The Internet is a fascinating place. I remember a couple of moments from the first MLB game my dad took me to. It was at Wrigley Field and Carl Sawatski, the Cardinals catcher that day, hit a HR. The Cubs second baseman was rookie Kenny Hubbs. I remember the Cubs got shut out. That’s about it. A few keystrokes on the computer and I determine it was June 27, 1961. Amazing!
Looking up milestone events like this is a fun reason to have the web at your finger tips. Shopping for DIY speakers and subwoofers? Not so useful.
There are one hundred and one sites out there by guys building speakers in their garage. Every one of them thinks he’s a scientist. He has discovered some secret sauce that nobody else could. Hmmm. How did he do that? He’s buying parts from Parts Express or Madisound just like any of us can. How is HIS baby better than what certified engineers at Bryston (for example) can create?
And of course- there it is. We all love our own children! When you see these gurus pontificating on the web about their wonderful scientific exploits, they passionately believe it. But ya know something boys, give or take a pinch of salt or dash of pepper, your pile of drivers screwed into a box are not particularly better, or worse than a hundred and one other guys doing the same thing!
I caution consumers not to invest in a hobbyist raising a flag up the pole. First of all, his product is NOT endemically better- no matter how he waxes on about it. I don’t question his zeal. I absolutely question his lack of expertise and his inability to see past his rose colored glasses. Don’t forget, all that raving is about loving his children, not science about loudspeakers.
Anyone can buy a 12” woofer, screw it into a box with a plate amp and call it an incredible subwoofer. He can tell you that it’s wonderful and marvelous till he’s blue in the face. But I’m telling you it’s a bad investment. Place your bets, in this case your money, with companies like GoldenEar or Bryston.
You see, they’re not just loving their children. They have to make these products sound great. Further, they have to be reliable because they’re not making onesies. Equally important, they have to provide support for these products years after the fact. Oh, and they have to manage to stay in business the whole time and be properly capitalized to pull it off.
The DIY speaker guy is using generic parts. Even though he loves them and will tell you they’re better, they are NOT. The companies I have mentioned create their own designs from the ground up.
The subwoofer you get in a GoldenEar FF-5 sub (12” long throw, cast frame) for a grand, was engineered by GE and built for a very specific purpose. You can buy a 12” Seas through a catalog- but you’re just experimenting with what to do with it. The GE is in a uniquely shaped, solidly built cabinet. Both characteristics are important to the performance. Mr DIY will slap his 12 in a cube that you can screw together from Menards. GE uses a 1500w power amp, complete with DSP technology for THAT SPECIFIC SUB. Mr DIY will buy a plate amp, designed for nothing in particular- and screw it in the back of his Menards box. The performance, reliability, and support down the road- no contest!
Now, if you just WANT to build your own sub (in this example) because you think it would be fun- sure. Go nuts. Buy a bunch of parts and put the kit together. But don’t kid yourself to think the performance is going to beat GE. Or worse, don’t think you’re spending your money wisely.
What we’ve learned from being in biz a hundred years is that virtually all these plate amps go to ashes in 5 years, give or take a bit. And when they go, what do you do? Buy another one just to have it go down too? You can do better.
The same applies to tower and bookshelf speakers. The DIY guys sometimes purvey themselves as “companies.” Don’t kid yourself. These guys are just buying drivers from vendors and screwing them into boxes.
I’m not saying they are not trying to do a good job. I’m not saying they don’t care. I am saying they’re a bad investment for your wallet. Be smart and stick with real companies with a track record of performance, which includes reliability. These are the only folks we deal with!