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Old 6th Sep 2019, 8:58 am   #1
MurphyNut
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Default Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

From a young age I've had a fascination (and still do) with how sound is reproduced through a loudspeaker. I remember as a kid taking apart an old television cabinet, removing the speaker and mounting it in a wooden box and using it to bypass the cheap little speaker in my Phillips cassette player. I was amazed at the improvement in sound and this got me experimenting with other projects.
So I've made all manner of basic "audio things" over the years this speaker has been the most successful, certainly the most involved and challenging I've attempted so far.

The Concept

I wanted to make a Bluetooth speaker that would be stylish and have a strong 1930's Art Deco look about it. Good sound quality was important and it not to be too large (no taller than a foot.) To be battery powered so it could be portable without worrying about plugging it in anywhere.
I'm not a technical person so no plans were drawn up, but I had a clear idea in my head of how it should look and be constructed.

Construction

The main feature is the hexagonal "head" this was a smallish trinket/craft box found at the local car boot for 50p and this was were it started. The main body of the cabinet was made up as a frame and 4 mm plywood panels attached to it. I doubled up the thickness on the sides were the bass drive units were mounted and other areas where I felt more rigidity was needed. The inside was lined with a heavy rubber coated fabric material l had roll of.
Throughout the build I took care to ensure nothing would vibrate and the cabinet should be solid and completely air tight as I was going to incorporate a passive radiator into the design.
The "head" section didn't need to be air tight as it was a separate space to contain the tweeters and Battery pack. I still lined it with damping material to ensure nothing would resonate.
I've ensured the back panel can be removed if I need to get inside for any reason. This is sealed off with a rubber surround.

Style

The whole cabinet was veneered in European walnut at differing angles with a contrasting veneer running along the bottom edge, similar in style to many radios of the 1930's.
I've accumulated quite a lot of veneer over the years for my vintage radio restorations, I usually only use very small bits for localized repairs, it was nice to use larger sections on this project.
Out of my box of spare knobs I found a suitable black Bakelite one to key in with the black elements incorporated in the cabinet design.
The grill was cut from a sheet of mesh (I again picked up at a car boot sale) and sprayed gold. Incidentally this mesh is exactly the same as used on Bush Dac 90a.
Amplifier, drive units and battery
The drive units come from an Altec Lansing ipod dock I bought new about 15 years ago, the dock developed a fault last year and I wasn't able to fix it so I saved the speakers and the rest had to go.
That dock sounded really good and the salvaged speakers are of high quality with huge magnets on the bass units and well made crossovers.
The bought amplifier board (TDA7297) is a little marvel, it's tiny, it delivers 15 watts per channel and runs on 12 volts.
I did some research on this unit and it gets outstanding reviews and glowing forum discussions.
So despite it's size and cheapness I had no worries using it. It isn't Bluetooth (ll'l come that aspect later) but I liked it having a volume control which the Bluetooth boards didn't have.
The battery pack holds 8 AA batteries to give me the 12 volts, then the current ones have run out I'll replace them with rechargeable ones.

Sound Quality

I'm extremely pleased, it certainly sounds much bigger than the cabinet would suggest.
Out of curiosity I did a few listening tests before I had actually finished it. Firstly with the back off, it sounded bass shy and boxy, with the back on a remarkable improvement was heard.
I spent a hour or so trying out some familiar tracks to get an overall feel for the sound, it was quite neutral with no unpleasant coloration detected, vocals sounded particularly pleasant.
Decent volume could be achieved without any distortion or harshness to the sound.
Out of pure coincidence the passive radiator unit I had ordered arrived not long after this, so later that day I had another listening session with it installed.
This really does extend the bass response quite a bit without it sounding overblown.
This speaker isn't strictly a Bluetooth one but I have a clever little receiving device (seen in the rear picture) that easily converts it by plugging into the Aux socket at the rear.

Conclusion

It's been a very enjoyable project, of course it's taken much longer than I anticipated. I've certainly learnt a few new skills and it hasn't cost me much, just my time.
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Last edited by MurphyNut; 6th Sep 2019 at 9:03 am.
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Old 6th Sep 2019, 9:01 am   #2
MurphyNut
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Some work in progress pictures-
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Old 6th Sep 2019, 9:03 am   #3
McMurdo
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

the cabinetry shop at EMI would approve!
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Old 7th Sep 2019, 11:32 pm   #4
Herald1360
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Oh dear..... the dreaded blue LED


Lovely bit of cabinet making, though!
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 7:29 am   #5
mole42uk
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Impressive!
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 7:43 am   #6
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Fantastic cabinet work looks very professional (you could easily make replacement radio ones too).

I assume the blue led is so you donít leave it on similar to the red light on some radiograms.

Nice write up too, not sure why you say you arenít technical, great woodworking and speaker knowledge.

John
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 10:45 am   #7
fetteler
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Excellent work - what a lovely looking speaker! You can be well pleased with yourself and in my opinion, after such an achievement you are entitled to use whatever colour of LED takes your fancy.

Cheers,
Steve.
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 10:53 am   #8
ajgriff
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Brilliant, well done!

Alan
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 10:54 am   #9
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Very nice job. I too would prefer a red or orange LED to a blue one, but that's just a personal preference.
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 11:52 am   #10
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Wow !
Now there is a project that crosses some technological time zones, the cabinet definitely 1920's to 30's, the gold anodized expanded aluminium of that appearance first appeared in the early 1950's, then there is the blue LED (its an interesting read about the Japanese inventor who never gave up) and the Blue Tooth link to accelerate it into modern times.

I'm very impressed that you somehow captured all of these time zones in one classy creation and you had both the creativity, skills and the nerve to do it, no doubt not caring about any negative remarks some purists will throw at you.

It is the kind of thing I would have expected someone like David Bowie to come up with (if he was an Engineer) Bravo !!
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 7:47 pm   #11
MurphyNut
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herald1360 View Post
Oh dear..... the dreaded blue LED
I decided it needed some indication that the power was on, so rather than having it incorporated into the front panel I situated it to shine down onto the surface the speaker stands on. I can see what you mean, it isn't very 1930's, but it is quite subtle
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Old 8th Sep 2019, 11:47 pm   #12
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Default Re: Homemade Art Deco Bluetooth speaker project

I would have preferred a gentle warm white glow as a more feasibly 'retro' colour which would look as though it was being cast by a filament lamp rather than an LED, but you can take some heart from the fact that the colour of the LED is just about the only thing we have managed to find to nit-pick.

I have to agree that nothing says 'This is not really retro' better than a blue LED.

That knob looks to me very like one of the knobs from a 1970s Hammant & Morgan model train controller.
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