Confessions of a Former Driver Designer

Bravo! That's the reason why DIY almost always outperforms commercial products of similar cost (marketing imposed design limtations), and part of the reason I guess I will never own scan speak drivers. There comes a line where alot more money brings very small improvements and I like to stay just below it. (actually, I can't afford to cross it!) Cabinetry is the biggest cost to a manufacturer, makes the most difference (besides the room) and is the thing the DIY'er has the most freedom with.
I've learned much from tearing apart old speakers, modifying crossovers and putting them in different cabinets...the results are often impressive. Moreso I think than someone who writes out a $3000 parts list for they're first DIY project. Play with what you have and trust your ears (that didn't sound right-lol) you might be surprised.
Jason
 
"Without being too cruel, these are the confessions of a hack.
If he had talent, he should have quit."

At least he had enough talent to start.
His point is that much of engineering is to do with designing products to a price point, and that is not always bad.
Had a listen to any decent quality modern shelf systems lately ?.
These are very obviously built to a price point, and satisfy the criterion of most users very well indeed - if not, people simply would not buy them.
sfdoddsy - tell us your experience and learning instead of the lame profile you give.

Eric.
 
I don't know why he's a "hack" what ever that meams. He had some of the best insight on speakers I've ever read. I liked his idea about "physics" is what makes a driver. I've never heard Focal drivers, but I can tell you I probably wouldn't like the way they sound just by looking at the materials the cones and domes are made out of. Although I don't know that much about a great deal about physics and even less about speakers for that matter.

Guys real funny too. I liked the part where he described the aftermarket guys' pantlegs the best:

"They did like going to car stereo shows, though. They could sit in a conversion van with fourteen subwoofers and three thousand watts of power, watching girls in skimpy bikinis and feeling their pantlegs flap in the bass."

diypole said:
Bravo! That's the reason why DIY almost always outperforms commercial products of similar cost (marketing imposed design limtations)Jason

I didn't read anything that would lead me to believe that. Although it is somewhat true. The reason, I think, DIY speakers sound better is that I built speakers for $300 with $250 of that going to cross-over parts and drivers. And the Acoustic Research 308HO $500 a pair speakers are designed better but they have $50 worth of cross-over and drivers. Like Marshall says: "The way I figure, any idiot should be able to come up with a nice sounding system if he’s got five thousand bucks and Krell amplifiers."
 
originally posted by Jimmy154
quote:
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Originally posted by diypole
Bravo! That's the reason why DIY almost always outperforms commercial products of similar cost (marketing imposed design limtations)Jason
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"I didn't read anything that would lead me to believe that. Although it is somewhat true. The reason, I think, DIY speakers sound better is that I built speakers for $300 with $250 of that going to cross-over parts and drivers. And the Acoustic Research 308HO $500 a pair speakers are designed better but they have $50 worth of cross-over and drivers. "
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Jimmy,
I am not sure I understand. The first sentence of your reply seems to be contradicted by the rest of the paragraph, which actually supports my opinion. Marketing people impose limitations on design that often detract from how good the sound could be. With DIY, the sound is the top design objective, providing it has satisfactory SAF.
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Quote from Jimmy154
Like Marshall says: "The way I figure, any idiot should be able to come up with a nice sounding system if he’s got five thousand bucks and Krell amplifiers."
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Agree completely,
regards, Jason
 
Sorry, now I think I understand what you were saying. You were referring to financial marketing limitations as well as others maybe? My AR 308 HO speaker I used to have had $50 worth of drivers and cross-over parts and sold for $700 retail. The zetag speakers I drivers and cross-overs that I used to make my speakers cost $250 and the speaker retails for $3,400 I've read.

By marketing I thought you meant things like drilling holes in the speaker is not acceptable, or making it a goofy shape or size or weight. Or funny looking drivers.
 

CHRIS8

Disabled Account
2001-12-12 8:47 am
VA, USA
mrfeedback:

INteresting link. Thank you.

sfdoddsy:

Please refrain from such things as 'name-calling' in a derragatory manner on this forum. You may disagree with whoever you wish when you wish with such subjects, but please state specifically what you disagree with don't simply pop up and insult people. Merely callling this person a 'hack' does not have any meaning without supportive data. However, without providing any specific proof, this is a direct personal insult as I have interpreted it.

Thank you.

-Chris
 
The story sounds familiar... Here I am working for a company which makes high-volume, low cost digital video chipsets, and I'm an audiophile hobbyist who got started in his teens.

In my DIY life, I build to standards of perfection. I first define my absolute maximum budget, then see if I can do what I want within that. Usually the answer is yes, and hopefully for a lot less than the account-draining maximum. I still try and economize, just because I don't like wasting my money, but if I feel a little extra expense here or there will make a worthwhile difference, I don't hesitate to go for it. In many cases, I simply refuse to go for anything less than the full "no-compromise" solution.

But... when I go to work, I'm dealing with products which are highly cost sensetive. Basically, the primary product for my company division is the "brain" chip which goes into DVD players. It's my job to help our customers design their player around our chip. Let me tell you, the DVD player business right now is <i>really</i> cutthroat. A dollar savings on the BOM is a big deal, and could make or break a multi-million unit sale with an OEM. Player sales are skyrocketing, but there are too many players in the DVD chipset business, since everyone figures there's money to be made with such large volume, and the core IP for DVD decoders is becoming easier to acquire. The net result is that profit margins on these chips are pretty dismal, as companies vie for title as the cheapest chipset available. Every month I visit Best Buy, and watch the player prices drop. $60 now for a bare-bones Apex player. Sure, the disc tray may fall out when you stand it on end (cuz they couldn't afford a pin to lock the tray closed), but this is what people are buying. So far, it has been an interesting adventure to work in the consumer electronics industry, and it has been even more interesting to see how the industry has evolved so rapidly.

Anyway, despite the restrictions of working on a budget, it's amazing what is actually possible at this price point. It's not so much fun to compromise your designs for the sake of a few cents, but in reality, it's still fun to work with this stuff. In the process, I've learned a thing or two which I can apply to my designs at home. On the whole, my job hasn't grown tiresome or detracted in any way from my DIY fun. On the contrary, the two are having a synergistic effect which I exploit to the fullest!
 
Chad, I am the out of warranty repair technician of this sort of modern gear and I agree that it is quite amazing the performance for the price points that is normal nowadays.
When you lift the lid of modern gear, the shaving down to the last cent/yen of BOM is clear, and so is the clever engineering ingenuity.
So are repeated layout mistakes - ask me for examples if you want to become designer worth his weight in salt ;) .
In my experince doing simple and straightforward things like blanket change of electrolytics to known good quality low esr types and grounding of the oscillator crystal cans makes a cheap and repeatable production line practical sonics improvement to the enjoyability of an otherwise perfectly fine CAD designed machine.
This need not be expensive at production level and would be a selling point.
Most people can hear and prefer a calmer and gentler and more musical sounding source even on standard mediocre system.

Eric.
 
Hifizen:

So you are the guy to ask. There have been a zillion posts asking how to replace the clock of DVD players with a low jitter clock to improve DVD, DVD-A and CD playback.

In my eyes, at least for CD, the problem is that the Nx 44100 Hz clock is generated from a 27 or 54 MHz master clock via a jittery PLL. Any idea how to work around this? Have a 16.9344 Master for the DAC an PPL this to 27 MHz to keep the drive electronics happy?

Eric:

Do people who spend $60 on a DVD unit care about sound quality or anything at all?


Eric
 

kelticwizard

diyAudio Moderator Emeritus
2001-09-18 2:33 am
Connecticut, The Nutmeg State
At the risk of incurring the wrath of the moderator, the author of the article does indeed appear to be a "hack". A "hack" is a person who does a job in a minimally competent fashion-not a bumbler, just totally uninspired.

Obviously, the author was not in a position to make any fancy changes in speaker design. His job was to take certain pre-ordered speaker parts-cheap speaker parts-and make speakers for certain cars under a very strict budget.


I can sympathize with the author's position. He was just out of college, just beginning on the job. Speaker size and placement are pre-determined. Access to new speaker materials and internal speaker construction is unavailable. His company has zero interest in making something really, really better. It is understandable that anyone would fall into the role of mere technician, as opposed to creator.

However, what bothers me is the following sentence from the article: "But to a guy like me who loves a challenge, however, who looks at things in terms of ‘doing the most with what you’ve got to work with,’ being proud if the results come out sounding “surprisingly good,” then it’s a lot of fun."

Great-but where are the examples? If he really did go that extra mile to make a good system with what the company gave him, where are the details of what he did? He doesn't even have to reveal the make or model of the car he did it in.

Most people who do something really slick love to fill you in on the details, but here I do not see a single example of where he had a problem, and by clever use of the spiders, cone materials, etc., improved the situation remarkably. Most people who accomplish these things are brimming with accounts of what they did. For example, if he took a special combo of cone material and surround to produce a peak where there is a valley in the frequency response, measured from the driver's seat, then I would say, "Great job!" But the author mentions nothing like that.

I don't blame the author for doing what he was hired to do. But by his own acount, inspiration was sorely lacking. The fellow came on the job, did it reasonably competently, and moved on into a non-audio field.

Still, it was a nice view into the world of audio as practiced in the mass industry. The article was worth reading.
 

kelticwizard

diyAudio Moderator Emeritus
2001-09-18 2:33 am
Connecticut, The Nutmeg State
Jocko:

I am not talking about radical new speaker designs. It is just that the fellow claimed that he used what he had to make "surprisingly good sound", yet gave no illustrations or examples.

Most people who pull off something nifty are glad to let you know about it.

I don't dislike the author, I hope I made that clear. I'm quite aware of the necessity of giving the boss what he wants.

It is just that the account he gave of his experience lacks that tiny little extra pride that someone would take in giving a better solution, on limited resources, than someone else would give to a problem.

The author claims he did this, but I see no examples. Most people who actually did such things would give you examples, because they are proud of what they did.
 

kelticwizard

diyAudio Moderator Emeritus
2001-09-18 2:33 am
Connecticut, The Nutmeg State
HDTVman:

True, which I why I mentioned in a previous post that he did not even have to tell the make of the car he did these things in. Apparently, he worked on several.

I have read many accounts by people who told of a problem they creatively solved without getting too specific and not mentioning manufacturers, etc. Nonetheless, the reader did get a view of what the problem was and what steps were taken to solve it.
 
Like it or not, he told the truth

Hey all, I have to side with the engineer on this one. Like it or not, he was telling the truth about manufactures. They all have one goal in mind...money. To who ever the target market is, that is what they build for. And to be honest, even the highend companies have limits. Though they will periodically produce something with a "no limits" product. But for the most part, they have limits. I do also belive that with proper planning someone can build a very nice sounding system for a modest price.

P.S. I too had my eyes opend a few years ago as to what is/can be passed off high tech. very expensive gear. Presentation is everything.

Rino Odorico