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Discussion Starter #1
In most consumer products you get a function of value per dollar having a high slope at the bottom of the price range (much more value per dollar for every more dollar spent on the margin) to a point of inflection where the marginal dollar buys less and less until it comes to the luxury level where the increased value is almost debatable.

Does the DIY value vs dollar curve follow the same curve as pre-fab stuff just you get better speakers, or does it have its own curve with possibly more value faster and the lower dollar amounts?


And for a example a pair of 3 way towers, where would you say the sweet spot is for dollar per value on DIY if one bought a kit just having to build the cab?

The thing is I am interested in getting some towers and they will cost about $650 for the pair. I am curious where that puts me in the DIY world.
 

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i think it depends on what your time is worth to you.
The curve your speaking of (in my opinion) pertains to all markets, and all trades.

When the curve relates to diy speakers specifically, I think that time (your labor) should be considered as a cost, because whether you enjoy diy or not will obviously affect the cost.
Now, I dont believe that labor will drastically change the convexity of the curve, but it will change where the curve is located depending on your enjoyment of speaker diy.

so, having said that, diy (in my opinion) does not have its own curve if you take out labor (much labor can go into superior cabinets and crossovers).Prefab and everything else follow the same curve.

and my opinion on the last questions, i would loosly say that $1000 would put you at the sweet spot, and $650 would be right in the middle.

just my two cents
good luck
 

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I haven't built very many projects yet but it seems like with the behavior is the same with DIY having incredible value from $0-$500 with the diminishing returns kicking in between $500-$1000. I think above $1500-$2000 they may sound better but mostly you just feel better about them and yourself.:daydream:

That is assuming you're talking about per speaker pair. Then there are subs, which can easily add another $500 and up just depending on how hard you want the whole house to shake. Then there is amplification, etc etc, are you going to build your own amps? :bigsmile:

Building your own amps and preamps can be a pretty cool way to save money too, you seem to be able to build some pretty nice units in the $100-$400 range where as audiophile amps barely start at $600. Same with preamps. However DIY active crossovers for subs seem to be an area where you can get a cheap pro audio solution for not a whole lot more than the DIY. I priced out building a DIY active 4th order crossover and with a power supply they would have come up to be at least $50 maybe closer to $100. However you can get the reckhorn b-1 for $100 or a good Rhane or Behringer unit for ~$130.00
 

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Well thought out question. I really like the way you framed it. I agree. I think that for most of us, you have to really remove labor from the equation to have a meaningful discussion. There are a wide range of wood working skill levels for DIYers. A beginner may take 20hours to complete the same project a seasoned wood worker (with the right tools - a whole other subject) could knock out in 5.

The other reason to take out Labor is some of us also buy mid range drivers and crossover parts and then create a high end box to put them in - including heavy bracing, various materials, unique angles, removable panels for crossover accesability, etc. DIYers get to make some decisions that a comercial outfit could/would never make. Some also spend all the time on making the speakers boxes sound good and then do little or no final finishing so the box looks cheap and has very little aesthetic value. So I just think it is really hard to have a discussion on "labor" because it means far too many different things to different DIYers

Kyle
 

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Yeah it is very time intensive. I wouldn't recommend anyone who doesn't enjoy woodworking or long projects in general do this. You might just be better off putting in some over time at work and using the extra cash to buy nice commercial speakers.

I first got into DIY to save a buck, but when I realized how much time I was using it wasn't really a big net savings. I did find tho that I enjoyed it, I enjoy knowing exactly what has gone into a speaker, where the drivers have been, what the solder joints look like. Exactly how much bracing the box has etc. If you are a control freak, a perfectionist or just enjoy shop work then regardless of if you save any money or not, it is probably worth it to you. On the other hand if you hate woodworking and or tedious finish work etc it is probably not for you. Unless you manage to have a shop build a DIY design for you and somehow still manage to save money and get a better product vs buying commercial. But I have not yet seen a price comparison for that yet, commissioned DIY design vs commercial design, quality vs dollars.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
But I have not yet seen a price comparison for that yet, commissioned DIY design vs commercial design, quality vs dollars.
When I first thought about it I figured that the DIY would be the same just less the price they are charging you for the cabinet. But then I realized it gets much more complicated.

DIY is such a limited market that the price goes up for drivers because of lower volume (?) compared to JBL dishing out thousands of speakers, and generally when more work is required to have a functioning end product the profit margin is lower.

I really do not know where it all falls in the end with regard to what level of components you have vs. the commercial stuff.
 

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One other motivation to DIY also can be having complete control over the aesthetics outcome. Even if the bang for buck curves were identical for both DIY and Commercial, doing it yourself will potentially allow you to make a custom box that will match the existing design of a room far better than any commercial product.

I haven't seen a interior home design program yet where the designers didn't see having speakers in the room as one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Most of the time they try to hide them. Cover them with fabric, make them go away. Designing your own box/in wall/ceiling etc allows you you adjust for the in room design. So even if all things being equal for the same amount of money the final results will be better for you than you could have attained otherwise.

One more thought that probably goes through everyone's head as they are building a set of speakers. What if these are just outstandingly awesome? Some of the fun of building oneself is to not know how the final product will sound. Sometimes we build based on vague subjective recommendations all the while hoping for a breathtaking first demo.

Going through that process is fun and I might say addicting. That has value in and of itself.
 

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Even tho JBL buys their speakers in lots of a million vs us just buying one we still get a much better deal doing it ourselves because even tho the major companies get their stuff alot closer to cost there is still a minimum cost to create the stuff they're buying. Then they have to buy the stuff, then they have to pay their employees to build them, they have to pay their employees insurance, they have to pay workmans comp, they have to pay for a big facility, they have to pay for the utilities, lots and lots of eqiupment. So their cost, while much lower per component is still very substantial, then they have to sell them to a reseller for nice fat profit, if they dont then why would they be doing it. Then that reseller has to sell them to us for a nice fat profit. And they want to make every possible cent they can in profit so they cut costs, and cheap out everywhere they can. Unless you buy really expensive gear, then they're still cheaping way out, you're just paying so much that you still get good product despite the manufacturer still having cheaped out.

Don't belive me, just take any driver out of, or take apart any commercial speaker you can and look around inside. Typically the crossovers are minimal at best and the boxes, despite looking nice on the outside typically have no bracing and are made out of 1/2" chip board, not even mdf.

I looked inside the surrounds for a cheap $200 home theater in a box, the whole speaker was made out of molded plastic with no corssover at all, nothing on the woofer and 1 cap on the tweet and that was it. I looked inside of a set of 3 way floor standing galaxys, no crossover components on the woofer at all, and only 1 inductor and 1 cap on the mid and tweet, the box was made of chip board and had zero bracing. And I looked inside of a set of $800 floor standing Klipsch 3 ways, still no bracing, basic cross over, sub standard box material and the port was questionable at best. It was about 3" around but less than 1" long, I'm not sure it even qualified as a port, it was really more like a hole. I can't imagine how it would help the sound at all. Sealing the box or putting a real port on the thing would probably make it sound better... Anyways, I'm rambling, even tho the major companies get all the hardware for low cost their cost is still substantial and then the finished product has to be sold once or twice for a substantial mark up usually at least 50% if not much more. Once we buy the componenets the buck stops there, the labor is all absorbed by us, and we don't have to pay anyone insurance, workman's comp, we don't have to pay for an exec's bonus. We don't have to pay for R&D and we don't have to please the share holders.
 

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I don't think there is a $ range that can in any way be quantified. For instance if you start with a shed full of tools then DIY is quite cheap, but nowhere near as good value as a lot of manufactured gear secondhand and in some cases new. If you need to buy tools, then the value is lower still, if you're determining that upon total expense vs results. Because I have an electronics and electrical background, I have almost all the tools I need for that sort of work and a couple of tons of parts, so I could knock up several tube amps, or SS amps this week for almost no expense. Most of the parts have come from excess stock sales and the like and have been accumulated over years.

Where DIY comes into it's own and produces results that can't be easily replicated by simply buying a completed product are, designing for your own personal aesthetic or other consideration, and designing and/or building something you couldn't get (easily) commercially.
Plus I get a hobby out of building things and now I'm learning some woodworking skills which I hope I'll be able to apply to other things later.

I should have been working on my speakers the last couple of days, but an injury has flared up and put that off at least until tomorrow. In these 6 speakers, I have about $A5k in parts and I'll need another couple of hundred for the connectors (speakons) and finishes. I can't buy anything here with similar capability as a finished retail item new for under $A40k for the mains and say $A10k for each pair of the surrounds. Even if I paid myself for the time, and put no value on the experience gained, I would still be ahead.
 

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evilskillit,

I think you're right on. You might have missed one other typically substantial expense that inflates the cost of the products and in the end the end customer has to eat:

Marketing / Advertizing

That usually accounts for 7-15% of the cost of the product. It adds nothing to the quality of the product. It just makes sure you know it's there and available for purchase.

The cost of tools question is an interesting one. I typically buy tools on craigslist. Rarely new. I save a bundle. And on the tools I don't really care to own (like a tile saw for instance) I buy it, use it to do the job, and then pass it on when I'm done. Sometimes I'm able to sell it for what I purchased it for. Even if I don't sell it, the tools cost is hard to consider here, because the amount of wear and tear you add to a set of tools to make single set of speakers is negligible. The value of the tools is marginally reduced, but not much. I don't consider tools cost because I'm the kind of person that has a garage full anyways. But even if you didn't, you could buy->make->sell for a marginal additional cost to the driver/materials cost. Even if you kept the tools you would be saving a bundle the next time you decide to create a custom shelf, fix a drawer, or put up a valance, etc. How do you account for those savings?

Kyle
 

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The cost of tools question is an interesting one. I typically buy tools on craigslist. Rarely new. I save a bundle. And on the tools I don't really care to own (like a tile saw for instance) I buy it, use it to do the job, and then pass it on when I'm done. Sometimes I'm able to sell it for what I purchased it for. Even if I don't sell it, the tools cost is hard to consider here, because the amount of wear and tear you add to a set of tools to make single set of speakers is negligible. The value of the tools is marginally reduced, but not much. I don't consider tools cost because I'm the kind of person that has a garage full anyways. But even if you didn't, you could buy->make->sell for a marginal additional cost to the driver/materials cost. Even if you kept the tools you would be saving a bundle the next time you decide to create a custom shelf, fix a drawer, or put up a valance, etc. How do you account for those savings?

Kyle
I buy stuff secondhand as well, and things like router bits off some of the ebay sellers that start at 99c. Sometimes you snaffle a bargain and I'm patient. My brother is a builder/carpenter so a lot of the stuff I use wouldn't last for him, but for the odd 10 min job, it's fine for me.
 

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I buy stuff secondhand as well, and things like router bits off some of the ebay sellers that start at 99c. Sometimes you snaffle a bargain and I'm patient. My brother is a builder/carpenter so a lot of the stuff I use wouldn't last for him, but for the odd 10 min job, it's fine for me.
If you've got a Harbor Freight nearby you can save a bundle if you're doing the one off thing as well. The have a reputation for lower quality (in some cases) for much lower price. They wouldn't last for the day in day out construction crew, but for a few jobs it hits the mark.

A case point would be the 18 Piece Hole Saw Set for $5.99. I have cut 10+ holes with each saw. There is at lease 10 more holes in each one of them. They look cheap but do the job and are WELL worth the $6 for what you get. If you're cutting holes all day this wouldn't last, but for an 7 speaker home theater speaker system this will last for the hole project (pun intended :)) and then some.

Kyle
 

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If you've got a Harbor Freight nearby you can save a bundle if you're doing the one off thing as well.
I appreciate the advice, but there is nothing like HF here (Australia), but there are plenty of small use tool bargains for the patient and observant. You guys in the US have no idea how good you have it WRT prices for all sorts of gear.
 

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Oops, I should have checked the location. So maybe some advice for some other US located viewers.

I've never been to Australia, although I've always wanted to go. It is on my list of places to go before I kick the bucket. I'd love to tour Sydney, and go diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Someday...

Kyle
 

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Hey Kyle, if you manage to get to Oz, PM me, and I'll give you a tour. I'm based near Parramatta, the geographic heart of the city.

In 03 I was scheduled to tour the US, but your visa stuff screwed me around and I never made it as I didn't have a defined itinerary.
 

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Hey Kyle, if you manage to get to Oz, PM me, and I'll give you a tour. I'm based near Parramatta, the geographic heart of the city.

In 03 I was scheduled to tour the US, but your visa stuff screwed me around and I never made it as I didn't have a defined itinerary.
Sounds like fun. I'll add it to my "in - my - dreams" list. :whistling:

Maybe I'll bring you a 18 Piece Hole Saw Set as a gift...

Kyle
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I think the real thing I was trying to get at is I know that if someone wanted to buy a $75 pair of speakers, it is better to go commercial because building a cabinet would be 1/3 of the budget (min.) and not much would be left for speakers.

In turn, if you wanted to spend $15K on a pair of speakers, it would likely be better to buy a commercial because that level is more namebrand, status, style or whatever cool feature you like about them.

But at some point, the cab cost because very minimal (100 bucks or so for excellent cabinet materials making say 20% of the cost is nothing) and the cab is way better than commercial for the same price, so the overall value really improves over commercial options.

My question to you is what is your sweet spot price point that takes advantage of the areas that commercial makers gloss over for cost reasons?
 

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I can't speak for the top end. I haven't gone there yet. But, I don't think there is a low end cut-off as you suggest. If you ignore labor, then $75 worth of speaker parts designed correctly + materials is still going to sound better than the associated commercial speakers I believe.

I recently for, curiosity sake, made a couple of small cabinets for a pair of Sony Cubes speakers that came with a $350 5.1 HT-In-A-Box. I used maybe $3 in wood to make the 5" cubed boxes. The previous cabinet was plastic. The resulting sound was significantly better. I A/B tested the speakers with another identical set that I have. My wife, my daughter, my friend, all agreed that the new speakers sounded significantly better. Better imaging, midrange, and bass response. Across a various selection of music.

I rebuilt a Cambridge Soundworks subwoofer/amp into a new box. The previous sound was OK. It was a typical midrange 2.1 Sub satellite computer speaker setup. Retails for around $50. The whole sub was in a plastic enclosure with the amp. I built a new box for the sub. I doubled the volume of the box for around $5 in 1/2" particle board. The sub went from there is some bass down there to a decent clean low end (for computer speakers). This was even more pronounced of a difference than the Sony speakers. All for an additional $5.

Even on the cheap side, it is easy to see how the shortcuts commercial designers take could easily be remedied for very little.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
But you are talking about just improving the cabinet. That is the biggest weakness of commercial speakers. If you start from scratch it is a little harder to realize any advantage at all under 75 bucks from what I have found. The cheapest kit I can find is this one, which would still require at least 20 bucks for a pair of cab's just to make them functional, no finishing at all. I think a decent finish would require another 20 bucks at the minimum.

http://www.madisound.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=8525

So the total cost would be over 110 dollars which you could argue begins where DIY can overtake commercial offerings, although I think it would still be close considering you could have these Infinity Beta 20's for 100 shipped.




But once the price is doubled the cost of building moves from almost 40% to 20% then less once you move even higher.
 
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