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Thursday
Apr122018

Rustic Speakers (Not a How To)

 

As many of you know I have found a hobby working with wood. It's something that is quite satisfying and when you are done you have something tangible that can give you joy for many years. I have been fortunate enough to combine wood working with my love of home audio by building speakers. Yes, the company building the drivers are really doing the heavy lifting but the cabinets still have a major impact on how they sound.

There are plenty of guides online that can help you design some really fancy enclosures but in the end you need a box with proper dampening and venting. So if this is something you are just getting into, don’t be overwhelmed by all the information out there. For your first attempt go for a boring rectangle cabinet and finish it the way you want. The results will amaze you. Then if you so chose you can remove the components and put them in a fancier box as your skill level improves.

This build was to go in our vacation home and had three requirements. It needed to allow for wireless audio, fill a rather cavernous room with rich glorious sound, and it had to match the rustic decor of the rest of the house. I kind of like building “Rustic” looking speakers because they are a little more forgiving on the fit and finish. As long as the cabinets are air tight, the outside can be a little rough and it will still look amazing!

To solve the wireless part of the requirements I used the Dayton Audio WF60PA ($125 from Parts Express). It's a  Class D plate amplifier that supports  Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 (with aptX®) wireless connectivity to your speakers. The amplifier is rated at 30 watts per channel and when paired with some efficient speakers can get quite loud.

Speaking of speakers, I decided to get a little extravagant and went with some neodymium drivers. Specifically the Tang Band W8-1772 8" Neodymium Full Range Driver ($195 each from Parts Express). Since these are big full range drivers they move a lot of air. A stronger magnet can do this with less distortion and weight. The fact that the magnets are neodymium does not mean that a speaker will sound better. It just means that the magnet can move the voice coil more easily requireing less power. The result is an extremely efficient speaker. These speakers have a 95 dB 1W/1m efficiency rating. That means they get loud with very little input from the amp! 

The last piece of the puzzle is the rustic look. Since I had purchased a bunch of reclaimed barn wood from Tennessee, I decided that these "Historic Speakers" would be made from American Chestnut reclaimed from a 1890s barn outside of Nashville. I also made matching stands from the same type of wood but it came from a barn from Ohio. Look at that! This speaker build is celebrating the unification of the North and South. And its pretty cool that the trees that the wood was harvested from were standing at the time of the US Civil war!.

The speakers measure 14"x10"X10" (355 x 254 x 254 mm) and have a volume just over .6 cubic feet (17L). The cabinet was sealed by covering the interior with gorilla tape then stuffed with poly fill. The vent tube diameter is 2.5" (63.5mm) and a length of 3" (76mm).

 

How do they Sound?

They sound wonderful! But before we get to the sound I want to talk about the wireless amp. After using it for a while I wish I hadn't. First off, these drivers deserve an amp that is clean and has a very low noise floor. The amp has a hiss that you can hear when you get right up to it. It's support for Airplay is OK but it needs to be turned on an off before it shows up in your list of Airplay speakers if you haven't used it in a while. Bluetooth was good in terms of connectivity. And sound quality was good but I could still hear the hiss. Of course once you listened at a normal level the hiss was not an issue. But you know its there and you wonder if your speakers are performing at their best. If I were to do it again I would go with an Audio Engine N22 amp and an Airport Express for the Airplay connectivity. You can always get a wireless adapter from Audio engine and connect via bluetooth if you don't use Airplay. Likewise there is a Google equivalent. With everything said, the amp works and does provide me a true powered and wireless speaker system.

In spite of my complaints about the amp, these speakers sound incredible! I wish I had a good recording to share with you. I tried, but every recording I made just did not do the speakers justice.

With songs that are predominantly vocal these speakers just sing! Pun intended. They sound great with Jaz, Blues, and some Rock. But they do have issues with very "Loud" tracks. That is one of the drawbacks of full range drivers. If there is too much going on its hard for the driver to create all the sounds. But for most of the stuff I listened to these speakers where phenomenal. These drivers combined with this cabinet really delivered some deep bass. I was kind of expecting that being that the drivers were 8 inches. Where I was pleasantly surprised was with the high frequency response. I wasn't expecting much but I was very wrong. I could hear detail that was missing in other speakers. I listened to these speakers for over two hours one afternoon and did not experience any fatigue. They just sounded wonderful. For the record, I let them play in my office for about a week 24-7 to break in. Periodically I would stop the break-in and listen critically to some music. Each time I felt that it sounded better and better. The crazy thing is that they are still getting better with over 500 hours on them!

This type of speaker is easy to build so go out and do it! You don't have to buy expensive drivers. Start out with a budget and go to Home depot and pick up some wood (or MDF) and have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments (4)

Nice looking speakers, Ara! What are you using for a finish? I made a small cabinet recently and painted the sides and distressed the paint but made the top out of 1x4 planks glued together and finished with Danish Oil. With a coat of wax I was surprised by how nice that old pine looked!

April 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNelson

I used the same as you. Danish Oil and a coat of wax! Can't go wrong with that combo! Especially for something that gets no wear and tear

Ara

April 12, 2018 | Registered CommenterHT Guys

Great looking speakers! If I remember correctly you’ve built some “common sense audio” speakers as well. How did they stack up to the Tang Bands? I’m thinking about build a set of super 10s.

April 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterZach

Zach,

Both sound great! These and the Audio Nirvana drivers I used on my previous build are too different to compare. Common Sense Audio does sell similar drivers to these so I could try to make a direct comparison. I just like trying all kinds of drivers. If you go with either you won't regret it! I was just listening to these again this weekend and am so blown away by how good they sound!!

Ara

April 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterHT Guys

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