Gear / Technical Help => Playback Forum => Topic started by: MattD on May 04, 2003, 02:17:46 PM

Title: Anyone DIY here?
Post by: MattD on May 04, 2003, 02:17:46 PM
I'm graduating from college soon and have started looking at playback systems (not headphones) that do justice to 24-bit recordings. I already have a Denon receiver capable of 24/96 playback. I am looking for a pair of speakers and a subwoofer for under $1500 probably at some point this summer, depending on my job situation. I've heard that at around that price point, there's more value in DIY than in purchasing speakers.

I have been seriously looking at the North Creek Music kits, specifically the Okara  II and the Poseidon sub. Besides the opinion that these outperform most of the sub-$1000 speakers, there's the nice sense of accomplishment of doing something like this myself. Does anyone here have experience with this particular kit or any DIY speaker experience in general? Please share your experiences.

Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: ducati on May 04, 2003, 10:08:44 PM
I used to build loudspeakers in college...  Both for fun and because funds were very low :)  I used to follow plans from a speaker building magazine I kept up with for a few years.  I even struck out and built a few of my own...  It was a very informative time; I really learned how truly difficult it was to build a world class loudspeaker...

For $1500 you have a fairly wide range of speaker choices, especially if you buy used.  New, you could still buy plenty of speakers worth owning.

I would not build a speaker with that kind of money.  I don't pretend to think you couldn't get something nice, but there are a few sticking points for me:

1. you will invariably want to move up, and homebuilt loudspeakers have almost no market.  You would lose a bundle.  

2. cabinet manufacturing and design is paramount to a speaker's resulting sound, IMO.  One of the reasons I bought my B&W N805's is they had the least errant color of any speaker I auditioned; they also simply "disappear" into the room with a good playback chain.  IMO lots of this has to do with the cabinet design, which no homebuilder could replicate, and I have never seen a kit come close to.

3. crossover design is an art as much as it is a science.  Beyond design, different caps, resistors, inductors, etc. have different sonic signatures that cannot be predicted by numbers or cost alone.  This is a real difficult area to nail.  Good speaker companies spend lots of time here.

That being said, if you want to persue speaker building and you have 24/96 in mind, make sure you build a design that at least goes out to 30-35k (at 6db down) as extended highs really do make 24/96 recordings shine.

24 bit playback...  You're going to want a good 24/96 DAC to take advantage of those recordings.  A/V receivers, even the top models, don't do as well with 24/96 as a good cd player does with 16/44.1...  You need a good 24 bit DAC to make 24 bit playback worth it, IMO.

And that leads to something i was told years ago, forgot for awhile, and relearned multiple times (read: I made mistakes LOL): SOURCE FIRST!  Spend as much as you can on the source; it will affect the quality of your playback rig more than any other piece...  Even the loudspeakers (where most people put the bulk of their $$)!

Most importantly with speakers, bring 'em home for a home audition if at all possible.  Things tend to sound quite different in each person's rig than in a hifi shop!
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: MattD on May 05, 2003, 12:49:57 AM
So difficult! I have put many hours of research into this and even a little bit of auditioning. I really liked the B&W Nautilius 805s, in fact, but I think a pair + sub are too far out of my price range.

I was wondering about my ability to build a cabinet. I am more worried about the woodworking than I am about the electronics.

I have looked at the Tannoy line of speakers that feature their "supertweeters," especially their new Sensys line, which is right in my price range. They have a -6dB point at 51 kHz. However, finding a way to demo these is near impossible, since they're based in the UK with the North American distributor in Canada. The specs hold my interest, but I wouldn't put down money for them until I get a real chance to listen.

My Metric Halo ULN-2 will serve as a fine 24/96 DAC. I already prefer it to my receiver. It's just a pain to take it out of my gear bag every time I want to do some listening. I could run a pseudo balanced cable (1/4" TRS x2 -> RCA x2) into the inputs on my receiver that are intended for DVD-A or SACD, then use the receiver to drive the speakers. I'm still quite a few years away from messing with power amps and tube pres  :)  I'm sure selecting a subwoofer is just as difficult.

By "source first," do you mean the CD transport (or DVD/SACD transport, depending on what the future holds)? As of right now, I'm using a computer for everything 24-bit. The playback lineage would look something like:

computer > digital out > ULN-2 > analog out > receiver > speaker

Thanks for the help! +T
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: F.O.Bean on May 05, 2003, 01:32:15 AM
could be wrong, but i know ducati....think he means lineage at the show...mics>pre>a/d>recorder...if i'm wrong nate, i'm sorry for buttin in... :D

Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: ducati on May 05, 2003, 11:24:34 AM
Yes, when I said "source first" I meant your CD player, DVD player, whatever is providing the music "data."  The source at the show is obviously important, but to be honest I spend most of my money in my playback rig, as I use it a LOT more than my taping rig  ;D

I just ran some quick figures, and given my "budget" I have about:
16% in speakers
18% in amplification and preamp (source switching)
57% in source components (cd transport, DAC, PC interface)
9% in cables

Most people neglect the source in ultimate monetary terms.  I think given a one-source rig, you should have at least 40% of your total budget in your source.

I have never heard Tannoy speakers, but they are fairly popular overseas...  That is one helluva tweet--very extended frequency response!  Important for high-bitrate material, IMO.  I am considering selling my N805's and buy a pair of Siggy 805's to get the new extended bandwidth tweeter (50k at -6db down).  I think that would be worthwhile for my high-bitrate material...

If you're willing to buy used, the N805's are within your grasp.  You can pick a pair up, with stands, for just a smidge over what you want to spend.  To be perfectly honest, I use my sub quite infrequently.  I would say I only use my sub 15% of the time.  So buy a pair of N805's (or similar) and buy the sub later, IMO...  

You will want to buy a power amp sooner rather than later; you can't get the full benefit of most good speakers without a good power amp.  Receivers just can't cut it...  Which one do you have, BTW?  If it has pre-outs, it's a real easy upgrade  ;D
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: MattD on May 05, 2003, 08:28:03 PM
For right now my computer will be my source. It's outfitted with a Sek'd Prodif Plus soundcard. I can use the ULN-2 D/A until I get a standalone unit for the system (methinks this is the last thing I get). I can play back anything up to 24/96 via the computer, including CDs (it'll do for now).

I think next step is the speakers. Then probably preamp and power amp. Do you have an opinion on tube pres? I think I want my power amp to be solid state so that I don't have to worry about getting sensitive speakers.

My current receiver (Denon AVR-1603) doesn't have the pre outputs. I'll use it for now, then hang on to it anyway and will use it later on for HT. I'm more of a music buff than a movie person, so no big deal on the receiver.

Thanks for the constant stream of opinions! It's definitely helped me sort out things in my head. If anyone else wants to chime in, please do! I know that this is a topic with many sides - I guess the same end advice goes for this as it did for when I bought my rig: "trust your ears."

Now all I need is a job ... anyone want to hire a bioengineer?  ;)
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: ducati on May 05, 2003, 10:43:20 PM
I love tubed equipment.  I have owned a few pieces of tube gear in my life, and I certainly will own more.  My next piece (a few years away LOL) is a pair of Cary 805c monoblocks...  mmmmn

I was stolen from a road of tubed pres and amps, tho, by Steve McCormack's gear.  It is really wonderful stuff, especially considering the price.  McCormack gear is somewhere between tubed and solid state.  Never harsh, ever so lush, but with tremendous grip and power.  Well worth buying.  I have never heard a McCormack amp I *didn't* like, to be honest.  DNA.5, DNA1, DNA125, DNA225, all are solid choices in the right rig.

I think your answer lies somewhat in how quickly you think you will be able to save enough $$ to "finish" your hifi.  If you think it might take years (and well it may), you might be better off spending about $1500 on an entire rig, and upgrading from there.  $1500 speakers really need about $3k in amp/preamp, $4k+ in source components, and over $1000 in cables to show their potential.  A right built off something like a NAD integrated amp, NAD CDP, and a pair of B&W 601 S3's (and you could also use your PC for 24/96) would be much more musically satisfying than PC > Denon > B&W N805's.   And you could upgrade one component at a time from there...
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: Tim on May 06, 2003, 02:20:09 AM
I did what Ducati suggested.

I got a new in box NAD 370 integrated amp off of ebay and bought some new B&W 602.5 S3's. I also bought decent interconnects and speaker cable. Did the whole thing for under $1500 and it sounds great. When I finish school in 2 more years and actually have a real job I'll really upgrade. For now though this gives me a pretty high quality playback rig. Listening to my tapes and has been a whole new experience and I find myself listening to music so much more. I didn't think that was possible but listening just become that much more enjpyable once I ugraded. Have fun!
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: ducati on May 06, 2003, 09:06:20 AM
You're on the road to being a committed audiophile, Tim.  Every NAD owner I have ever known has ended up going down that long, dark path  ;D

I love NAD stuff.  Killer price points, great sound for the money.  The NAD house sound appeals to me.  I had some reliability problems with their old LCD displays (finally gave up and quit fixing them), but sonically they are built like tanks and last forever.  My first good rig was NAD 512 CDP > NAD 712 receiver > B&W DM302's.  Kimber PBJ and Audioquest Type 4+ cables.  I still listen to it whenever my wife steals "the big rig" for a movie or american idol or something stupid (LOL), and it is ALWAYS satisfying to listen to.  

C370's are supposed to be really great.   I have never heard one...  Would love to someday.  Maybe when my 712 poops out I'll pick one up.  That's an amp that can grow with a rig over time...  It will power a whole helluva lot of speakers!
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: super-phat-al on May 06, 2003, 03:45:16 PM
Go on ebay and find some Klipsch Heresey speakers.  These babies will blow your mind.  With these all you need is a center channel.  Put the Klipsch in the corner and there is no need for a subwofer.  These are killer speakers.  My father handed down his pair to me.  I love them SOOO much.
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: Tim on May 07, 2003, 11:42:35 AM
That's exactly why I got it... very good sound for now and a good price point but with enough power and options to keep it viable in my playback rig whenever I start upgrading. Sounds like I better guard my wallet though  :D
Title: Re:Anyone DIY here?
Post by: ducati on May 07, 2003, 11:49:05 AM
Indeed.  To get better sound quality than the NAD prices start jumping wildly...