An audio system is only as good as its speakers, so speaker quality makes a big difference in how music, movies, and high-definition television programmes sound. One way to get great sound without spending a fortune is to buy separate speaker components. Buying this way is often less expensive than purchasing a fully assembled speaker, but the results and sound quality are often comparable. Assembling a speaker is easier than many people think, especially when the components include a pre-assembled speaker cabinet. The main challenge is to decide which components to purchase. Buyers should keep several considerations in mind before a purchase, such as their budget and the technical skills required to assemble the components into a working unit. Users need to know how many speakers they want for the system, as well as speaker size and driver design. Selecting each component type, such as drivers, cabinets, crossovers, and terminals requires some decisions, as well. Informed decisions and smart buying practices come from an understanding of the product and its capabilities. Whether buying on eBay or from a high street shop, it is important to know what to look for.
The following sections describe the general considerations that go into buying speaker components. These considerations include the buyer's budget and technical skills. The greater a buyers manual or technical skills (e.g. using a screwdriver, soldering), the better. Buyers who assemble components on their own can save a great deal of money over buying pre-assembled components.
One of the most important considerations when it comes to any buying decision is budget. Purchasing speaker components is no different. Those interested in assembling their own speakers or replacing a component within an existing speaker cabinet should decide how much they want to spend. Speaker components can cost anywhere from dozens of pounds, to thousands. Those assembling their own speakers or buying replacement components should keep in mind that either solution is almost always less expensive than buying new. All other things being equal, the sound quality is also usually comparable. Therefore, speaker components usually end up being a good-value. However, buyers should know that speaker assembly can cost a bit more than they expect, if they have not planned properly.
Those shopping for speaker components intending to assemble them at home should first consider their own handyman skills. There are numerous ways to approach the process. For instance, buyers can assemble some of the components on their own, while buying other components already assembled. It depends entirely on the users' comfort working with hardware. It almost always less expensive to assemble a component than to buy it pre-assembled, but some components are more sophisticated than others. Those new to assembling speakers may want to consider a speaker kit. These include all basic speaker components, including the cabinet, drivers, and crossovers. This allows the buyer significantly less room to customise the system, but it leaves most of the hard work to experts who understand signal power and acoustics.
The following sections describe the logistical considerations that go into buying speaker components. These are of more concern to buyers intending to assemble new speakers than to those buying replacement components. The primary logistical considerations are the speaker setup, the speaker size, and the driver design.
Those buying speaker components to assemble into speakers should think about how many speakers they need, and where to place them. Does the buyer need enough components to assemble an entire surround sound speaker system? Or is adding a subwoofer to an existing speaker setup all that is required? Where will the speakers be located? Kits for installing speakers into walls and ceilings to create a sublimated speaker system are available. Or will the speakers simply sit on the floor or a bookshelf? Once a buyer has decided on a speaker setup, the plan for purchasing components starts to become clear.
Speaker size is another important logistical consideration. The space where the speakers go largely determines their size. Component buyers should keep in mind that the size of the speakers does not necessarily determine how powerful they are. While larger cabinets can generally hold bigger and more powerful drivers, choosing a cabinet by its dimensions can also come down to personal preferences. Some buyers may prefer the dramatic look of standing speakers, while others like lower-profile bookshelf speakers. Those assembling their own speakers therefore have to determine which cabinet sizes and dimensions best suit their spaces and preferences.
The last logistical consideration is driver design. This also influences speaker size, since the design determines how many drivers (or sound-projecting devices) go into the cabinet. The most basic design is a two-way speaker. This usually features a tweeter for high-frequency sounds, and a woofer for low-frequency sounds. A 2.5-way speaker has one tweeter and two woofers, with the woofers often of slightly different frequencies, although this is not always the case. A three-way speaker usually has one tweeter, one mid-range driver, and one woofer. Lastly, a four-way speaker generally features a tweeter, an upper mid-range driver, a lower-mid-range driver, and a woofer. Theoretically, buyers can customise a driver design however they like. However, it makes the most sense to cover the spectrum as broadly as possible, except for the lowest frequencies (which the subwoofer handles separately). The higher the frequency, the smaller the driver usually is, thereby influencing the size of the speaker cabinet.
Considerations Per Component
The following sections discuss the most important points to consider when buying each speaker component, whether it be a driver, a crossover, a terminal, etc.
The quality of the drivers is one of the most important factors that determine the overall quality of a speaker. Those looking to replace a driver in their speaker cabinets should consider upgrading, though only if they are sure their cabinets can dampen the unwanted noise a more powerful driver produces. It is also important to pay attention to the driver’s sensitivity rating, or how effectively it converts power into sound. This is measured in decibels; the higher the rating, the more efficiently the driver operates.
Choosing a cabinet can be tricky. First, buyers who assemble their own cabinets require several tools and supplies: cutting tools (a circle jig is especially helpful), wood glue, clamps, sandpaper, and decorative materials such as stains and paints. It is possible to assemble cabinets from a handful of different types of wood, and there are all sorts of modifications that improve acoustics. Fibreboard, such as MEDEX, is a good choice for a basic material and it should be 1.5 inches thick for the front baffle and three-quarters inch thick on all other sides.
Those who prefer to buy a pre-assembled cabinet should make sure the cabinet can accommodate all of the drivers the user wants. Pre-assembled cabinets should also meet the buyer’s specified dimensions. Buyers should purchase dampening material, as well. Acoustic foam is a good choice, and eliminates most unwanted noise that arises when sending more power to the drivers.
Crossovers direct the right frequencies to the right drivers. Without a crossover, a speaker driver could receive frequencies it is not meant to handle, and thus become damaged. Crossovers are sophisticated components, so it makes sense to buy them already assembled, unless the buyer is an expert audio engineer. The most important consideration is how many drivers the crossover can manage. For example, for a four-way speaker, buyers should make sure the crossover can manage frequency traffic for four different drivers.
Terminals are the parts that enable the speaker to receive signals from a receiver, an amplifier, or source components. Binding posts attach to the speakers, and buyers should make sure that they can fit the within the width of the cabinet wall. The better the quality of the binding post, the more signal power the cables deliver to the speaker. Banana plugs attach to the end of the speaker wire, and are used to join the speaker wire to the binding posts. Banana plugs and binding posts both come in several different form factors, so it is important to make sure they match. RCA plugs and sockets are universal, and so are easy to match with one another. Many speakers also have terminal cups into which the binding posts or RCA sockets are mounted.
There are a few extra components that buyers should consider. Plate amplifiers can be mounted directly into speaker cabinet, though these are unnecessary if an amplifier is already present in the sound system. For best sound quality, it is important to use high-quality speaker wire. Low-quality speaker wire can negate the benefits of a high-quality speaker, and vice versa. Some owners may prefer a low-profile look to their speakers, and can add grills and grill cloth. They can also use cabinet feet and spikes to raise speakers slightly above the surfaces on which they rest.
How to Buy Speaker Components on eBay
Speaker components are available from both local and online audio equipment shops. It may be easier to find some components online at shops that specialise in selling assembly or upgrade components. eBay is another source for all of the speaker components mentioned in this guide. It boasts a large selection of components. You can find them by going to any eBay page, entering relevant search keywords (e.g. "tweeter") into the search bar, and clicking the Search button. You can click on one or more of the filters on the sidebar to limit the results to those that are most relevant to your needs.
You can also use eBay to shop locally for speaker components. Specify the maximum distance from your postcode that sellers should be located, and eBay filters out all listings by sellers outside that range. The closer a seller is located to you, the less time and money is likely to be required for shipping.
Buying separate components and assembling the speaker yourself is a great way to save money while getting high-quality sound out of your audio system. Speaker components also let you upgrade a speaker cheaply, without having to buy a whole new unit. Assembling a speaker components is not as difficult as many people believe, but it does require careful consideration and planning. The sections above explained the most important considerations when buying speaker components, such as keeping to a budget, assessing their own assembly skills, and planning the speaker setup, size, and driver design.
There are numerous sources for high quality speaker components, but eBay is a great, one-stop shop for all of the parts mentioned in this guide. Using the information presented here, readers should be able to use the site to buy all of the components they need for high-quality speakers and spend less money than they would if they bought the equipment pre-assembled.