DIY AR Speakers by EFE

I just finished assembling a pair of these for a friend and customer using Madisound parts only kit and Parts Express .50 ft3 prefinished cabinets. I took on this project because I thought it would be easy to build and I was curious to compare the speaker to the PeeCreeks I built last year.

Well, I was wrong about this being easy - these were just as much a pain-in-the-ass to build as any other speaker. This was difficult mostly because I have never dealt with pre-finished cabinets. In order to get professional resuls, one must be acutely conscious of keeping the finish new, especially the piano black. I had damaged the satin finish on the removable baffles during routing and had to repaint them. At first I tried to achieve a piano black on the baffles (and it would have looked soooo nice), but after several attempts decided it would be better to just repaint with satin black. I took a gamble and tried a routing idea on the piano finish, and fortunately it worked. Pre-finished cabinets are rather limiting in that you must work in co-operation with the finish; the finish dictates what you can and cannot do without having to refinish. I found the PE cabinet design to be "acceptable", but I will insist on designing/constructing my own cabinets in the future as I have more control over the little details that make high-end what it is.

It is not my habit to critique any project until break-in is complete, but these speakers, though only a day into break-in, are much more to my tastes than the PeeCreeks were. The PeeCreeks have a warm-ish balance while the DIY ARs speak with a very clear voice. There is, at the moment, an exaggerated presense in the upper midrange, but I have not yet installed the 2ohm resistor that is supposed to tame the tweeter a bit. So far, this tweeter is much less "dusty" sounding than other fabric dome tweeters that I've heard. These speakers seem to have a good amount of detail but also tend to be forgiving of less than par sources. There is a lack of upper-upper treble to the tweeters which I might attribute to the speakers forgiving nature - this was noticable because my unmodified GFA-555 II was enjoyable to listen to on the ARs, whereas driving my NHTs (similar tonal balance to the ARs) this amp is considerably less than enjoyable.

I would also note that it seems like these monitors prefer higher power amplification. Just for fun, I drove them with a updated/upgraded HK Citation V tube amp and while the sound was pleasant, 40W was not enough to coax the dynamics and fine details out of these speakers. Perhaps this was premature because the drivers still needed to loosen up, or maybe it was an issue of speaker efficiency, but this is what was observed during listening.

Overall, for the money and effort expended, these speakers are fantastic! I would recommend these to anyone looking for a reference class monitor. While I couldn't call them true refrence speakers ('cos they're too tolerent of upstream components), they certainly have a reference speaker sound. The tonal balance is correct, timbre is correct, drums & percussion are about as good as I have heard in my room, voices are open, clean and clear, horns and cymbals are metallic, strings are dry and woody, and they throw a damn good image too. These are almost too much to ask for in a monitor! These speakers remind me of the Lotus Seven - you had to build one yourself, but when you were done, you had a small, fast, very agile handling car that far exceeded the initial cost. If there are enough DIY ARs built (I reckon at least 1000 pair in the US by now), then I suspect that this small, fast, very agile speaker will become another sought after and coveted piece of audio history.