Once I had infected myself with the loudspeaker bug while building my Needles, it quickly became clear that that was just the beginning! In building the Needles, I got to use my favorite building material, acrylic, which has a very positive effect on the design. That’s not meant as a criticism of the usually very spartan designs on this website!
I would have loved to build loudspeakers completely out of acrylic. After some online research, however, I unfortunately found that the only structure allowing me to leave out a lot of the interior insulation was a horn loudspeaker. Because of their fairly large structure and difficult setup, however, horns were out of the question for me. In addition, horns look to me like they have “too much” cabinet and “not enough” chassis. So that was out. And since almost every other kind of loudspeaker needed insulation, transparent acrylic speakers were also out of the question for aesthetic reasons. What good are picture-perfect loudspeakers if they don’t sound good?! Since I lack the necessary specialized knowledge and measuring equipment, I could rule out developing my own. Besides, the high cost was also a breaking point. There’s no way to throw together a cost-effective test cabinet using acrylic.
So once again I ended up making some compromises. I spent my evenings digging through the various assembly-kit providers and forums to pick out “my” compromise. I stumbled across the AXIS 85, which appealed to me right away. I thought Udo’s idea was different. And I like “different”! An oversized shelf speaker on a pedestal. I liked the pedestals, which add to the volume while also lengthening the appearance of the entire loudspeaker and bringing the chassis up to ear height. But it took some getting used to the overall look.
- Structure is almost identical to the plan instructions
- Two-colored acrylic cover for the whole construction
- Crossovers moved to the fronts of the pedestals
- One bass reflex tube at the front of each pedestal (unfortunately I couldn’t avoid setting it up near the wall)
- Small visual “highlights”
- More stable stand bases
- Illumination for the pedestals (SMD LEDs / remote-controlled)
- Illumination for the stand bases (SMD LEDs/ remote-controlled)
- Integrate the decoupler into the stand base
So I got started: before ordering the assembly kits, I peppered the Lautsprecherbau team with emails (thanks once again for all the information and responses). Then it was off to my local hardware store to give them my slightly modified wood list. I ordered 22-mm-thick MDF, letting them know that I was using it for loudspeakers and that everything needed to fit exactly. Great! The boards had the right dimensions. But then came the disappointment when I started putting them together: the dimensions may have been correct, but the boards were very warped. Since I was anxious to get started, I not only glued the boards but also screwed them together. The screws would be invisible later, so it didn’t matter. Of course I pre-drilled the holes for all of the screws and countersank the screws.
I don’t have a router, but I didn’t need one for my project in this case because nothing needed to be recessed. So I just made the cutouts with a curved saw blade on the jigsaw. I also glued the joints of the two components (pedestal and box) flush without any routing, and then added screws. The cutout for the pedestal was also made using a jigsaw. I glued in the wide-range chamber, screwed it in and sealed it.
I intentionally left out an explanation of how to glue and/or screw boards together, since it wasn’t especially exciting or complicated for my AXIS 85 and I’m sure those steps have been shown plenty of times here before.
In the pictures, please note the sizes compared to the Needle and the CD set on top of the cabinet. Pretty good-sized. Also clearly visible: the “expanded” volume.
The floor plate of the box is shifted 10 mm inward. The wires for the external crossovers run along the outside. I wanted to use something shiny here, and I had the idea of using chrome-plated pipes. Have you ever tried to get chrome-plated copper pipes in a hardware store? You can either get very short pieces for a lot of money, or a whole roll. In the fifth hardware store I finally found fairly inexpensive one-meter-long chrome-plated copper pipes. But I had to be selective. Eight out of ten pipes were as crooked as bananas.
The chassis elements got to visit their future home for the first time.
For the wiring, I used 4 mm² silicon-coated measuring line. I know it’s not necessary, but these very flexible wires fit perfectly into the pipe without any extra wiggle room, and the wires were just lying around in my basement.
The crossovers needed to feel a little bit sophisticated and “open.” So I started working on a visual separation of the components – one structure for the left side and its mirror image for the right side. Then I sketched out the circuit board based on the look of the components. I have hidden the component values suggested by the developer. After all, intellectual property is intellectual property. You can obtain these values by ordering the assembly kit. Just to give you an idea of the size: the base plate of the crossover measures 190 x 100 x 5 mm. To determine the component positions, I just used a piece of cardboard. This cardboard template was then used to transfer the drill holes to the acrylic boards. After I had drilled what felt like 2000 holes, the boards were ready to install the equipment. The connections used 1.5 mm² copper wire.
All of the components were attached using cable ties and hot glue. I also installed two on/off switches, which were attached using small transparent 6-mm acrylic brackets. For the switch functions, let me quote from the standard assembly report to save long descriptions: “The doubled resistance through the small air coil cuts the value in half, which adds about 3 dB of volume above 7 kHz and gives the upper range additional freshness in the more heavily insulated space. The second version uses a smaller capacitor to eliminate the fairly wide-range, slight hump between 200 and 1500 Hz, which gives the voices a pleasantly warm tone.” So I can make the “switch” to adjust them anytime I want.
I inserted the damping insulation and soldered on all of the necessary wires. All of the holes for the wires were sealed with hot glue. The bass chassis elements received a layer of thin sealing tape. The wide-range speakers were given a seal made of window and door sealing tape. That makes the AX-5 about 1.5 mm bigger, exactly the dimension I needed to match the height of the AXT-8. The two rough cabinets were temporarily screwed together and connected so that they could start warming up.
I could give you my initial listening impressions at this point, but I would rather save them for the end of the report.
After precisely measuring out the necessary acrylic parts, I then cut individual strips of 5-mm-thick acrylic to size for the fronts and lids, as well as matching pieces for the sides. The material is a glossy black, as well as opaque acrylic in high-gloss white. The only small problem with the material: instead of a consistent 5-mm thickness, some spots are “only” 4.8 mm thick and some are 5.2 mm thick. That doesn’t exactly make the gluing any easier. But since I had planned in 2 mm between the acrylic cabinet and the MDF cabinet (except for the front), the fairly low tolerances faced inward. The first complication is gluing the individual strips flush with each other. Since the acrylic glue has a “pulling” effect due to the capillary action between the boards, glue can also seep out on the outside. It’s almost impossible to remove the extra glue, and your piece could be ruined… So everything needed to be handled very carefully, and put together not when the pieces were lying down but standing on edge. In order to glue together the various layers, I built a few small brackets from scraps. They held the three boards in the right positions while they were being glued.
Once the lids were finished, I started on the front panels. The important thing here was to MEASURE PRECISELY and make markings. Then I used my €35 hardware-store scroll saw for the round cutouts. The cutouts needed to be sawed very carefully, since the connections between the boards are very delicate. After about 6-7 hours of filing and sawing, and what felt like 100 rounds of stopping and making adjustments, the fronts were finally finished.
The front was matched with the height of the chassis (5.5 mm) using two-sided adhesive tape. However, it was only glued to the acrylic boards on one side, from the inside, and it acts as a spacer and decoupling so that nothing will rattle around later on. Since the cutouts are measured down to the millimeter (or rather 1/10 of a mm) and can be pushed onto the chassis with a “sucking/smacking” motion, the front does not need to be glued on. The lids and the fronts were glued together, and the side pieces were also fitted into place and glued in. Here are the two acrylic hoods in their later permanent positions.
The hoods were then put on. The padded two-sided adhesive band was also affixed to the side pieces of the MDF cabinet. In addition, several strips of Velcro were affixed (only the loop side). The acrylic cabinets “simply” slid over them from the front. The rear walls were made to size and firmly glued on to the MDF rear wall. Small bracket ridges are glued onto the rear walls. These fix the side pieces in place and prevent them from rattling. Thus no screws or anything else can be seen. Everything looks like it was cast in a single piece. When it’s clean and polished, it’s a feast for the eyes!
The pedestals were also covered with 5-cm black acrylic boards, and the BR tube was inserted from the front. Then I moved on to building the stand bases, which consist of 20-mm MDF boards. They, too, were covered in 5-mm acrylic. I applied a 20-mm-high transparent strip of acrylic all the way around the lower pedestal. About 20 mm behind that is a square wooden frame, which I simply cut to size, glued and painted matte black with spray paint.
Then came the real work. For each loudspeaker, I cut approx. 90-cm-long RGB LED strips to size and placed them around the wood frame. All of the connections had to be soldered, since unfortunately there wasn’t anything available in the length I needed. Each loudspeaker has a control module in the base, with a receiver unit. I had also already prepared wires for the later assembly of the upper LED units at the back of the pedestals. Underneath the bases, a 10-mm-thick hard foam layer decouples the speakers from the floor. The total height has now increased to an impressive 115 cm.
In addition to the individual lighting, many different lighting scenarios are possible – from string lights to flashing lights, mixed colors and so on.
I made the crossover covers and adapted them to the existing conditions. Unfortunately I had miscalculated, so I didn’t have quite enough material available. But that wasn’t a big deal. Two of the long sides are still open, but I can close them up as soon as the next opportunity arises. For now, the crossovers are protected from any expected and even unexpected handling and most of the dust.
The upper lighting was then finished. As with the pedestal, I used RGB SMD LED strips. This lighting can now be changed in pairs or for each loudspeaker, using a remote control. If desired, the left speaker can flash any color or cycle through a pre-set sequence of lights while the right speaker glows a different color, for instance. The intensity of the lighting can also be adjusted. Here are a couple of impressions:
And now a few words on the topic of listening impressions:
For the first few days, the two boxes sounded very “nasal.” It almost seemed like there was a veil over them. This “veil” was gradually drawn back one day at a time. The two speakers were played (constantly) at low volume, and sometimes a little louder in the evening. Every day, the two sounded a little bit clearer (what will they sound like once they’ve been playing for a couple of months?). My old Sony amplifier (from the ’80s) did an amazingly good job with the Axis speakers. Gradually, I started listening to all kinds of musical genres on them. What can I say?! The (old) Needles are really outstanding (although not very loud); but I think that what the AXIS 85s achieved here is truly impressive by comparison. I hadn’t realized how badly some CDs are recorded. My “BLAB AXIS 85s” mercilessly show me which recordings are good and which ones are poorly recorded. When they are facing the listening spot, the wide-range speakers show off what they can do. The “support” from the basses is a very satisfying addition to it all. So I listened to all kinds of music: Maria Mena, Schiller with Jette von Roth/ Kim Sanders Isgaard/ etc. Heppner, Despina Vandi, Adele, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, Tracy Chapman, Sade, Yello, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, Nirvana, Evanescence, Genesis, AC/DC… but also Depeche Mode, Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and much more. It’s hard to explain – after all, I’m a layman here. Let me try to describe my impressions here. Please don’t be upset if I explain something wrong. The speakers sound very “grown up.” They also play very well at low volume, but they really get going when the volume is cranked up. The bass sounds like a bass rather than a smashed kind of droning, which we are unfortunately very familiar with. The bass is very crisp and direct. The high notes are very clean, without any hissing or the often-mentioned exaggerated S-sounds. The mid-range is clear and unobtrusive. Even at a high volume, nothing really changes. It stays the way it is: very “clean,” just louder.
It’s really fun to listen to music now. I can pick out the instruments, and it seems like they’re actually in the room. The singers sound like they’re standing in the room and giving it their best. I think that’s the “stage” that the Needles are also very good at representing, but the AXIS 85 produces it much more clearly and precisely. What can I say, I’m very excited. The sound completely meets my expectations, even exceeds them. Very impressive for this price-performance ratio.
Special thanks go to the team at Loudspeakerbuilding.com. Without the brain power that you are always investing in your “compositions,” many of us would still be sitting in front of plastic sound cubes or handing over huge piles of money for readymade speakers. To be honest, I wouldn’t have thought that these two speakers could sound so good, at such a good price. But you matched my listening taste 100%. And with a little creativity and brain power on my part, I was able to create these little “MAICOXIS 85s.”
Nonstop music -