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Updating an Ellis 1801 Crossover

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
I built Ellis 1801s from kit in 2004. Have been down a rabbit hole chasing SET amps and high efficiency speakers for the past 3-4 years and sadly my 1801's have been sitting on my work bench for most of that time. Still love my Frugelhorns and EL84 set amp but have recently bought a new McCormack DNA amp that has breathed new life into my neglected Ellis Audio speakers.

Looking at other full range speakers for sale I have begun to appreciate again how good the 1801s are particularly with the right amp and high quality source(s).

The 1801s have Sonicap capacitors (think Gen 1). Back in the day Dave Ellis talked lots about the improvements that came with bypassing them with .1 uf Sonicap Platinum Capacitors. So today I bought 6 Platinum Caps.

I am also thinking about re-wiring the speakers - I made a poor job of it in 2004 and actually had Dave Ellis rebuild one crossover for me that I had made a mess of. I don't understand guage and quality of wire so have been asking Jeff what I should use for tweeter and woofer (the Ellis is a two way).

I have always found the 1801s a little dark - always been mid-range speakers. So looking to improve the top end. I have excellent sources - a Lampizator dac for digital and WellTempered turntable with Lyra Kleos and Nagra phono for vinyl.

Spent half of my upgrade money on the caps but say I had an additional budget of $250 to $400 tops, any thoughts on what else I could do while I have the speakers and crossover apart?

Thanks for feedback and discussion.

David
 
David,

Hello, and thank you for posting in our forum. You mention that you find your speakers a bit on the dark side. This is a bit odd as most found them a tad bright as I recall.

Which DNA? Pre? General description of the room? Can you describe the XO along with the type of resistors and coils...binding posts...cabinet stuffing? Perhaps a schematic?

Further, I wonder if, at some point, Dave chose to pad the OW1 slightly down from flat?

Jeff
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
Yes maybe the Ellis' are dark compared to my other speakers - Frugelhorns driven by a lively el84 amp (Decware).

My new McCormack was a brand new DNA-125 that had been stored in a warehouse somewhere. A nice amp.

The 1801's are a very large and heavy standmount. Takes some power to get them going.

Here is a link to a pdf of the kit instructions - http://www.ellisaudio.com/1801 Cabinet Plans.pdf

there were various versions of the crossover which was designed by Dennis Murphy but I don't have the schematic. Used mills resistors, 14ga goertz inductors, goertz magnet wire for tweeter and teflon coated for woofer. 3 way brass binding posts. And I used standard polyester stuffing although Dave recommended Black Hole. Towards the end of the run Dave recommended using Vampire Copper wire as an upgrade - mine is the basic goertz.

Not sure of the values of the Gen 1 capacitors - one of my thoughts was to upgrade the caps to something like Deuland Cast or Mundorf Silver and Gold. But was getting expensive so thought I would try the bypass route that Dave Ellis recommended.

My room is small - about 12x13 and listen nearfield and off axis at my computer desk. Have the Alexander String Quartet playing their Beethoven Quartets this morning but just as likely to have Lucinda Williams or Wilco playing.
 
David,

I'm thinking that none of the things you are planning will brighten up your speakers. They will be improvements, but not in the direction of brighter. Again, those speakers are rarely dark. Without a schematic, my thoughts are that you have two potential issues that I see. 1) I'm thinking that your tweeter might be padded down. It seems to me that Dave Ellis offered a couple of padding levels. If this is the case, you could improve things by changing a couple of resistor values. 2) Poly stuffing sucks. I would highly recommend BH5, but I sale it and do not wish to appear as if I am pushing my wares. I think you could improve things by just removing the polyfill, and placing duct board type insulation on all the side panels. I would not place it directly on the front panel or any of the braces.

All the upgrades you have mentioned are good ideas, but you need to address your problem first. If the 1801 is dark, you have a problem IMO.
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
Interesting post Jeff. Didn't take me long to get screwdriver and knife out to perform some surgery.

I removed about a basketball sized pile of poly and some egg crate shaped foam. Could probably stuff a couple of the small cushions on the couch with what came out. Left foam that lines outside wall and floor / ceiling.

Hooked things back up and right away what a difference. Dark is gone - literally the muffle is gone. Bass much more detailed and natural sounding. That was simple. Listening to some Clifford Brown trumpet - very nice.

Still want to do the cap bypass upgrade but scratching my head about why I hadn't figured this one out. Thanks for the troubleshooting.

David
 
Good point:eek: I did not even consider this as it has been years since I have heard from Dave. I don't know where I got the idea, but I kind of thought he was retired so to speak.

David, be sure to ask Dave if it is OK to email me the schematic. I had seen it at one time, but that was long ago. I do not believe your Platinums have sailed yet. While this is still a good idea, there are other things to consider. BH5 is one, and wire is another. Do you know what kind of posts he is using?

You will want to spend some time listening and evaluating. Once you have a list of desired improvements arranged in the order of importance, we can begin to address them efficiently. BTW, I am glad to hear things have turned around so quickly:D
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
I have sent an email.

the binding posts are bi-wire brass nut screw type posts. They may sound good but don't function great as they are always loose with with one of the nuts on either side wiggling free from a tight connection.

By the way the poly and foam was actually the recommendation on the build site - based upon removing it I may have used too much poly behind the woofer...the image of one of our couch pillows over the drivers is not a good one. Black Hole 5 was recommended as an upgrade but was not seen as value for dollar spent from old posts I have read.

The old Ellis Audio discussion board is archived but readable at Audio Circle.
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
the cap values are:

tweeter = 6.2 uf and 8.2 uf
woofer = 5.1 uf

the caps used are sonicap - think Gen 1

so what I am curious about is whether I am likely to get better results by bypassing with a cap like the sonicap platinum or am I better off replacing perhaps the tweeter caps with platinums or mundorfs, or something like the dueland cast. Just don't know enough about how these work and understand there is proabably value in trying something and listening to the results.
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
thanks Jeff - will keep thread going by posting what I have ordered for my crossover upgrade

* 4 x 0.047 uF sonicap platinum caps to bypass existing tweeter caps. Will leave the woofer cap as is. Thinking I need to pick up something like liquid nails to attach new to old caps.
* one sheet of Black Hole 5 - will figure out how I am going to use it once here
* 4 pairs of cardas CCGR connectors - this is for bi-wire
* Neotech stranded UPOCC - 14 ga for woofer and 18 ga for tweeter - wire to cleanup my poor job 10 years ago
* Cardas quad-eutectic solder

total cost is $530 shipped to Canada. More when everything arrives.
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
Complete tear down or tweak what I have....

so this is the next title in this chapter of updating my 10 year old speakers.

took the speakers apart yesterday. There were several casualties

1. the wire connector to one of caps on the woofer side broke off. Broke clean of course giving me nothing to attach to. Think I need a new 5.1 uF cap. Need to think about this a bit because it might make sense to just buy two new caps in keeping with the tear down theme (been watching This Old House).

2. one of the small inductors had wire break off as well. Off course bottom of the pile wire so completely unwound and rewound the wire with adequate length at both ends. Assume this will work fine.

3. the new binding post are set up for solder attachment. The old ones had a screw down ring attached to amp end of crossover wires. No way to solder wire into the connectors because they are so deep inside the speakers so will need to do something like buy cardas spades for this purpose.

4. so got me thinking about how attractive (not as in looks) outboard crossovers would be. Should have thought about this but would involve a lot more wire.

5. ripped out all the foam and poly - will soon be black hole 5 lined walls

A photo
 

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Complete tear down or tweak what I have....

so this is the next title in this chapter of updating my 10 year old speakers.

took the speakers apart yesterday. There were several casualties

1. the wire connector to one of caps on the woofer side broke off. Broke clean of course giving me nothing to attach to. Think I need a new 5.1 uF cap. Need to think about this a bit because it might make sense to just buy two new caps in keeping with the tear down theme (been watching This Old House).

2. one of the small inductors had wire break off as well. Off course bottom of the pile wire so completely unwound and rewound the wire with adequate length at both ends. Assume this will work fine.

3. the new binding post are set up for solder attachment. The old ones had a screw down ring attached to amp end of crossover wires. No way to solder wire into the connectors because they are so deep inside the speakers so will need to do something like buy cardas spades for this purpose.

4. so got me thinking about how attractive (not as in looks) outboard crossovers would be. Should have thought about this but would involve a lot more wire.

5. ripped out all the foam and poly - will soon be black hole 5 lined walls

A photo

David,

Let us know when you return from vacation. We will tackle these issues at length. For the short of it:

1. You would probably be OK with one. If you bought two, we would match them free of charge. They are cheap: Sonicaps LOL...this old house...good stuff!

2. You should be fine as this will alter the value very little.

3. If performed carefully, you could solder some wire to to the post before installation. You would need to be careful not to have the wire splayed out or excess solder build up. It is possible to slide the mounting nut over the solder joint. The notch in the posts allows you to move the nut to one side until you are past the wire hole.

4. An external box would not be as expensive as one might think. I would only use one set of posts on it. The wire going to the speakers from the XO box could be hard wired in the box (no post on that side of the box). Once you have figured up an adequate size for the box, you could build or buy. I have used these: Retail-Store He will make custom sizes. I use the soap mold type box in Cherry.

5. Let me know when you are about to start cutting BH5, and I'll shoot you some pointers. Both on cutting and placement.
 

stellablues

Member
2009-11-26 12:59 am
Please update us on the BH5 placement in the Ellis 1801. I did these exact upgrades about 6 months ago. and would like some other data points.

I ended up filling all the surfaces on the sides and front baffle (though I saw someone suggesting not to do the front) and a little on the back around the xover. I also left a very small thin sheet of poly hanging behind the tweeter as was there when the speakers were new from Dave in 2002.

I only bypassed the tweeter caps with sonicaps platinum and not the woofers. I had those bypassed with sonicaps II but took them out after the first week. the woof and tweet just did not sound in sync. would be interesting to know what I might be missing by not having the other 4 platinums in there vs the potential missalignment i felt the last time. I also started with the 8/15 resistors and moved to 8/12.5 to reduce the tweeter level.
 

DavidLS

Member
2007-03-22 4:17 am
Hi stellab

thanks for telling me about your experience. What do you think of the 8/12.5 resistor combination .... sounds like you thought the tweeter was a little bright - don't think this has been my experience but haven't heard anything different.

My plan with the BH5 was to follow Dave's recipe which I think was middle chamber - top, bottom, walls and partial back wall and front chamber outside wall only and top and bottom. Nothing in the back chamber.

I am only bypassing the tweeter caps with the sonicap platinum - leaving the woofers as is although wonder if a higher quality cap would improve bass performance.
 

stellablues

Member
2009-11-26 12:59 am
What caps would you suggest in the tweeter circuit? I know thats a very open and subjective question and can lead to hundreds of dollars spent. just curious.

Turns out I did my speaker updates with No Rez and not BH5. I covered all the interior surface walls. front included. I wonder if its actually making the box seem bigger to the woofer and actually unloading them and affecting the port length? does anyone know how much norez it takes to show more volume in the box?

Also, how much do you toe your speakers in. I prefer a them just a few degreed from perpendicular to the wall (straight ahead). If I get them pointing toward my listening chair more than 15 degrees I hear the soundstage collapse and the high frequencies do become somewhat forward. its a nice center image but thats about it..
 
Originally Posted by DavidLS
"although wonder if a higher quality cap would improve bass performance."

Since the cap on the woofer circuit is impacting how the woofer rolls off in the treble, you probably wouldn't notice a change in the quality of the bass, but it should definitely impact the treble. I know I've been surprised at the improvements in the amount and quality of information getting through by upgrading a shunt capacitor in that position. Cheers