Should I DIY – Value of DIY Speakers

by admin

A lot of people familiar with my speaker building hobby frequently ask me if they should buy commercial speakers or consider going down the DIY route. In addition, people always ask whether building speaker is a value proposition, similar to building your own PC, which most people have done.

Here’s a summary of my recommendations for people.

  • If you have 0 desire to get your hands dirty, you should pass on DIY speakers.
    • DIY speakers take a decent amount of work (1-2 days for most people) + fixed cost purchase of some basic tools if you don’t have them
    • I find that people who are solely doing it for value proposition end up getting frustrated very quickly
  • DIY speakers will generally result in x2 – x4 value of commercial speakers with increasing returns to scale value wise.
    • a $150 kit will sound close to $300 commercial speakers whereas $300 kit might sound as good as $900 speakers
  • The minimum you should be looking to spend for DIY for a set of speakers is $150-200 for a decent set of speakers to make your time worthwhile

Effort required to build DIY Speakers

Building DIY speakers should not be done if you have 0 interest in getting your hands dirty because as stated above, you will get frustrated if you’re not interested in the building aspect. You’ll end up doing the following during the DIY process:

  • light woodworking and gluing (or tons of woodworking if you cut your own wood)
  • drilling and assembling
  • soldering
  • painting

In addition, you need quite a bit of tools, which you might want to invest into. Lastly, if you’re picky about what your speakers look like, you might want to go down the commercial route if you’re not as comfortable with painting wood.


Value of DIY Speakers

My general rule of thumb is that you’ll get x2-x3 value on DIY speakers compared to their commercial counter parts.

For example, let’s take a look at the overnight sensation, which is a popular entry level kit for about $150-170. First of all, they sound significantly better than anything commercial at $150, whether it’s passive polk speakers or popular powered mackie speakers. Around the $300, it gets interesting. As of writing this, a pair of KEF Q150s is $300, which I don’t doubt sound better; however, this is a sale price, and most speakers that cost $300 don’t sound as good. This might mean that people who don’t want to DIY can try to wait and buy mid-range speakers for a decent price.

Next, $300-400 is where DIY speakers really begin to take off. Personally, I think this is where these speakers sound seriously good. Speaker kits like the speedsters, amigas, zaphs, and etc sound seriously good, and they completely destroy any commercial speakers around that price range. In my personal experience, I have yet to hear bookshelf speakers that cost < $800-900 that sound as good as my speedsters or zaphs.

Lastly, kits $500+ is where we enter throwaway money territory for commercial speakers. It’s a bit unfair since most commercial speakers are outrageously priced, similar to luxury fashion. I’m still convinced that kits like the SR-71s will probably be the best pair of speakers you’ve heard, even compared to commercial counterparts costing $1500+.

This logic roughly applies to home theater application and subwoofers as well. Subwoofers are closer to x2 return given that SVS prices have come down significantly, which means there’s value in building subwoofers, but the difference may not be as great as speakers.


Conclusion

If you have an inkling of interest in building something yourself and have interest in hifi audio, I highly recommend building your own speakers; however, it’s a decent amount of work if you don’t have a lot of guidance.

For the rest of you who don’t want to get their hands dirty or care about aesthetics, you should definitely go down the buying route, and there’s no shame in that.

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