Why DIY?

Contrary to popular belief, the main reason for DIY is not (or should not be) about saving money. While this is possible in many cases (and especially against 'top of the line' commercial products), there are other, far better reasons to do it yourself. The main one is knowledge, new skills, and the enormous feeling of satisfaction that comes from building your own equipment. This is worth far more than money. For younger people, the skills learned will be invaluable as you progress through life, and once started, you should continue to strive for making it yourself wherever possible. Each and every new skill you learn enables the learning processes to be 'exercised', making it easier to learn other new things that come your way. Alvin Toffler (the author of Future Shock) wrote:- "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." This is pretty much an absolute these days, and we hear stories every day about perfectly good people who simply cannot get a new job after having been 'retrenched' (or whatever stupid term the 'human resources' people come up with next). As an aside, I object to being considered a 'resource' for the corporate cretins to use, abuse and dispose of as they see fit. The skills you learn building an electronics project (especially audio) extend far beyond soldering a few components into a printed circuit board. You must source the components, working your way through a minefield of technical data to figure out if the part you think is right is actually right. Understanding the components is a key requirement for understanding electronics. You will probably need to brush up on your maths - all analogue electronics requires mathematics if you want to understand what is going on. The greater your understanding, the more you have learned in the process. These are not trivial skills, but thankfully, they usually sneak up on you. Before you realise it, you have been working with formulae that a few years ago you would have sneered at, thinking that such things are only for boffins or those really weird guys you recall from school. Then there is the case to house everything. You will need to learn how to perform basic metalworking skills. Drilling, tapping threads, filing and finishing a case are all tasks that need to be done to complete your masterpiece. These are all skills that may just come in very handy later on. Should you be making loudspeakers, then you will learn about acoustics. You will also learn woodworking skills, veneering, and using tools that you may never have even known existed had you not ventured into one of the most absorbing and satisfying hobbies around. Ok, that's fine for the younger generation(s), but what about us 'oldies'? We get all the same benefits, but in some cases, it is even possible to (almost) make up for a

whatever it was you did simply wasn't done (if you follow the rather perverse logic in that last statement ).it's a job. to be more ambitious. not the reason). but that does not diminish the value of those skills one iota. of achievement . you get paid.. a small preamp. something tangible. The gain is just a bit too low open up the case.. However. it's not all about learning. nothing would have happened at all . so are able to pay your bills. it becomes important to do it again. it all adds up. knowing that one was busy all day with barely time for lunch. In general. After the first few projects are working and have become part of the furniture.lifetime spent in an unrewarding job. it's also about doing. plus the book(s) that you figured you needed. to push your boundaries. Having done it once. it won't make up for a job you hate (or merely dislike). but if you do.. yet would be hard pressed to be able to say exactly what was achieved. No. buy now and spend) It has to be considered that no hobby is financially 'viable' as such. As we get older. You won't save money. Today. What would have happened if what you did today wasn't done? Chances are. plus the costs of the occasional mistake that destroyed an amplifier's output stage. The Financial Side (Advertising slogan . take it back to the shop and ask them to increase the gain by 6dB . For some. and now provides enjoyment that no store-bought system ever will.. there is a sense of pride. and if you were to add in the tools that you buy to DIY. that's a bonus. When you build something. lovingly finished. it is imagined that by using the DIY approach.even worse. Indeed. they will save money.there is something to show for it.. Cheap.1 sound system that you made from raw materials.. you will spend money. No. No. in a great many cases. Few people these days have a job where at the end of the day they can look at something they built. for the love of creating (or re-creating) something. People who build model planes or railway layouts or knit jumpers don't do it to save (or make) money.. 'Buy NOW and save!' Translation . buy food and live to do the same thing tomorrow. change a resistor. one comes home at the end of the day. but at least you have created something. a complete state of the art 5.. they do it for enjoyment. plus a bit of this and a bit of that .    They won't know what you are talking about They don't care what you are talking about Strangely. and voila! Easy. you won't (well. the new skills are less likely to be used for anything but the hobby. you might. Try getting a major manufacturer to do that with a commercial product . then you realise the real benefits. Where is the satisfaction in that? There isn't any . they invite you to go away and urinate 2 . Tomorrow.

. it probably won't. Only with the DIY approach can these claims be tested unless you have money to burn. maybe not. Should you correctly identify the magic component 70% of the time. then you know it really does make a difference. because most are amateurs without electronics training. and find out for yourself if there is any difference between 'ordinary' and 'magic' components. Likewise if you hear no difference you know this because you did the test! Without this first hand knowledge. These are all priceless . There is absolutely no doubt that few things are as discouraging as a DIY project that doesn't work. because you already built your own preamp. Despite that..you rarely forget things you learned the hard way. If there is no improvement (or worse. in some cases the reverse is true. You are forced to believe that it sounds 'better' regardless of technical specs. The total cost in real terms is peanuts. and are almost impossible to teach (except perhaps for a particular product where common faults are known). This time. Don't expect it to be easy. this is even better (believe it or not). If you can make the modifications yourself. Again. because it almost certainly won't be. Servicing and fault finding are special skills. but can you get everything else you need to try this for a sensible price from a shop? No. As a DIY person. the whole process is one of learning. There are countless debates on the Web and elsewhere about 'esoteric' components. Having equipment modified is expensive. If things go wrong. Some may claim that silver wire (for example) will magically transform your listening experience .many people do just that on a daily basis. maybe not. performance is degraded). You only pay for the components. More knowledge to you either way. More importantly though. experimentation and experience. and install them yourself. or those who say that nothing makes a difference and all amps sound the same. maybe. you do have another amp lying about. but it can be done . and there's no actual guarantee that its technical specifications will be improved . Yet again. you know what's in it. you read an article on the Net that claims that biamping is almost magic! Well. By doing it yourself you can only improve yourself. you will also be able to make (rather than try to buy) an AB switch box so that you can make direct (blind) comparisons. then the cost is minimal. Your preamp and speakers will be out of service for a couple of days at most. it will be cheaper than you can buy one for. For the DIY enthusiast. and if you decide for whatever reason that you don't like it. there are few things more encouraging than (eventually) finding the problem and fixing it. To track down a fault that exists in something that has never worked is particularly difficult. then it is easy and cheap to revert to the original circuit. 3 . Experience is one of the best forms of education . you can change back. but that's another issue entirely. Others claim that this capacitor or that resistor is so markedly superior that nothing else should ever be used.you can't buy them. you are the mercy of the snake-oil vendors and their often very convincing sales banter. it will be harder. maybe. Can you make an electronic crossover yourself? Yes. you can add the board to include a crossover.indeed.Having built a pair of speakers and a preamp.

you control the standard of workmanship. brand names. then don't bother. The chassis will be of thin pressed steel or maybe plastic as well as the front panel. Should you simply want to use the best components you can obtain. but only experimentation will reveal what works and what does not. image. The image from DIY is the one that you create. and if it fails. and without the image it might as well be salvaged from the local dump. but in fairness to the hobby. Should you be the type who is impressed by the front panel. this is your choice.While I can tell you that neither side is right for the most part. or <insert local charity here>. Of course. If looked at from that perspective.. or the likelihood that the internals are built on phenolic PCB (the cheapest available material). if any of the above applies to you and/or your circle of friends. then DIY is not for you. with time. it is only with your own curiosity and test processes that you will ever know the truth. But . This is regardless of performance. You will get none of these things. and the appearance of the finished article will rarely be as fancy as the commercial offering. then you actually will save by adopting the DIY approach. then your friends will fail to be impressed. and when all is taken in context. If others don't like it. you will be able to repair it yourself.. but the standard of workmanship often leaves a great deal to be desired. and fancy advertising. None of this matters if you are only interested in the image. they are only important to some people. again. It definitely doesn't matter if you get the equipment for the right price and it does everything you ever want or need. that's their 4 . and the top cover will almost invariably be thin sheet steel. Never mind that fact that many commercial products use a plastic front panel that may be dressed up to look like solid metal.but if it lacks the image you are looking for. The obviously cheap components in most consumer goods are probably not much worse than the ones you can buy. No-one but you will appreciate the effort you put into it. as long as you never remove the cover. and to get the same benefits from any commercial product. with a spray coating. they are dressed up to look great. Most of the parts you buy will be no worse (and often much better) than those used in mass-produced commercial equipment anyway. These are all major benefits. you have something of which you can be rightfully proud. Some things may make a difference in your particular case. So. patience and a willingness to pay for specialised work. you can build something that is vastly more impressive than the commercial offering . it will cost you a great deal of money. Contra-Indications There are some important factors that you will miss out on if you follow the DIY approach. None of it matters if you update your gear regularly whether it still works or not. which in many cases is secondary to image.

If it doesn't do exactly what you want. Conclusion People choose DIY for the fun of creation. and doing exactly what you want. Others are terrible cheap materials. a complete jargon to master (that part is admittedly not so much fun). The old saying that 'you get what you pay for' no longer holds relevance .some bargains are real. When it's finished. and hobbies are meant to be fun . and others do it because they think they'll save money. to learn. many having been made in the same factory (some may even be identical to a bargain version). but usually not for any of the reasons they may claim. so too is building your system yourself.fun. Audio is a hobby for most people. When you make something (even from a kit). Some people are forced into it because they can't get exactly what they want. Some are real bargains . Some highly priced goods are no different from the bargains.well made. then the fun and pride of having made it will always be there . It is simply a commodity.even make excuses to yourself in extreme cases (where you'd like to strangle the sales thing given the chance). others are very obviously false. there are new skills to learn. Having acquired various tools (and talents) along the way. even when it seems like a mindless chore stuffing components into a PCB and soldering them in. all three will be involved at the conscious level. 5 .even long after the event. not what someone else's marketing department told you you want. then you have to live with it . The number one reason for DIY is simple . Do you get any of these things when you buy a product? In a word. but all three will be usually be involved at the subconscious level. not yours. the motives will hopefully change. Sometimes. You will always learn from the experience of building it. installed in your system. you have the opportunity to customise it so that it does exactly what you want. something that countless others have. or to get something that can't be bought because it is too specialised . you may find that you can use them for other DIY activities . no. and will last well in normal use. Again. then they probably won't be impressed. don't expect to save money. As with all hobbies. In the same way that listening to your system is a recreational activity.recreation at its best. although once they get into it. If it happens to outperform the system they paid $thousands for. and something to show for it when it is completed.especially woodworking tools.even in a seemingly minor respect. exactly the same as yours. flimsy and with a marginal finish that won't last until next Thursday. Many goods are available that are made in China (or perhaps India or some other developing country) for far less than you could build them for. DIY is not for everyone.problem. These are not good motives for DIY.

Main Index Copyright Notice. have a look at the UK site Social Issues Research Centre.Strike out that which does not apply.mechanical. The author (Rod Elliott) grants the reader the right to use this information for personal use only. Reproduction or re-publication by any means whatsoever. is strictly prohibited under International Copyright laws. and further allows that one (1) copy may be made for reference.particularly if you are building loudspeakers. then so much the better. While you would be quite correct. a new doghouse (which you may need) or that you are making it for a friend. it should be repeated at every possible opportunity in the (forlorn) hope that you might eventually have it accepted as a fact. 6 . including but not limited to all text and diagrams.a house and a hi-fi system tend to be rather different by their very nature. Of course. and is Copyright © 2005. to get an idea of the reasons people get into DIY for the home itself (and yes. One of the most common complaints involves sawdust and swarf (roughly speaking.F. There are differences of course . the metalworking equivalent of sawdust in case you don't know the term). If you do happen to save money in the process. On the other hand. It will be necessary to point out that every modern convenience (including the very home in which you live) would not exist without the generous proliferation of both these highly essential by-products. there may well be haranguing from "Her Indoors"/ "SWMBO" (She Who Must Be Obeyed)/ "the Wife" (or whatever other name is considered appropriate. is thatyou're building?" I suggest that a gentle fib may be in order. including but not limited to "bloody woman" ) or for female DIY persons. I know all of this from personal experience. Commercial use is prohibited without express written authorisation from Rod Elliott. it's usually better not to try to hide the partially built cabinets. This article. When SWMBO enters your workshop (perhaps with some feeble excuse. whether electronic. it is relevant). You may be feeling especially adventurous and try including solder blobs and welding spatter as "essential by-products" . such as to tell you that the kitchen is on fire or something equally trivial).) Note 1 . You could suggest that it's part of a motorhome. Finally. but the reasons for DIY in any form are often very similar. one thing will happen .Again. should she cry "W. so it's time to cut your losses and think of something else. While this explanation will almost certainly get you off the hook for as long as a few milliseconds. their (in)significant other Note 1. or will cause excessive grief if used During the construction of your masterpiece(s). mechanical or electro. If any comments made seem reasonably positive you probably won't have a problem. the DIY approach is more about satisfaction and creation than anything else. The chances of getting the finished products into the house unnoticed are slim. (And yes. is the intellectual property of Rod Elliott. it is doubtful that you'll get away with those two.especially if these manage to appear inside the house.T.

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