DIY Audio means "do it yourself" audio. Rather than buying a piece of (expensive) audio equipment, such as an amplifier or high-end cable, a person makes it himself. The benefits of doing so include economic concerns, the satisfaction of creating something enjoyable, and the possibility that the equipment made is of higher quality than commercially available products.
History of Audio DIYEdit
Audio DIY came to prominence in the 50's to 60's, as audio reproduction was relatively new and the technology "complex," audio reproduction equipment, and in particular high performance equipment, was not offered at the retail level. Kits and designs were available for consumers to build their own equipment. Famous vacuum tube kits from Dynaco, Heathkit, and McIntosh, as well as solid state (transistor) kits from Hafler allowed for consumers to build their own hi fidelity systems. Books and magazines were published which explained new concepts regarding the design and operation of vacuum tube and (later) transistor circuits.
While audio equipment has become easily accessible in the current day and age, there still exists an interest in building one's own equipment, including amplifiers, speakers, preamplifiers, and even CD players and turntables. Today, a network of companies, parts vendors, and on-line communities exist to foster this interest.
In modern times, integrated circuits make construction of DIY audio systems easier, but the proliferation of surface mount components (which are very small and difficult to solder with a soldering iron) and fine pitch printed circuit boards (PCBs) arguably make the physical act of construction more difficult. Used test equipment is readily available for purchase through the Internet and enables convenient testing of parts and systems. Specifications of parts and components are readily accessible through the Internet including data sheets and equipment designs.
It has become easier to make audio components from "scratch" rather than from "kits" due to the availability of CAD software for printed circuit board (PCB) layouts and electronic circuit simulation. Such software can be free for a trial version. PCB vendors are more accessible than ever, and can manufacture PCBs in small quantities for the do-it-yourselfer. In fact, kits and chemicals for self-manufacturing one's own PCB can be obtained. Electronic parts and components are easily accessible online, and specialty "high-end" parts vendors exist. Today, a network of companies, parts vendors, and on-line communities exist to foster this interest including several online companies like PCB123, ExpressCNC and Emachineshop, with web sites and free software dedicated to the design and manufacture of DIY printed circuit boards and mechanical components.
On the other hand, a wide variety of kits, designs and premanufactured PCBs are available for almost any type of audio component.
To construct a device takes more than knowledge of circuits, many would urge that the mechanical aspects of cabinets, cases and chassis' are the most time consuming aspects of audio DIY. Drilling, metalworking and physical measurements are critical to constructing almost any DIY audio project, especially speakers. Measuring equipment such as a Vernier caliper is often essential.
DIY audio involves "projects" directed to audio. Many DIY audio people fancy themselves to be audiophiles. These people use rare and expensive parts and components in their projects. Examples are the use of silver wire, expensive capacitors, and use of parts that have been cryogenically cooled.
Vacuum tube or "valve" projects are common in audio DIY. While the vacuum tube has been replaced in modern times with the transistor and IC, interest exists in building components using vacuum tubes, and the vacuum tube is still freely available. Note that vacuum tube projects almost always use dangerously high voltages and should be undertaken with due care.
Looking at the motivation of the audio DIY participant, some think that it is cheaper to make equipment than it would cost if an item were bought new. Some do it for the enjoyment, spending much more time and money on a project than it would have cost to purchase something similar. Some think that they can just do a better job, or just want to create something unique or different. Reference: Veselinovic Article "DIY Pros and Cons".
Tweaking and TweakersEdit
DIY audio can also involve "tweaking" of mass market components. It is thought that mass market audio components (and even high-end audio) components are compromised by the use of cheap or inferior internal parts that can be easily replaced with high quality substitutes. As a result, an audio component of improved characteristics is obtained for relatively low cost. Changing an audio component in this way is similar to what a tweaker or modder does with a personal computer.
Cloning and ClonersEdit
Another common practice in the DIY audio community is to attempt to "clone" or copy a preexisting design or component from a commercial manufacturer. This involves obtaining a lawful public version of, or lawfully reverse engineering, the circuit schematics for the design, and/or even the publicly available PCB layouts. Such a "clone" will not be a perfect copy since different brands and types of parts (often newer parts) will be used, and mechanical aspects of construction will likely differ. However, the circuit or other distinguishing features should be the same as the original.
There are many reasons for wanting to recreate an existing design. The design might be historically important and/or out of production, so the only way to obtain the component is to build it. The design might be very simple so copying it is easily done. The commercial product might be very expensive but its design known, so it may be built for far less than it cost to be purchased. The original design may have some sentimental value to the person building the recreation, and the design built for the memories in one's past. The copy may be made to test or evaluate design concepts or principals in the original.
As an example, a well known "clone" includes amplifiers using high power integrated circuits, such as the National Semiconductor LM3875 and LM3886. The use of a high power IC as part of a quality audio amplifier was popularized by the 47 Labs Gaincard amplifier, and thus the DIY amplifiers using power ICs are often called "chipamps" or "Gainclones."
Usually cloning additionally involves improving or Tweaking (see above) the original design, potentially by using more modern components (in the case of discontinued designs) or higher quality parts.
See also Edit
- lalena.com Tutorials, calculators, links and other info for making crossovers, filters, speaker boxes...
- AudioNote Kits A source of many high-end audio kits including DAC's, SET amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, speakers, etc.
- Mostly Audio Non-commercial audio kit building site showing some detailed DIY kit builds.
- DIY Audio A web site devoted to DIY Audio and some DIY video (partly commercially funded).
- diyhifi.orgA non-commercial web site devoted to DIY Audio.
- Pete Millet's websiteA site made by a DIY audio hobbyist and about DIY audio including schematics, vintage manuals and books and other information.
- Mission Possible DIY Forum A DIY speaker building forum/message board.
- AudioDIYCentral Another board for audio DIY
- Gainclone.com A site devoted to DIY Gainclone type amplifiers.
- DIY Links Numerous Audio DIY related links.
- AudioWorld Audio DIY links
- audioXpress Magazine A print magazine directed to Audio DIY.
- Heathkit Hi-Fi & Stereo Heathkit Virtual Museum.
- soniXshop DIY A/V Community soniXshop DIY A/V resource archive and community.
- The Audio Pages Vast array of informative articles about audio, building projects, and electronics in general.
- SSGuitar.com Great information on building your own solid state guitar amp/preamp/effects.
- diyAudioProjects.com Several well documented DIY Audio Projects.