Finishing the Classix II

Posted by Brad on Fri 16 February 2024

I finally finished my classix II speakers. I bought the kit in November 2021 and got it assembled January 2022. I believe I used them for most of that year in their bare mdf cabinets. At some point I bought some veneer and slapped it on the sides and top. Summer 2023 I finally bought the JBL 4312SE when they want on sale for around $1000. They were supposed to be the temporary office speakers that would enable me to finish the classix without losing audio in my office. The problem was I really liked the JBLs and I kind of hate the finishing part of projects. At one point I was also going to swap out the c-notes in the gym with the classix, but that changed after I put some polyfil in the c-notes. So the classix sat neglected in the basement until I had a reason.

That reason presented itself as Adrienne was going to host a party and what's a party without music? The JBLs would move to the living room where they could reach their full potential and the classix would come back to their rightful spot in my office. I can't just do one project at a time, so I also decided to finish fixing the Yamaha CA410 II. The JBLs would need some stands, so I had to build those as well. Unfortunately I didn't get the Yamaha fully done so I had to fallback on the Fosi BT20A Pro, but that was ok (I should upgrade the power supply but otherwise I love that amp). I did get some prototype stands for the JBLs built, but need to redo them at some point or Adrienne will probably stop talking to me.

classix good

The Finish

I used veneer for the sides/top with a cool green vinyl(the "automative" stuff works on mdf too) for the front baffle. I used a "honey" stain on the veneer which ended up a nice not too dark brown. Followed with a few coats of satin polyurethane that I think matched the vinyl nicely.

At one point I was ready to throw the speakers away. The edges of the veneer were rough, the stain didn't take in a few spots due to me spilling the veneer glue on it. I was able to clean up the rough edges with an x-acto knife. I didn't prep the surface for the first vinyl panel I did, so it has some bad bumps. But now that I have them in place, I've mostly hidden the bad spots from view. I have enough vinyl to redo the bad one, so will probably try that at some point.

Lessons Learned

I learned a fair amount, one of which is not to build the crossover until the cabinet is finished. Once the crossover is built I couldn't resist using the speakers which provided a convenient excuse for not finishing them.

The vinyl was fairly easy to work with though I did get a bit excited and didn't sand as much as I should have. It can be applied to the bare mdf but you might want to put a coat of polyurethane on first. I struggled with is wrinkles or bubbles around the circular cutouts. If I didn't overlap the cutout a bit then you can see the mdf in spots, but when I do overlap even if I have it flat it would tend to bubble when I put the woofer into place. Maybe I should have sanded a curved edge on those parts. I think some strategic cuts with an x-acto knife will help with the bubbling.

classix bubbly

The veneer I used was intended for cabinets and is way too thick. Another hard lesson was not to let the veneer glue get on the front, it really blocks the stain, and is difficult to sand away.

classix stain

I also realize the curved baffle is supposed to have a purpose, but I'm divided on how it looks. Part of me would just much rather have a flat surface so I could veneer the whole thing the same way. Or maybe if I had used a thinner veneer it would have handled the curve. But you do get some more creative options with the vinyl.

For the crossovers the bread board was absolutely worth it. I also found out that single strand hookup wire is absolutely the way to go. If you look around you'll see people using really thick stuff like 16 gauge, but I ended up with 22 gauge because that was in stock. Maybe 18 would have been a good middle ground, but I think realistically the 22 is just fine. The final thing I would like are some quick disconnect connectors for the tweeters and woofers. I could just solder the leads straight on but I take things apart way more than I should and I don't like that level of commitment.

I'm not sure when it happened but at some point one of the woofers broke about half the welds on the frame. I was able to push it back to the original position and it seems fairly stable there, but I'll still want to replace it.

Listening Impression

I'm not very good at pretending to be an audiophile. I was going to compare the classix and the JBL 4312SE. I like them both. Vocals on the JBL do sound better and the bass might have been a bit cleaner. That said when I change over to something like Meshuggah's Nothing the classix really shine. I think the tiny bit less detail will also make them a better daily driver. I don't think I can tell which classix has the broken woofer.

Final Thoughts

Am I done building speakers for a while? I'm not really sure. Part of me wants to have another go at making some new cabinets. It might be fun to do a front-ported version that I could put directly on my desk.

I also still have the dream of 2 sets of speakers in the office (realistically my headphones can provide that more refined sound when I want it). And of course there's always the subwoofer question. Maybe something with horns/waveguides. In any case I think I can be happy with these for a while.