The Brick

The Brick

Cory L

Project Category:
Portable Speakers

Project Level:

Project Time:
1-8 Hours

Project Cost:
Under $100

Project Description:
I wanted a project that my elementary aged boys could participate in and learn more about sound and electronics. Since both were getting iPods over the holidays, a portable speaker seemed like the perfect project. Rather than purchase speakers from the local big box store, I decided to scour the Parts Express web site for the right components to build our own.

Design Goals:
The primary design goal for this project was simplicity. I wanted to keep the design simple with as few materials as possible to not only reduce cost but also allow my kids the ability to help construct the speaker. I also felt that with fewer components it would be easier for the kids to understand how the speaker functioned. Lastly, I wanted the speaker to be portable and easy to operate. For this reason, I chose an amplifier that could be powered with cheap disposable batteries and had an onboard 3.5mm input jack for audio.

Driver Selection:
I chose the Dayton Audio CE32A-4 1-1/4” mini speaker for this project. The decision was based primarily on the amplifier wattage, specifications of the speaker, appearance of the driver and cost. My original plan was to use only two drivers per speaker but through trial and error with the first one I ended up using four. Despite their minuscule size, the CE32A-4’s produce a very nice sound and do a good job with most types of music.

Enclosure Design:
The enclosure designs were both rectangular utilizing the materials we had on hand while allowing enough real estate for the speaker components. I worked with both kids on speaker placement within the enclosure and allowed them to “approve” the final design. Given the design goal, we were limited on the overall shape of the enclosure.

Enclosure Assembly:
The enclosure consists of ½” oak boards purchased from the local big box store. We used wood from the project section of the lumber isle. The front and back panels are made from a single .5” x 3.5” board. The sides, top and bottom are cut from a single .5” x 1.5” board. We used butt joints for this enclosure, keeping with the design goal, and #6 x 1 in. wood screws to assemble. We avoided using any glue or sealant as its messy and not required for this design.

Crossover Design:
This project does not utilize a crossover.

Tips & Tricks:
The first speaker we built I often refer to as the “brick” mainly due to the location of the drivers. This was our trial an error speaker and through it learned some valuable lessons that greatly reduced the build time for the second speaker. First and foremost, please change the amplifier dip switch for volume control (K1) to ON (reference owner’s manual). This will disable the volume controls on the board and seemed to drop the output of the amplifier. This will allow full volume on your listening device without over powering the speakers. Second, I found that using a 1-1/4” hole saw worked the best for cutting openings for the drivers. Lastly, while we used a lot of what we had on hand, I would recommend purchasing a mini switch for cutting power to the amplifier. Our re-purposed ones function fine but were difficult to fit into the enclosure and lack a clean, finished look.

Overall, I am very pleased with how this project turned out. The speakers produce a decent sound that is not overpowering. The latter being a feature that will be greatly appreciated by parents. Additionally, my kids now have a speaker that is easy to use and a sense of pride for having constructed it. They also learned about the components needed to produce the sound they so much enjoy. If you are searching for an easy kid’s project, to get them interested in sound and electronics, I highly recommend this one.

About the Designer:
I have been interested in sound and electronics since I was a little kid. I have built several sets of speakers over the years and have been a repeat customer of Parts Express.

Project Parts List:

Dayton Audio CE Series CE32A-4 1-1/4″ Mini Speaker 4 Ohm
Sure Electronics AA-AB32131 2x2W at 4 Ohm Class-D Audio Amplifier Board
2 AA Cell Battery Holder
Audtek Electronics 35SS01 3.5mm Stereo Male to Male Slim Shell Audio Cable 1 ft.

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