We’re in a fortunate position when it comes to audio gear, because advances in amplifier and signal processing technology have delivered us budget devices that produce a sound that’s excellent in comparison to those of a few years ago. That said, a decent quality device is good whichever decade it was manufactured in, and a speaker from the 1960s can be coaxed into life and sound excellent with a modern amplifier. It’s something [Sebastius] has explored, as he picked up an attractive-looking set of Swedish speakers from the 1960s. Wanting to bring them into the 21st century, he’s upgraded them for Sonos compatibility by hacking in the guts of an IKEA Symfonisk bookshelf speaker.
The speakers themselves looked good enough, but on closer examination they proved to bear the scars of many decades. After testing new wiring and drivers they still had a good sound to them. Their passive crossover meant that hooking them up to a single amplifier is as straightforward as it was decades ago, but a Symfonisk has an active crossover and two amplifiers. Fortunately there’s a neat hack by which those two amplifiers can be combined as one, and this is what he’s done with the resulting Symfonisk electronic package mounted on the reverse of the speaker.
The fate of the original speaker’s broken mid-range and tweeter drivers was a common enough one back in the day as speakers were ill-matched to amplifiers. Too small an amp would need turning up in volume to get a good sound resulting in distortion that would burn out the top end drivers, while too much power would result in the bass drivers being overloaded and failing. It’s unclear whether the drivers in a vintage speaker would be well-matched to an amplifier such as the Symfonisk, but we’re guessing they are safe while run at sensible volumes. Perhaps of more interest is whatever on-board DSP a Symfonisk contains, because while vintage speakers were designed for as flat a response as possible, modern compact speakers use DSP to equalise the frequency and phase responses of otherwise not-very-good-sounding enclosures. If the Symfonisk does this then those adjustments will appear as distortion in the sound of a different cabinet, but the question remains whether that distortion will be significant enough to be detectable by ear.
Combined with today’s massive flat panel displays, a nice surround sound system can provide an extremely immersive environment for watching movies or gaming. But a stumbling block many run into is speaker placement. The front speakers generally just go on either side of the TV, but finding a spot for the rear speakers that’s both visually and acoustically pleasing can be tricky.
Which is why [Peter Waldraff] decided to take a rather unconventional approach and hide his rear surround sound speakers in a pair of functioning table lamps. This not only looks better than leaving the speakers out, but raises them up off the floor and into a better listening position. The whole thing looks very sleek thanks to some clever wiring, to the point that you’d never suspect they were anything other than ordinary lamps.
The trick here is the wooden box located at the apex of the three copper pipes that make up the body of the lamp. [Peter] mounted rows of LEDs to the sides of the box that can be controlled with a switch on the bottom, which provides light in the absence of a traditional light bulb. The unmodified speaker goes inside the box, and connects to the audio wires that were run up one of the pipes.
In the base, the speaker and power wires are bundled together so it appears to be one cable. Since running the power and audio wires together like this could potentially have resulted in an audible hum, [Peter] only ran 12 VDC up through the lamp to the LEDs and used an external “wall wart” transformer. For convenience, he also put a USB charging port in the center of the base.
Ferrofluids, as the name implies, are liquids that respond to magnetic fields. They were originally developed for use by NASA as rocket fuel but are available to the general public now for anyone who wants to enjoy their unique properties. For [Dakd Jung], that meant building a special chamber into a Bluetooth speaker that causes the ferrofluid inside to dance along with the rhythm of the music.
This project isn’t quite as simple as pushing the ferrofluid container against a speaker, though. A special electromagnetic device similar to a speaker was used specifically to manipulate the fluid, using a MSGEQ7 equalizer to provide the device with only a specific range of frequencies best tailored for the fluid’s movement. The project includes two speakers for playing the actual music that point upward, and everything is housed inside of a 3D-printed case. There were some additional hurdles to overcome as well, like learning that the glass needed a special treatment to keep the ferrofluid from sticking to it.
All in all it’s a unique project that not only brings sound to a room but a pleasing physical visualization as well. Being able to listen to music or podcasts on a portable speaker, rather than the tinny internal speakers of a phone or laptop, is the sort of thing you think you can live without until you get used to having higher quality sound easily and in every place you go. And, if there’s a way to improve on that small but crucial foundation with something like a dancing ferrofluid that moves with the music the speaker is playing, then we’re going to embrace that as well.
[Thomas] is always up to some kind of 3D printing project. His latest? A fully 3D printed speaker. This is possible because of designs by [Paul Ellis] that use 3D printed materials for nearly all parts of the speaker. You can see and hear the speaker in the video below.
You might expect different parts of the speaker use different filaments. There are also different techniques such as the use of single-wall printing that makes the speaker possible.
A 3D-printed body holds six permanent magnets, which produce the static magnetic field necessary for the speaker to work. The sound itself is produced by a corrugated aluminum diaphragm made by taking a strip of foil and creasing it with a gear. Aluminum is difficult to solder, so electrical contact is made with a couple of short segments of copper tape. A little Blu Tack and glue hold it all together, and the result is stunning in its simplicity.
Check out the video after the break to hear how it sounds. If you want to try this yourself, it’s important to remember that ribbon speakers have very low input impedances (0.1 Ω for this design), so in order to prevent damage to your amplifier, a transformer or series resistor must be used to bring the impedance up to the 4-8 Ω your amplifier expects.
The build begins with a pair of 44mm DML exciters, readily available online. These had to be modified to remove their stock metal mounting plates that degraded the sound output in early tests. Instead, 3D printed pieces were used to mount the exciters to the 3mm plywood boards, which were lasercut to act as the main DML panels. Additionally, whizzer cones were fitted to the panels in an effort to further boost the high frequency response of the speakers. The speaker stands are assembled out of more 3D printed pieces and aluminium rods, giving a clean, modern look to the final product.
The performance of the speakers is admirable based on the test video, though [JGJMatt] notes that they should be paired with a subwoofer in use as the DML units do not readily produce frequencies below 100Hz. We’ve seen similar builds before on a larger scale, too. Video after the break.
[Haris Andrianakis] likes his Logitech Z623 sound system. He likes it a lot. Which is why he was willing to hack in his own remote volume control rather than just get a new pair of speakers. But he certainly didn’t make things easy on himself. Rather than trying to tap into the electronics, he decided to take the long way around and motorize the volume knob.
The idea seemed simple enough. Just drill a hole through the PCB behind the knob’s potentiometer, attach some kind of extension to the axle, and turn it with a small servo. Modifying the PCB and potentiometer went well enough, but the trouble came when [Haris] actually tried to turn the thing.
Attaching the servo directly to the axle worked, but it made turning the knob by hand extremely difficult. His next idea was to add a small belt into the mix so there would be some slip in the system. But after designing a 3D printed servo mount and turning custom pulleys on the lathe, it ended up having too much slip, and the knob didn’t always move when the servo turned.
He then swapped out the servo for a small stepper motor. The motor was easy enough to spin when powered down, but didn’t have quite enough torque to turn the knob. He tried with a larger stepper motor that he salvaged from an old printer, but since he could only run it at half the recommended 24 VDC, it too had a tendency to skip steps.
After experimenting with some 3D printed reduction gears, [Haris] finally stumbled upon the 28BYJ-48. This small stepper with an integrated gearbox proved to be the perfect solution, as it had enough muscle to turn the knob while at the same time not restricting its movement when powered down. The rest of the project was relatively easy; with a DRV8825, an ESP8266, and an IR receiver, he’s able to spin the stepper with his TV’s remote. A simple web page running on the ESP8266 even allows him to control volume over the network with his smartphone. Based on similar projects we’ve seen, he could probably add support for HDMI CEC as well.
[Haris] says you shouldn’t follow his example, but we’re not so sure. He kept going when others would have given up, and the engineering and thought that went into each attempt is certainly commendable. Even if he hadn’t ultimately gotten this project working, we’d still say it was a valiant hack worthy of praise.