Scott's DIY Madisound/HK Rig
Prepare to take a journey to another time and place, it was 1993 when I got my first pair of real speakers.
Some background story
I was definitely into hifi at an early age, the first big purchase I made was in 1991. I picked up one of the first good cheap CD players, the JVC XL-V141TN which had gotten write ups in a few of the industry rags for its low $119 price point and passable performance. Four months of lunch money combined with the $5 weekly allowance for cutting the grass and keeping the house clean paid for almost all of it. As I was just 13 and had not taken tax into account in my calculations; my father was nice enough to spot me the extra 8 percent.
I wouldn't classify my father as a budget audiophile, more as a budget limited audiophile. He would pick up small upgrades to his stereo every few years. Needless to say when I got these for Christmas in 1993 it was a pretty big deal. I believe that these were on a close out sale, and a good bargain at the time.
I enjoyed these in stock form for a few years, seeing just how loud I could play Metallica and Nine Inch Nails in a 10'x10' bedroom through my realistic receiver. Even then I always had my eye on upgrades and spent many hours digging through catalogs and magazines trying to find something better. In 1997 finally put my plans into action and performed a massive upgrade to the Yamahas.
I used a few paychecks from my part-time job doing tech support and the old Madisound printed catalog which at the time was just a collection of low quality black and white photocopies with a binder clip. The plan was to gut the boxes and pick out good drivers that fit the holes and order up a LEAP designed crossover to make it all work.
Here is the invoice, I couldn't afford the woofers at the time so I ordered them a few months later.
The tweeter is from the old peerless CC line, which if I'm not mistaken was the precursor for the scanspeak brand. This tweeter was used on some ultra expensive Genesis speakers back in the day and was also something that I had heard before on my father's Madisound Cygnets, which he still uses, and yes they still kick tremendous amounts of ass.
The midrange is a true midrange unit and one of the nicest I've heard. It's a Peerless driver that came with a little plastic enclosure, something that you rarely find now days.
The woofer is a Swan 305, which is really the heart of the system, I wanted something that could play low, loud, and crossover as clean as possible to a 4 inch midrange.
The LEAP crossover is a pretty nice piece of kit, with poly caps and was completely designed by a computer using audio precision measurements of the drivers and a baffle diagram. I think it uses second order filters, but honestly I have not looked at the board in a decade so I can't be sure what it is really doing other than crossing over the drivers. The system does have a bit of a "V" response curve built into it because the midrange does not play as low as it should, so the woofer is running out of steam as it reaches the crossover point. Honestly it was damn close to neutral sounding, and if anything the little "V" response is not a bad thing for a kid used to bass and treble knobs.
Eventually I moved on to another DIY build which was the Galena kit from Selah Audio which I'll do a write up of at some point. The custom Yamahas ended up going to my good friend Scott just to use for a while. He has been running these speakers now for almost a decade and outside of a few cracks in the 1/2 inch particle board boxes they are still rocking the house. This little field trip I pulled out the measuring gear just to see how wacked out crazy the bass boost is that Scott likes to run from his big Cerwin Vega subwoofer and ended up with some listening position measurement that are pretty comical.
Scott's house listening room is a strange one, it's a very long skinny room, almost like two small living rooms attached to each other. He is setup on one side of the long wall, basically the bass has plenty of room to wander around, but it's kind of tight with positioning the main speakers.
He is running an HK-3940 amp which is a nice unit. I've recommended this amp to countless people based on the sound and price/performance you get.
Cerwin Vega, because pink never goes out of style. This CLS-15S may not be tuned to the lowest of the lows, but it has lots of headroom.
This is my favorite graph ever.
Turning the sub off we can see a nice extended response that matches the tweeters level down to 24Hz, and in a few other measurements I took extended down to 17Hz(past the microphone calibration) and never hit a -3dB point.
I had a great time hanging out with an old friend and spending time with my old gear. I don't think I could ever give up any of my really good gear, loaning it to a friend indefinitely is a much better solution. It's always nice to step back and hear what you heard 20 years ago for the first time again.
As for up and coming audiophiles I can't recommend DIY enough, take a risk and do your own thing. At 19 years old and with only a few dollars I designed some really bad ass speakers that compete well with anything I've ever heard from a hifi shop. Yeah there is better stuff out there and I eventually moved on, but that's more a sign of my own insanity than anything lacking from what I had. The only haunting bit about this build is that I still want to make new cabinets for them. Who knows maybe I'll eventually do it, but until then I'll just keep dreaming up the possibilities.
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