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3D printing Audio DIY Loudspeaker Speakers Technology

A versatile 3D printed coaxial loudspeaker – RD Physics CX2

The first version of our 3D printed coaxial CX loudspeaker series was made using the Desktop Metal Forust method, which is, at the moment, too expensive for most DIY audio enthusiasts. Therefore, the CX2 was designed based on fused filament fabrication (FFF).

3D printing gives design freedom

The starting point for the design is simple but effective: sealed enclosure and coaxial driver. This inherently gives us controlled cone displacement in the low-frequency region and a coherent radiation source in the crossover region. 3D printing allows to easily implement two more acoustically beneficial geometries: large roundovers and compound curved walls. These translate into a Minimal Edge Diffraction Enclosure (MEDE™) and reduced panel vibrations, respectively. Curved walls mean that the loudspeaker requires a stand. This requirement can be turned into a benefit: the symmetric loudspeaker can be tilted or laid on its side when placed on a so-called Isopodd stand 3D printed from soft TPU material. 3D printing allows complex shapes at no extra manufacturing cost. For example, the front baffle is stiffened on the inside with a honeycomb strucure that acts also as support for the overhangs, but robs very little internal volume.

What you need to build your own CX2

  • 3D files for 3D printing, sold on Etsy. Dimensions 210x273x170 mm, ~1200 grams of filament.
  • SB Acoustics SB13PFCR25-4 COAX or SEAS MP15 (contact us)
  • Active crossover, miniDSP recommended
  • Two channels of amplification per speaker, ICEpower module recommended
  • Neutrik NL4MPR SpeakON connectors and fastON crimp connectors
  • 4.2 mm wood screws
  • Bitumen or similar visco-elastic damping sheet and fibrous damping material such as pillow stuffing
  • Soldering capability (super easy)

How to build it

3D print the enclosures using the files mentioned above. It’s a single-piece print with no support needed. Wood-filled PLA or similar material is easy to sand and no other surface finish besides sanding is needed. If you are using the SEAS drivers you also need to print the TPU gasket/adapter. The speaker can be tilted and rotated when you print a small stand for it from TPU material. Some rubber feet on a plate will do the same job just fine. The assembly order is as follows:

  1. Finish the outside of the enclosure and make sure the driver and SpeakON connector fit.
  2. Line the inside with bitumen damping material and fill it quite densily with wadding.
  3. Solder wires to the speaker drivers and crimp fastON connectors at the other end. Mark woofer and tweeter positive and negative wires.
  4. Feed the wires through the SpeakON connector opening and mount the driver using wood screws. Use gasket/adaptor if you have the SEAS driver.
  5. Connect the fastON connectors to you SpeakON connector and mount it.
  6. Setup your bi-amping and crossover configuration. A good starting point for crossover frequency is 2 kHz. On-axis response will be bright, so keep that in mind when equalizing. Some toe-in may be beneficial.

Video

Categories
Bluetooth speaker 3D printing Audio Circular economy DIY Loudspeaker Recycling Speakers Sustainability

Bluetooth loudspeaker without an internal battery

What’s wrong with having batteries in your portable boombox?

Wireless electronics, such as bluetooth speakers, are extremely popular nowadays. All such devices must have a power source and typically it is a lithium-ion battery. However, the demand for battery raw materials is rising at an alarming rate:

The supply of some of these [battery] materials, in particular cobalt, natural graphite and lithium, is of concern today and for the future in view of the large quantities needed and/or very concentrated supply sources.


European Battery Alliance (EU)

As we have discussed earlier, when launching our Circular Sound program, the best solution for reducing reliance on critical raw materials is to reduce their use. The RD Physics BB1 boombox enables you to do just that. It is designed to use existing external power sources and therefore no new batteries are needed. Battery service-life or battery replacement is no longer a concern.

Alternatives to dedicated batteries

The BB-project started by looking at how power tools are sold without accompanying batteries. The idea being that the user needs only one battery (plus spares) that fits all tools. While this approach reduces the amount of batteries needed, it is also used to tie the customer to a specific brand. We wanted a universal solution and therefore the USB-C standard was chosen. The BB1 and BB2 boomboxes use a USB-C port as an interface to feed power to the amplifier. The boombox can be connected to any USB port: power banks, phone chargers, laptops, extension cords, solar panels etc. Obviously, the input voltage and current draw is limited, which leads to limited sound pressure level (SPL).

The weather-proof USB-C port is located at the top.
Frequency responce of 3D printed bluetooth speaker.
Frequency response of BB1 at maximum drive level.
BB2 boombox with Dayton Audio RS100 drivers.
Frequency response of BB2 at arbitrary drive level.

Components

What you will need to build your own batteryless boombox:

  • Geometry files for 3D printing (free under Creative Commons License at Thingiverse)
  • 3D printer big enough to fit a 235 mm diameter sphere
  • Slightly over 1 kg of filament depending on your settings
  • Two active drivers. Either Peerless 3″ (BB1) or Dayton Audio 4″ (BB2)
  • One 6½” Dayton Audio passive resonator
  • A Sure (Wondom) bluetooth board with additional cables set
  • USB-C panel mount plug (from eBay) and 6 mm DC plug
  • Wood screws (4.2 mm for the drivers and resonator, 3 mm for the BT board)
  • Drawer handle, IKEA Eneryda 703.475.16
  • Damping material (bitumen or similar automotive damping mat and fibrous wadding, for example pillow stuffing)
  • Optional: Wall mount bracket, Genelec 4000-410B
  • Minimal soldering capabilites

The enclosure for the BB1 and BB2 can be downloaded from the link above. Assembling everything takes 30 minutes.

3D printed boombox enclosure
3D printed enclosure ready for assembly.

How to build the BB1/BB2 bluetooth speaker

  1. Start by soldering the 6 mm DC plug to the USB connector. Red (+) goes to center pin and black (-) to outer shell.
  2. Connect DC power and speaker cables to bluetooth board and fasten the board inside the enclosure by tightening the screws via the driver openings.
  3. Mount the USB connector and handle.
  4. Line the inside of the enclosure with bitumen or similar visco-elastic damping material. Heat will aid in conforming to internal shapes. Make sure the damping material is fully bonded to the walls.
  5. Bring the speaker wires through the driver openings and solder them to the drivers. Make sure polarity is the same for both drivers. Then fasten the drivers using wood screws.
  6. Fill the enclosure with fibers (cotton, polyester, wool etc.) and fasten the passive resonator.
  7. Optional: Attach the wall mount bracket.
  8. Connect a USB port and the bluetooth board powers on automatically. Pair your signal source with the device (“WONDOM”). Enjoy!
BB1 portable bluetooth speaker with 3D printed enclosure.
BB1 ready to rock.

Assembly instructions

Concept and sound test

Categories
Circular economy 3D printing Audio Loudspeaker Recycling Speakers Sustainability

Circular Sound – Disrupting the industry with 100% recycled loudspeakers

Introduction

The loudspeaker industry, like all other industries, needs to transform into a circular economy model. Why? because only 8.6% of the materials we use circulate back into the economy, according to the Circularity Gap Report 2021. We need to increase this number in order to reach the Sustainability Development Goal 12.5 set by the United Nations:

By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse.

United Nations Sustainability Development Goal SDG 12.5

Circular Economy of Loudspeakers

Some loudspeaker manufacturers use recycled or renewable enclosure materials, but the biggest problem is circulating the electronics and loudspeaker drivers back into the economy. There is an abundance of old loudspeakers being discarded or sold very cheap every year, because demand for old models has diminished. Buying new loudspeakers made from virgin materials is not sustainable, especially due to the rare-earth elements (REE) used in loudspeaker magnets.

Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential for manufacturing permanent magnets. Permanent magnets are critical components in most decarbonisation technologies.

European Union EIT Raw Materials

The European Union is dependent on imported magnets and REEs. A circular economy model would not only be good for the environment, but also for the reliability of supply chains.

Additive manufacturing enables circular economy

Additive manufacturing offers many opportunities for a circular economy, where repair and remanufacturing are some of the best options to reduce the consumption of mass-produced products made in far-away lands. Circular economy can be described by the 6 REs:

  1. REduce – Don’t buy anything
  2. REuse – Buy second-hand
  3. REpair – Fix it, if it’s broken
  4. REmanufacture – Make something new using old components
  5. REcycle – Cycle the raw material back into the economy
  6. REcover – Burn for energy

As far as loudspeakers are concerned, the best option is of course not to buy anything. The second and third best options are to buy used loudspeakers or fix broken loudspeakers. These two options, however, do not consider the fact that the user may want something different compared to their current product or what is available second-hand. In other words, it does not help if a product can be used forever if nobody wants it anymore. Circular Sound tackles this issue by relying on remanufacturing with the help of 3D printing. In this context, remanufacturing means using the drivers and electronics from old loudspeakers and 3D printing a new enclosure. Obviously, the material of the new enclosure needs to be sustainable, too. Recycled and bio-based plastics are promising, but require special design considerations to obtain the necessary acoustic properties from the enclosure.

3D printing a bio-based loudspeaker enclosure

RD Physics CS-012 proof-of-concept prototype

The RD Physics CS-012 is the first loudspeaker design in the Circular Sound line-up. The donor components come from an old Yamaha YST-SW012 bass-reflex subwoofer. Additive manufacturing was used to produce a smaller, sealed enclosure loudspeaker. The material used in the prototype is a bio-based material produced by BrightPlus. It has a natural dye made from woad by Natural Indigo Finland. The original Yamaha loudspeaker is designed to be used as a single subwoofer unit placed somewhere on the floor out of sight. The new product, on the other hand, is designed to be used in stereo configuration (2 pcs) and placed under the main speakers. It serves a different function compared to the original product, but no new materials need to be consumed. We are not injecting a new product made from virgin materials into the economy. Instead, we are taking two old ones out and replacing them with one value-added product. This is what Circular Sound is about. You don’t have to wait for distributors to bring sustainable products to your local market. You can start making these today. The files are shared for free under a Creative Commons license on Thingiverse.

Near-field and far-field magnitude response.
Categories
Audio 3D printing Circular economy DIY Loudspeaker Speakers Technology

3D printed wood – A revolutionary way of making loudspeakers

3D printed loudspeakers do not have to be made out of plastic anymore. There is a new way of 3D printing wood called Forust. It is a binder jetting process where upcycled sawdust is used together with a binder to form the closest thing we have to 3D printed wood. We are particularly interested in the possibilities this offers loudspeaker manufacturers.

RD Physics CX1 – A coaxial loudspeaker

RD Physics has been developing speakers with full-range drivers for some time now and while they have their inherent benefits, it is time to look what coaxial drivers have to offer. The starting point was a spherical shape, which is known for its benefits. However, the limitations in build volume favored a shape closer to a rectangular cuboid. The shape of the CX1 has the largest possible roundovers, with the constraints imposed by driver size and maximum baffle dimensions. This is to reduce edge diffraction. The sides are compound curved to maximize stiffness. There is also internal ribbing to stiffen the enclosure without taking up internal volume like a sandwich structure would. The enclosure is made in two parts; the front baffle has a separate cover that conceals the driver flange and mounting screws. The driver is a proprietary SEAS unit designated MP15 (15 cm diameter). The idea is to have an external active crossover and bi-amp the loudspeaker via the Neutrik SpeakOn 4-pin connectors at the back.

3D printing a loudspeaker using Desktop Metal Forust method

The geometry files were sent to Forust for 3D printing. The chosen colour is “natural” with the artificial wood grain introduced during manufacturing. The result is a structure that looks like plywood. Parts can be ordered without the grain and with darker colours, too. The grain is more interesting, however, because various surface texture effects can be achieved by aligning the layers at low angles relative to the principal axes of the printed shape giving a zebra stripe effect.

Post-processing of 3D printed wood

The parts printed with the Forust method can be sanded smooth, but it is not like sanding natural wood. The surface can be varnished, but not stained. The Forust material does not absorb wood stain. It does not tolerate ethanol and perhaps other solvents either. Long-term exposure to water should be avoided, otherwise there will be is a sticky brown residue on the surface. Although a wooden look can be mimicked, post-processing is not similar to wood. Instead, it resembles the wood-filled polymers used in our previous builds. This is not a serious drawback, it just means that 3D printing skills are more useful than woodworking skills. In terms of aesthetics this is the closest thing available for increasing the acceptance of 3D printed loudspeakers in the audio community, where wood veneer is the go-to solution.

Video

Categories
Technology Audio DIY DSP Loudspeaker Speakers

Acoustic panels and DSP – Both are beneficial

It is tempting to consider “room correction” with Digital Signal Processing (DSP) as a substitute for acoustic treatment. We implemented both in the same room to see what the effects actually are.

Experimental setup: DSP and acoustic panels

The setup used is a normal living room/home theater. The loudspeakers are Genelec 8351A active monitors with DSP and automatic calibration using a microphone and frequency sweeps.

Home theater with active DSP speakers
The test setup with Genelec active monitors.

Five acoustic panels were placed in the room. They are mineral wool panels measuring 60x60x10 centimeters. Two of them were placed at the side walls in order to address first sidewall reflections and three of them were placed behind the listener by the back wall. The measurement point is also the normal listening point. Measurements were done with REW software:

https://www.roomeqwizard.com/

The effect of acoustic panels and DSP on room response

Effect of acoustics panels and DSP on frequency response.
Effect of acoustic panels (top) and DSP (bottom).

From the magnitude response we see that the acoustic panels bring down some of the peaks in the mid-range. When we then apply DSP and automatic calibration, we get attenuation of the low-frequency peaks caused by room modes. DSP does not really affect the mid-range and the highs. It only raises their level back to where it was earlier. Using DSP and equalizing for mids and highs would be very difficult, because notches and peaks are very narrow.

Waterfall chart showing reduced decay time with acoustic panels
Waterfall charts show faster decay at mid-range frequencies when acoustic panels are applied.

Spectrograms show massive amounts of energy in the bass domain, where we have room modes affecting. Panels this size should not be very effective at long wavelengths according to the manufacturer and our magnitude plot. Yet, adding acoustic panels brings down the energy across the frequency range according to the spectrogram. DSP reduces the bass peaks which, of course, reduces the energy in that region. DSP brings up the mids and highs, so we can see slightly increased energy in that region, which leads to an evenly distributed energy across the spectrum of frequencies.

Effect of acoustic panels and DSP on acoustic energy content
Spectrograms of the reference condition (top), with acoustic panels (middle), with acoustic panels and DSP (bottom).

Conclusions

So do you need both digital signal processing and acoustic treatment? Yes. Looking at the magnitude response, we see that DSP addresses the peaks in the bass region and adjusts for the overall level, while the acoustic panels address the mid-range frequencies. Looking at the energy spectrum, we can see that actually both acoustic panels and DSP even out the energy distrubtion across the frequency range. It is encouraging to see that placing only five panels has a measurable effect. Headphones are immune to room acoustics, but benefit from DSP. Check out our post on headphone DSP: https://rdphysics.com/2021/06/14/dsp-for-headphones

Video

This blog post can be found in video format as well.

  

Categories
Technology Audio DIY DSP Headphones Loudspeaker Speakers

Headphones are better than loudspeakers – One factor is behind it all

The argument for headphones instead of loudspeaker as your main sound system is one that you don’t hear too often. Which is why we think it’s important to make it here. It all boils down to one root cause, and that root cause is the room. Let’s divide the consequences of the room into two categories: cost and sound.

Cost

First, speakers are played in a room you need more power. Power means power amplifiers. You need to buy expensive amps to power your loudspeakers. Second, you need to place those loudspeakers somewhere, so you need to buy stands. Or if they are floor-standing speakers you need to buy feet. You need to connect them with cables and buy other accessories. Third, you need to acoustically treat your room, so you need to buy acoustic panels, diffusers, bass traps etc. Fourth, you need to buy presents to your spouse because you’re placing the speakers in the middle of the room.

Sound

You can buy good loudspeakers and ruin them by placing them in a bad listening environment. Optimally, you would have the loudspeakers and the listening position at least two meters away from the nearest wall. However, that is seldom even possible in the available space. You would need a large room. And with this kind of placement, a livingroom quickly becomes a listening room only. Headphones, on the other hand, have multiple benefits compared to loudspeakers:

  • Single point source
  • No crossovers
  • No sweet spot or particular listening position
  • No room effects
  • Tonal balance can be fixed using only DSP

Some of the drawbacks often stated include poor sound stage or imaging. People say that it sounds like the sound is coming from inside one’s head and it doesn’t feel like you’re at a concert. It is a matter of personal preference, but we suggest looking at headphone listening as something separate and different from live events or loudspeaker listening. It is our subjective opinion that crossfeed will not correct for this phenomena and only makes the sound worse. Another common argument is that there’s no physical sensation of bass. While that is true, the pros outweigh the cons.

Recommended hardware

Which ever headphones you use, applying equalizing with the help of DSP is definitely worth considering. Check out our post on the topic:

Sennheiser HD800S open headphones.

 Enthusiast level:

Hobby level:

  • Sennheiser HD650
  • DAC/amp in price range 200-300€
  • DSP at signal source

Budget level:

  • Koss Porta Pro
  • Analog jack or DAC/amp in 100-150€ price class (get one second-hand, for example)
  • DSP at signal source

Video

The contents of this post can be found in video format

Categories
Technology 3D printing Audio DIY Loudspeaker Speakers

Practical 3D printed desktop speakers – FR4

The third version of our 3D printed full-range FR loudspeaker series used metal-filled filament to add density and stiffness to the enclosure. It worked in that regard, but the material was unpractial due to brittleness both during printing and in the final product.

What has changed compared to the FR3 speaker

For the fourth version we switched to wood-filled filament, which is more ductile and easier to process. The surface is quite nice straight out of the printer thanks to the matte surface. A quick touch with an orbital sander gives a smooth finish. The spherical shape of the enclosure remains the same as in the FR3 speaker, because it was proven to be very good in terms of resonances and edge diffraction. The diameter of the driver, enclosure and tripod legs was reduced to obtain a more slender design for desktop use. The binding posts are upgraded to sturdy Dayton Audio binding posts. The driver used is the Tang Band W3-1878, and the leadscrews for the legs are 12 mm. Leadscrew nuts are bonded into recesses in the enclosure and allow for adjustment of the legs. Small TPU feet can be printed and placed at the ends of the leadscrews in order to avoid scratching the desktop. These are satellite speakers and need a subwoofer to compliment the lower frequency spectrum.

You can 3D print your own sub and satellite system by purchasing the STL files from our Etsy Shop.

Video

Categories
Technology 3D printing Audio DIY Loudspeaker Speakers

Powerful 3D printed 5 inch subwoofer – SW2

Subwoofer Concept

Our previous 3d printed subwoofer, the SW1, is a 13 liter subwoofer with a 6.5″ driver, a matching passive radiator and a plate amp. We wanted to develop something smaller that would still offer the bass extension that satellite speakers so badly need. The result is the SW2 using a Tang Band W5-1138 5″ long-throw driver and the same Dayton Audio DSA175 passive radiator as in the SW1. The enclosure is now only 5 liters and much easier to fit on a desktop. The passive resonator allows tuning the resonance frequency to avoid overlap with room modes, for example. The spherical shape is optimal for material use and stiffness. Combined with the small diameter driver with large surrounds, the appearance is quite unique. If a traditional box is what you want, then this build is not for you.

Measurements

The measured resonance frequency of the passive radiator indicates that some air-coupling occurs due to the downward firing placement. Simulated resonance frequency matches the measured value (53 Hz) when 16 grams of added mass is used. Mass can be further added using washers to tune the response. In practice, the frequency response starts to drop below 50 Hz. The Arylic amplifier offers DSP capabilites and using a computer as the source allows unlimited DSP with zero cost. Therefore, frequency response in not that meaningful especially when considering the room effects, but we have included some measurements to give an idea of the natural response especially around the lower cut-off.

3D printing

The enclosure is printed in one part (234 mm diameter) and takes approximately 1.5 kg of filament. Print time is about 48 hours. The mass can be increased by lining the walls with sound deadening mat. Although the external wall is spherical, there is a cylindrical inner wall that braces the woofer to the passive resonator and, thanks to a single curvature surface, allows easy installment of thick sound deadening mat. The drivers are fastened using 4.2 mm wood screws. There is a geometry file for a gasket for the woofer which can be printed from TPU. Traditional gasketing methods will work, but the 3D printed gasket is seamless and has the screw hole pattern accurately incorporated. The binding posts are recessed deep into the enclosure and only accept banana plugs in that configuration. An O-ring under the binding post washer is recommended and there is a chamfer for it. 3D printing using a wood-filled filament allows easy sanding for a smooth surface finish. The photos show 15 minutes worth of post-processing making this a very easy and fast build without compromising in function and looks.

Images

Sound quality

The subwoofer was compared to the much larger, THX certified Logitech Z623 subwoofer. The sound is very similar, but in a much smaller package. The SW2 is a great companion for small satellite speakers and brings fullness to the bass. Electronic music will benefit from the “boom” offered by this small unit, while other types of music may require turning down the level a bit for a tighter bass.

Links and video

The 3D files can be found in Etsy store:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/RDPhysics

Please support us by using the affiliate link below just before ordering the components:

TangBand W5-1138 on SoundImports.eu

Dayton Audio DSA175-PR on SoundImports.eu

Arylic 2.1 BT amp on SoundImports.eu

Categories
Technology 3D printing Audio DIY Loudspeaker Speakers

3D printed active subwoofer – SW1

Our 3D printed full-range speakers needed something to beef up the lower end of the frequency spectrum. We set out to design a compact subwoofer that can be used together with our FR3 speakers. The result is a 13 liter enclosure with a 6.5″ driver, a matching passive resonator and a plate amp. The passive resonator allows tuning the resonance frequency to match room modes, for example. The plate amp can power satellite speakers and has a fixed high-pass filter. The low-pass cut-off frequency for the subwoofer can be adjusted and the level too, which means that this system can be easily mated with signal sources that do not have equalizing or DSP capabilities in themselves.

3D printing

The enclosure consists of two parts, which are glued together after printing. Total print time is about 100 hours and uses about 4 kg of filament. Support is only needed for the small recess where the plate amp is mounted. Dual-material printing is not needed. The mass of the enclosure can be increased by filling the walls with epoxy through the holes in the back. A geometry file for 3D printing a matching funnel is provided, too. 2 kg additional mass can be obtained this way.

The 3D files can be found on Thingiverse for free:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4802531

Please support us by using the affiliate link below just before ordering the components:

Dayton Audio DSA175 on SoundImports.eu

Dayton Audio DSA175-PR on SoundImports.eu

Lepai LP210PA amp on SoundImports.eu

Video

The video below explains the concept in more detail.

Categories
3D printing Audio DIY Loudspeaker Speakers Technology

Full-range desktop speakers – FR3

Metal-filled filament and internal support add significant mass and rigidity.

The first version used internal ribbing and bitumen paint to reduce enclosure resonance. The second version used an external carbon fiber shell. Both approaches were a bit cumbersome. For the third version we wanted to fully use the capabilities of 3D-printing. Therefore, a high-density metal-filled filament was used and internal gyroid-shaped support was used even where overhanging surfaces would not have required it. In addition, height and tilt can be adjusted using three threaded rods that form a tripod. The finished enclosure with three 14 mm trapezoid-threaded nuts bonded to it weighs 1.2 kg.

Please support us by using the affiliate link below for ordering the Dayton Audio RS-100 drivers:

SoundImports.eu