Building a system

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Maybe this isn't the right forum, but here it goes, I figure you guys know a lot more about audio equiptment than me.

I'm a poor american college student who loves electronic music. I started getting into "hifi" by purchasing a nice set of sennheiser headphones, and a very good sound card for my computer. Most of my music is low quality digital (192kbs) but I have still noticed a marked improvement over using regular cheapie headphones and a stock card, which produce crap.

So far i've been very pleased with my current setup, but desire to have a system which can produce music as good as I hear on my headphones. I've been looking into amps and speakers, and would like to know if anyone had any suggestions. I've heard Harmon Kardon makes a decent amp, and for $269.00, it fits my price.
I've heard having a crossover is something thats important, I don't quite know what that is exactly, or why it is important though.

As far as speakers go, I've heard some great things about Paradigm Atom speakers, as well as some great things about Tannoy speakers. I'd like to stay in the same price range as the amp, under $300 US for a pair, if possible, but would just like to hear some good sounds. My current setup is really bad, a set of creative computer speakers I got for $50.

Anyone have any suggestions? Eventually I'd like to get some turntables, but thats a loooong ways away.
do you have the equipment to build your own cabinets? cuz that can save you a ton of money if you dont mind working a little. I'm pretty new to this diy game but i love it. Look around at some KIT from or they come with crossover components so you take all the guesswork out of it. the crossover is a pretty major component of a system. in a nutshell, it sends the high frequencies to the tweeter and the lower frequencies to the mid/bass driver for better tonal balance and a smooth response. I dont feel qualified to go into detail. some one else would be better for it.
I probably could build my own cabinets, but I have no experience doing anything like this before. The main thing is that I want really good sound, something I just don't know if i'd get if I built my own. Building cabinets, unless they are of a really good finish, I'd imagine would be the least expensive part of manufacturing speakers. Fitting it all together too might be a problem, I know nothing about sound theory, to guide me in the shape of the speakers, or placement of drivers.

Your last post affirms the advice you've received already, build a kit first as a learning experience. There are plenty of high quality kits out there if you simply want to get a set of good speakers and be done with it. If you're looking to buy ready made, use your own CDs to audition speakers. What is good is very subjective. Your cans are a good reference.

If you are looking to start a hobby, things change a little - still do a kit to get a feel for what it "should" be. Don't necessarily aim low, but keep your first "from scratch" project fairly simple to help ensure some reasonable level of success.

Crossovers are the heart of the system. While you can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear, you can get excellent results with inexpensive drivers IF you get the crossover right. You can also get lousy results with excellent drivers if you get it wrong. There is plenty of good advice here, and elswhere on the web. Read through the threads on crossover design (as well as speaker design in general) After reading the same thing stated several different ways it will start to sink in. A lot of the "Help a Newbie" type threads ofer excellent tutorials.

If you are like most, you won't be satisfied with mediocre appearance even if the sound is top notch. that or you'll become inspired by some of the amazing craftsmanship you'll find on display here.

Don't be surprised when cabinet finishing costs end up right up there with driver cost. My first attempt at a gloss black cabinet ended up using at least $100 worth of primer and paint on a pair of fairly small cabinets. I went through an awful lot of 320 grit, too before I finally got rid of the scratches and stopped sanding through. It took several days to finally get it almost good enough. It's a good thing this is fun and I don't have to pay what I bill my clients for my time. :xeye:

I find speaker building a very satisfying hobby, I hope you enjoy your quest for better sound. Be forewarned, there is always another project around the corner once the bug bites. It seems like I always have a stack of MDF cut waiting for the free time to assemble the next set of speakers. :D

Welcome to the forum.

I think you should take advantage of this forum and build a pair of speakers. The money you save is ridiculous. It sounds like you did some pretty good research on commercial companies, and if you spend that much time searching this site, you can have an amazing system.

What tools can you get your hands on?

If you have to tools to build a pair of speakers and your not afraid to, I'd go for it. I checked out Parts express and Madisound for their kits. Parts Express has these kits only one of those is in your price range, if you don't want to build an enclosure. Madisound has their Sledgling kit in your price range, and I think there were others in your price range without cabinets.

If I were you, and not afraid to dive right into speaker building I'd start looking at sites such as PartsExpress, Madisound, and Solen. Look around the forum and on people's websites for what speakers they like and don't like.

There are lots of program to download for free for designing enclosures. WinISD, unibox, and there are more.

Read as much as you can on the website to better understand speakers, how they work, and in the end, you will learn how not to get jipped.

Another great way to build speakers is click on the "www" on people's posts and it will take you to their website.
One example is Zaph/John and there are tons of people that are nice enough to document and test their speakers.

PS. amplifiers, what you will learn is that everybody is obsessed with power and watts. You don't need lots and lots of power.

Good Luck,

The last two posts have more experience than me, and I must agree with them, DIY speaker kits will be your best bet.
Finishing the boxes could be the hardest part. But at least your finish won't affect the sound.

I own a Harmon Kardon receiver, and love it. Look at Harmon's own outlet store to find a great deal.
I bought mine there for $140 about 6 years ago.

Model AVR 45
45watts X 5ch
55watts X 2ch

I can’t remember all the specs. But I have never felt the need for more power.
There are others here that can guide you better than another newbie but you’re on the right path.

Good luck!
building a system

Hi 909,

When building a system these are the speakers which are the weakest link so their choice requires careful planning. I'd say one should allocate at least 2/3 (or more) of the budget to get most of it.

So if you have about $600 to spend $400-$500 should be used to that purpose. You have two choices - either get one of the kits or design your own. If you can afford to spent about $500 I'd recommend Morel's HU 9.1 8" woofer (89dB, 8ohms, fs=30Hz, 200W) for $134 from Madisound and a MDT41 tweeter (8ohm, 90dB, fs=750Hz) for $61 from the same source. That takes $390 from your budget plus just over $100 for cabinets, variovents and crossover parts. In this case it can be one cap and one inductor per box (first order crossover point about 3kHz or somewhat above that). If you go for this design I can calculate cap/inductor values for you using Xover software.

Using variovents also simplifies a lot of things for beginners. Box calculations are simple (basically those for closed systems) but with some advantages of bass reflex. Remember that the box must be stiff and free of standing waves (shelves and angled panels solve most of such problems). The tweeter (MDT41) is an external one (top mount) with all the associated advantages.

Morel builds its drivers following Dynaudio concepts and some Dynaudio drivers are very hard to beat (and quite expensive too). I built a few systems using their drivers when these were available and I was most impressed with Dynaudio's 8" W21.

When it comes to the amp get one second hand. For $150 you should be able to get something more than acceptable and costing up to 3 times as much in a retail outlet.

I think that there are many guys here who can help to design really good boxes for your drivers.

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