,000 people.

Just because i'm learning more about HOW some things are done for bigger live sound I have no experience yet, so i'm totally open to well meaning advice steering me to consider other designs along with, or instead of, or just buying used gear.

I don't know how big of shows I will "need" to play, I don't know if the realistic upper limit for what i'm planning will be 500 people or 2000 people or what. Feel free to suggest though.

My most salient points and thinking process that steered me to Bill's stuff:

- #1 I want good sound. I've heard too many rigs even commercial rigs that suck. People should be saying "holy crap did that sound amazing".

- #2 all this including the woodworking itself to build, the gigs, and borrowing to others my PA gear is basically a hobby to start, until or unless it's not. I may build more equipment than is strictly needed for the smallest starting shows because i'm using speakers elsewhere when not at a gig or sending the nephew off with a PA setup while i'm playing somewhere else one weekend.

Strict analysis of cashflow isn't required at the outset for a hobby, things like the need to buy used name brand gear because you can sell it for what you got it for is not (at this point) my top priority. I'm also not trying to make pointless work for myself just to match what can easily be bought better I mean, like if building subs is smart but tops not worth the work, you can push me in that direction. Yet I expect to have two or even three complete sets of speakers to cover "small, medium, and 'large-relative' gigs" - I'd like to buybuild once and be set for the next two decades that I can say yes to any situation that wants to book the band that needs us to bring PA gear or has a questionable quality house PA. Ending up with 6 or 8 LABhorns, Tubas, or possibly 12pi's and the tops to match is not at all out of the question, but how big of a show will that play to blow peoples socks off? Much beyond that exceeds the hobby budget.

My assumption is even bigger gigs would HAVE a good PA to plug into, so i'm just looking for the system that will help "make a name" by saying Yes to any gig that calls and giving them amazing sound even if we have to haul it ourself to insure that sound.


- Now you might be already wanting to suggest speakers whose bass will make the gods weep but - we plan to self roadie things. After a night of playing hauling those cabs back out get heavier. I might be able to get another db or two from heavier wood but Bill's use of lighter wood and more bracing and smaller overall pack space makes sense to me. Also not having monster cabs with 2-8 drivers. Plus i'm less keen on stacking things three high for instance. Keep It Simple.

- Will need deep bass. I'm prone to things like Pendulum, but assuming a rig that will cover anything from rock thru drum'n'bass is a good plan, so his Tuba cabs over Titan cabs if I go Bill trading extension for outright efficiency matters. LABhorns? 12pi? I understand and accept that things like LABhorns are meant to run like at least 4 preferably 6-8, just tell me the space needed for monster bass. Yet systems that scale down for smaller gigs (or other speakers - I want to build some of his Tuba HT's for home theater too anyways, someone else used them for a PA in the corners and said they worked great) are also relevant.

- Pack space matters more for the small or/and medium rig because the large rig would have a dedicated trailer. If less than 4 LABhorns sound like crap we need a different speaker for those situations, also the idea of two speakers on more power with less pack space that might produce the same volume as four is nice on one hand, unless the cabs are painfully heavy or we dont have the plug power. I dont want to haul 8 LABhorns to every single situation, but i'm not against having different speakers for different gigs and loading the ones I need. If we have to go down stairs (and some places I expect to possibly play require that) those lighter Tubas start looking more desirable than a louder or more efficient 12pi, the latter may not even always fit either.

- Efficiency matters. I know Bill's designs push for efficiency, even if not absolute efficiency at all costs, but gigs with limited amplifier power are likely. But so is having more than one set of speakers if there's a big difference.



Lots of detail! Hopefully not too much. In my mind everything steers me to his designs - OR considering LABhorns - but i'm very curious what else is worth a consideration!
 

Brett

Member
2002-01-07 6:02 pm
I'm looking for advice for how far DIY PA speakers can take me.
So, how about a realistic spec? I have no idea of LF/HF f3, SPL, enclosure dimensions and weight and expected largest coverage area, indoors and outdoors.

I used to have 4 LABsubs and used them mono ,100Hz usually horizontal below stages.

I am not.
Either am I, based upon experience of building some.
 

Doggyboy

Member
2010-06-14 8:31 pm
I am not. He has been prolific, but i would not bother with his designs without checking their alignments and that would likely lead to something better.

dave

Well... oh dear. :) I hope this wont get derailed.

Do you have other DIY designs you would recommend? Or if used gear is the way to go,

By alignments are you referring to horizontal/vertical dispersion patterns or like length from driver to mouth esp once a longer subwoofer horn path is included?

Please educate me - just because i'm taking classes, i'm not there yet.

So, how about a realistic spec? I have no idea of LF/HF f3, SPL, enclosure dimensions and weight and expected largest coverage area, indoors and outdoors.

I used to have 4 LABsubs and used them mono ,100Hz usually horizontal below stages.


Either am I, based upon experience of building some.

I'm aware there are things lacking and I do kind of wish that he would have done tests or updated his public specifications with things more comprehensive, less subjective, and a little less cherry-picked in comparison.

THAT SAID...

There's a level of public PA setup where a guy throws some old Peaveys in a minivan to haul somewhere and a level where people with modern engineering degrees and using only big names like JBL where every cabinet costs $1000 or more... and I don't expect to be in the latter anytime soon. : P

I know that 'pro' stuff is designed and priced accordingly, and that's not going to be my level anytime in the forseeable future.

What I would like to do is consistently beat the guy with the Peaveys. Alot of that means volume and efficiency (amps are cheap vs the past but not everywhere has unlimited power, everywhere GOOD will have that but I don't expect to play those gigs for awhile, plus i'm hoping anywhere truly good will have a quality house PA) and it means being able to hit any low note the music has without running out of breath. I don't expect to be beating people with 5x the budget and 4x the power, I might have 10k to spend on the music hobby but not 50k.

So i'm looking at buy used, OR build, and Bill's logic appeals to me because it solves many problems the way I think. I expect him to sell his logic fairly hard, he's aiming at a different market. I KNOW they are compromised - so is every other bit of 10-30 year old PA gear, in some way, and I wonder what tech differences and best practices we know now that we didn't years on making good sound and when things changed. It's about comparing and shopping them against OTHER compromised gear for the least objectionable compromise for the money.


How did you like your LABhorns, how big of an indoor or outdoor area could you blow peoples socks off with them? : P
 

Brett

Member
2002-01-07 6:02 pm
Peavey made a ton of gear over the decades so I have no reference to what you're looking for. I designed, built and ran my own PA for a couple of decades, initially for our band, so I have an idea how to design, just no idea from your description of what to suggest.
 

freddi

Member
Paid Member
2005-08-16 4:21 pm
for a foundation down to ~40Hz, seems like it would be hard to go wrong with Jim Bell's "single sheet" (SS15) tapped horn.
 

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Hi,
A few thoughts, in no particular order...

1: you've given quite a wide ranging set of ideas as to what you may want to achieve, which makes it a lot harder for anyone to tell you simply: "Build 4 of "X" top and 6 of "Y" bass and you'll be sorted". What you need will depend on the size of venues you're playing in, whether they're inside or outside, the genres of music, etc etc etc.
1b: your "I don't know if the realistic upper limit for what i'm planning will be 500 people or 2000 people or what. Feel free to suggest though." is impossible, because you haven't actually told us enough about what you're planning, see above.

2: Once you're beyond a fairly simple rig, infrastructure & logistics increasingly dominate your ability to deliver quality with realistic effort - don't skimp on things like cases, cabling, and also think carefully about storage & transportation.

3: Fair play to you for realising the safety/insurance/liabilities involved in flying PA, keeping it ground stacked or pole mounted to start with is entirely appropriate. That will limit the size of space you can cover however, as to get louder at the back, from a PA that is not to high off the ground, means you end up turning it up so loud you rip the faces off the closer-in parts of the audience.

4: Modern commercial/pro gear has significantly improved the quality that is available at the upper end of the "musicians with their own gear" (Commonly abbreviated MI) to the lower end of pro offerings in the last decade or so, partly from more advanced drivers and partly from the integration of more advanced signal processing. While you're doing your research, please try and get out and hear as many rigs in this class as you can to get a feel for what they can do. JBL's SRX(p) series, Yamaha's DZR, RCF's NX would all be examples that might seem like they'd push your budget initially, but the sound quality you should be able to get is likely higher than anything you can DIY, whether Bill F or otherwise. You also have the fact that there's no effort in design, manufacture, developing processor settings, replacing blown drivers when you find that your limiter calculations weren't quite right etc, which leaves you more free time to concentrate on actually making music.

5: If you still want to DIY, and want the most capable rig possible, then IMO Peter Morris's PM60/90 rigs detailed over at soundforums.net are probably about the highest quality, and highest output that can realistically be pole-mounted speakers out there. I haven't heard any Bill F rigs, or these, but from seeing the effort and detail that is in the design, and the quality of components used, I'd be 173% confident they'd blow any Bill F design out of the water for sound quality.
https://soundforums.net/community/threads/new-diy-mid-high-90deg-aka-pm90.11601/
6: For subs that could keep up with those tops, and still be (moderately) practical to scale down for smaller jobs, tapped horns rather than traditional (Front Loaded) horns are a good idea as they're less dependant on being used in blocks of several units to smooth out the response. Art Welter's Keystone and XOC1's TH18 would be good places to start, both have extensive build threads in the subwoofers forum of this site.

7: If PM60/90's and tapped horns still sound like too much effort/investment, then several manufacturers have decent designs on their websites that feature driver combinations that will work well, and include things like DSP settings already worked out for you; B&C and 18 Sound in particular are 2 to look at.

HTH,
David.
 

kipman725

Member
Paid Member
2007-06-10 12:41 pm
Warrington
BFM presents limited/misleading data and talks like a salesman. High end speaker manufacturers use high end drivers because they allow greater output per unit volume. Ultimately systems are constrained by space or power requirments and transportation costs are important for any system that moves. It makes sense to maximise the output of each box by using the best (or close to) the best drivers available.
 
Pay attention to the guys who have built these things.

My PA days were some 4 decades ago, my current level of expertise is limited. Back in those days i did design my own PA.

Today, for a small PA i would consider a synergy up-top with bass support below. Here is a sketch i did of an evolution of the original bass-horns with the Synergy out of a Yorkville Unity 1. Do note that Patrick Batement has shown a lot of synergy work here on the forums. You’d need a truck for all the bass bins, they won’t fit in your Rabbit/Golf.

smallPA-sketch.png


I have had significant recent experience designing.drawing (mostly the latter) modern BLH horns.

dave
 
What i'm wondering is what ELSE should I consider building, ordering plans for, or outright buying on the used market?
#1 I want good sound.
#2 all this including the woodworking itself to build, the gigs, and borrowing to others my PA gear is basically a hobby to start, until or unless it's not.
I'm also not trying to make pointless work for myself just to match what can easily be bought better I mean, like if building subs is smart but tops not worth the work, you can push me in that direction.

LABhorns? 12pi?
Efficiency matters. I know Bill's designs push for efficiency, even if not absolute efficiency at all costs, but gigs with limited amplifier power are likely.
Decent, new powered speakers with built in class D power amps, digital sound proccessing (DSP), and Bluetooth streaming have become available for under $200 new now, far less than the individual components would cost a purchaser to “DIY”.
The fit and finish of the manufactured speaker will generally be better than DIY, and sound quality will be better than most low experience level builds, as mass-market sales companies have copied from the best designs.
Bill's top cabinet designs are definitely not among the best.

https://www.monoprice.com/category/pro-audio-&-musical-instruments/live-sound
Reliable sources have indicated the quality to be decent, comparable to Alto.
https://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,176378.0.html
About 5 years ago did some A/B listening to an Alto powered 10” cabinet (possibly the TS210) ) along side my SynTripP cabinets, and can report that the difference in sound quality at lower sound levels would not be as noticeable as the difference between the program material sound quality we listened too.

Because of the cost of shipping large subwoofers, there still can be a cost advantage in building subwoofers, though size costs money in transport and storage.

Having used lots of LAB12 drivers, can attest to their value when they came out two decades ago, though there are now many drivers that can outperform them in nearly every respect.
From a size to output and LF extension ratio, BR (bass reflex) still beat TH (tapped horns) which will beat FLH (front loaded horns) until reaching the 45”x45” x 22.5” range, which is generally too large to scale for small time operators.

As far as efficiency, every doubling of LF cabinets gives an increase of 3dB, and often is billable- as much as I like “going green”, PA work is about putting the green in your pocket ;^).

Art
 

Doggyboy

Member
2010-06-14 8:31 pm
Hi,
A few thoughts, in no particular order...

1: you've given quite a wide ranging set of ideas as to what you may want to achieve,
I'll have to get back to other posts, I just chose to respond to this because it was the longest I saw so far and I wanted to say thanks for taking the time. :) I'll get to others later.

Part of it is wondering what I CAN achieve with a certain array of gear, where should I set the ceilling of my expectation?

A venue that I can't play with what i'm willing to build means I either know I need to plan to rent more gear before saying Yes, rely on a house PA, or rapidly build more gear.


I expect to play the kind of starting gigs that amount to "yeah I guess we could add some music to this event, there's a power plug over there" and were playing more to be heard and develop some local fans and our sound (compared to others at this level) blows people away, which is more likely to mean bass level since "enough bass" and "deep bass" are the two struggles i've seen other low end local bands have. There's either no cover charge because it's "free" music or a bar giving us free drinks for the music or just a few dollars cover charge, but at the end of the night people say "WOW who were those guys??" so the next time our name shows up, it's remembered and they want to see us.

What starts with 1 playing for publicity turns into 2 playing for covered expenses turns into 3 "hey these gigs are putting more money in our pocket per hour than our normal job" turns into a 4 definite side gig we invest in the money to make better. If it were to become a 5 full time gig where we quit our day jobs and hire roadies now different economics and performance expectations come into play. Does that help anyone reading better understand the goals? I'm looking for speakers to get us from 1 to somewhere between 3 and 5, on a scale where 6+ is full time musicians with tech riders playing through other peoples high quality PA gear at venues designed to be regular use venues with fully modernized sound.


What you need will depend on the size of venues you're playing in, whether they're inside or outside, the genres of music, etc etc etc.
1b: your "I don't know if the realistic upper limit for what i'm planning will be 500 people or 2000 people or what. Feel free to suggest though." is impossible, because you haven't actually told us enough about what you're planning, see above.

Well I like to play stuff like Korn and Pendulum, from detuned 5 string basses to sinewave bass. I figured if I could play that I could probably play anything else too?

I was using a guesstimate of "assume I have 4-8 LABhorns" since that's about the upper limit of what i'd expect to "self build" in terms of work, wood, money for drivers and more people talk of those being a good quality design. People who have used those say theyre pretty awesome. I was hoping people could suggest top cabs (build or buy used) that would be appropriate. I talk about Bill's designs because he's trying to serve the same market as LABhorns while compromising some tradeoffs.

Again a venue that I can't play with what i'm willing to build means I either know I need to plan to rent more gear before saying Yes, rely on a house PA, or rapidly build more gear. Subs take the most power and money normally so I figure they're my limit more than top cabs.

I was afraid too much more information would already get too long to be read too.

2: Once you're beyond a fairly simple rig, infrastructure & logistics increasingly dominate your ability to deliver quality with realistic effort - don't skimp on things like cases, cabling, and also think carefully about storage & transportation.

Yes and that's also where i'm trying to seek expert suggestions here. I admitted there could be better sound to buy or build, in cabinets heavy enough I don't want to move them after a few hours of playing, which is part of what steered me to Bill's lighter weight and less pack space.

3: Fair play to you for realising the safety/insurance/liabilities involved in flying PA, keeping it ground stacked or pole mounted to start with is entirely appropriate. That will limit the size of space you can cover however,

Right, and that's just to provide a rule of thumb. "Simpler venues for a mostly starting band", since at the point a flown PA is needed and NOT provided by the house - I guess that becomes "were big enough to come back and ask more questions?" Keeping It Simple Stupid (with me being the stupid) to start, to not get inflated expectations. If that means don't expect the pole mounted top cabs to get much deeper than through 70-90 feet of bodies in front of the stage, that gives me a rule of thumb. Maybe I can extend that to, I dunno, 130 feet with a few cabinets on the sides with a slight delay?


4: Modern commercial/pro gear has significantly improved the quality that is available at the upper end of the "musicians with their own gear" (Commonly abbreviated MI) to the lower end of pro offerings in the last

I have checked out things from time to time, and i'll catch back up, I guess part of my equation was what are the largest gigs I can reasonably play with $10k of speakers and still have good sound. Keeping in mind that the two biggest limiting factors i've seen for "comparably low end bands like I expect to be in to start" are not enough volume, and not deep enough bass - which is two ways of saying not enough speaker (or possibly not enough plug power at the site, since rack amps are cheap now) and trying to get the most bang for the buck.

I do not expect to be a 'full time' touring musician anytime soon, and the money payback of putting in much more than that probably doesn't make sense.

I say things like it's hobby music because i'm willing to build speakers just for my home theater too - I literally use some PA speakers for that already, so "if those music gigs dont work out" they just never leave the living room or jamming room again and i'm not "wasting" money, they just only serve 2 uses instead of 3 or 4 then.

5: If you still want to DIY, and want the most capable rig possible, then IMO Peter Morris's PM60/90 rigs
I'll check those out, thanks for a specific recommendation. :) Thats what i'm trying to do, see what else is even OUT there, who else I have to research.

Just like for bass I remember 12pi "being a thing" years ago when I last researched it. (maybe they still are, or maybe they arent, or maybe 'better' hornsubs have replaced them too, I freely admit I dont know.)

6: For subs that could keep up with those tops, and still be (moderately) practical to scale down for smaller jobs, tapped horns rather than traditional (Front Loaded) horns are a good idea as they're less dependant on being used in blocks of several units to smooth out the response. Art Welter's Keystone and XOC1's TH18 would be good places to start, both have extensive build threads in the subwoofers forum of this site.

Okay THAT is a great example of a specific piece of advice I can use! :) I remember hearing about tapped horns awhile back, and that they play super deep with less size. I don't know about weight or output at different frequencies or efficiency tho, but I have something to research.


I promise to read and take notes and respond to other postings as soon as I get a chance, i'm hoping i've added a little clarity to my original post.
 

scholl

Member
2012-12-30 5:07 pm
You might want to start with building a very good system to use as home hifi then see where it goes.

Consider BMS 18N862s for bass.

Look at 1.4" drivers from RCF, Faital or 18 Sound. They all have new models with matching horns that look great.

Find a nice efficient 12 to bridge the gap.

That'll get you a system that's simple, new, high quality, will fit in your listening room as well as an SUV. Sound great and play loud.
 
OK, thanks for the extra info.

For the vast majority of what you're talking about, even 4 Lab Subs is overkill, never mind 8.
Any venue in your 1-3 range (possibly even some 4 and 5's) would probably throw you straight back out if they see you rock up with that, as A: they'll get noise complaints they don't want and B: every square foot of floor space you take up with PA gear is less space for the punters, and it's the punters buying drinks that keep the venue in business.

Honestly, one 12" main and one 18" sub per side from the ranges I mentioned earlier should be enough that they absolutely won't be the limit on quality (assuming you have half decent musicians, mics and mixing chops all sorted out in the first place) and loud enough for those kind of spaces. 2 subs per side if you really want it heavy and the venues will let you.

If you have the patience to read through the threads, I'm sure Peter Morris has described some of the spaces in which he's used those PM60/90's, they're probably more than you need too.

IMO, while it might be interesting academically to wonder how big a gig you can do with "X" amount of gear, it's probably not that productive. Unless you really like shoving big heavy boxes around, and all the associated cabling etc, by the time you're into your category 4-5 scenarios you're far better hiring someone who does it professionally to provide for you (and let them do all the grunt work too ;) ).

Aim to own what you'll need for say 80% of your jobs max, rent for the rest.

Re Delay speakers for longer venues, yes, that's one way of doing it, but even if you owned the extra speakers, you have the hassle of running cables out to them without causing trip hazards, protecting them from getting knocked over by punters etc etc.

Again, for a band carrying their own gear, probably that's the point at which it's better to hire in someone that can take care of flying for you so you don't have to.
 
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freddi

Member
Paid Member
2005-08-16 4:21 pm
For those curious, here's what four K15 size (7.5 cubic foot bulk, 24" wide by 32"H by 16" deep) Karlson coupler boxes would do loaded with Eminence's Sigma18 and keeping within xmax 2 pi.
 

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I think in general you first need to determine your goal
  • Is it for live concerts or for dj purpose (or both)
  • How big is the venue you play in mostly. Is it inside or outside.
  • Budget and how to finance that (if rental is the goal, you need to find something thati is easy to rent out, otherwise you can tune it to your wish).
  • How to store and transport them.
But in general, you got 2 type of smaller systems that are getting build now: the classic reflex point source systems and the newer tapped horn/paraflex/transflex systems, often with a unity horn as top. The latter are giving more output and a lower response on the same physical scale and are mainly popular fo dj purposes down here and are quiet more efficient than big horn systems like those from Billfritzmauritz. Those are old designs that work, but far from the best or most efficient in cost, work and flexibility. But those need rather advanced dsp programming to use them right.

This is such a new paraflex/Unity horn-like system, replacing a set of 8 polar scoop horns (infamous backloaded bass horns) and acompanging tops in a reggae/dub system in the UK (Sinai Sound). They are custom made for that crew. This system can handle crowds of a thousand people i heared from various sources who heared the system. I did not hear it myself because the Uk is hard to get now due to Brexit and Covid, but i heared his old stack a few times and that was a very good one, and this one should be much better. Of course this can also be build on a smaller scale (and it has bee done many times).

But if this fit's your goal and skills to build and manage, that is a question only you can answer.
 

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For bass go 21" ...... lots of high grade options, with strong motors.

B&C 21ds115 works very well in undersized reflex enclosures due to very strong motor (BL 40!!!!).

Check data-bass.com , it has a wealth of independently measured data, also check the forums. There are several diy designs available there, such as the" ckram "(single 21" 30hz tuned reflex that can be modified to 6th order bandpass with a front attachment plate)
And "Skram" single 21" bandpass

15" has ~150sqin Sd, 18" has ~220sqin, 21" has ~300sqin

To get deep, you need a decently sized enclosure, so why not go all out on the driver to achieve higher power density!

30 Hz is a must nowadays, if you want to distinguish yourself & keep up.

The "fancy" european drivers are available on the us market, b&c, lavoce, 18sound, bms, beyma, rcf......