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Thread: Project Widget

  1. #1
    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Project Widget

    For those that know about this personal project that has dragged on for just short of forever, you may want to go right to the photos, but for those unfamiliar with my project, I’ll cover the project from initial concept to the present day.

    In late 2004 a buddy of mine bought a pair of Classic Audio T1 speakers (see photo 1). He liked them but thought they could be better. He asked me if I had any ideas on how to improve them. At about this time I was also involved in the ill fated Project May speakers for Don McRitchie. (Another long and winding tale… one that perhaps will be unraveled and told someday.) In any event, during the process, I was exposed to the phenomenal JBL 1500AL woofers. My buddy suggested we try the TAD TD-4003/TH-4003 which were a step up from the Classic Audio’s TAD TD-4001/TH4001 clone.

    I was game, so I mocked them up in some test boxes and audio magic happened. My buddy directed the aesthetics and we came up with the design in photo 2. I set about building them with ribs and laying up pre-kerfed MDF.
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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    I built the cabinets and we began listening to them. (If only these projects could go as quickly as writing about them!) In any event after a significant amount of effort, they were built and we began critically listening to the prototypes. For some reason the bass wasn’t as clear and articulate as it had been in the test boxes. I performed a number of tests and determined that the cabinets had an internal resonance that was affecting the performance. I found the resonance by examining the impedance sweep of the woofer in the cabinet and while making a number of modifications to the bass boxes, I was able to isolate it to our satisfaction.

    After some soul searching, I decided to take another stab at the design and I offered up the unfinished cabinets on the forum. Member Wardsweb jumped in and took them. He worked out the resonance issue and finished up the speakers magnificently. See his thread: http://www.audioheritage.org/vbullet...read.php?10692

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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    I literally went back to the drawing board. At this point, my buddy who was driving the project and most importantly, funding it, suggested that we use a woofer with a bit deeper bass capability and he thought that the addition of a 10” driver might be a good addition as the transfer from a 15” woofer to the lightning fast TD-4003 wasn’t quite what he was hoping for. I had a number of extra Sub1500s from that Parts Express close out that many of us took advantage of. I ordered a pair of TAD TL-1102 woofers. They are remarkably snappy and have extremely low distortion. They proved to fit the bill quite nicely!

    The driver compliment became JBL Sub1500, TAD TL-1102, TAD TD-4003, TAD ET-703. The cabinet design remained exactly the same externally, but now we CNC’d slabs of MDF and used MDF/Baltic Birch laminated flat sections with birch laminated 2 X 4 internal bracing. The horns are a cast mineral filled urethane from molds I made from an original TH-4003. I experimented with several resins and even played around at mimicking the AFAST port that TAD used in their laminated maple horns. Ultimately, I found the horns performed better without the AFAST port when using the extremely hard and dense urethane compound that I landed on. The TL-1102 woofers are in 1.4 cu ft enclosures with rear facing tuned ports. The Sub1500s are in 2.5 cu ft enclosures that are sealed.

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  4. #4
    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    These photos of the raw MDF speakers are of the original prototypes as they were in 2006. After auditioning them we felt we had a winner, so a second pair of these were created and finished in Birdseye maple with black leather for the front baffle. My buddy who has owned dozens and dozens of speakers from virtually every major High End manufacturer and a number of exotic small builders (like the Widgets) had previously had a track record of losing interest in his speakers every few months. I delivered his in early 2007. Shockingly he hasn’t replaced them in over 12 years… I must say that as I was sweating over the details of his speakers I had little hope of them still being in use as his primary system several years later. For him to still love them for over a decade, is both deeply satisfying and shocking.


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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Name:  Widget 2 Right.jpg
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  6. #6
    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    In 2007, I also moved from my workshop and loft in SF to a more traditional and much smaller home. I initially set up my prototype Project Widgets in the living room but due to their size (mostly their depth) and a room mode which caused a narrow Q peak at 72Hz, I could never get them to sound as good as they did in the loft or they do at my buddy’s house. (I discovered the room mode some years later with better room analyzing software when I was optimizing my Everests.) I put the TAD and JBL drivers in storage and kept the empty enclosures in my garage for the next decade or so. Moving forward to last summer, I bought a new house and was told by “she who must be obeyed” that the JBL E2s that had found their way into my previous home would not be making the move. Somehow she accepted the Project Widgets as long as they were "properly" finished. After getting mostly moved in and my workshop somewhat set up, I got back onto the project.
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    I found some very nice looking California Claro Walnut veneer. It was accepted by the home’s “design director and artifact curator.” I was told that grilles must be installed over those round things, and I agreed to the terms. I sunk ¾” neodymium magnets into the baffle board and veneered over them with a pre-dyed black veneer from Oakwood.

    I still need to finish the speaker grilles for them, but otherwise they are now once again fully functioning. The preamp and sources are in the Living Room, and the crossovers and amps are directly behind them in the guest bedroom closet. (photo of rack)

    For the geeks like me who care about such things, the signal path is:

    Analog – Vintage Luxman turntable, Jelco tonearm, Lyra cartridge, John Curl Vendetta pre/pre.
    Digital – Blusound Node 2i/Roon - Bryston BDA 2

    Mark Levinson No 326S, balanced out to Pass Labs XVR-1.
    Pass Labs XVR-1 low pass below 75Hz 18dB/octave - balanced out to Ashly Protea SP3.6, balanced out to JBL MPA600.
    Pass Labs XVR-1 high pass above 75Hz 18dB/octave – 750 Hz – balanced out to a pair of Parasound JC-1s
    Pass Labs XVR-1 high pass above 750Hz 18dB/octave – unbalanced out to Pass Labs XA25
    I also have a simple passive 18 dB/octave crossover between the TD-4003 and the ET-703. I am using Jantzen Superior Z Caps and Jantzen coils.

    With this configuration, I can’t perform proper time alignment, but I can add the needed DSP correction on the Sub1500 and make any needed corrections for room influence below 75Hz. I have had the system running for a few days now. I expect to continue to tinker around the edges, but it is essentially there. Since my new room sounds pretty good without any correction, I haven’t yet spent any time analyzing the room’s impact on the system. One thing for sure, this room is inherently much better than my last living room and the new system is living up to the rather high expectations I had.

    The room is 16’ wide, by 24.5’ long with an open beamed ceiling that is 8’ at the sides and 12’ at the peak. The room is not over stuffed, but there are carpets, and lots of miscellaneous decorative items to break up the sound.

    I am sitting in my living room, listening to them as I type this and I must say, I am feeling like a pig in… not that it wasn’t a heck of a lot of work to get here! That is probably more than any of you ever wanted to know, but for those who have asked over the years… that is the tale of the Project Widget speakers.


    Widget
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  8. #8
    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    And now here they are in the house!


    Widget

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  9. #9
    Senior Member Odd's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing the project.

    Very nice.
    43XX (2235-2123-2450-2405-CC 3155)5235-4412-4406-4401-L250-18Ti-L40-S109 Aquarius lV-C38 (030) 305P MkII

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    Wow Widget !! they look awesome personal speaker projects are very special to me. I admire people who do these projects. The personal time effort and money is a labour of love to have something that's ideal for someone's personal taste is very satisfying. Congrats on a great job.

  11. #11
    Senior Member macaroonie's Avatar
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    Very tidy job there Widget. Congrats on pulling it off so well > M

  12. #12
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    Great Project Widget!

    I love the look!




  13. #13
    Senior Member srm51555's Avatar
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    They look great and nice story on them as well.

  14. #14
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    Snap! Very nicely done. Those look (and I'm confident sound) great!

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    What a stunning project. Your craftsmanship and attention to detail is remarkable. Enjoy them!

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