Mid Century Modern Speaker From 90s Road Trash

[BarryAbrams] found some 90s speakers on the side of the road.  At first he thought he might have made a real score, but his coworker who knows about this sort of thing (we all have one) let him know they were merely average. Undaunted, he removed the speakers from their MDF housing, fixed a small dent in one of the tweeters, and got to work.

He cut a new frame for the speakers out of plywood. He adorned the plywood box with maple and walnut from a local supplier. The box then got a coat of urethane. His skill at sign making showed in the final finish, and the wood looks very good. Our only complaint is the straight legs instead of the slightly angled and tapered ones common to mid-century modern furniture style.

The electronics are a Chinese amp and a Sonos knock-off. [Barry] only needed to control the volume and power for the speaker set. He came up with a clever 3D-printed knob and switch configuration. When the volume is turned all the way down the speaker set turns off.

The end result sounds and looks better than anything he could get for the $125 US Dollars he spent on the project. We certainly wouldn’t complain if this were a fixture in our living space.

[via r/diy]


22 thoughts on “Mid Century Modern Speaker From 90s Road Trash

  1. I really hate this. Huge amounts of time went in the appearance of the box, almost nothing in the sound quality.
    I also prefer the original 70s design to his fake midcentury one. Basically he ruined the speakers, both the look and the audio quality.

    1. Well, I doubt this new enclosure made the sound appreciably worse, but that’s only because those speakers were so poor to begin with even when they were brand new.

      For all the time and effort that went into the woodworking, [BarryAbrams] would have been much better off purchasing some modern drivers from someone like Parts Express. Drivers of *much* better quality than these really aren’t all that expensive.

      1. Exactly, even garbage speaker drivers from today are worlds better than the stuff from the distant past. I recently helped a friend rebuild a set of Klipschorns he was going to have the drivers sent out for full rebuild and restoration at the tune of $1500. I had some junk Pyle stuff laying around so we mounted them in the cabinets. It sounded as good as his fully restored set and impressed him to not bother with paying for the driver rebuild.

      1. exactly.

        i clicked because it’s a speaker build, and i have an addiction to things that make noise. disappointed in the final choices, but it’s not my build. i can definitely respect the attention to detail that went into the enclosure, even if it’s not the way i would’ve done it.

        that said, this reminds me i have a set of 1950’s-ish jenson’s speakers that could use much of the same treatment. if i update them, i’ll be sure to send a link into hackaday

  2. Curious why he had to laminate his hardwood stock. Agreed with all of the comments about neglecting the physics and acoustics bits, even as a degree-d “audio engineer” I kinda dig the vibe anyway.

  3. Basically his is a sound bar that is probably too heavy and awkward for most rooms. I assume he duplicated the original enclosure, so I don’t understand how the performance of the original speskers was ruined. Tho outward temperance in only about fashion taste,as long it meets the builder’s desire, I’m not sure why anyone would be worried about that. A next move is to add an additional box atop the speaker box to house a receiver and CD player ,and a cassette tape deck if one still has usable tapes.. Not something that would work well in my space, but it wasn’t built for me. I can appreciate the effort put ino this vuild fro based on cast offs.

  4. One of the speakers has a blemish in the foam surround better ask the misses for some nail polish, before it gets any worse…
    Put a dab of black on there to keep from getting worse…
    Is there a divider in between the two sides inside?
    To help with stereo separation?


    1. Snip:
      “Some customers were so satisfied with the results of lacquering their speakers that they lacquered
      their enclosures as well and were satisfied with the improvement”
      From your link(above), I could never do this to a good set of speakers, you meant for repair only?
      From the link they talk about coating the hole speaker for sound improvement. Try to get warrantee on these,
      After a coat job :-)


  5. I have a “sort of” equivalent…a bit better pedigree, MUCH better construction, but eh…

    The year was 1987. I had to take a hiatus from school, and worked at good ole Radio Shack.
    Now-please stop laughing and listen:

    RS DID actually make some pretty good equipment. I admit the “Mach One” 12″ woofer speakers were an embarrassment, but I looked at the “Optimus” line of speakers, and their penultimate (and final) offering, the T120.

    Ten inch woofers, five inch midrange, one inch domed tweeter. An actual proper crossover network, adjustable, and Walnut veneer-covered enclosures. Yes, mama, REAL wood, as in get out the furniture polish.

    One square foot base, about four feet tall. about 30 lbs each. Massively built, and it showed. And they were being discontinued… So, between all the factors (include holiday, clearance and employee discounts) two of the best speakers in the world-for less than $150 total.

    Now, all was not light and happiness. I used them, HARD, for a good long time. Eventually, I had to repair one crossover (melted under a real 100Wrms amplifier) and replace five out of six drivers (one tweeter survived). During that time period RS could still source “replacements”, but in the end, whenever I could upgrade, I did. The last was poly woofers for the original paper.

    So…here we are, in 2016, almost thirty years later…and they still work! It just adds to what I already know:

    1. Never buy crap
    2. Look for diamonds in the rough
    3. Never replace if you can repair

    4. Marketing hype is for suckers
    (do you honestly thing a .1% difference in THD is worth $300?)

    1. fyi– not that it applys to your case, but parts express currently sells a replacement 15″ woofer for the ‘realistic mach 1’ speakers– there’s that much of a following that it’s worth them offering it…

      i’ve still got a couple realistic speakers i’ve picked up from various sources over the years– right next to some of klh products that are no longer made. i have a bad addiction for floor standing speakers..

  6. i always wonder why people seem to feel the need to change chipboard enclosures for plywood. they used chipboard for a good reason. higher density.so better acoustical properties.

  7. Two tips. Paint grills flat black or brown or that stage black-blue before covering them regardless of the color of grill cloth but especially if it’s light colored or white. You will need a web thru the middle on such a oblong shape. The cloth stretched across will eventually shrink and deform the straight lines of the face. The web won’t show at all if blackened out. You can still add this now.

  8. Looks much better than the original set.

    I’m with Barry on this – I can tell if somethings sounds absolutely crap but that’s about it. Most audio systems in a house are to produce a bit of back ground music. Not many people sit down and meditatively concentrate on weather they can hear the violinist fart during the drum solo.
    If that’s your thing and you need the speakers to be precisely aligned to provide the perfectly phase aligned stereo image good on you.

    I’d be happy with Barry’s re-creation in my living room. It might look better than it sounds but I’m sure it will sound heaps better than the speakers in my laptop or even the clock radio :o

  9. Looks nice. If you’re not an audiophile and just want some volume for the TV and streamed stuff, and you have time to kill, then nothing wrong with this project.

    In the future, if the drivers die or friends laugh, he can keep the enclosure created, and put new drivers in. If finding the speakers gave him the impetus to create the enclosure in the first place, then good job.

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