Last month I chatted to David about his recent Copenhagen speaker build. David is a true audio enthusiast as you will soon hear and had some very interesting insights into his DIY experience along with the sound of his newly built speakers.
Without further ado, let's get into it.
David, first things first, when and how did you get into audio?
"My Dad loved listening to music and had a decent mainstream stereo system for the time. When I was about 11 or so, I started to develop my own taste in music, instead of just listening to what Mum & Dad played.
The first LP I bought was The Blues Brothers soundtrack and I still love it some 40 years later. It was common in those systems for a 3-way loudspeaker system to be just plonked on the floor. The main two formats were cassette and vinyl (in our household anyway) and I’d put a cassette on and lie on the floor with my head between the loudspeakers and I’d be completely immersed in sound.
That’s when it started – I didn’t know it at the time of course – but that’s when I became addicted to music playback. It was a form of escapism. All I could hear was the music, nothing else existed in those moments."
What is your current audio setup?
"In my office I have a pair of Kef LES50 wireless, which are brilliant. 2 boxes, 2 power cords and one ethernet cable an off you go.
However, you can't really tinker with that, and I like tinkering. Swapping components, cables and loudspeakers etc.
My main sound system at home is the more typical audiophile setup, albeit it's a bit of a Frankenstein system. It's taken me a while to finally arrive at a system that I’m really happy with.
My digital source is an Auralic Vega G2, my analog source is a Clearaudio Turntable, Graham Slee Phono Stage and these sources connect to a Lab12 Pre 1 Tube preamp into a Naim NAP250DR power amp. My reference speakers are the Serhan & Swift Mu2 bookshelf speakers."
What made you want to build your own speakers? And specifically, what made you choose the Copenhagen speaker kit?
"I don’t do it often, but I really like working with my hands and I should do it more often than I do!
Recently I really wanted a little project for fun and I’d always been interested in DIY audio – either amp or speakers, but it always seemed too complex and intimidating for me.
I found your site and was impressed the look of the product, and the information you shared about what you actually got in the kit and also how you broke down the steps just made it seem like I wouldn’t be able to fail so it was a no brainer.
I chose the Copenhagen for two reasons. The Trohet has the Scan Speak 5” Revelator driver which is in my Serhan and Swift Mu2 reference speakers so going for something different was more appealing and with the Copenhagen’s price, I thought if I do actually stuff this up, I won't be as sad as if I made a mistake on the Trohets!"
How did you find the process of building your own speakers, was it what you expected? Were there any highlight moments in the process?
"I absolutely loved it. I’m grateful for how well thought out your kits are and how relatively easy you make it, which allowed me to relax and have confidence at every stage that it was going to plan, and the end result was going to work. I actually did it over 3 weeks when I had time in the evenings and on weekends. I did want to rush anything, I really enjoyed taking my time with each step.
The highlight for me was the woodworking side of it. I was really interested in the rounded edges on some of the loudspeakers featured on your site and that’s when you told me about rounding the edges with a trim router!
I bought myself a trim router and practiced on some cheap bits of timber from Bunnings – I remember the first time I used that trim router I had no control of it at all haha! Now I have a new tool and after some practice new skills which I can't wait to put to good use again.
I did some experimentation on the inside of the birch ply panels before glue up, with different stains. I was really close to staining mine black, but I took a punt and used a Whittle Wax Hardwax oil and I was surprised how it really brought out the subtle grain pattern in the birch ply and I think they look stunning. It’s definitely unleashed the inner wood worker in me haha!"
What do you think of the sound of the speakers you built?
"Very Impressive! At the start I just hoped that I’d build a pair of functional loudspeakers and not stuff it up. I just wanted to build something and have some pride in it. The fact that the Copenhagen’s sound as good as they do – especially considering the price, wow!
No one should expect the Copenhagen’s to be a giant killer, or a reference loudspeaker but I have been surprised by how musical and detailed they are. All the detail is there, but the difference between them and my reference speakers is when I am listening critically, my reference speakers shine a brighter light on the detail, a more spacious soundstage and have less tonal colouration.
The flip side is my reference speakers can also be brutally revealing of poorer recordings and make them not enjoyable to listen to. If I’m chilling out with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and listening to my favorite songs on the Copenhagen's, it just makes me happy! They are easy to listen to and I can listen for extended periods without fatigue. I don’t think I can be really objective about them because I put them together and I’m immensely proud of them."
This might be a hard question to answer, but how do the Copenhagen speakers compare to commercially available speakers?
"Really good! For the price, and I know I put in about 12 -13 hours assembling them, it makes me wonder what the heck we pay for with commercially mass-produced loudspeakers.
All I can say is I think I am now a DIY’er when it comes to loudspeakers, and I am already looking forward to my next build. I really don’t need more loudspeakers, but the process was just so satisfying it's definitely something I intend to do again."
Could you provide details about the amplifier you paired with your Copenhagen speakers? Do you think they need an amp that’s on the warm or bright side of neutral?
"Well for now I have the Copenhagen's driven by my Naim power amp which is a modestly powered but high current amp that’s very detailed and punchy, and tonally a touch on the warm side itself.
I think the Copenhagen’s having a warm tonal balance would probably be even better if paired with a neutral sounding amp, but the upside to the Copenhagen’s not being the most resolving means they are a bit forgiving and will sound subjectively good with anything. I used them with an old stereo receiver the other day and they still sounded good – different, but still good!"
What source equipment do you use? Do you think the Copenhagen's benefit from a good front end system?
"Primarily I use my streaming DAC because it's so convenient. However, or some of my favorite albums which were recorded and mastered at a time when vinyl was the number one format, those albums still sound best on vinyl. I like vinyl because it immerses you in the whole album. Whereas when I stream its usually a mixed playlist and I get distracted more easily.
I think all speakers benefit from a good quality source and the Copenhagen's are no exception. Good quality doesn’t necessarily have to be overly expensive. Technology in the digital domain is such now that the gap between a $1,000 source and a $10,000 source Is narrowing all the time. Turntables are different, If I was to do things all over again, I’d put more funds into my Turntable setup and less into my digital source."
Looking back on the experience, are there any lessons learned or adjustments you would make if you were to build speakers again?
I’d want to understand the components of the crossover better. I was very focused on the assembly and getting that right that I don’t feel like I took in, or fully understood what each component does and how that shapes the sound of the loudspeaker system."
Based on your experience, what advice would you offer to those who are considering embarking on a similar speaker-building journey?
"Just do it. As long as you can afford it, because you certainly don’t want to have buyer's remorse, then just dive in.
Have faith that if you follow Atlas’s steps you’ll end up with a great pair of loudspeakers, comparable sonically with commercially available speakers that cost twice, maybe three times as much but they’ll yours, put together by your hands and you’ll have fond memories and great stories to tell about how you made them."
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Is there anything else you would like to add?
"I guess this is a request, but will you ever do a full range single driver loudspeaker kit? Something that would work well on a low powered tube amp would be fun! Maybe the amp should be a DIY kit too – hint hint!"
Ha, who knows, I have been working on high sensitivity design for speaker company, Atlas and Hurd, and have learnt a tremendous amount. So, I could apply that knowledge to a killer kit at some stage.
And thanks again David for taking the time to chat to us about your speaker build. We look forward hearing about your future DIY speaker builds!