July 18, 2010

When you feel the urge to tweak

Ever get the urge to tweak some budget speakers? Can they be a bit better with a little work? Here are some suggestions ...

1. Tweeter level

First, consider tweeter level. You can change this by adding an Lpad, which is two resistors one in series and one in parallel with the tweeter. If you already have a pad, then you might change the value. More about Lpads >

2. Enclosure

Is the enclosure solid and inert? You could add some bracing or dampen it with mass (lead). You could also consider new or different filling and/or lining.

3. Vents

Sometimes it's a good idea to block up a vent. Perhaps you have a subwoofer and may benefit here. Perhaps the vent isn't helping. If you block the vent, then add stuffing and this should improve the midrange as well.

4. Baffle diffraction

This usually receives scant attention in budget designs. Sound travels across the box and at the corner it diffracts. This means it arrives slightly later than the direct sound and it will have a detrimental impact on imaging. A simple tweak to improve the situation is to place foam on the baffle, especially around the tweeter. You can apply a piece of open cell foam, with a cut out for the tweeter.

5. Crossover parts

Tweeter caps could be replaced with better quality caps of the same value. This is often where corners are cut. Cheap caps are very cheap, good caps are quite a bit more expensive. In budget speakers, often the very cheapest of parts are used.

6. Crossover re-design

Feeling ambitious? Often budget speakers are made so cheap that they even cut corners in making the crossover simpler than it should be. Sometimes this might mean a simple cap on the tweeter and nothing more. The extreme simplicity may appeal intuitively, but this is more likely cost cutting winning over performance. You could start with free softare and some basic tools quite cheaply, but be ready for a learning curve.

7. Active crossover

This is actually a simpler option. You'll need preamp outputs and two power amps as well as an active crossover. A low cost option such as MiniDSP is a good choice. More about active options >

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