Looking for things to do in Sydney? Get ready to turn up the sound with this interactive speaker DIY – The Speaker Project – the newest technology to hit the market.
We live in an era where you can spend more than $40,000 on a set of hi-fi speakers for your home that have tweeters made of diamonds. Or, if you really want to show off, you can go completely nuts and spend $100,000, or more. We’re talking here about bling with minimum harmonic distortion, but with a price tag out of reach for most of us.
Back in the day, a more affordable if less practical way to own high quality equipment was to build it yourself, sometimes from scratch and sometimes from a kit. But there was always a nagging fear that the do-it-yourself route would produce an inferior product – the components wouldn’t be up to scratch, or the workmanship would more closely resemble a school woodwork project than a piece of hand-crafted Scandinavian art.
Enter The Speaker Project, with the answer to both those issues. Located in Bondi in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, for $750 they’ll guide you through the construction of a pair of entry-level bookshelf speakers; or for $2400 they’ll step it up and guide you through the construction of a set of premium speakers, including components sourced from the Danish manufacturer, Scan-Speak.
But this is much more than some kind of glorified IKEA approach to constructing speakers.
The Speaker Project founder, Atlas Gouverneur, reckons its $750 course will produce speakers to rival those that retail between the $1000 – $2000 mark, and the $2400 course uses some of the same components found in speakers that sell for well over $6000. Gouverneur says he can back up the claim of audio quality: every pair of speakers produced by his students must “measure well” in objective testing of the frequency and distortion response, as well as pass muster in subjective listening tests. And if they don’t meet his standards they’ll be thoroughly checked and reworked until they do.
Gouverneur’s fascination with speakers dates back to childhood. The son of a blacksmith and sculptor, he was exposed to design and craftsmanship. Did we mention that he’s a qualified mechanical engineer? Building speakers started out as a hobby, through which he learned both theory and practice of speaker design.
“About 10 years later I came to a point where I felt like I knew enough about my hobby, not saying I exhausted my interest in it, but I knew enough to put it on the backburner and just enjoy music and audio for what it was,” he says.
“I had a friend and I showed him the speakers and he was looking at them, and he goes Jesus Christ, could you teach me how to build a pair?”
Gouverneur decided there might be a market for others who also wanted to build their own speakers. He put together a course, promoted it via Facebook and within 24 hours had eight takers. That first course ran in March last year. There are plans to launch an online version of the course later this year.
“What was really interesting about the first course was, [when] I started off the big thing I wanted to teach was every single aspect of speaker construction and design,” he says.
“I really thought maybe I can do it, but the first course ended up turning into a woodwork course rather than a speaker-building course. The woodwork part is so intricate and so difficult to teach, and we wanted to teach people to design and build speakers, not woodwork. It’s just too difficult, too dangerous and takes away from the aspect of the actual science and art of speaker design.”
All of the cabinetry for The Speaker Project courses is pre-machined, albeit from high-quality materials (Australian-grown pine for the entry level models, and birch sourced from Finland for the premium line) and the course runs over four Friday evening sessions, starting out with speaker theory before moving on to construction and testing.
In an age of music streaming and earbuds, really good speakers seem to have become a bit unfashionable and a little bit daggy – a component that has necessarily remained analogue in a rapidly digitalising world. But it’s worth remembering that all live music is still produced with amplifiers and speakers, and for good reason. Hearing music reproduced to a high quality requires the accurate and nuanced movement of air between speaker and ear.
Really good speakers connected to great components aim to deliver sound as close as we can make it to the way it was originally performed. And there’s no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to achieve that.
The Speaker Project
Critical Slide – 245 Bondi Rd, Bondi, NSW 2026
0473 774 144