Best Budget DIY Speaker Kit?

Todd Anderson

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I'm helping a friend navigate budget speaker waters and have been starting to poke around in a world I don't have a lot of experience with: DIY kits.

If someone gave you $500 to buy front channel speakers (L,C,R) and you knew you would need a horizontal center, what kind of kits would you steer toward?
 

FrankV

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East Sussex, UK
Hi Todd,

That's a tight budget but the first thing I would do is swat up on centre speaker designs so as to avoid the combing pitfalls. Here's a good start with some nice graphics to help with understanding the problems:

In my case with LXmini for the mains, I just constructed another one with a bent tube for the centre to keep the height down. I measured and listened to the prototype centre side by side with one of the mains and they were pretty much identical:
50419

Sound a bit different in situ due to being closer to the floor and the rear wall. but still heaps better than a mid-range Klipsch I had there before.

Drivers for a 3 x 2-way system would probably eat most of the budget, but the rest of the parts are relatively cheap, depending on the amount of "DIY" one is prepared to put in, such as cutting and shaping wood for the driver holders and base.

If that sort of DIY is not desirable, complete kits are available but will push the budget up by around 50%. 6 channels of amplification and a dsp will be required which may push up the cost again, depending on what your friend may already have to hand. On the plus side, audio quality wise they will easily blow away a $5000 pair of brand name speakers and would quite comfortably give a $10000 pair a run for their money!

Good luck!
Frank
 

bowl_actually

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If you're looking for pre-designed kits that you put together, which is what I think of when I use the term "kit." There are 3 "go to" sources for speakers kits in the USA.




If I were handed $500 and asked for a recommendation, I would go with the ER15 center channel kit from Meniscus.
 

Todd Anderson

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Preamp, Processor or Receiver
StormAudio ISP.24 MK2
Main Amp
Emotiva XPA-5
Additional Amp
Emotiva XPA Gen3 2.8 multichannel amp
Other Amp
Denon X8500H
Computer Audio
AudioEngine A2+
DAC
THX ONYX
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape TERRA, OPPO UDP-203, Panasonic UB9000
Front Speakers
GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R
Center Channel Speaker
GoldenEar Technology SuperCenter Reference
Surround Speakers
SVS Ultra Surround
Surround Back Speakers
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
Front Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Front, Top Mid-Front)
Rear Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Middle, Top Rear)
Subwoofers
dual SVS SB16s + dual PSA XS30s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Behringer 1124p; Aura Bass Shaker Pros; SuperSub X
Video Display Device
JVC NX7
Screen
Seymour Screen Excellence, Enlightor NEO AT Screen
Streaming Equipment
iFi Audio Zen Blue
Streaming Subscriptions
Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, ROON
Other Equipment
LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F, ZeroSurge 8R15W x 2, ZeroSurge 2R15W x 2
Thanks for the links, @bowl_actually! That ER15 kit is for components/drivers only, correct?
 

Todd Anderson

Editor / Senior Admin
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Thread Starter
Joined
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Messages
9,223
Location
Balt/Wash Metro
More  
Preamp, Processor or Receiver
StormAudio ISP.24 MK2
Main Amp
Emotiva XPA-5
Additional Amp
Emotiva XPA Gen3 2.8 multichannel amp
Other Amp
Denon X8500H
Computer Audio
AudioEngine A2+
DAC
THX ONYX
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape TERRA, OPPO UDP-203, Panasonic UB9000
Front Speakers
GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R
Center Channel Speaker
GoldenEar Technology SuperCenter Reference
Surround Speakers
SVS Ultra Surround
Surround Back Speakers
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
Front Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Front, Top Mid-Front)
Rear Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Middle, Top Rear)
Subwoofers
dual SVS SB16s + dual PSA XS30s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Behringer 1124p; Aura Bass Shaker Pros; SuperSub X
Video Display Device
JVC NX7
Screen
Seymour Screen Excellence, Enlightor NEO AT Screen
Streaming Equipment
iFi Audio Zen Blue
Streaming Subscriptions
Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, ROON
Other Equipment
LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F, ZeroSurge 8R15W x 2, ZeroSurge 2R15W x 2
Hi Todd,

That's a tight budget but the first thing I would do is swat up on centre speaker designs so as to avoid the combing pitfalls. Here's a good start with some nice graphics to help with understanding the problems:

In my case with LXmini for the mains, I just constructed another one with a bent tube for the centre to keep the height down. I measured and listened to the prototype centre side by side with one of the mains and they were pretty much identical:
View attachment 50419
Sound a bit different in situ due to being closer to the floor and the rear wall. but still heaps better than a mid-range Klipsch I had there before.

Drivers for a 3 x 2-way system would probably eat most of the budget, but the rest of the parts are relatively cheap, depending on the amount of "DIY" one is prepared to put in, such as cutting and shaping wood for the driver holders and base.

If that sort of DIY is not desirable, complete kits are available but will push the budget up by around 50%. 6 channels of amplification and a dsp will be required which may push up the cost again, depending on what your friend may already have to hand. On the plus side, audio quality wise they will easily blow away a $5000 pair of brand name speakers and would quite comfortably give a $10000 pair a run for their money!

Good luck!
Frank

Interesting idea to bend the center channel...

The LX Mini was one of the first speakers kits I mentioned to my buddy. I've heard them before, but only for 2-ch playback, never for home theater. I've done some poking around and read mixed reviews on using them for HT duty. What kind of usage do yours get?
 

bowl_actually

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Joined
Mar 4, 2020
Messages
29
Thanks for the links, @bowl_actually! That ER15 kit is for components/drivers only, correct?

Yes I don't believe there is an option for the box. Shipping wood for the boxes is sometimes not the best, so many of these don't ship boxes. I guess they figure if you're doing the "DIY" thing, you can build the box, but I understand that's not always the case. Do be aware that most of the "big box store" and probably your local hardware, will cut the wood to the sizes you need. But of course things like cutting port holes, etc. they won't do.

Great video, Erin always does a great job.

Of course this topic of center channels is always a difficult one because it so depends on your environment. Yes, I would love to have the same speaker as one of my 4' tall R/L towers for my center channel. And if I did that it would sit right in front of the screen and I couldn't see anything! hahah, But it would sound goodI

I have two different listening situations, In one setup, I can add a reasonable deep Horizontal center as I have space below my screen to put it. But I don't have the vertical space to put a bookshelf speaker.

For my other situation, I have the TV mounted to the wall as there is really no way to get it out in the room. That presents a huge center channel problem and I have fought with a lot. How to get a reasonable sound from something thin enough to go on the wall either underneath or on top of the TV. I'm about ready to rip out the sheetrock and at least build something deeper that actually extends back into the wall.

And due to the problems Erin talks about, I'm probably going to design something with a single "full range" speaker. Having a single full range speaker gets around some of the issues Erin talks about, but of course you're limited to the power/SPL of a single driver. The good news is that for voice reproduction, there are single full range drivers that can work. Check out the drivers from markaudio as they have some nice full range offerings. A bonus is that you don't have to create a crossover! But I would recommend a simple high pass crossover to prevent any really low frequencies from trashing your full range speaker if you go that route.
 

FrankV

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Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Messages
23
Location
East Sussex, UK
What kind of usage do yours get?
I use mine for both 2-ch and 7+1+4. For surround mode, only the front L,R & C are LXminis. Also, the L & R are now LXmini+2 as I have two 10" dipole subs. In addition, there are four 10" conventional subs in the room corners which are driven from the LFE channel, leaving the LXmini subs for music and front channel only. The rear surrounds are B&W M2 and the ceiling Atmos speakers are Kef coaxials. I designed and built my own DSP preamp and 8-channel amp boxes for the active crossovers which has given me the ability to completely bypass the AVR for 2-ch audio if required.

I have a difficult media room as it is square and with three walls with large doors and glass. The room effectively becomes wider than deeper as far as seating is concerned and this is where the LXminis leave my previous Harbeth main speakers for dead as their uncanny dispersion characteristics means the side seats still get a pretty wide image without the sound collapsing into the nearest box. There is some debate as to whether a centre speaker is required at all with the LXminis and from my tests I would support this up to a point, but have found that when moving to the far left or right extremes in the room (much wider than the front main speakers) a real centre helps to nail voices more to the screen centre.
 

Todd Anderson

Editor / Senior Admin
Staff member
Thread Starter
Joined
Jan 20, 2017
Messages
9,223
Location
Balt/Wash Metro
More  
Preamp, Processor or Receiver
StormAudio ISP.24 MK2
Main Amp
Emotiva XPA-5
Additional Amp
Emotiva XPA Gen3 2.8 multichannel amp
Other Amp
Denon X8500H
Computer Audio
AudioEngine A2+
DAC
THX ONYX
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape TERRA, OPPO UDP-203, Panasonic UB9000
Front Speakers
GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R
Center Channel Speaker
GoldenEar Technology SuperCenter Reference
Surround Speakers
SVS Ultra Surround
Surround Back Speakers
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
Front Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Front, Top Mid-Front)
Rear Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Middle, Top Rear)
Subwoofers
dual SVS SB16s + dual PSA XS30s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Behringer 1124p; Aura Bass Shaker Pros; SuperSub X
Video Display Device
JVC NX7
Screen
Seymour Screen Excellence, Enlightor NEO AT Screen
Streaming Equipment
iFi Audio Zen Blue
Streaming Subscriptions
Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, ROON
Other Equipment
LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F, ZeroSurge 8R15W x 2, ZeroSurge 2R15W x 2
I use mine for both 2-ch and 7+1+4. For surround mode, only the front L,R & C are LXminis. Also, the L & R are now LXmini+2 as I have two 10" dipole subs. In addition, there are four 10" conventional subs in the room corners which are driven from the LFE channel, leaving the LXmini subs for music and front channel only. The rear surrounds are B&W M2 and the ceiling Atmos speakers are Kef coaxials. I designed and built my own DSP preamp and 8-channel amp boxes for the active crossovers which has given me the ability to completely bypass the AVR for 2-ch audio if required.

I have a difficult media room as it is square and with three walls with large doors and glass. The room effectively becomes wider than deeper as far as seating is concerned and this is where the LXminis leave my previous Harbeth main speakers for dead as their uncanny dispersion characteristics means the side seats still get a pretty wide image without the sound collapsing into the nearest box. There is some debate as to whether a centre speaker is required at all with the LXminis and from my tests I would support this up to a point, but have found that when moving to the far left or right extremes in the room (much wider than the front main speakers) a real centre helps to nail voices more to the screen centre.

I'm guessing that subs are an absolute must for home theater duty?
 

FrankV

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Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Messages
23
Location
East Sussex, UK
I'm guessing that subs are an absolute must for home theater duty?
I would think so. Can't see the point to torture the main speakers with gazzilion watts of rumble from movie effects!
In my case, the system has grown organically and is still a work in progress. The four corner subs are driven via DSP with the results of measurements and MSO processing determining each channels filters for most even low frequencies across the seating positions. I plan to build two more dipole subs and use these to replace the four corner units if they can be as effective at balacing out the LFE channel. The dipole subs tend to create less standing waves at 90 degrees and hence do not stir up room resonances quite so much.
 
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