Ralph’s „Danger Girl“ Needles
On the search for a new hobby, I ran across this website. I hoped that building my own loudspeakers would give me a creative, hands-on activity, with the reward of listening pleasure. The Needles assembly kit was a blind, or rather deaf, purchase – I wanted to be surprised..
I had the 16-mm MDF boards cut to size at the hardware store. The only woodworking that I had to do myself was making the round holes in the wood. I did that with a standing drill and a router attachment. It was fairly laborious, and it probably would have been much faster and just as clean to do it with a jigsaw. I glued the wood together, welded the crossovers, installed the chassis elements, put in the insulation material, and my speakers were done. The whole thing was really very easy, and I finished it in an afternoon.
My design was based on the following idea: the surface should have so much detail that at first glance the eye only sees a brightly colored surface. Only up close, upon further inspection, would the individual details become visible. I decided to plaster the boxes with a Danger Girl volume because I liked the way it looked. (I’m neither a comic fan nor a particular fan of Danger Girl). It took me two cans of spray adhesive. If I had to glue anything else, though, I would use something more like paste. The spray adhesive made everything pretty easy, but bubbles kept forming under the paper and I had to press them flat for weeks until they stopped forming. I sealed the whole thing with two coats of clear varnish. The Needles offer plenty of entertainment value just from their appearance.
I run the loudspeakers from a Dayton DTA-1 and a SanClip+ MP3 player. With half a year of experience behind me, let me say this about the sound: the setup is very dependent on the quality of the recordings. Bad MP3s and bad recordings are no fun. With good material, on the other hand, the Needles are a real pleasure. Make sure they’re set up close to the wall. If the boxes are standing in the middle of the room, they just sound flabby. My Needles need a little bit of volume before they sound good. Below a quiet living-room volume, they burble away without attracting too much attention. Only at a reasonable indoor level, and preferably a little higher, do they start to sound really great. A friend and I allowed ourselves the pleasure of pitting the Needles against full-grown pedestal loudspeakers with a 3-way design from a well-known audio shop, in the 400-euro range (for the pair). The whole happening took place with an NAD amplifier and Marantz CD player, along with the aforementioned MP3 player. In my opinion, the high and medium tones are clearly differentiated, with good resolution; the Needles have nothing to hide in this area compared to the larger boxes. The 3-way boxes had more pressure – sometimes even a bit too much pressure for the listening room, which measured about 20 m2. The Needles have a bass that is not exaggerated, but still sounds “nice.” With the electronic music, we wondered where the bass was coming from and how the little wide-range speakers managed it. In the end, I would say that the bass range is a matter of taste.
As so often, these speakers are probably a compromise, and they need to be seen in context. My setup with the Needles, DTA-1 and SanClip+ allows conscious music listening for about 200 euros, and it holds up well against the team of ready-made boxes, NAD and Marantz, which is certainly in the 1000-euro range. It’s truly amazing how much you can get out of these tiny wide-range speakers. Just a couple of words about the DTA1: the striped jack cable (included) is just annoying and should be replaced quickly, and the blue LED is too bright – I covered it with a piece of black electrical tape. I also fed the amplifier a constant stream of batteries even though I was only using it with a power cord. The weight of the 8 batteries makes the device pleasantly heavy. I find the feel of just one control element to be charming. The high indoor volume that I normally use is located at 12 o’clock on the amplifier. In terms of the sound – and in the context of the price – I am very happy. The Needles with the NAD amplifier are even better, especially for deep notes.
In summary, I would like to say that the Needles are a great gateway drug. I am proud of my Needles, and I enjoy showing them off. If making them is more important to you than owning them, I would say the Needles are almost too easy to build. My list for the next project is as follows: Blues Class, recessed chassis, and more complicated carpentry and soldering work. But one thing is clear: I won’t be able to build the loudspeakers in my living room this time.