For a long time, I was not necessarily interested in speaker building, but like a lot of audiophiles on a budget, I wanted good sound, but didn’t have a lot of money to spend. I read blogs and listened to vlogs, and magazines such as Stereophile and The Absolute Sound, and slowly built nice little systems in my den and living room.
However, like a lot of people who get the audiophile bug, I longed for something better, more substantial than what I had. Fortunately, the Capital Audiofest was only a 4-hour drive from my house. My understanding wife knew it was important for me to attend so I went without her, although, like many couples who have been together for a period of time, I believe she welcomed my overnight trip to Rockville, MD.
It was my first time at an audio show so I excitedly drove there and I was immediately overwhelmed with all of the audio brands, vendors, equipment, and services.
I was only there for the day, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t get to all of the rooms, I got to a lot of them, but there was so much to see.
To sum up, there was a lot of gorgeous sounding equipment there, some of which was absurdly expensive and impractical, but also some items that sounded great that I could almost afford. I had my favorites, but I drove home without ordering anything, just an appreciation for wonderful sounding equipment. I also realized after a certain amount of money, my ears reached a certain plateau.
When I got home from my weekend, my wife told me in so many words to do something about my audiophile habit without spending too much money. So, always wanting to improve the sound in my home, but without taking a home equity loan, I looked at some alternatives, and after much researching, I decided to build myself a loudspeaker from a kit. I went to Parts-Express, and after reviewing the kits, I purchased the C-Note speakers. My ultimate goal was to build the Amiga MT tower speaker pair, but I figured if I can build a small speaker first, I can work my way to a larger, more complex project.
Note: I am not generally a do it yourself type of person, I
mean, I can put together IKEA furniture, I’ve painted the walls in my home, and
have replaced electrical outlets, but never anything quite like this.
I learned a lot about speaker building with the C-Note package. The kit is only $100, but you need to realize you need additional supplies before you complete the project, such as:
- Speaker wire to connect the tweeter, woofer and terminals to the crossover.
- The speaker terminals
- Wood glue to attach the box together
- Contact cement (if veneering or applying vinyl the speakers )
- Clamps to connect the speaker box together
- Veneer, vinyl or paint to cover the speaker box
- A small drill to drill holes for the screws to attach the tweeter and woofer to the box.
- Cutting tools to strip the wire and exacto knife if necessary
- A soldering iron kit to connect the components of the crossover.
- Coffee to keep alert during the building process
As I have never built a speaker before, I ended up buying almost all of those items, increasing my cost to about $200.
I was confident in my ability to follow directions. So, after many hours and fumbling through the process, I ended up with some really great sounding speakers. They are nicely detailed, and the bass does deep without sounding muddy. They are on my desktop now as I use them as near field speakers. I gave my previous speakers, the TEAC LS-265’s to my nieces, along with a Topping amp I had laying around and an Amazon Echo Dot. My nieces are 9 and 12, and they were mostly into the Echo dot and speaking to Alexa. At least those speakers went to a good home.
Now that I had the small project under my belt, I decided to go for building the Amiga MT speaker kit, which I also purchased from Parts Express. I already had all of the other items I needed, and I had the confidence to build the bigger project. The only extra items I needed was the Veneer and cutting tools. I wanted a wood look for my living room.
Spoiler alert, the Amiga MT was no more difficult to build than the C-Note speakers, it only seemed more difficult because it’s a tower speaker and not a bookshelf.
Once again, if you are reading this and you are thinking, I am going to order this kit and I’ll need nothing else, remember, if you do not have the items I mentioned while building the C-Note speakers, you will need them for your project.
Day 1. The package arrives.
Ok, technically day 1 is when I ordered everything, but they arrived. Lots of boxes. I also ordered a walnut veneer kit to it since I wanted something with a wood look to them.
I removed everything from the boxes to see what I had gotten myself into.
Day 2 – 5. I glued the cabinets together. The cabinet pieces are pre-cut and are designed to align perfectly. I applied the wood glue to the wood, attached and lined up the pieces, and clamped them together. The wood clamps I used came from Harbor Freight tools, they worked great. I think they were only $6 a piece. I wiped away excess glue that oozed through when I tightened the clamps. One idea I came across that I used for the second cabinet was to use painters’ tape along the MDF board, so I didn’t have to use a damp rag to wipe excess glue off.
Depending on the wood glue used, there is a drying and curing time. I usually waited up to 24 hours between gluing sessions to move on to the next part.
While I was gluing the cabinets together, I laid out the Band It walnut veneer I purchased and flattened it so it would be easier to cut later on. I used the men’s shoe boxes to hold them down because it is what I had available. Make sure you measure carefully.
Full Disclosure: This is an actual mistake I made because I was trying to multitask. While I was doing something else regarding the project I was cutting the veneer. While tracing the boards, I did not take into account the width of the veneer when the pieces of the MDF board were put together, which meant I had a few pieces I cut too narrow, so I had to order another veneer sheet from Parts-Express. I made a $50 mistake, with shipping. I am sure you can get Band-It veneer other places, it’s just where I bought mine. Also, you can choose to paint the cabinets, or use a vinyl wrap. On the C-Notes I mentioned earlier, I used a paper wrap with musical notes.
After I had the cabinets glued together, I inserted the noise dampening foam inside the cabinets, which consisted of me cutting them to the appropriate size and attaching them inside the cabinet. Fortunately, the foam backing has a glue peel, so it was easy to apply.
With the cabinets glued together, I started to work on the crossover design. They send all of these little resistors and capacitors and other little doo dads. I looked at the schematic for the Amiga MT and became terrified, because I didn’t understand it. I remembered the C-Note kit schematic that was drawn so a 3rd grader could build it. After I calmed down, I looked at the Amiga schematic and drew it so I could understand where everything needed to go. Here is my non-technical schematic I followed. Here is a copy of my drawing.
And this is how the circuit boards looked when I was finished. I am by no means an expert with building crossovers, and until I got into the speaker building hobby, I never thought I would ever need to soldier anything, I hadn’t done anything like this since I got a C in my high school electronics class. It took me about 3 ½ hours to build both of these boards, which was a lot less time than it took to build the C-Notes, once again, due to my naivety.
I then drilled holes for the speaker terminals, and small holes to attach the crossovers inside the cabinet, in case anything on the circuit board ever comes loose, I can repair the crossover without trying to unglue anything.
Now I must say, before attaching the crossover board to the cabinet, you must test it with the speakers to make sure everything works properly, otherwise you’ll have big problems down the road. Like, your speakers will not work.
Attaching the veneer was easy enough, there are videos on how to attach veneer onto MDF board. Here are some images of how I did this: I applied the glue onto the board first, then I applied the contact cement to the veneer I precut. After the contact cement is virtually dried, I apply a second coating of contact cement to the MDF board, then carefully applied the veneer to that side. I needed to make sure it was on the board securely, so I used a rolling tool to make sure, then I applied weight to hold the veneer down, and I allowed the contact cement to cure overnight. I did the same thing with all of the sides.
What I did that was a little different was I chose to veneer the front baffle. This was a little tricky because the veneer is wood with a paper backing, and it was a little difficult for me to bend it the way that I did along the curved ends. I’ve attached images of what I did.
For the next step I tested the woofer and tweeter with the crossovers and the terminals wired in the back before I glued the baffle to the rest of the speaker box. I made sure to place the crossover so I could reach it when I remove the woofer, but it would be a bear to do anything other than major surgery if one of the wire came undone from the terminals.
After I tested everything and everything was working properly, I glued the baffle to the boxes. I then attached the top veneer to the boxes. As you can see, they didn’t turn out perfectly well, but I was nonetheless happy with the results so far.
Now since I wanted a dark walnut finish, I used a varnish and applied it to the veneer. I then applied a gloss to protect the varnish. Finally I connected the wires to the woofer and tweeter, and this is what I ended up with.
I had a NAD 325bee amplifier I had to test the speakers, and I am really happy with the sound. It sounds detailed, the bass is well defined, and it’s a fun musical speaker.
They are certainly worth the $370 plus other small ancillary components, I added $120 for the veneer, the varnish and gloss. So for $500 plus my efforts, it was worth it. I will say I spent about 20 hours on this project over a 2 week period of time, and this was my second speaker build so I had a little bit of experience with this type of project. One has to have a curiosity in speaker building to take on a project like this, because there are a lot of options, either buying preowned, or there are some excellent towers in the market today. I for one was