I guess I was a unique kid. Plenty about my childhood was normal as it gets, but being homeschooled for a big stretch of it really influenced what I did and got into. In middle school, at the same time that I was learning to surf and starting my first band, I also was teaching myself how to build speakers.
My grandfather got me interested in audio reproduction very early, and my dad being an orchestra and choral conductor provided the interest in music in general. It wasn't long before I was hacking together ghastly speaker creations in the tool shed, trying every type of design I could find and doing as little math as possible. Let's call it a Bohemian approach to engineering.
Even if my attempts weren't very polished, they gave me an understanding of the basic sound of various designs, along with some of their strengths and weaknesses. What kicked me in the pants was the awesome idea that I could make something for little or no cost that could compete with products adults were paying real money for.
That's always going to be the case with speakers. Every design except for the closed box (acoustic suspension) or the box with a port (bass reflex) is either too intricate or the angles are prohibitive when it comes to mass production. That is the only reason 95 percent of the speakers you see in the world are one of the two basic designs.
Constructing a horn speaker is hard to do, as my 13-year-old self could tell you. But it can be done in the garage, and the results are very rewarding.
Over the years, I've gotten better at designing these things, though I still shy away from heavy math. But in recent years, the development of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) has brought us to the point that anyone anywhere can get much better sound from their existing systems by simply adjusting the timing and sound of the music before it gets to the speakers — no math required.
MiniDSP is a Korean company that is pushing the bounds and lowering the cost of this type of DSP for music consumers. For years, audio/video receivers have been implementing light versions of this type of DSP internally. For example, my friend's Denon receiver can configure its output for multiple types of speakers along multiple placement points in the room.
But MiniDSP takes this a lot further by bringing high-powered computing into the equation. The MiniDSP 2x4 is the popular basic model, and with its four outputs, it allows you to correct the timing of not only your speakers but your subwoofer, too.
I've written before about how subwoofer placement is tricky and something many people get wrong. With a MiniDSP 2x4 in the signal path, you can get accurate subwoofer bass no matter where you place the sub in the room. Forget about buying new speakers for better sound — try digital signal processing instead. As an owner of a 2x4, I'll tell you the results are dramatic whether your system already sounded great or not. Check it out at minidsp.com.