Now that I am writing this, I realize something: I don’t know exactly when and where it began in my case, this tinkering with loudspeakers. It’s not all that important, after all. But sometime in the late autumn of last year, when I was putting a few plants in the cellar for the winter, they popped up in my frame of vision again: my first speaker boxes, the ones I had built during my school days in the last century. After a bit of calculation I determined that they are turning 37; in the past 30 years or so, they have hardly been used or not at all.
The reason is as simple as it is banal: sometime after finishing my studies and starting a family, I bought my first stereo system. It included some good speakers that matched the curtains better. The old boxes were safely stored away. As I mentioned, I found them again last fall. When I saw them, I felt weak in the knees; and during this highly emotional moment (yes, men have feelings too) I felt a desire to pull them back out and listen to them. But what a surprise: they, too, are showing the effects of time. The rubber surround material in the woofers had clearly passed its use-by date, and could no longer be saved. The listening session was cancelled, and the mood was grim.
Oh well, when it came down to it, the boxes weren’t that great. Lovingly, but without much crafting skill, I had put the cabinets together using teak scraps from a local level factory, planed and sanded them. (Yes, people, that’s how poor we were in those days: we only had mechanic’s levels made of wood, without any batteries, lasers or an app from the internet. The cutouts for the chassis were terrible from today’s point of view… but given the materials we had available at the time, we’ll leave that alone. So what should we do? The mid-range and the tweeter were still working. Install a new woofer, or something completely new?
My online research constantly turned up heroic sagas and songs of praise for this online loudspeaker magazine. There were many stories to read, and my desire to do something myself was rapidly growing. But which of the boxes to choose from the diverse assortment? My hesitation was not a disadvantage – on the contrary. After polling public opinion, we created the “Volksbox” (people’s box) in the form of the Vota.
The Vota 2 became the object of my desire; but I wanted it to be a single piece, in other words one cabinet. The cabinet shape and appearance needed to move away from the usual edges and corners – just something a little different. This train of thought took a bit of time – time in which Rüdiger and Fritz had already built their boxes and published their reports. In November, I presented my first drafts to the public. At the time, Below was already working on building a single-piece Vota. Matthias (Da) helped me decide on the cabinet details.
In the meantime, I decided to outfit the old boxes with a new TT Modell 08-15. After all, you need a basis for comparison. I was surprised by how good the boxes sounded after 30 years of rest. But… I still had no idea what I had coming to me with the Vota...
The planning and design ultimately used a layered construction (also known as a sandwich). All of my beginner’s questions were patiently answered, and there was some useful advice here and there, too. You might accuse me of wastefulness, but since I had never worked with MDF before, this design seemed to be the best shape for my purposes. Especially since all of the rounded edges needed to be nice and even.
Fortunately there is a wood wholesaler near where I live, where you can have wood cut to size and which is significantly cheaper than the hardware stores in the surrounding area. In the end, everything was peaches and cream: 2 large 19-mm MDF boards (2.07 x 2.80 m) were sawn into convenient pieces according to my instructions, and then shipped to my basement at home. From now on, there was no turning back!
Once I had stocked up my tool collection and built the odd auxiliary device (like a routing compass), I got started in February. Some of the smaller plates were processed (more or less thoroughly) so that they could be used as a template for the individual shift. The areas for the later cavities and rounded areas were cut out roughly from each layer with a jigsaw; the details were then added with a trimming cutter.
Once I had put up all of the pictures in my gallery, Matthias (Da) (feigning innocence) asked about the dust: “Who cleaned up all of the dust?”
Those of you who have worked with MDF before, and Matthias (Da) seems to have had some special experiences there, certainly know that even multiple vacuum cleaners are not really enough. We recommend that anyone working with MDF – sawing, routing, sanding, etc. – wear adequate breathing protection.
Some of the work – to the extent that the temperatures allowed – was performed outside. Then the wind blew away anything the vacuum cleaners had missed.
Once the individual pieces were milled, I screwed them together. Not everything worked at first, and some refurbishment was necessary. So I was able to reuse a few scraps right away.
In the next step, the individual parts were glued together gradually on my “glue press.” Another blast from the past: I used the same wood glue I had used for my old boxes. Not everything was so bad before, and some things weren’t even different.
The loudspeaker chassis elements came into the house in early March, but needed to wait their turn to be used. It was not until late March that both cabinets were glued together; the loudspeaker holes were cut out with the router, the edges rounded, and the occasional uneven spot was spackled.
In between, I soldered the crossovers together on thin MDF boards, completely in violation of my professional training. Now there was nothing stopping me. Forget about the big finish – let’s have a listening test first. So I threw the crossovers, Sonofil and speakers into the boxes.
When you screw the chassis into the boxes, it’s a good idea to pre-drill the screw holes. I had read that somewhere before. It’s not solid wood, after all, but MDF, so the screw holes are over-wound – or if they are screwed in near the edge, like the chassis elements – a piece of the board can easily break off.
Then it was time to connect the boxes to the amplifier, put a CD in and get started.
First I listened to Mario Biondi (This is what you are) – (a nice bass and a beautiful trumpet, not to mention the grand piano…). Then came a few pieces from Riverdance (without words). Let’s hear how it sounds with classical music: the Delibes/Lakme Flower Duet – then it was really time for Spring (Vivaldi), but that was soon followed by Summer, Fall and Winter. A different direction: Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan (what a beautiful old double bass), then Master of the Universe by Hawkwind (something a little louder). Then it was time for bed, and the boxes asked, “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?” (Doky Brothers). But before I could end the first listening session, Ivy Quainoo first had to ask me: “Do You Like What You See?” “Well, I like what I see and I like what I hear,” was my response, citing Mario Biondi, and I headed off with a deep sense of satisfaction.
Once I had demonstrated the boxes to my two boys with a proudly swollen breast, it was even harder to think about ripping the chassis elements out of the cabinets again. The younger generation’s comments on the sound had been completely positive. But the cabinets didn’t have any feet yet, and I still hadn’t decided on the final look. I had eyed some veneer, but then stayed away from it just to be safe.
Only when I had designed and added the feet for the boxes did I show them to my wife and let her listen to them. While she was out shopping, I dragged the raw boxes from the basement to the living room, admittedly breaking into a light sweat due to the weight of almost 38 kg per box. I temporarily hooked up the amplifier, CD player and tuner, and moved the armchair into position.
During the construction period, my darling had already put up with plenty of noise and dust, and she wasn’t very excited about the size of the boxes. In addition, I hadn’t discussed the box-building project with her in advance. Not to mention the cabinet that you can’t even set anything on...
Well, when a man is as happy as a small child, that softens the female heart. At least, that’s how it worked with my wife. Even though it hasn’t been decided yet whether the boxes can stay in the living room for the long term or just temporarily, I want to extend my sincere thanks to my wife at this point!!
The choice of cabinet color was unanimous: Cream (RAL 9001). Because it promised better results, I chose the solvent-based paint. Or is it thinner-based? Either way, cream was the solution (so maybe it is a solvent…?) ;)
While painting, I strongly recommend that you use a suitable breathing mask. That way the trash goes in the bin and the cordless phone ends up back in the base station. Below knows what I mean – the rest of you can read his report sometime.
There were still a few steps left before I could spray on the paint: spackling – sanding – spackling – sanding – spray spackle – sanding – spray spackle – sanding – primer – sanding – primer - sanding – and then (nuclear meltdown) it happened: while I was moving one of the boxes around the garage on my DIY paint stand, the holder for the box broke. Fortunately I still had my hands on the box and was able to keep it from falling off, but I crashed it into the second box next to it. As a result, both of the boxes now had medium-serious, definitely visible defects in the primer, and the completion was delayed even more. All in all, though, I was lucky. The damages were minor and were easy to rectify. So this misstep could also turn up in the “Frustration Thread.” Anyway, I fixed the primer and did some more sanding – finally, the 1st coat of paint – sanding and final coat (primer and paint applied with a foam rubber roller). My patience was once again sorely tested when I had to wait for the paint to dry completely.
The big day came on May 1 – what they call the wedding day in automobile construction. Even if they can’t hold a candle to my wife, the Votas do look pretty good. Even my daughter and her boyfriend were impressed by the sound and look of the boxes. So far, the Votas are only temporarily connected.
The next thing I need to do is to build the right piece of furniture for the amplifier, etc. …
Given the amount of music out there, I refuse to pick one musical genre. Why listen to just one when you can have them all? That’s why I need loudspeakers that present my chosen music in a way that makes listening fun rather than a chore. Now that I’ve heard the Votas, I finally know what that sounds like.
The original Vota report describes the listening experience as follows: “when I got back home, I still had a smile on my face.” I can understand that smile very well. I suffer the same side effects when I’m sitting in front of the Vota(s). And the effects are amplified when I actually turn on the music.
And now for the part that’s harder to capture in pictures and words: trying to write a sound description. Let me say in advance that I completely agree with Rüdiger and his comment, “You have to hear it and form your own opinion.” I followed the listening sessions in Darmstadt online, since the trip to the closest Intertechnik listening studio was a little too far for me. So I made a “deaf” purchase of the assembly kit, and did not regret it.
I’ve already mentioned my first listening impression, but here is a little longer description.
I was especially impressed by the clarity of what I heard. There are voices and instruments now in places where there used to be nothing. I feel like most of it comes from the tweeter. The bass, too, which I would like to describe (and am therefore describing) as dry but warm and appropriately, even pleasantly, powerful makes a wonderful addition. It’s not a braggart – it doesn’t need to be. It’s just there when it’s needed.
And when the Votas need to growl, they do that too. Unlike speakers where you can’t tell who is in the “growlbox” because everything sounds so squashed together, you need to exercise caution with the Vota: the growling is clear and distinct. There’s a lion in the box – or maybe right outside the door? You can hear the cat – but where is it? There’s nothing to be seen. Be careful! But cats can purr too, as can the Vota – it wraps you up gently and delicately…
When Chan Chan played for the first time, I thought at first there was something wrong with the bass, and I looked to the amplifier and the box for the cause. After all, I had read many times that the boxes needed to be broken in. None of that was true. My ears just weren’t used to hearing anything like that. There was a real wooden double bass! As real as if it were standing right there in my basement. Figuratively speaking, I could almost see the strings vibrating under the player’s fingers, how the wood in the instrument started to vibrate and form those little circles in my soda on the table, the way they do in cases like this.
Oh, right – whether or not there were really two oboes, two clarinets, two basset horns, four French horns, two bassoons and a double bass in the living room – as had been claimed – is not something I’m qualified to judge, based on my lack of technical and acoustic skills. But I’m willing to believe it. It sounded good anyway, very good. ;)
I can already hear Heino singing: Fella, you’ve got the Vota – the one I wanted to have … And I’ll respond: Yes, I have the Vota – and I even built it myself!
I also want to thank my youngest son at this point for proofreading my assembly report, commenting on it and adding all kinds of red marks before I submitted it, giving it back to me with a benevolent smile.
The Vota 2 assembly kits are available from Intertechnik