The mistake armchair speaker snobs make too often

Recently read the comments, briefly, on the Stereophile review of a very interesting speaker. I say it’s interesting because the designers put together two brands I really like together: Mundorf and Scanspeak. I use the same brands in my living room and love the results.

Unfortunately, using off-the-shelf drivers, no matter how well performing, immediately gets arm chair speaker critics, who can’t actually build speakers themselves, and wouldn’t like it if they could, trying to evaluate the speaker based on parts.

First, these critics are 100% never actually going to make a pair of speakers. They only buy name brands. Next, they don’t get how expensive it is to run a retail business.

A speaker maker has to sell a pair of speakers for at least 10x what the drivers cost. I’m sorry but the math of getting a speaker out the door, and getting a retailer to make space for it, plus service overhead, yada yada, means you simply cannot sell a speaker for parts cost. Same for everything on earth.

The last mistake, and this is a doozy, is that the same critics who insist on only custom, in-house drivers, are paying for even cheaper drivers!

I hope you are all sitting down, but big speaker brand names who make their drivers 100% in house sell the speakers for 20x or more of the actual driver cost.

Why do these same speaker snobs keep their mouth shut about name brands but try to take apart small time, efficient builders? Because they can.  The biggest advantage that in-house drivers gives you is that the riff raft ( this is a joke on an old A'gon post which misspelled riff raff) stays silent.  If you are sitting there pricing speakers out on parts cost, shut up and build something, then go sell it.


Clearly there no definitive rules regarding driver/ crossover/ cabinet costs & final sound quality. As I was discussing w/  friend recently regarding another subject, this general principle of economics usually holds true:

You don’t always get what you pay for but you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

If you really want a speaker that has full frequency extension ( or close), has full body tone / richness, has nice open clarity, can image  at least reasonably well & can fill a decent sized room w/ true dynamics at realistic sound pressure levels, you gotta pay good money for it. This likely means at least $10 K on up & if you want a finely finished “ piece of furniture” cabinet, you can start at almost double that & end wherever…..

If you’re willing or need to sacrifice any or some of those attributes, there are speakers for less that can be quite good in many ways. 


Most hifi equipment is aesthetically boring. When all is said and done, an amplifier is a box, a DAC is a box and a speaker is a box.  I let my ears and wallet steer me. My KEF Reference 5’s are tall skinny boxes that I bought with my eyes closed and after almost two years, I’m still very happy with them, but if you put them side by side with the R-11’s they look pretty much alike, but my ears knew the difference.

I never quite could figure out the knock against speaker manufacturers that use off the shelf drivers?

Driver manufacturers such as: Scan-Speak, SB Acoustics, RAAL, Accuton, Purifi Audio, SEAS, Fontec, etc, etc, have done all the R&D, have all the manufacturing equipment in place, can run all the advanced tests on: materials, construction methods, cone geometries, etc.

They all have drivers made in different sizes, cone materials, at different price ranges. And most of them make drivers that are literally, as good as current technologies allow.

Those ScanSpeak Revelators and Illuminators, SB Acoustics Satori, Accuton, and others, are incredibly great drivers.

What does it matter if they are off the shelf?

And just for context, I am a DIY’r, and have built several speakers using some of the drivers above.


If you have the equipment and skill set, building a high quality cabinet is relatively simple. You can source high quality wood backed veneers in a variety of species. Sourcing speakers, design specs, and crossovers may be a bit more difficult. For instance, I could easily build a cabinet equal to the Dynaudio Heritage but sourcing the components to produce the same sound may be difficult. However, building a cabinet like the B&W 805 is not within the realm of a DYI. 

Imo loudspeaker design is a competition of ideas, a vital part of which is the implementation of those ideas.  Given that most companies have finite resources to invest in product development, it only makes sense to develop and perhaps manufacture major components in-house when that's the most practical (which includes "cost-effective") path to implementing the aforementioned ideas.