Every year I read through the various do-it-yourself loudspeaker projects and then give up on the idea a few weeks later, since I don’t have enough space or very many tools at home. This time, though, I was so fired up about doing a project that I was finally ready to build my own speaker boxes. How hard can it be to glue a few boards together?
First there were the endless assembly kit options. Since it was going to be my first attempt and I didn’t want to spend too much money, the FirstTime series seemed perfect. It needed to be in stereo, with the option of upgrading to surround. I chose the FirstTime 11, but I wanted a one-piece tower without any division between the top part and the bass. So I opened SketchUp and started drawing. I used Udo’s files as a basis, and I started by stacking the speaker cabinets on top of each other. From there, everything went really fast. Finally, I just had to correct the volume, which was quickly resolved by reducing the low end.
I am happy to provide the Sketchup file for the tower for anyone who wants to build one.
Then it was time to go to the hardware store, where the nice lady in the wood department worked hard to make sure the boards were cut exactly to size. At home, I started gluing boards right away. Barbell weights gave me the pressure I needed to hold them in place. Maybe not the best solution, but it worked well anyway. Thanks to fast-drying glue, I finished the gluing pretty quickly.
I gave the front to a cabinetmaker in my area, since I don’t have a router or the necessary experience to countersink the speakers. I used the extra time to tackle the frequency crossovers. I had some Plexiglas at home and figured that would work well.
So far so good!
The phone rings, and there’s a guy with a very smoky voice on the other end – the cabinetmaker. There follows a conversation in which he tries to explain to me that you can’t mill the fronts without a CNC, and that he’s going to need at least 2 days to do it. At €50 an hour, he says, I can imagine how much that’s going to cost me. He advises just buying some speakers from the nearest electronics store. When I suggested using the router and a router compass, his only response was, “That won’t work.” I probably don’t need to explain that I was fairly upset with him.
After thinking about it for a while, I just decided not to countersink the speakers. It wouldn’t look that bad, I thought, and besides I could hardly wait to hear how they sounded. So I powered up my jigsaw and did the front plate myself. Since I wasn’t 100 percent successful and I was afraid of not being able to fit the speakers tightly into the cabinet, I also made a second front plate out of 5-mm-thick MDF and simply glued it on top. I made it an extra 1 mm too big in every direction, since the cabinet still had a few overhanging edges once I had finished gluing it together. Now I could putty the gaps and then just sand everything down so it was smooth.
Next it was time for the bevels. I looked at another project in this magazine for guidance, and used aluminum profiles as the guide rails. Then I got down to work with the handsaw.
Next came the sanding (by hand). About 2 hours later, it looked like this.
After that, it was time to paint. I used a store-brand primer from my hardware store and then a 2-in-1 paint that also works as a primer (also a store brand). The saleswoman told me it would keep the wood edges from showing through so much. I applied all of the paint with a roller.
Two primer coats and four paint coats later, I was ready to start installing the crossovers. I screwed in the terminals and stuffed in the Sonofil (amazing how much Sonofil that is). Finally, I soldered on the loudspeakers and screwed them in tightly. Naturally, I drilled some holes for the screws first. Done!
Very pleased with myself, I mounted the two boxes right on my amplifier and turned on the music. What can I say? I was and still am speechless! Unfortunately I can’t draw any comparisons, since I’ve never heard any of Udo’s other speakers, but I can say one thing for anyone who is new to do-it-yourself projects. DIY is worth it! The sound is great, and for me as a hip-hop/minimal/drum&bass listener, the bass on the FT 11 is a dream, too. How on earth did I listen to music on YouTube before? Now I’m a fan of closed bass cabinets, and I have banished by 15” subwoofer from my setup altogether. No more buzzing bass and no more perceived delays in the low range – everything is very precise and yet still deep.
Now my friends always want to watch movies at my place, and I’m thinking about adding a center and rear speaker to the system. Let me just wrap up my construction report with what a friend said when she heard it: “WOW! Do you feel that?! The floor!”
Follow-up: Upgrading to 5.0
Of course, my construction urge didn’t go away – on the contrary. I could hardly wait to build some more speakers. I could now enjoy the full range of sound when listening to music, but what I was missing were some additional effects speakers for watching movies. So I opened SketchUp again and came up with the following:
I am happy to provide the Sketchup files FT 11Center and Rear for anyone who wants to build one.
The assembly process was exactly the same as for the tower cabinets, so I’ll spare you the extra pictures and just show the finished speaker cabinets.
What can I say? It sounds great! Watching and/or listening to movies is a lot more fun now. Let me close my sound review with another quote: “Tell me, do you even enjoy going to the movies anymore? It sounds miles better at your place.” Well, if that doesn’t inspire you to try out one of Udo’s assembly kits yourself, I don’t know what will!
Now I’m hoping that Udo will come out with the matching subwoofer at some point so I can upgrade to 5.2 one of these days. But I would have to find a new place to live first, since the 5.0 setup is more than powerful enough for me to feel the movie explosions. And if my floor is vibrating already, I’m sure my neighbors are starting to notice it, too!
The assembly kits are available from Intertechnik: