Bass is an old friend of mine. The first speaker I ever made, at age 7, was a subwoofer. I designed it using toilet paper tubes as bass ports, and I’m sure in retrospect it sounded awful.
My third speaker build ever, age 13, was a dual folded exponential 4th-order bandpass horn subwoofer called “The Wicked One” and designed by Steve Deckert of Decware.com.
Several years ago, I made a couple of very large “tapped horn” subwoofers (designed by Martin King) for one of the founding DJs of the Deep Club music group in Denver. And if you Google “Ripole subwoofer,” my PS Audio article titled “Bring on the bass,” describing my DIY build of Axel Ridtahler’s patented design, may show up on your first-page results.
I not only know what many different styles of subwoofer design sound like, I’ve built most of them over the years.
What I’ve learned is that, just like most consumable products, cheap subwoofers are designed to appeal to the widest swath of consumers. There, expectations are low because of the price, but also because general knowledge of what a good subwoofer should sound like is low, so people don’t want to pay too much.
That sets up the perfect scenario for people willing to build a subwoofer themselves. Bass can be so much better, particularly with music but also for movies, too.
Today’s DIY-friendly marketplace makes building your own high-performance sub simpler than ever before. Armed with DSP-capable plate amplifiers, cellphone measurement apps and automatic room corrections via computer, the main difference between a subwoofer you can build yourself and one you’ll spend $3,000 on is likely just structural.
Intricate internal bracing, inert boxes and force cancellation are focus points for the best subwoofers out there, but beyond that, what they have to offer is certainly within reach of the DIYer.
So we’re going to make a sub — a good one. This is the last project in the DIY series I’ve been on lately, and if you missed any of the previous projects, you can always catch up online at coloradodaily.com/columnist/duncan-taylor. The first project was building a pair of copper foil speaker cables, the second was a pair of speaker stands. We just wrapped up the third, which was a three-part DIY build of a Bluetooth speaker in a vintage suitcase.
This project will span a few columns, and we’ll lean heavily on pre-made parts like the box and the DSP (digital signal processing) amplifier. That will make it a quick and enjoyable project — and save your apartment from a bunch of sawdust.
We will integrate a few high-level structural design features like using dual force-cancelling woofers and placing spikes on the base. Because of the DSP, we’ll be able to use a number of different subwoofer drivers — we can fine-tune the sound to make up for the issues of individual subwoofers.
This will also be a chance for me to cover the reasoning behind the designs, and you may just learn a thing or two about the lowest notes we can hear — and make a new friend in the process.