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$500 retail? After markup?
So, $100-$150 worth of parts? Including drivers, crossover and cabinet?
Sounds like a waste of time to me.
I'll leave it to others to take $20 drivers from China and make something that simply "doesn't sound horrible" for the $500 retail price point.
You're asking designers to put in effort using crap components.
So my response is "Why bother".
I thought he was talking about $500 for a kit sold by Madisound or PE or similar. Not a mass produced $500 speaker.
"I feel it is time for a competition in designing a bookshelf speaker for $500."
"No stipulations on the driver or type of cabinet but must be saleable for $500."
Those statements seemed to shout "complete box, full retail".
If he meant kit, then sure maybe you could do a kit (drivers and crossover parts) with NO cabinets for $500.
Unless you're talking about starting with $25 woofs and $10 tweets which is pretty much a waste of time.
Yes, a kit. Similar to Zaph but to reflect new thinkings and innovations and materials.
So I checked again. Zaph Kits start at $250 for drivers and crossover parts at Madisound. (John Krutke is GIFTING these things to our community. He's clearly not in this for the money!!)
So how much for cabinets and finishing?
I still think the parts alone will be $500 and that's not retail unless you're doing this as a charity mission and plan to make zero dollars.
Retail means markup. Even a kit should be marked up.
As for tech - you won't find a better performing driver than Zaph's drivers for the money. Nowhere. Nothing out of China at that price point can come close. His drivers perform as well as units costing 2 to 3 times as much.
Just my 2 cents.
I actually have an SB thing or two around I have not had the time to test, because of the press of other work.
I am also told that Massachusetts, USA's Aerial has used SB drivers.
As far as the OP's original suggestion, I think it needs refinement.
But I would, in the spirit of his DIY orientation, want to make the competition one based on parts costs (INCLUDING CABINETS), with woodfinishing and assembly labor (as well as taxes and shipping) written off.
Now... for a speaker I'd want to own for myself and not cringe every time I fired it up, let's just arbitrarily "norm to" my first non-Irving Fried major audio purchase, that being Spendor SP1s, circa 1987: MSRP $1200.
That being, for this competition, $1200 for drivers, crossovers, and passable MDF cabinets.
A little higher than Madisound's Seas A26 10" 2-way kit, but one can live with a cheaper cabinet.
And Madisound has many other kits as examples.
I am too busy to take a role in setting such a competition up, and, unlike the Association for Independent Music awards, where they only send you CDs or downloads, this competition involves receiving many boxes into one's garage, so... dunno even about that.
"That being, for this competition, $1200 for drivers, crossovers, and passable MDF cabinets."
This was my one and only point.
How much does a speaker from 1987 at $1200 cost today?
Inflation calculator says $2500. That's five times what the OP suggested.
I think this is why a lot of speaker maker startups fail.
They don't realise that you need to mark up a speaker 4 to 5X the cost of components to cover labour, overhead, staff, shipping materials, shop supplies, tools, and lets not forget all those trips to speaker shows that are not free!
I was told some time ago by one of the major music software (LPs, SACDs, etc.) and audio hardware (turntables, digital front ends, amps, etc.) e-tailers that they could sell digital gear all day long at prices over $10,000; but at some point between $1000/pr. and $2500/pr., customer resistance to buying a loudspeaker they had not heard kicked in.
So, yes, of course, at least in the past, if a brick and mortar retailer had a pair of $10,000 speakers on sale, the arithmetic worked out something like:
Consumer pays $10,000 (ha ha ha! Almost never. Prices are higher to give the mandatory "sucker discounts").
Salesperson gets $1,000.
The dealer paid $6,000, so the dealer banks $3000 minus the discout.
If there is a sales rep, the rep gets between 5% and 10%, so, the manufacturer gets $5,000.
The manufacturer has to pay overhead and salaries and advertising and taxes and insurance. And bank a profit.
That leaves $2,000 for parts and labor, Non-Recurring Engineering Amortization, the boxes, packing material, owner's manual and warranty cards. In a "real" loudspeaker company, "labor" includes QC on all incoming subcomponents, as well as the final product.
So, for the $10,000 a pair speakers, how much is left for a pair of woofers and a pair of tweeters?
Let me be so bold as to suggest that a "real" company selling loudspeakers through sales reps and dealers, and which buys ads in the magazines and on the websites, and which exhibits at audio shows, cannot put $500 each Scanspeak Illuminator D3004/6640-00 1" Beryllium Dome tweeters and $367 each ScanSpeak Illuminator 18WU/4741T-00 7" Woofers in a "$10,000/pr." loudspeaker. Because those drivers eat up something like $1500/speaker pr. at wholesale, which means no money for cabinets and crossovers.
Assuming that I am not totally all wet, my educated guess is that the $10,000/pr. loudspeaker, after paying for cabinets and crossovers, there's $250 per speaker for drivers; let's say, $150 for the tweeter and $100 for the woofer.
That is why most loudspeakers have cabinets made out of sawdust and glue.
Which is also why the entry-level loudspeaker from Wilson Benesch costs nearly $9,000 a pair in the US.
But, most consumers don't want to buy from a one-man company whose global headquarters is half a suburban garage, and that goes double for buying direct. Years ago, someone taunted me over my enthusiasm for the French company ASA, asking whether I knew that it was two guys making loudspeakers in the garage of a private home, and presumably in violation of local zoning ordinances.
I replied that I had known that the company was two guys, and further that they just assembled known-manufacturer drivers into cabinets by subcontractors, but, the magic was in the voicing, and that the simplicity of the crossover enabled them to use a supremely expensive capacitor, and I thought that the Pro speaker was extraordinarily good, and that the Baby speaker committed only sins of omission, and was something of a bargain.
That person chided me for misleading my readers and risking that they would own "orphan" products. My reply was, "Oh? Is Dynaudio going out of business?"
That was at least 25 years ago.
And, ASA is still going strong, but not in the US... the Pro Monitor that was US$5000/pr. 20 or more years ago is now circa 12,000 Euros/pr.
A funny business, indeed.
You've made my point to a T here.
What I value is a guy's time. I value MY time. I value other people's time. So, I'd suggest they made the goal $1000 and not $500.
Even if you use a more "DIY/Kit" marketing strategy and forget the "500% markup on parts" retail formula, a guy has a decent chance of making something decent sounding.
Even then, we're looking at "usual suspects" for caps and coils and nothing elaborate. A lot of designers believe strongly in a high-quality cap for the series cap for the tweeter filter. These things can be $50-$75 a piece.
I guess my point was if the OP got a bunch of entries that were "okay sounding" he'd have to call that a success. Look at Zaph - for him to create something amazing in the value-level designs, he had to get a driver made to his exact specifications.
Anyways, the contest sounds fun but I think it would give designers a much better chance of success by simply making the target $1000.
Or maybe he meant a $500 kit and I'm on about nothing.
Anyways, I enjoyed your post because it mirrors my own "math" on what a speaker takes to go from design to market. It takes *a lot*.
Are there any? Sometimes the fit, finish and sound on vintage FAR surpasses anything on the current market. YMMV...
Depends on the price point.
Vintage as in before copper rings on pole pieces, frame venting below the spider, or neo magnets...
You might not be able to beat a vintage midbass with a $25 driver from China but you can do it with a Zaph driver that costs $50 to $60. There are many very-high-value midbass and tweeters available now if one knows what to look for.
Scan Speak (now owned by Tymphany) has come out with value price point drivers that use Scan Speak motor technology and the bang for the buck is incredible. You can get midbass drivers in the $65 range that crush the previous generation performance wise.
Unless your idea of vintage is "Seas Excel Magnesium"... I don't think the vintage argument is a any longer true.
What could be true is a specific vintage *design* is just a better overall *design*!
Then in 2014 it was sold to Eastech, Eastern Asia Technology (HK) Limited, who I believe is the current owner.
Tymphany continues to own the Vifa and Peerless brands, which it acquired in 2008 when it bought Danish Sound Technologies (DST).
Tymphany (then owned by Ken Kantor) pretty much ruined Vifa and Peerless when it transferred production to China -- many popular models were discontinued, and QC went down the toilet. Scan Speak was kept in Denmark as the "prestige" brand.
In the last few years, Scan Speak has re-introduced several of the most popular discontinued Vifa models as part of its "Discovery" series.
Thanks for sharing that history of this company and it's incredible founders and stewards. Frankly, I just can't keep up.
For Scan/Peerless/Vifa from my Canadian source it's always been Solen, but I used to rely on Parts Express back in the day when the dollars were more on par...
I was excited about their "Discovery" line as there are some drivers there that are particularly close to my heart. The new little 4-incher with the larger neo magnet (10F/8424G00) appears to have roots in the famous Vifa MG10MD0908 fiberglass, that I use as mids in my WMTMW speakers that serve as my present-day reference. I would bet those full-range neo drivers would absolutely sing in a compact WMTMW...
The sub I am using right now is in a DIY setup employing a later Peerless XLS model that now seems to be re-badged as the Discovery 30W/4558T00. At $348 Canadian, can a guy find better bang for the buck? Maybe... I paid about $150 for the Peerless on sale. Value is incalculable. First time I've had a metal-cone sub pass as a "music" sub, to be sure.
Hope to do a build with an Illuminator series D3004/660000 (was a 6600 air-circ prior I believe) one day before I go, but the Revelator D2904/710003 is only a few bucks more per side for almost 3db more sensitivity...
It's funny, really, thinking about doing a build for $500 retail when a single tweeter can cost $300 or more.
Then again, those components are worlds apart.
I'm a fan of Morel drivers, which have much in common with Dynaudio, because in the early 1970s Edjvind Skanning and Meir Mordecai co-developed several of the core technologies and shared the patents before starting their respective companies. In fact, Dynaudio started recommending Morel replacements for their own drivers after getting out of the DIY/OEM market sector. Now Morel offers some ultra-upscale drivers, but their standard line are quite decent and priced competitively with Euro brands like SEAS.
For awhile there were two "Morel" companies, after Mordecai and his finance guy split up. The latter took the name and the designs and started manufacturing in the U.S., while Mordecai remained in Israel. Lawsuits and litigation of course followed, some lawyers earned their keep, and the American company changed its name to "Renaissance" or some such.
I remember the Morel split. I had no idea the American side changed it's name. Fascinating. Morel makes some crazy drivers... World renowned tweets - their 2" mid-dome is well known.
I've always wanted see some of their big V.C. superwoofers in person...
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