DIY audio system price breakdown

I know that my article on designing and building an audio system has puzzled a couple of people by claiming that £380-ish is sufficient to build a fully-functioning system. As I said in the article, some of it was secondhand, and the breakdown of the components was:

  • Pair of old Goodmans speakers £20 (I used the enclosures and added on new baffles)
  • Pair of AR bookshelf speakers £0 (again, I just used the enclosures. I had them already, but have seen similar speakers fail to sell on eBay for £5)
  • Dell tower PC with Windows 7 £40
  • Creative X-Fi card £30 (provides the DACs)
  • M Audio Delta card £20 (slaves to the X-Fi card via SPDIF and acts as destination for audio apps, and as the source for my software. Originally the X-Fi could do it all, but this card had to be added when upgrading from XP to Win 7 due to a driver issue. I had it already, but there is a completed listing on eBay for this price inc. shipping)
  • Pair of 902.222 drivers £50
  • Pair of SKO100 drivers £18
  • Pair of DT25N tweeters £30
  • Tweeter protection caps £20 (Maybe I fell for the hype, but I bought film caps as opposed to electrolytics)
  • Huge sheet of MDF £30 (used only for making new baffles)
  • 3 x Denon amps £130-ish
  • Software £0 (I wrote it, but there are open source convolution engines out there, or commercial packages for £40 upwards)
  • Cables £30-ish

Total: £418


UPDATE 04.03.16

I have changed the hardware and software a bit (although probably with zero change in the sound). The following items have been substituted for the corresponding ones above:

  • Sumvision Cyclone fanless PC instead of the Dell desktop £100
  • Sony AV amp instead of the three Denon amps £170
  • Xonar U7 USB-based sound card in stead of the two PCI cards above £90
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7 thoughts on “DIY audio system price breakdown

  1. I stumbled upon your blog when searching for more info about Devialet Phantom. Ended up reading everything. It’s really good stuff.

    I know almost nothing about the DIY world of Hi-fi, but do know a thing or two about software development. This inspired me to start a project and build similar system to yours in order to learn more about this end to end.

    As a starting point I was thinking of building LXMini by Linkwitz even though it’s two-way design. http://www.linkwitzlab.com/LXmini/Introduction.htm

    What do you think about starting with these speakers and what could be good and cheap amp(s) to drive them.

    That should be the hardest part for me, as it’s unrelated to computers 🙂

    Any other tips/pointers would be great.

    Cheers,
    A

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  2. Many thanks for the comment. Those speakers look really interesting, and I suppose you could also supplement them with a subwoofer..? In my case I used Denon amps: PMA355UK and PMA255UK which are available pretty cheaply off eBay. However, I am now also looking into using one of the previous generation of AV amps, that provide 4, 6 or 8 channels of amplification with a common volume control and separately-configurable gain trim for each channel.

    Current AV amps are HDMI-based which would be superb, except for the fact that PC-based software needs a source and destination that are locked in terms of sample frequency. The PC audio apps (CD, web streaming etc.) need to play into a ‘sound card’ of some sort, from which my software can stream the data, process it, and then stream it out to a destination ‘sound card’ which in this case would be the HDMI output. I am not certain how this would work while keeping the audio source and destination locked (currently I use two sound cards locked with an external SPDIF cable). I know that there is a commercial ‘Virtual Audio Cable’ that cleverly re-samples the input data to synchronise it with the output (and I presume that the pukka commercial DSP packages have this functionality built in..?) but I like the idea that if input and output are physically synchronised, then the result is ‘bit perfect’. My original system ran on Windows XP, and in this case the single X-Fi sound card could act as both source and destination, but when upgrading to Windows 7 this ability was removed from the drivers for some reason, hence the need for the second sound card. Without actually buying a sound card and trying it, I don’t think it is possible to know in advance how this aspect works. Maybe I could do it all with the PC’s onboard sound and HDMI output, but I haven’t investigated that yet. You may know more about this sort of thing than I do..?

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  3. Thanks for the quick response. Sub would be a later stage improvement definitely.

    I thought about HDMI (or DisplayPort), since it’s commonly available and would remove the need for a sound card. I have no idea how this can be done on windows.

    On Linux, HDMI audio is just another sound card (just like on windows).
    It’s fairly easy to add virtual multichannel (dummy) ALSA sound cards and have all kinds of routing etc. between the cards. Coupled with JACK for low latency it should be able to do whatever you wish.

    If I wanted to have two subs, would it make any difference in having 7.2 AVs compared to 7.1?

    I’d like to go down this route, so once you have some recommendations for a good 8/9 channel AV receiver (latest gen and separately older gen) please share them.
    It would be really useful for it to have a “source direct”, so that everything else besides the DAC and amplification be done in software.

    Cheers,
    A

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    1. Thanks for the info.

      Yes, Linux would seem to be the obvious route for this stuff (Spotify, I believe, runs on Linux, and this would have to be the case for me to consider it) and JACK looks very comprehensive.

      My version of a DSP crossover uses ASIO and the BASS audio library which, I think, is Windows only. The essential thing for me to migrate to Linux would be for my software to be able to appear as a ‘sound card’ for the audio apps to stream data to, or for my software to receive data from something that looked like a sound card to the audio apps. Then I would need to be able to stream the results to multiple output channels (DACs or HDMI) with a guarantee that all channels were synchronised to sample level i.e. send out a group of 6 values into a software FIFO and know that they would all emerge from their respective DACs simultaneously. There would also need to be a way of ensuring matched sample rates for the receiving of the data from the apps, and the DAC output streams. There’s a lot of unknowns in there for me, at the moment…

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    2. Hi Aronax

      Someone has just lent me a Sony STR-DB1070 AV amplifier, and it could be just the job for a three way active system: it has 6 analogue channels (2xFront, 2xSurround, 1xCentre, 1xSurround Back) that can be used in Multichannel Direct Mode (i.e. no digital processing), but there are still configurable trim gains, so you can play all your sound card outputs at similar volume but adjust for the relative sensitivity of your drivers (in my case I have just set the mids at -6dB relative to the woofers, and the tweeters at -8dB). It’s working fine, and it looks great – very high build quality.

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      1. It looks very promising. I’ve checked the availability and that didn’t get me far. However STR-DB1080 (newer model) and STR-DB2000 (replacement for STR-DB1080) can be found quite cheap.
        Manual of both models states they have Multimode CH IN for direct audio and no surround effects on (DSP off, wording changed from STR-DB1070 manual). Let’s see if I can get my hands on one next week

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