When I was a freshman in college, I decided to build a pair of stereo speakers from scratch. With help from a book I bought, I learned the basic theory behind acoustics and drew up a checklist of parts required. While they were all available at the Radio Shack, I knew I wanted something made with more quality.
Looking through some audio magazines at the bookstore, I copied the addresses of the most local showrooms I could find, and then took the train down to New York City to visit every car audio shop on Canal Street to find a pair of 12″ bass speakers. With the spec sheet in hand, I did all the required calculations (yes, the guy who failed math in his junior year figured out algebra, proof that if one is motivated enough, miracles can happen) to get the correct dimensions for a speaker enclosure, and I cut the particle board by hand in my parents’ garage. Finding the correct tweeters was difficult, but not as difficult as finding the crossovers, little electrical capacitors that send the right frequency to the right speaker: this was before the internets, when we had to do shit like go to the library to look stuff up.
With a $8 soldering iron, several feet of dampening foam, and a cordless drill, I assembled the cabinets, sealed them up and plugged them into my amplifier. And to my surprise, they sounded good. Really good. It got so that I could crank them up to half my amp’s volume and they’d shake the windows without distorting—but, then, the speakers were built to lift the wheels of a car off the road. They came in handy for parties that way.
The only downside was that they are butt-ugly; unfinished particleboard is as aesthetically pleasing as wet cement. My hand-held circular sawing job now just looks like I hired a drunk to build them. So they sit in the basement, where Geneva has been using them as a scratching post (thankfully I have guards over the speaker cones). During the Great Flood, they got their toes wet and a permanent stain set in.
I saw this article on Toolmonger today about DIY speaker cabinets, and it made me think about my project again. I’ve wanted to buy some quality poplar and put my carpentry skills to use rebuilding the cabinets for some time now, but I’ve put it on the back burner. Perhaps after Thanksgiving, when I get the cabinet finished, I’ll take a weekend or two and show my speakers some love.