An Audiophile Aerospace Engineer?!

Michael Thorson Aerospace and Mechanical, Free Time, Michael, Viterbi Life, Viterbi Plus 0 Comments

Last year I was at the Coachella music festival with a few of my best friends and I started to think pondering the massive speaker stacks each stage had. The kid in me knew I should have been just dancing to the music, but the engineer in me couldn’t help wondering how these machines could produce sounds so loud and clear at the same time! I needed to figure it out and what better way to figure it out than by building my own stereo speakers.
First, I researched the speaker design process on forums and DIY audio websites I found through Google and created an extensive list of woofers, mids, and tweeters I found on a website called parts-express. Once I decided on the components that fit my budget and optimized the speakers dynamic range (from low bass to high pitched sounds), I had to figure out how to connect my two drivers. Since large coned woofers are better for producing low sounds, and domed tweeters are better for producing high pitched sounds, I had to find a way to connect both of them and split an electric signal between them. Upon further research, I learned how to design an electric circuit called a crossover which uses capacitors and inductors to filter the proper audio frequencies to each speaker. Once I felt confident with my design, I ordered the parts.

A simple crossover circuit diagram for a two-way speaker that sends sounds lower than 3,250Hz to the woofer

A simple crossover circuit diagram for a two-way speaker that sends sounds lower than 3,250Hz to the woofer

Crossover IRL

A fully wired crossover, satisfying to any engineer.

Once they arrived, I took quick trip to Home Depot for wood, borrowed some power tools from my friend, and I built the boxes I designed, soldered the crossovers, and fitted the drivers in place. To be honest, I didn’t really have an idea of how big 2.2 cubic feet was, so I ended up with some beasts to say the least.

Fully finished speakers sitting next to my roommates TV (I wish I built the TV too)

Fully finished speakers sitting next to my roommates TV (I wish I built the TV too)

I hooked everything up, and listened to my first vinyl through the speakers (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles obviously!) and not only did they work, I could hear every bit of sound in full stereo. I felt very accomplished because I saw something I wanted to build, researched the science behind, and figured out how to make it happen. To me, that is the core of the engineering mindset.

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Michael Thorson

Michael Thorson

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