How to build a speaker cabinet

In this article we will cover how to make a 2 way bookshelf speaker, with full DIY speaker plans, all the components and tools you need. Furthermore, we will touch some of the designing concepts behind our build as well. It’s nice to follow a list and build something, but it’s a whole another thing when you understand some of the principles behind the process. For our project, we will be using the following drivers :

The drivers are not expensive, nor cheap. However, if you sum up all components, it does add up to a respectable price tag. So make sure you do your best when building this loudspeaker.

Designing the enclosure

To improve the lower end response, the enclosure will be a bass-reflex design. I measured the T/S parameters of my particular driver and after a quick look at the alignments table, I concluded the following specs for the enclosure :

  • 10.15 liter enclosure tuned at 48 Hz, for a maximally flat Butterworth response.

Now, this is all fine and dandy on paper. However, you are going to have a bad time if you want to fit a decent size port inside of the cabinet. In conclusion, we need to increase the volume and alter the tuning frequency, so we get a decent curve. Second iteration :

  • 15 liter enclosure tuned at 50 Hz.

enclosure response

15 liters should be enough size for everything that we need to fit in the box. Furthermore, making the box bigger will demand a shorter port, so even easier to fit. Regarding the frequency response, you can see from the graph above, that the linearity has suffered almost negligibly, and we gained a slight low end boost. We are going to use a 2″ port flared at both ends. To reach our tuning frequency the port needs to be 120 mm long.

Out of laziness, I didn’t cut any of the port’s tubing to length. The port is made out of 2 flares, 2 connection rings, and a long pipe. Simply remove the pipe and one connection ring and fuse the 2 flares together using the other connection ring. The port is now 125 mm (including the flares, which is actually less than 120 if you discount part of the flares) and the tuning frequency shifted to 53 Hz. I’m quite fine with that also, it will bring a bit more punch to the overall sound. The box dimensions remain as calculated before.

Box volume

Before we start writing our DIY speaker plans, we need to take into consideration that 15 is the net volume. Consequently, we need to add all the components which go inside the box and take out space (volume).

  • Net volume : 15 liters.
  • Port : 0.25 liters.
  • Speaker : 0.35 liters
  • Crossover : 0.2 liters
  • Bracing : 0.4 liters
  • Total volume : 16.2 Liters

DIY speaker plans – cabinet design

For our cabinet we will use 18 mm MDF (1 mm less than standard 3/4″, but that is what I had lying around). To have a baffle with good proportions and enough room to fit the port in the back panel, here are the panels which are needed :

  • 340 x 227 mm (2 pieces).
  • 280 x 227 mm (2 pieces).
  • 280 x 304 mm (2 pieces).
  • 191 x  280 mm (1 piece) – Bracing.

Multiply all these by 2, because we need 2 speaker boxes.

diy speaker plans

Just above, you can see an expanded view of enclosure panels, so you can get a better idea how it all fits together.

Baffle diffraction

You might think that placing the speakers is a straightforward thing to do. However, we can reduce diffraction problems if we offset the tweeter. Normally you would place the speakers in the middle of the baffle, because it looks symmetrical. Let’s see the effects of diffraction from our tweeter, on our baffle :

tweeter diffraction

There is valuable information in the graph above. Focus on the 2 kHz – 4 kHz area. This is the frequency band where the mid-bass and the tweeter will combine their responses. If both are in the middle of the baffle, they will have similar diffraction, and the diffraction effect will basically double up. In conclusion, the overall frequency response will have a big dip at 2-3 kHz and big peak at 3.5 – 4 kHz.

However, if we offset the tweeter to the left or right we get a different diffraction curve. Consider the red line as the mid-bass diffraction, because it will remain in the center of the baffle. When you add it with the green line (the offset tweeter diffraction) you will get a nice flat line. When one is peaking, the other is dipping, and vice-versa. If you don’t offset the tweeter you will need to fix this response anomaly in the crossover. However, you always aim for a simpler crossover design, for better sound quality and lower price. You don’t want to check your DIY speaker plans and see that the crossover is more expensive than the speakers.

Speaker and port placement

We already figured out the the mid-bass will be placed in the center, on the bottom side of the front baffle. The tweeter will be on the top, but offset to the right, and left respectively. This is to create a certain amount of symmetry between left and right channels.

The port will be placed on the back panel, in the upper section. It needs to have as much clearance as possible to the nearest wall. Placing it lower will probably hit the mid-bass magnet anyway. On the lower side of the back panel we will be placing the terminals. The positioning is up to you. Simply drill 2 holes for them.

baffle dimensions

Here are the DIY speaker plans for the front and the back of the enclosure. There are 2 rings of different diameters which describe the speaker cutout. The smaller one is the actual hole and the large one is just a small step so that the flange of the speaker aligns flush with the baffle.

Construction of the box

First of all, you need to cut all the panels for the enclosure, including the panel for the bracing. Multiply by two, because we need 2 enclosures. Cut all the holes as described earlier.

enclosure panels

Here are the front on back panels, side to side.

front panels

To make the bracing, just cut a piece of board to the specified dimensions and drill 4 holes to cut using the jigsaw.

Bracing

You don’t have to be perfect with the cuts, as this bracing will be inside the box and no one will see it.

bracing finished

Assembly

After that, we need to assemble the panels into a box. For this we will use wood glue and nothing else. Clamp everything up tightly until the glue dries off. What I did here to make the process easier, is to stack little pieces of MDF so that the bracing rests on them. Make sure you stack enough of them so that the bracing is in the correct position, not obstructing any of the front or back holes.

panels in place

After that, place glue in the right places, where the panels are joined together. As you puzzle them together, use the clamps to help you out. Don’t tighten them up all the way just yet. I did this by myself, but another pair of hands is of great aid.

panels with glue applied

The first places I start with is the corners. I place 4 clamps on each of corners of the side panels. Then use longer clamps to tighten the front and back. The top panel is not placed yet.

clamping everything up

As the top panel is not placed yet, take the opportunity to add some extra glue in the corners where it’s not oozing out. This prevents any unwanted air leakage.

top view

Now you can apply glue to the top panel and complete the enclosure. Place a large 1 meter clamp to press the box vertically.

Assembled box

Before you start tightening this big clamp, make sure you remove those little bits of MDF that kept the bracing in place. Now the bracing fits snug between the side walls and there is no need for this support anymore.

sanding

After the glue dries off, you can start the sanding process. I also used a round over bit with the router to make a slight bevel on the edges. This helps a bit with edge diffraction.

Crossover section

To complete the DIY speaker plans, we need to include the crossover design. For this, I’m going to include 2 variations. One is a cheaper version, with just 4 components. It gives a fairly good response while keeping the costs down. The alternative uses more components (8 in total), with a higher price tag, since it’s using bigger coils. However, the latter gives a much more linear response and aligns the acoustic centers of the speakers for a better phase coherence between the drivers.

The cheaper version

Here is the schematic :

cheap filter

It’s basically an asymmetrical crossover with a 1st order slope for the woofer and a 2nd order slope for the tweeter. Additionally, an attenuation resistor is used for the tweeter to match the levels.

frequency response cheap filter

The frequency response is quite impressive for how simple the crossover network is.

The expensive version

Here is the schematic for the complex version of the crossover :

expensive crossover

The only difference is the extra ladder delay network. Also, the values of the components have changed. Remember that the tweeter is wired in reverse polarity. Here is the components list for one crossover board (I used Jantzen audio for coils and ClarityCap for capacitors) :

  • 1.2 mm (17 AWG) wire, air core, 3.0 mH coil (1 piece).
  • 1.0 mm (18 AWG) wire, air core, 0.82 mH coil (3 pieces).
  • 5.6 uF capacitor (3 pieces).
  • 4.7 Ohm 10 watt resistor (1 piece).

frequency response expensive filter

As you can see the response is almost completely flat. There is a small dip at 3.5 kHz, which is -3 dB below linear.

reverse null

To check the phase relation between the 2 drivers, reverse the polarity of the tweeter and check for a deep null. As a result, the 2 drivers cancel each other nicely at around 2 kHz, which indicates the crossover frequency.

Crossover build and placement

You can actually check the How to build a crossover article and get some tips on how to build one. I made it specially for this project. However, I didn’t like how that crossover end up and I scrapped it and made a new one. I used a birch plywood board which was thinner (I think it was 10 mm thick). The dimensions were 15 x 13 cm. The original board was 15 x 15 and with the piece I cut, to reduce the size, I made 4 little feet.

passive crossover

I didn’t use a null bar anymore to free up some space. As a result, the components aren’t as bunched up as before.

passive crossover boards

I used 0.5 m long cables, with appropriate crimp terminals for the tweeter and the mid-bass. Use shorter cables for the connection to the binding posts.

As for the placement, I opted for the back panel. This is quite a popular choice. You could use the bottom panel also. I used some wood glue to fix the crossover board to the back panel and leave it over night for the glue to dry. The crossover is pretty heavy and the weight of it will press nicely, to make sure the glue will stick.

crossover position

As you can see, the crossover fits perfectly into the available space. Make sure you connect the input terminals to the binding posts. You can do this before, or after you place the crossover. Whichever is easier for you.

Port assembly

The port fits quite snugly into the 4″ hole and doesn’t need any help to remain there. If you force it inside, it will stay there, fixed. However, if you play music, you will hear audible distortion, if you place your ear near the port. This is because the port is not actually fixed appropriately.

port disassembled

Take the port and remove the inner flare.

silicone flare

Apply silicone in excess. Probably works with less, but this is how I like to do it.

port placed

Press the port inside until the silicone oozes out. Let the silicone cure for at least half of day. You can remove the excess after the silicone dries up. After all this, don’t forget to insert the inner flare of the port. Use the mid-bass cutout to access the port from the inside.

Finished enclosure

Here are a couple of pics with the front and back of the enclosure :

loudspeaker 2 way bookshelf

Front.

Back spealer

And back.

As you can see, I didn’t apply a finish to it yet. I don’t even know if I’m going to do that. I’m not really good at this part, but some of you are real artisans in this area. Wanted to give them a random paint, but I was too eager to give them a listen. If you are not applying veneer to the box, my advice is to use boards that show the grain of the wood (not MDF), which looks much better.

Conclusion and subjective opinion

This loudspeaker uses components that are not cheap, but not expensive either. Some like to use really cheap speakers when DIY-ing, but I think it doesn’t justify the work put into the project. They are cheap for a reason. Also I gave an option for a cheaper crossover if you want to keep the costs down.

As for the sound signature :

  • Very good bass response for a bookshelf speaker.
  • Clean and detailed at low and moderate levels.
  • Can reach high levels of volume if you want to. The mid-bass seems to be the first to crack down under the pressure (especially if the music has tones under 40 Hz).
  • At high volumes they become fatiguing and you cannot listen for long. However, at moderate levels they are a pleasure to listen to and you can go on indefinitely.
  • Pretty picky about positioning. On axis listening for best results.

Now that you got yourself some DIY speaker plans, you can start your own loudspeaker project. It sounds awesome for the money, and you will appreciate them even more, knowing that you are the one that built them.