The following article doesn’t have anything to do with a conference schedule or a panel of judges, fortunately… the heading is a reference to how I went about creating my finish. But first let me start with a couple of comments about do-it-yourself projects in general. Like many people, I eventually got to the point where the systems available in stores were no longer satisfactory, and I started looking around for something new. In my case, I had spent twelve very good years with a Teufel Theater 2; since I always have music playing in the background as soon as I walk through the door, it was simply time for something new. My whole process, from the initial research to the finished product, will probably be very familiar to newbies and old hands alike. You know how it is – despite all of your interest and the constant supply of new information on the topic, there was always that question in the back of your mind: Were you too inexperienced to make something as complex as a loudspeaker.
To answer the question right away, no, you’re not too inexperienced – and I hope this building report will help prove it to the reader. I guarantee that I didn’t have any kind of technical training ahead of time. I can put together an IKEA bookshelf, but I am by no means blessed by the god of handymen. I think many people will recognize themselves in this report – even some more experienced box builders, if they’re being honest with themselves.
In any case, as my wife can sadly attest, my handyman skills are definitely in the poor to mediocre range. That’s why, like many of you, I spent four to six months thinking about a DIY project, and when it got down to the details, I set it aside again. I just didn’t have the courage to do it. I read everything I could find about the different kinds of boxes; once I had chosen my favorites, I reread every word, especially the sound descriptions, two or three times. When I was finally ready to hit the Order button, two questions suddenly came to mind:
How much time will I be spending on this project? 3 weeks? 4 weeks? Maybe even 6 or 7 weeks?
How much money will I be investing in this project? Shouldn’t I figure in another fifty in gas expenses to go convince myself it’s a good idea?
Long story short, I decided to make the trip – 220 km each way, and the extra fifty for gas – and I went to the listening studio with two clear favorites in mind (the Little Princess was definitely not one of them, since I wanted a home theater). And now we come to the part that changed everything.
The in-person listening experience
By the time I drove away, all of my plans and clear approaches had been completely scrapped. My own impressions, from listening to the boxes I had chosen based on the sound reports, were nothing like what I had imagined from the descriptions. What I really wanted was nowhere on my original list. So I had to revise my ideas and rethink everything. In the process, one thing became clear: Those last-minute concerns as my mouse hovered over the Order button had saved me. Not because the system I had chosen was bad – by no means – but because it wasn’t at all what I had imagined. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I had spent two months tinkering away at it in my basement. That’s why I strongly encourage everyone to go to the studio and listen to your favorites first, given the time and cost involved, and given the fact that you don’t build your own boxes very often. I guarantee you won’t regret it. But enough with the introduction – let’s get to the details.
I started by asking some of the users in the forum about their round structures, since I didn’t want to build square loudspeakers. But more and more concerns came up about the cabinet finish, and finally I decided to go back to the square shape. I wanted to try something “new,” though. Since, like many of the people here in the forum, I prefer a very shiny finish, more like a piano, I spent countless hours researching it online. It became increasingly clear that the precision and effort required to get anywhere close to that finish would be enormous, and would take significant technical skill. There it was again. Wasn’t I missing something?…
As coincidence would have it, one day I was standing in a public building and waiting for an elevator. I looked at the paneling, which was made of white-painted glass. That was it – something that was easier to care for than paint (microfiber cloth and glass cleaner), didn’t scratch as easily, and looked just as good. My enthusiasm was unbounded. That was exactly what I had been searching for all this time. On my way down, I used my smartphone to get some information online. By the time I got home, I had already clicked on that famous Order button.
When the glass arrived (it’s called “Lacobel,” and you can get it in many other colors, too), I was thrilled. It was reflective, with a deep black shine. The perfect finish, forming the basis for all the rest of my planning. In order to give the glass a little contrast (the back side of the glass is painted the same color, which gives it the feeling of depth), I decided to use a stainless-steel baffle board. Because of the cost, though, I had to switch from the full-metal version to a wood version with stainless-steel panels. The front panels are 2-mm stainless-steel sheets.
With that, the concept was finished, in the form of paneled front and side pieces. I ordered the wood from my local cabinetmaking shop and asked to have the chassis cutouts done at the same time.
However, the time I saved by not doing the cutouts myself turned out to be a mistake. The cabinetmaker wasn’t quite as precise as I had wanted, so I spent the first two afternoons with a box cutter, making the pre-cut holes the right size for the loudspeaker chassis. It turned out to be a very complicated task. My plan for the finish involved not making the precious glass panes even with the front edges, but keeping a one-millimeter projection all the way around. So I had to widen each of the holes while making sure they were precisely centered with the existing stainless-steel plate. Unfortunately there are no photos of this step, since it took all of my concentration to do it, dripping with sweat and cursing loudly. My wife even came down to the hobby room, which she normally never visits, to see if I was doing all right.
Once that was done, I finally started assembling the cabinets. There’s not much to be said about gluing the boards together. Since the cabinetmaker had drilled parallel countersinking holes for dowels into the individual parts, it was almost impossible for the pieces to slide accidentally. So the assembly was really child’s play. I should mention, though, that I didn’t use the rightfully praised joint glue for this step, but rather a special cabinetmaker’s glue. There were two reasons for that – for one thing, it is extremely runny and even easier to apply than joint glue, and for another, it swells slightly and creates an air-tight seal.
On the left, you can clearly see the consistency of the glue right after it was applied, along with the inserted wooden dowels. On the right, you can see that clamps are sometimes very helpful, too.
Next came the problem of the crossovers, during the drying phase. Since I’m not exactly a virtuoso with a soldering iron either, I started putting them together early, while I was still planning the cabinets. I’ve done some soldering before, but never according to a circuit diagram. So I gave myself plenty of time and spent a week putting together four crossovers for a bi-amping connection, piece by piece, every evening after work.
The provided circuit diagram is easy to understand, and with enough time, even non-experts can end up with fairly passable results. If I hadn’t been seized by the ambition to create a visually pleasing order on the circuit board, too, it probably would have gone much faster and been much simpler. But the more time you spend on the project, the more you get out of it. The results are sometimes not necessarily what you expected.
Now the crossovers were waiting peacefully on the shelf and could be installed in the cabinets as soon as the glue was dry (it dries to the touch after about a day, and is fully hardened after 5 days).
In the top picture you can see the swollen, rock-hard glue in the corners. The white boards inside the cabinet were used to reinforce the rear wall of the cabinet. I cut a channel into them that was 10 mm deep, 8 mm wide and 600 mm long.
Then I glued an LED strip into the channel using silicon, and finally glued on the rear wall and cabinet floor using carbon film and a squeegee.
Then it was time to tackle the highly anticipated front side. First I roughly painted all of the chassis holes with black spray paint so that the MDF wouldn’t show up though any gaps later on. Then I positioned the loudspeakers in the intended holes. I had pre-drilled all of the chassis screws so that the MDF wouldn’t crack. After that, I attached the stainless-steel panel to the front, using special glue from the hardware store. Finally, the whole thing got to sit and dry for a day.
Once the front panel had hardened, I started on the glass sides. Since I had the dimensions now (the front panel with the projecting edges on both sides), I was able to determine the size of the glass panes and attach them using mirror silicone. When I asked, the glass supplier strongly recommended that I use a special glue that would not show through the coating later on. I was also able to create the planned overhang of the glass panes by making slight corrections with an underlay material. The pole terminal plate for the bi-amping switch, seen above, also has connections for the integrated lighting and a plastic cover for the LED bar. And yes, the side walls are reflective, too…
Now the Little Princess was done. So, about the sound. It should be clear by now that after my own experiences, I don’t think much of the sound descriptions. But since they’re part of every building report, I can’t get around it. Unfortunately, in addition to my lack of divinely inspired technical skills, I am also missing the usual flowery, verbose writing skills. Still, I’ll give it a try so as not to disappoint the reader.
I put on George Michael’s “Don’t let the sun go down on me,” Hanne Boel’s “Child of Paradise” and Matchbox 20’s “3 A.M.” I’ve heard all of those songs countless times, but they’ve never rung out in my living room with such purity, clarity and force. The highs were so clear, the mid-range was so precise, and the bass was just plain clean. The kind of sound that leaves you speechless. You listen to every individual note with deep concentration rather than hearing the music in the background. Even at low volume (-25 dB), the sound fills the room; you can hear every note clearly, but you can also have a conversation about the sound with someone at the same time if you want.
What else can I write about my personal impressions? I’m glad to have started so far at “the top,” because once you throw all of your concerns overboard and dare to take on the project, it really should match up to the desired goal in the end. And does it ever! Music is a completely new experience now, a revelation. The issue of music had been a little left behind with all of the home-theater Dolby Digital hoopla, but now it’s much more than just “accompaniment” for me. Once again, I’m listening to music in pure stereo – just let someone try to touch the Dolby Digital remote… It’s simply tone, power, purity and pure joy.
Are you thinking about a do-it-yourself project and having doubts? Go ahead, it’s worthwhile. I believe you can get decent results, and my burning enthusiasm is hard to hide. Now I have to go listen to some music, and I’m not going to do anything else in the meantime – I’m just going to listen.
I want to thank Maren and Dieter, who set me on the right path with their helpful advice, even if the end result was different than we expected. I also want to thank the Intertechnik team for their unshakeable patience and their speed in answering all of my questions. Finally, I need to thank my wife for putting up with a box-building husband who talked about measurements and sound pressure even in his sleep.