Speaker Stands

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I will offer a short snippet of my experience with speaker stands first.  About 7 years ago I had my first good pair of speakers.  They were B&W DM602S1's.  They were and are a very decent commercial speaker for a modest financial expense.  After having the speakers for a few months I decided to build some decent stands for them.  I welded the stands out of very heavy steel.  Upon completion each of the stands weighed about 50lbs.  They had a 1" thick base plate that comprised most of the weight and a fairly solid pipe and pedestal too.  They were intended to be child proof, and indeed they are.

Initially I put some rubber pads on the upper pedestal to occupy the space between the speaker and the stand.  At this point I really didn't notice any serious improvement over having the speakers sitting on chairs in my living room.  My wife did like the improvement in aesthetics, but that was about the only improvement.

After a few months I decided to really splurge and purchase some spikes!  The cost about $15.  I tapped the spikes into the top of the metal upper pedestal of the stand, and put the 602's on the spikes.  Upon return to my listening chair I was astounded at the improvement the spikes made.  The bass was tighter, the midrange was clearer, the imaging was better.  It was incredible!  I thought folks should be arrested for NOT using spikes on their speakers stands.  The improvement was fabulous!

I still have those same heavy stands and still use the same spikes with the 1801s.  For a/b comparison I put a board on top of those spikes to nullify the coupling effect.  I have found that with a solid/heavy speaker cabinet the effect of the solid/heavy stand is nullified.  I hear no difference with the 1801 on spikes or a wood pedestal.  Actually a bar-stool works just fine.  This might seem strange, but there is good explanation for this.

The goal of any stand/cabinet combination is to control the vibration related movement of the speaker.  Commercial cabinets in the sane price range are incredibly wimpy when compared to a good DIY cabinet.   Commercial cabinets have very think cabinet walls and are very light.  The 1801 weights about 35lbs, and really isn't anything special for  a DIY cabinet.  However, when compared to a commercial cabinet the mass and strength IS considerable.  The B&W 602 speaker is/was about the same size and weighed about 21lbs.  Given similar weight drivers, the 602 cabinet is roughly 1/2 the mass of the 1801 cabinet.  I believe the size and strength of the 1801 cabinet explains the null effect of a very solid stand on the 1801.  What follows is a simple recipe for constructing a fairly solid speaker stand.  This stand is borderline overkill, but isn't arduous to construct like my 50lb welded steel stand.

I hope that what I will explain herein will be understandable.  If it doesn't please offer a better suggestion of how to better explain these pictures.  I would add several more pictures, but I am running out of room on my web page.

What you see in this picture are two plates that will connect to a 4" ID section of PVC.   They will be glued to the PVC with contact cement.  The PVC can then be filled with sand or cement.

The inner piece of 3/4" MDF has a hole perfectly sized for the PVC.  The inner hole was cut BEFORE it was glued to the outer 3/4" MDF.  The hole was cut using a 1" flush trim bit and a 4" ID PVC pipe adaptor.  Just hog the MDF until the bearing reaches the PVC.  Viola!  A perfect hole.

The glue bead reveals that the hole was cut before joining the two pieces of MDF.  This glue bead will be removed using a patterning bit and a router.  I will remove another 1/4" of material with the patterning bit. This will make the PVC hole 1" in depth.  Lack of a patterning bit isn't detrimental.  Just chip the glue out with a chisel.

This picture shows the edge of the MDF.  The trick here is to use an inner piece that is dimensioned appropriately smaller than the outer piece.  In my case I used a 3/4" round-over bit so the inner piece is set back 3/4" from the outer piece.

 

Finishing the stands isn't that bad.  I managed a fairly decent black paint job without too much difficulty.  It wasn't piano black, but it looked pretty nice.  

The only truly critical part is using the correct primer for the PVC.  Use primer for plastic car bumpers.  This will stick to the PVC quite well.  There are other techniques for priming the PVC, but this one does work.

When priming both the wood and the PVC the following process works.  Sand to about 150-220 grit.  Put on 2 coats of Primer.  Sand the primer flat with 320 or 400 grit sand paper.  Put on two more coats of primer.  Sand again with 400 grit sand paper.  If the primer has good coverage, and is flat, the surface is ready for paint.  The primer needs to be perfectly flat.  Don't assume that the paint will fill some uneven surfaces - it won't.  Black paint will show all of the flaws.

I like the Sears Best spray paint, but the Krylon Color Works from Wal-Mart is fine too.  The Sears stuff has a better nozzle IMO.  I am not an aficionado when it comes to spray paint.  Use Satin or Gloss.  

Make sure the surface is clean and spray about 5 light coats on the stands.  You will probably need two cans of paint.  Let the paint dry for 5 days before handling.  The stuff doesn't dry very hard initially.  Getting the finish hard takes a little time.

G.I. tip:  If you want more luster and a flatter finish apply black KIWI.  Okay, this might sound "cheesy", but don't knock it until you have tried it.  Use 0000 steel wool when applying the first coat.  Don't rub too hard or you will go through the paint.  The 0000 wool will take off some of the edges, and smoothes things nicely.  Apply the second coat of KIWI the same way that you would on a pair of combat boots.  Apply a layer of KIWI with the little brush.  Wait 10-15 minutest.  Remove the KIWI with the big brush.  Buff with a soft cloth.  The black KIWI removes paint scuffs nicely.

Some comments from Dave Harwick in Pennsylvania:

I was curious about stands and decided to build a substantial pair of stands for my 1801s.  I fabricated ~85 lb MDF, sand filled and spiked stands designed specifically to essentially turn my 1801s into immoveable objects, especially in the front to back direction. The arrangement is so inherently stable it feels like concrete.

It became obvious within 10 minutes of listening with stands installed that the port length needed to be changed. I was using 7" (new port), but that configuration suddenly sounded way over-damped. Clearly the stands had effected an audible change. With stands, 6.25" sounds close to being right. If the introduction of stands was to effect the necessity of port change, this is the direction one would expect--shortening.

Generally, the effect is primarily one of greater imaging stability and improved bass response. It sounds like I've got an additional octave of bass extension. I must have checked a dozen times to see if my subwoofers were playing. The speakers are now obviously much more tightly coupled to the ground--I can now feel some bass notes in my feet. Whether that is an absolute good thing is debatable. The effect on bass reproduction is more profound than the effect on imaging.

From this experiment I must conclude that massive and extremely rigid stands do have an effect on the 1801's performance. Others may find their inclusion beneficial.