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Berlin school project
To create happy ears, eyes and faces, all you need is wood, a little know-how and some friendly support from Intertechnik. What the above equation is trying to represent, with just a few pictures and the charmingly beautiful results, is the process that eight craft, music and technology-loving students at the Beethoven Oberschule in Berlin-Lankwitz enthusiastically completed over the course of the last semester.
After a friend told me about the possibility of building your own loudspeakers, I put together a Quickly 18 assembly kit for myself. Then it occurred to me that we could bring “box construction” to our school as a group project. The positive response surprised me; after a short demonstration during recess to pitch my idea, we collected two full pages of contact information from interested students. The first eight took part in the project, and in this report they talk about what they experienced and learned during the construction phase and while listening to the boxes at home.
L. Mühlfeld, Berlin August 2012
Juan, 10th grade Model: Quickly 18
Dear box donors,
I am very honored that you gave us these boxes almost for free!
When the project was first introduced, I decided right away that I wanted to be involved. That’s partly because I’m a huge music fan, and partly because it would help me meet a lot of new students I hadn’t known before. I also got to know a different side of the teacher who organized the project. It wasn’t like just being in class.
Besides, building the boxes was really, really, really fun! We met in a classroom (almost) every Friday after school. We listened to music, talked to each other and of course we had a great time!
When we needed help, our teacher helped us out or we looked at the instructions, of which we had plenty. The other thing I really liked was that not only was it fun, but I also learned something about working with electronics, which I hadn’t really ever done before.
Just a couple of comments about the excellent sound of the boxes: when I was done with them, naturally I was dying to find out how the sound was. After just a quick demonstration, I was incredibly excited! Right from the start I had been looking forward to making my own boxes, but this project exceeded my expectations. To be honest, I hadn’t expected that the sound would be soooooo phenomenal!
Finally, I’d like to say a few words in conclusion. The box-building project is highly recommended as a project – above all, it was a wonderful experience. I would definitely repeat the project if it’s offered again. As I said already, dear readers: I highly recommend it!
Yours truly, your box-building team member Juan
Timo, 10th grade Model: AX-6 Hr
Dear INTERTECHNIK team!
Heavy loads you helped me carry
For smaller things you heard my call
I just want to quickly thank you
For all those things both large and small
Thank you very much for very generously donating the speaker boxes. We had a really great time gluing, soldering, painting, sawing and sanding them.
The new white boxes are a super addition to my room, and they contrast brilliantly with the red wall. The sound is phenomenal. If you close your eyes while you’re listening to music, it feels like you’re at an amazing live performance.
Thank you very much,
Niklas, 11th grade Model: Quickly 18
I walked into the room and there were big cardboard boxes everywhere. The others were there already, so I was too late to help them carry things. After I noticed how everyone was hanging around the boxes, it was obvious: here they were. The assembly kits were here!
Now it was time to start unpacking and sorting everything. It turned out to be a smart idea to make an overview plan with little sketches of the various parts and the associated numbers. Also very helpful for future professional builders.
Then we got started right away. Since I hadn’t bought my boards yet, I started with the technology. It was really amazing to see the individual parts of a speaker, and especially to put them together myself by hand when normally they just come ready-made off the assembly line. I printed out the circuit plan and got to work with the soldering iron. It worked great, you just have to avoid breathing in the soldering smoke or you’ll get dizzy. My strategy with the electronics was to glue everything to the provided circuit board and then solder the ends of the respective parts together. That worked really well, too, because the ends always had a little bit of extra wire that you could also cut off if there was too much.
When I did finally buy my boards, I decided to finish the wiring first anyway. The second circuit came much easier with practice. What’s really fun is doing a project with recognizable results – the box, the sound. It was still going to take a while, though, since now I had to get started on the cabinets and they each needed a week to dry. That meant a little bit of rough hand-crafting, too. Sanding and cutting them to size temporarily covered one corner of our workshop in sawdust. In general, it was a really great atmosphere – our teacher played his finished speakers for us, so we could hear how our final results would sound.
Once the cabinet was finished, I painted my boxes classic white. At first I thought it would make a good foundation, but then I realized they actually look really nice like that, so I left them white. Totally sophisticated! After collecting a permanent souvenir of the project in the painting process – a paint spot on my sweater – I took them back upstairs and started installing the electronics. I was starting to feel some time pressure because I had decided to give the boxes to my father for his birthday and it was only two weeks away. So I had to take full advantage of the two remaining weekly sessions.
The speakers were wired, the electronics were screwed in, and the first box was more or less finished. Then Mr. Mühlfeld came up with the idea of trying it out right away. We connected it directly to his professional party stereo system and listened excitedly. It worked! The music was totally clear and crisp, like from a commercial box. Then we connected Mr. Mühlfeld’s box again. With the immediate comparison, we did notice that my speaker sounded a little duller than his. We thought about it for a while until my teacher said, “Well, you have the insulation in there… hmm…” No, that’s exactly what I had forgotten. Dammit! So I unscrewed the loudspeakers, put the insulation in and reattached everything. And voila – once it was connected, the sound was crystal clear! It was amazing. I could hardly believe I had built the box myself. Everything – the electronics, the cabinet, the paint. It’s a great feeling to have built such a familiar, often-seen electronic object myself. And now I know what the thing looks like on the inside. I even finished the two speakers in time for my father’s birthday.They still smelled like paint, and the boxes worked. My father was really happy, and at first he couldn’t believe I had built them myself. Even today, whenever he listens to music on his stereo through the homemade boxes, he always says, “Thanks Niklas, what a great present!” It was really a great project and a lot of fun. I also want to thank our teacher again, who made it all possible because of his ambition. Thank you! It’s super fun, and the final results are fantastic. Doing it yourself is really worthwhile!
Vanessa, 12th grade Model: Quickly 28
“We’re leaving together, but still it’s farewell.” Those were the first lyrics I heard from my new boxes at school, preceded by the spectacular intro to “The Final Countdown.” Naturally at the corresponding volume, since we wanted to appropriately celebrate the two months of work I had put into them.
But it’s definitely worth it. After all the wood-cutting, sanding, gluing, drilling holes, sanding again, six (!) coats of paint, soldering, laying cables and screwing things together, I am extremely pleased with the results. Now I have two “Quickly 28” boxes standing in my room. They not only look good, they also provide outstanding sound, considering I had really awful speakers before. What I especially noticed in addition to the great bass was that you can still hear a lot of detail even at low volume; they don’t get swallowed up. Besides, you always feel proud about having built your own acoustic equipment – how many people can say they did that?
In that sense, there’s also a connection with the Europe lyrics, even if it is quite melancholy: I’m taking off with my finished speakers, and saying goodbye to the time I spent creating them.
Julius, 10th grade Model: First Time 12
I chose the “First Time 12” for our school project. I looked at the description ahead of time and thought about it for a while. What I expected: a detailed sound!
It was fun building this box, since it turned out to be a little more complex than I thought, and during the assembly phase I got more and more excited about the results. Some of the manual labor was really hard work. The final results completely confirmed my expectations. Extremely clean high notes and a strong, hard bass. The mid-range speaker combines these two “tonal worlds.” Of course I tinkered with the sound a little and set the equalizer up accordingly… but the sound was very impressive. I also thought the construction was very elegant, especially because of the slightly hidden woofer.
Akira, 9th grade Model: Quickly AX-5
Music is something wonderful. Everyone listens to it, everyone loves it, and if someone doesn’t listen to music, he’s probably deaf or doesn’t know about it yet. But out of all the places you can listen to music, my favorite spot is inside my own four walls. For the last few years, I had a couple of speakers and a small bass box in my room, worth about $60. The sound was correspondingly basic.
But then a young, dedicated teacher at my school had the idea to help a few selected students build their own boxes, and I was totally excited! I chose the Quickly AX-5 speakers because they were not only relatively large, but their angled fronts also gave them an unconventional shape.
Building the boxes was pretty interesting, and it was obvious that everyone had fun doing it (and of course we had music going in the background the whole time). By helping each other out, we all finished our boxes in “just” half a year (well, we only had one day a week to work on them, after all).
My friend connected his amplifier to the boxes, excited to hear how they would sound. I picked out one of my favorite tracks on my iPod (Marsimoto – Eine kleine Bühne), and we were both speechless:
The bass, with its perfect rhythm, made everything in my room vibrate. The high notes – especially Marsimoto’s high-pitched voice – reached deep into my soul and switched off everything else around me.
Mr. Westendorf, 1.grade Model: Quickly 18
As I write down my impressions here, I am enjoying the beautiful, full sound of the boxes that I built for myself after all (Quickly 18).
I wasn’t actually planning to build any for myself, although I needed some – I had moved, and it was a good opportunity to swap out the old dogs attached to my stereo system – but naturally I was planning to buy some in a hi-fi shop somewhere. It didn’t occur to me at first to build my own, but I decided to do it when my colleague Lennart happened to mention the project. He was planning to build some speakers with his students to teach them the basics of electronics and acoustics. So I joined the group, even though I’m notoriously short on time and I had no idea how I would fit an extra hour of speaker-crafting into my week. But now the boxes are finished, and I’m very happy with the way they sound and look – they’re exactly the kind of thing I wanted to buy for myself.
Building the boxes took a fairly long time, since the box assembly group could only meet one afternoon a week – Fridays after 8th period – and I couldn’t make many of the dates. But if you add up the actual project time, it was surprisingly very fast.
What I really enjoyed was the wide range of handicraft activities – gluing, sanding, soldering, puttying, screwing, painting, etc. – and working as a group. The atmosphere was relaxed, we had good music (and the finished boxes were tested right away), the assembly was uncomplicated, and you could exchange tips and see how others did things. Overall, it was a good experience, with very pleasing tonal and visual results.
Thank you from Mr. Westendorf
Naturally, we all want to thank Intertechnik, the assembly-kit specialists who made our box-building project possible through their generous donation. We all had a great time exploring the insides of a loudspeaker and understanding the technology behind it. There’s nothing mysterious about building your own boxes if you use the many well-documented suggestions on this page – we recommend it to everyone who hasn’t dared to try it yet.
The box-builders at Beethoven-Schule Berlin-Lankwitz