technology

 

DIY – Pros and Cons

This is the first in a series of texts dedicated to the advantages and disadvantages of DIY audio, which will end with several proposed projects.

Dejan V. Veselinovic

 

DIY, or Do It Yourself, as everything else, has both advantages and disadvantages. Its chief advantages are:

  1. Lower cost. You pay less than you would normally pay for equivalent quality ready made products, and it's not at all uncommon to pay 1/6 or 1/7 the price of high end quality audio.
  2. You are not a passive buyer, but an active participant in the manufacturing process. It's fun.
  3. You can actively influence the end result by tweaking-on-the-run. You can use better quality components than the project originally calls for, or simply different, and you can change at will until you are satisfied with the results.
  4. You learn much along the way, however you look at it.
  5. If the source is worth half its salt, it will have a site where owners and DIYers can exchange information and ideas; thus you stand a good chance of meeting some nice people, and possibly making very worthwhile friends. Compare that with purchasing in the high street shop.

But DIY also has some disadvantages:

  1. It's almost never said, but DIY assumes you already have some prior knowledge of basic electronics, or at the very least, of soldering. DON'T BE FOOLED, soldering is a craft it takes years to learn properly, so just because you have a soldering iron this does not turn you into a soldering jockey.
  2. Many things can go wrong – parts from the kit may be missing or be inoperative, you could burn unwanted holes in the printed circuit board, or whatever. Never underestimate the capacity of the moment for something to go wrong.
  3. Your end product may electrically be as good as, or even better than equivalent industrial products, but it's not likely to ever look the same as even mid quality goods, let alone high end products. You simply have nowhere near the manufacturing capability of specialized companies. Nor will there be a famous name logo attached, so if you're a yuppie, forget it.
  4. The fact that one can tweak to one's heart's content can be too inviting. Typically, after two or three changes, the copper print around the often visited holes will start to come loose, both for lack of PROPER soldering irons and/or inadequate soldering skills.

 

I could go on and on, but this just about covers it in main terms. However, if you are careful in choosing right, in finding a worthwhile project and in its execution, and above all, if you are not in too much of a hurry (speed kills, man!), you could end up with one hell of a good deal.

I have no doubt there are some excellent deals to be made out there. With all respect to others, let me mention one of my favorites: The AKSA range, designed and made by a great Australian guy, Hugh Dean. Don't buy anything else until you have at least visited his site, chances are he has something for you. And while my experience with his 50W amp kit is limited, what I heard was far over and above what is usually thought of related to DIY projects, and above many incomparably higher priced ready made and fully badged products.

On the other hand, his AKSA 55 kit just arrived, so I'll be assembling it and testing it, and the results will be posted here.

Of course, Hugh is hardly alone out there. And as I see it, this is if not the main, then at least one of the major problems of DIY – how to choose the right deal for yourself? How to know if it works anywhere near what is claimed for it, and here in Serbia , we have a saying: “Every Gypsy has nothing but praise for his horse” (Svaki Ciga svoga konja hvali).

One obvious answer is to find someone who has built the project and go listen to the results. Exchange information, learn as much as you can before you take the plunge. The other equally obvious answer is to find others who built it on the Internet, and for this you could consider one of many audio related sites available. My favorite two are the US based site http://www.audiocircle.com , where I tend to hang out, for English language based audio (BTW, Hugh is also there, even has his own slice of it), and for ex-Yugoslavia, the best I know of is the Croatian site http://www.audiofil.net , also with some great people, but on the local language (I purposely avoid language ownership issues here, I am sick and tired of dividers, the only divider I recognize is a voltage divider).

This brings me to the problem of selecting the project and evaluating the source.


 


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