Speaker building has been my hobby since the early 1980s. During the 70s I listened to music on an AM radio while driving around in my rusty Plymouth Duster. Queen, Boston and Journey blasted thru a terrible car stereo. During the 80s my dad and I decided to purchase a stereo for the house. My dad, being a music teacher and musician, wanted something we could really enjoy. Spending time listening to different stereo equipment with my dad was a lot of fun and allowed me to enjoy not just the music but music reproduction. Great stereo stores like Hi-Fi Exchange, Stereo Warehouse and Tech Hi-Fi were common back then. Eventually, my dad purchased a beautiful system from Square Deal. The Tandberg receiver and AR speakers still play in his living room.
My friend’s parents were also buying stereos around this time which offered opportunities to listen to different gear. I had the pleasure of hearing many excellent home systems. Some excellent equipment I remember fondly are large Jensen speakers powered by Optonica electronics, KEF speakers, Ohm speakers and an incredible system comprised of Klipsch Belles powered by McIntosh gear. They all sounded wonderful but the Klipsch really left a lasting impression on me for its sense of scale and lifelike reproduction.
Already hooked on music and great electronics, the turning point came during the mid 80s when I visited a home with custom built speakers that looked like nothing but tall slim boxes. One driver was mounted at the top and the bottom was open. I wish I knew more details about this speaker but at the time all I knew was they sounded incredibly good. I became curious about speaker building.
Music from the 80s proved unique with incredible artists like Blondie, The Police and The Cars, to name just a few. I became immersed in the music scene and found myself purchasing albums frequently. The ARs always pleased but I knew there were more musically satisfying options available. Rather than purchase new speakers, I decided to build my own.
There was a little speaker building shop a few miles away in Freeport, Long Island. I bought a pair of six inch poly mid-woofers and dome tweeters, cut up cabinets from spare shelving and hooked it all up. The sound was terrible! I began tweaking the crossover. My friends and I began to tinker, each having a project or two to experiment with over the summer. It was a fun time listening to music and building speakers to suit our taste.
Unfortunately, my projects weren’t always successful but I kept trying new things. I’ve spent money on expensive European drivers from Dynaudio, Vifa and Eton. I’ve purchased countless dome tweeters by Peerless, Audax, Philips, Dynaudio, Vifa and several more I can’t recall. After deciding expensive drivers weren’t always as satisfying as I hoped, lowering my budget seemed appropriate. I tried cheaper drivers from Pioneer, Radio Shack, Dayton, etc. and in many instances realized excellent sound regardless of price. I realized success was more about finding the right balance between the drivers than the actual drivers themselves.
Sibilance irritated me on all of my projects. I became frustrated with this and in the 90s began turning towards amps and preamps for improvements. Tube amps certainly sounded better to me than solid state but the problem was still there. Searching the web, I found http://www.fullrangedriver.com (which no longer exists). This wonderful forum discussed the virtues of full range drivers. I was intrigued and purchased a pair of Fostex 168z drivers from Madisound. They were not cheap (at the time they were $115 per driver) but they sounded wonderful even tho I had not yet learned how to maximize their performance with specially designed cabinets. The sibilance issue was not as bothersome and the Fostex provided (and still provide) lasting musical enjoyment. They had ‘tone’ and I loved them.
It’s 2014 and I currently own over 20 different full range drivers from various manufactures. Some are very good and some are not good at all. But the enjoyment I get from checking out something new keeps me in this hobby.
Experimenting with different cabinet types proved equally interesting. I’ve built sealed and ported projects, back horns, BIBs and open baffle speakers. They all have their pros and cons. I consider myself fortunate for having heard good and bad examples of each and know there are many paths to musical enjoyment.
Thank you in advance for visiting my new hobby website. I had a website called ZillaAudio.com (which I shut down) during difficulties from a messy divorce. That site allowed a foray into E-commerce where I sold a few things. I realized maintaining an E-commerce website was not something I enjoyed and it took away from the pleasure of this hobby. There’s nothing for sale on this website, but there is experience to share, lessons to learn and projects to ponder on the road to fulfilling your own musical enjoyment. Maybe you will learn from my mistakes as well as my victories? This website also offers a place for me to document some of my more satisfying projects.
I hope you share my enthusiasm for music and music reproduction. Remember, it’s not about the cost of the drivers you use, it’s about the balance of sound that you get from carefully chosen drivers and the cabinets they are in. It’s also about the music – which you get to experience and enjoy during the speaker building process. That’s my favorite part.
(Godzilla on the speaker forums)
Note: I took the Godzilla image above from:
Please visit the link to appreciate this artwork.