The journey aka the trip. Music and audio are long-time passions of mine. It started 27 years ago when I was introduced to high-end audio. I was a high school student then. A friend played me Roger Whittaker's Wonderful World album over his sound system of all Audio Research electronics with Duntech monitors. I wondered how any hifi could produce such engaging sound which connected me so emotionally with the performance. With no big money at hand, I had no resources to buy high-end gear so decided to take an electronics bachelor degree to support my passion. I started thinking that perhaps I could make something for myself. I was an electrical engineering student after all and audio was my reason to choose this course of study in the first place.
I had access to an out-of-town high-end store during my study days where I listened to ProAc, Celestion, Spendor LS3/5A, Klipsch horns, Tannoy's Westminster Royal, Quad ESL, Lowther and other speakers. All gave me perspective on how certain top brands pursue excellent sound. I learned a lot from the store owner too who was very supporting and humble to a newcomer like me. Many personal audio projects emerged during that time like a preamplifier, power amplifier (solid state & tube), non-oversampling DAC, CD player mods, cables and speakers but the latter captured me most. I also tried my hands at some musical instruments. During my student days I enjoyed live performances in my home town to collect sonic imprints on acoustic saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, drum, guitar, violin, piano and bass. I know what they sound like without sound reinforcement at the proper distance for tone bursts and dynamics. To describe those insights in one sentence, I'd mention the shapes of energy, the immediacy, tone, presence and dynamics all set into the spirit of music itself.
"This and those following are in-room responses measured at 3 meters, with the loudspeaker at 2.5m from the front wall and 0.8m from the side walls on hard floors with no carpeting. These aren't the final measurements yet until I have final cabinets for all models."
As the final transformer of electrical signal into the mechanical motions we hear as sound, a speaker should recreate the energetic shapes of instruments in their raw organic live sound to eliminate all boundaries between listener and playback. Electrostatic, planarmagnetic and dynamic loudspeakers plus crossover design became my pet projects to explore. Unfortunately none fulfilled me except electrostats where I developed a wire-stator model and sold some. But due to their limitations and fragility, I stopped playing with estats. I continued my search until my heart finally affixed on the single-driver widebander. Lowthers captured me from the first time I heard them. Although they were accompanied by negative issues like lack of low bass, a shouty presence region and rolled-off highs, with correct system matching and cabinet design their sound was so raw and close to the real sound I wanted that I had my new direction. So in 2014 that part of the journey began where I challenged myself to design my own widebander without any of the Lowther limitations.
I started to collect information on the required know-how to build one. Many permutations and combinations of parts followed. Up until today, I spent 7 busy years chasing the potential with continuous improvements to break boundaries and limits. I experimented with cone and whizzer materials, geometries, cone coating recipes, voice coil executions, basket modeling, magnet design, surround material, spider design, cavity resonance mitigation and more. Some examples:
Cone. Paper is my first choice. I listened to many cones of kevlar, aluminium, polyproplyne, magnesium and other materials and to my ears paper produces the most natural engaging sound. I procured many paper samples from the art, photography and engineering sciences fields. Each paper and thickness produced its own sonic signature. Then cone geometry became the most difficult task with its combination of depth, diameter, folds and embossing pattern. Each variable's effect was confirmed by measurements and listening. It took many permutations and combinations of paper material, thickness and cone geometry to eat up much of my time and energy. Many cone attempts failed to get trashed but one remained to slowly ripen. Paper coating too made a significant improvement to the final design. I use a special very thin lacquer which gives full moisture protection but more importantly, provides more control over the mid-to-high frequencies for a glare-free sound.
Basket. Basket modeling started with a prototype from strips of aluminium billet cut manually then bolted to form a complete basket to accommodate the cone kit. Over time I modified this in line with my cone geometry until I was ready to convert it into a cast aluminium basket. For that we built a custom iron mold with 3D CNC and faced many trial'n'error steps between the CNC and casting companies until we could produce perfect casts with ease.
Voice coil. Winding turns, former material, underhung or overhung geometries, Xmax considerations, inner or outer winding concepts plus the choice of glue were critical for the final driver sound. Too many turns muddied the sound by rolling off the treble. Too few turns meant lower output and curtailed bass. I also had to watch my BL target and nail down ideal Qes. Identifying the ideal number of turns was key based on my moving mass and motor strength. How to perfect raw voice coil production was another issue. I made a custom jig to streamline the process for neater perfectly consistent results.
Surround and spider. These components center the driver and restore it to its original position. They are highly influential on driver parameters like Qms, Fs and Cms which then inform cabinet design. I started my driver with a resin-doped cotton surround from as 3rd-party supplier. That suspension produced tight clean bass and was very suitable for open-baffle mounting with its very high Qts. By October 2020, I decided to produce our own surround for easier sizing and control over its character. I developed a special CNC-milled mold to produce my own 100% pure cotton surround doped with rubber. This lowered the Fs from 70Hz to 45Hz. My spider remains resin-impregnated cotton for better damping but I did change its shape to lower the Fs and accelerate return to rest.
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