Heath HansumWhat did you make and why is it cool?

One of my areas of research is the design and construction of several different types of speakers.

We have produced 15 or so different models — everything from little studio monitors to large subwoofers and small concert PA speaker systems. We design the cabinets using CAD software, estimating frequency response given the drivers intend to will use. Students get involved in the build and finish and testing phases. We use Fast Fourier Transform and Real Time Analysis, as well as critical ear evaluation methods. If it isn't what we hoped, we begin the revision process. Perhaps a different crossover point or slope is required, or a driver with a slightly different frequency response. Sometimes porting in the enclosure can be improved. Nearly everything can be manipulated to create the best response and efficiency.

How did you get started?

I got into this through ancillary research for my Sound Design for the Theatre class. I like students to understand how the components they use for productions and coursework actually do their jobs. What better way to understand a loudspeaker than to attempt to build one? Critical sound evaluation skills seem to improve and the students become very invested when they have had a hand in building part of the system. You just can't beat hands-on project-based learning.

What's next?

Future projects may include subwoofer arrays and a series of active speaker systems with lightweight amps right in the cabinet. This would allow for more accurate signal processing and filtering. We routinely send audio over IP for many of our other systems. It would be great to have amps with this kind of input installed. All you would need is power and an Ethernet cord to make a sound system.