Putting 3D Printed Speaker Drivers To The Test

Over the years, we’ve seen numerous projects that attempted to 3D print speaker enclosures that deliver not only a bit of custom flair, but hopefully halfway decent sound. Though as you’d probably expect, the drivers themselves are always standard run-of-the mill hardware mounted into the plastic enclosure. But given the research being conducted by [Paul Ellis], that might not be a safe assumption for much longer.

His quest to develop a full-range 3D speaker has taken him through several design revisions over the last two years, with each one being put through testing procedure that compared its frequency response to “real” speakers from manufacturers like Dayton and Bose. The project is very much ongoing, but a recently completed iteration of the driver design managed to exceed 80 dB at 1 W. In terms of audio quality, [Paul] reports they can hold their own against commercially available drivers. You can hear for yourself in the video after the break.

Ultimately, he hopes to be able to sell his 3D printed speakers in kit form to anyone who’s looking for the last word in bespoke audio hardware. The idea being that the drivers and enclosure will be completely modular, allowing the user to swap out individual components for ones printed (or not) in different materials so they can tune the in-person sound to their exact specifications. To facilitate this rapid reconfiguring of the drivers, the designs use some neat tricks like having the magnets be removable rather than glued in so they could be swapped out non-destructively.

This isn’t the first fully 3D printed speaker driver we’ve ever seen, Formlabs showed one off that was made on their SLA printer back in 2015, and we actually saw a rudimentary take on the same idea earlier this year. But the work that [Paul] has done here is certainly the most thorough, and dare we say practical, take we’ve ever seen on the concept.

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Yet Another Concrete Speaker Build

Concrete is great if you feel like making something heavy on the cheap. [Marek Unger] decided to have a go, using the material to cast speaker cabinets for a home hi-fi rig (Youtube link, embedded below).

Initial attempts involved creating a laser-cut MDF outer mold, with a styrofoam core inside to be removed later. This was unsuccessful, and [Marek] developed the design further. The second revision used an inner core also made from lasercut MDF, designed to be left inside after casting. This inner mold already includes the mounting holes for the speaker drivers, making assembly easier too.

Once cast, the enclosures were fitted with Tang-Band W4-1320SIF drivers. These are a full-range driver, meaning they can be used without needing crossovers or other speakers to fill in the frequency range. Each cabinet weighs just over 10kg, and they’re ported for extra response in the lower frequency bands. Sound tests are impressive, and the rough-finished aesthetic of the final product looks great in [Marek]’s living room.

We’ve seen concrete used for all manner of projects, from furnaces to USB hubs. Video after the break.

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Concrete Speakers Are Attractive And Functional

In a lot of fields – motorsport, space exploration, wearables – lighter is better. But it’s not always the case. When you want to damp vibration, stop things moving around, and give things a nice weighty feel, heavier is the way to go. This is the case for things like machine tools, anvils, and yes – speakers. Using this philosophy, [SoundBlab] built a set of concrete speakers. (Youtube link, embedded below)

The concrete speaker enclsosures are sized for 3″ drivers, and were cast using two measuring jugs as the mold. This gave the final product a smooth and glossy surface finish, thanks to the surface of the plastic used. The concrete was also agitated during the casting process to minimise the presence of air bubbles in the mixture.

Once cast, the enclosures are fitted with plywood end caps which mount the Fountek FE85 speaker drivers. These are a full-range driver, meaning no cross-overs or other drivers are required. The speakers are then mounted on stands constructed from wood edging, which are stained in a contrasting colour for a nice aesthetic touch. Felt pads are placed on the base, and polyfill inside the enclosure to further minimise any unwanted vibrations.

The sound test confirms the speakers perform well, and they look great as a part of a lounge audio setup. We think they make an excellent pair of bookshelf speakers, which would be ideal for comfortable listening at moderate volume levels.

We’ve seen many speaker builds at Hackaday, from 3D-printed omnidirectional builds to the more classical designs. Video after the break.

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A Mostly 3D Printed Speaker

The common magnetic loudspeaker is, fundamentally, a fairly simple machine. A static magnetic field is generated by a permanent magnet, and a membrane is mechanically connected to a coil. When a varying electrical current is passed through the coil, this causes the coil to move due to the magnetic field, vibrating the membrane and producing sound. [Mattosx] put this theory into practice with a simple 3D-printed speaker.

It’s not the first 3D-printed speaker we’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the cutest. The main body of the speaker is rectangular, and has a cavity in which three neodymium magnets are placed. The vibrating membrane is then printed separately, including an integrated spindle upon which the coil is wound. The assembly is held together with some socket-head cap screws which complement the pleasantly modern look.

The device does a good job delivering the bleeps when hooked up to an Arduino, and we could see this basic design serving well in all manner of charming 3D-printed builds. Video after the break.

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Create An Aurora Of Your Own

Throughout our day-to-day experiences, we come across or make use of many scientific principles which we might not be aware of, even if we immediately recognize them when they’re described. One such curiosity is that of caustics, which refers not only to corrosive substances, but can also refer to a behavior of light that can be observed when it passes through transparent objects. Holding up a glass to a light source will produce the effect, for example, and while this is certainly interesting, there are also ways of manipulating these patterns using lasers, which makes an aurora-like effect.

The first part of this project is finding a light source. LEDs proved to be too broad for good resolution, so [Neuromodulator] pulled the lasers out of some DVD drives for point sources. From there, the surface of the water he was using to generate the caustic patterns needed to be agitated, as the patterns don’t form when passing through a smooth surface. For this he used a small speaker and driver circuit which allows precise control of the ripples on the water.

The final part of the project was fixing the lasers to a special lens scavenged from a projector, and hooking everything up to the driver circuit for the lasers. From there, the caustic patterns can be produced and controlled, although [Neuromodulator] notes that the effects that this device has on film are quite different from the way the human eye and brain perceive them in real life. If you’re fascinated by the effect, even through the lens of the camera, there are other light-based art installations that might catch your eye as well.

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Refurbishing A Classic Electrostatic Speaker PSU

Sometimes a project takes longer than it should to land in the Hackaday in-tray, but when we read about it there’s such gold to be found that it’s worth sharing with you our readers despite its slight lack of freshness. So it is with [Andrew Back]’s refurbishment of his Quad electrostatic speaker system power supply, it may have been published back in August but the glimpse it gives us into these legendary audio components is fascinating.

The inner workings of an electrostatic loudspeaker
The inner workings of an electrostatic loudspeaker

An electrostatic speaker is in effect a capacitor with a very large surface area, of which one plate is a flexible membrane suspended between two pieces of acoustically transparent mesh that form the other plates. A very high DC bias voltage in the multiple kilovolts region is applied across the capacitor, and the audio is superimposed upon it at a peak-to-peak voltage of somewhere under a kilovolt through a step-up transformer from the audio amplifier. There are some refinements such as that the audio is fed as a push-pull signal to the opposing mesh plates and that there are bass and treble panels with different thickness membranes, but these speakers are otherwise surprisingly simple devices.

The problem with [Andrew]’s speakers became apparent when he took a high voltage probe to them, one speaker delivered 3 kV from its power supply while the other delivered only 1 kV. Each supply took the form of a mains transformer and a voltage multiplier board, so from there it became a case of replacing the aged diodes and capacitors with modern equivalents before applying an insulating layer for safety.

Electrostatic speakers are no stranger to Hackaday, we’ve taken an in-depth look at them in the past. You may also find some of our colleague [Steven Dufresne]’s writing on the matter to be of interest, on measuring high voltages, and his experience wrangling high voltage.

Build Your Own Anechoic Chamber

For professional-level sound recording, you’ll need professional-level equipment. Microphones and mixing gear are the obvious necessities, as well as a good computer with the right software on it. But once you have those things covered, you’ll also need a place to record. Without a good acoustic space, you’ll have all kinds of reflections and artefacts in your sound recordings, and if you can’t rent a studio you can always build your anechoic chamber.

While it is possible to carpet the walls of a room or randomly glue egg crate foam to your walls, [Tech Ingredients] tests some homemade panels of various shapes, sizes, and materials against commercially available solutions. To do this he uses a special enclosed speaker pointed at the material, and a microphone to measure the sound reflections. The tests show promising results for the homemade acoustic-absorbing panels, at a fraction of the cost of ready-made panels.

From there, we are shown how to make and assemble these panels in order to get the best performance from them. When dealing with acoustics, even the glue used to hold everything together can change the properties of the materials. We also see a few other cost saving methods in construction that can help when building the panels themselves as well. And, while this build focuses on acoustic anechoic chambers, don’t forget that there are anechoic chambers for electromagnetic radiation that use the same principles as well.

Thanks to [jafinch78] for the tip!

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