The Russell

Hmmm…what drivers lurk behind that cheap metal grill? And why is the name singular?

One of my goals in these retirement years is to use up or dispose of or somehow repurpose a large stash of boards or electronic equipment that I have accumulated during many years of this speaker-building hobby. I’ve got a lot of DSP boards with different CPU’s and software, and I’ve got lots of drivers and lots of cabinets with drivers in various build stages. One set of drivers that was particularly interesting was a SEAS Excel Millennium tweeter and a 7″ Excel W17EX-001 magnesium cone woofer. My friend Russ had given me these when I was his co-worker, along with a passive radiator that I had already used in a subwoofer project. These drivers were too good to just leave on the shelf, and they were too expensive to buy another set for making a stereo pair. So, what could I do with these?

I had already made a large “Hi-Fi” Bluetooth speaker for a friend’s gathering, by adding a Qualcomm Bluetooth module to a 12″ PA speaker that had been modified with a nice Galaxy Audio midrange and Audax horn tweeter. It had a 200W amp and a ready-made 3-way crossover. The crossover had not been optimized for those drivers, yet it still sounded quite good, and made an easy source of audio that could fill the room nicely. Since this formula seemed to work well, I decided to use the same approach to use these fine SEAS drivers. I also had an Icepower 500ASP amp already mounted in a chassis, so I would have plenty of “oomph” to power this speaker.

Since I am trying to use up parts rather than buy new stuff, a design goal was to keep the remaining components I needed on a tight budget. Also, this speaker is not addressing any new technical challenges, so I tried to keep the design and build time to a minimum.

The Excel magnesium cone woofers require a high-order crossover to suppress the resonances, but I found a nice design at the Troels Gravesen site for these exact same drivers. It uses a whopping 20 components, but I had a large stash of crossover components that I wanted to use up, and this was a worthy cause. I had to unwind a number of coils that I had to get the right values, but it turned out that I only needed to order a few extra resistors and capacitors that came to less than $10 for the lot. I got one of the bare 3-way boards from Parts Express and decided to go all-out ugly with cramming all those parts on the board. I think I nailed the “ugly” pretty good.

PE had some clearance 10″ drivers that were used in some of their subwoofers, and it turned out the 10″ was almost ideal for a smallish (1.7cuft) sealed cabinet. I added a few more crossover parts to make the Troels design a 3-way.

I didn’t want to spent much time making a nice cabinet, so I bought a DJ/PA cabinet with a 12″ woofer from Newark that was on sale for $51. The cabinet is made from low density fiberboard (LDF), which is only several steps up from cardboard in terms of strength and rigidity. But with some generous cross-bracing, I was able to get the cabinet satisfyingly sturdy. I had to fill in the 12″ driver opening with plywood and reinforce the entire front panel with a sheet of plywood but that turned out OK. After cutting out the new 10″ opening, there was plenty of front baffle space for the two Excel drivers. The W17 driver was installed in a 6″ PVC cap stuffed with absorbing material, which worked fine for the 2-pole 250Hz crossover frequency.

I toyed with using a simple QCC3008 Bluetooth module as the primary source but decided to go with a WiFi streamer instead. I had some old WFA28 streamers laying around, but found that Linkplay is selling refurbished Wiim Minis on eBay for $59, so I was able to discard the WFA28’s. I’ve got too many speakers on the 2.4GHz band already, and the Mini can use the 5GHz band, where there are a lot more channels available.

I was thinking about giving this speaker to a neighbor, but after I put on some James Taylor for my wife, she made it clear that we are going to keep this speaker. The Excel drivers are shockingly clear and articulate, and they can absorb that 500W amp without complaining. That 10″ woofer is surprisingly good in this cabinet, and it off-loads the 6.5″ W17 driver so that it can “specialize” in midrange, where it is an amazing speaker.

This is a nice speaker to have for a party or event where you don’t need stereo but want lots of clear high-quality audio. The handles make it easy to move around, and having a potent amp and streamer make it “fun”. Obviously, I failed miserably at clearing out my driver/electronics storage space, as I now have a large party speaker sitting in the same area. But if someone wants to hold a party, we are ready to provide the music.

Update: made a deal with the wife that this will go in her greenhouse, although right now it is in her kitchen area. Since it is not going back in my storage area, it’s more of a success than I thought previously.

2 thoughts on “The Russell”

  1. Happy wife, happy life. Since Barb now has permanent party mode going in the kitchen, you scored big with this one. Nice job 🙂

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