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The True Cost of Loudspeakers

Hi bloggers,

having spent some time analysing this particular topic, I thought I would share my thoughts with you.  These are observations only.

I am guessing that if you have got this far, you have thought about why a bunch of $100 speaker drivers end up cost maybe thousands as a complete loudspeaker.  Well the analysis I did was that the costs highest to lowest in every loudspeaker runs like this:

Approximate Order of Costs
  1. Marketing;
  2. Research and Development;
  3. Enclosures;
  4. Drivers;
  5. Crossover;
  6. Transport.

Other things such as capital expenditure, equipment, rent, administration, losses, holding costs, etc haven't been included, but can mostly be fitted into the above categories.

Not All Brands

This isn't a rigid structure and may vary from one manufacturer to another and from one model to another.  For instance a smaller company may not spend as much on marketing as ones whose name start with the letter B.  Transport for a very expensive small two way will be less than a giant tower selling for the same price.  In a high end speaker with a complex crossover, the crossover can cost more than all the drivers together.  Some enclosures are works of art and the use of quality materials and hand finishing can elevate their costs considerably. 

Time as a cost

So if you decide to develop your own design, and you put a price on your time roughly the equivalent of what your boss pays you, a modest outlay in MDF, drivers and electronic components will be overshadowed in dollar terms by the cost of your time, and you may still not have a worthwhile loudspeaker.  As an aside I was talking to a professional speaker designer named Richard, who has won awards for his first professional speakers.  I believe he said that the next six designs that he attempted were duds.

The Satisfaction of DIY

Don't get me wrong, speaker design is a wonderful hobby, but don't think you are going to save money.  Having said that there is a level of satisfaction when you pull it off that is wonderful, and I hope that everyone at some points in there life gets to feel that.  So please if you are hell bent on designing speakers good luck and have fun.

Reasons to buy a Kit

If you want to save money, buy a kit online where the R&D is spread across many units and the marketing costs are much lower.  A kit will mean that the number of tools you need is a lot fewer and less expensive, but the satisfaction quotient when you complete it is still high. 

Buying from a Shop

Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are shops.  They do a wonderful service in that they pay a fortune in rent and have great armchairs for you to sit around and listen to various systems, prior to buying.  If you just want to listen to music and not go down the DIY route and learn something in the meantime, set your budget and go to the local hi-fi shop, and don't be swayed by anything other than you ears.  I do not know how many times I have heard you have to match your amp and your speakers.  If an amp doesn't sound good it is rubbish and listen to a better one. 

If you are not sure about a purchase walk out, think about it, return with another bunch of CDs and listen again.  Take the CDs to a friend's place listen to their system, try a different shop.  BTW don't go on a Saturday afternoon.  Go on a Tuesday after 2.  The salespeople will have much more time.

Happy listening and take care



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