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Steve's BIG BETSY Project (Read 56680 times)
Steve Deckert
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Steve's BIG BETSY Project
07/01/19 at 02:00:15
 

Inspired by Caintuck Audio's Randy Rash and his stunning Betsy Open-Baffle design, I decided my first truly serious project in my new wood shop would be to build a giant pair of Betsy Open Baffle loudspeakers.

http://www.decware.com/newsite/Caintuck.html

I simply scaled Randy's design up for a 15 inch driver, with the intension of using these as bass baffles to further enhance the Betsy Open-Baffle sound that I love so much!  I had a strong feeling that if I did this, I would likely have a new reference pair of speakers that I liked better than my current selection, specifically the DNA2 and the HR1 speakers which I consider the best full-range offerings we have.  If I could do that, it would be really something.

Here is my plans.  I realize these plans will short out a lot of DIY speaker builders who like in-depth plans, but for myself, this is all I ever do... it has all the information I need to build the loudspeaker.  The cut out diameter will be determined by the actual diameter of the drivers I decide to use.

They basically end up being around twice as tall, twice as wide and twice as thick.  Shouldn't be a big deal right... only twice as big!

Actually not so.  The original size Betsy consumes around 6 or 7 board feet per speaker.  So does the big one use 12 or 14 board feet?  No, it took 36+ board feet. So to say they are twice as big would be somewhat misleading.

Anyway, this is where it all started.  I am matching a solid Paduke and Wenge baffle to exactly match the pair of Betsys from Randy at Caintuck Audio.




Here is a picture of my personal pair of Caintuck Audio's Betsy Baffles, done solid hardwood and outfitted with the Alnico drivers.  This is what I intend to exactly reproduce at the larger scale drawn above.


 
Steve






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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #1 - 07/01/19 at 03:08:31
 


Before I get into the build... a note about the shop. Built under some decaying ash trees I decided to make it with a 12 pitch roof. Not only that, but with everything at 16 inches on center and 100% screwed together. The roof is super strong. The pitch is so steep and so frikin high that I almost pissed my pants at least 50 times framing it.  

Last night I got to see it in action, as a huge tree fell splitting two other trees all onto the roof of my new shop.  Slid right off like rain.  No structural damage.  The shed behind the shop was smashed.



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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #2 - 07/01/19 at 03:19:06
 



The shed behind the shop.

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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #3 - 07/01/19 at 03:53:01
 

I purchased 20 BF of African Paduke and 20 BF of Wenge. The Wenge delivered is $22 a board foot. The Paduke is about half that. Nevertheless the total cost of materials gave me real pause. I had to think about it for a couple of days knowing I could probably make the same thing out of plywood with veneer for a fraction of the amount. To get myself over the hump I simply calculated the materials wrong and purchased less than I'll actually needed.  

Whoops.



Before it was over another 18 BF of wedge was needed, and 20BF of oak.  ::)

In this picture I have run the Paduke through the jointer and planer as well as two of the Wenge boards.

Interesting note... hating to waste an 1/8 inch for each cut on the table saw, I ran the Paduke through my band saw and it cut it like butter with precious little waste.  When it came time to do the Wenge, which I was already short on I knew I was going to do the same thing.  However, when applying the Wenge to the bandsaw, the bandsaw dropped its first F-Bomb and proceeded to cut the opposite of a straight line.  Wenge is really unbelievably hard and heavy wood.  A single one of those black boards you see in the picture probably weighs 30 lbs!

Haha, looking back on it, I would have to be a real wood craftsman or desperate for money to build a pair of these with this much Wenge.  Of course ignorance is bliss until you reach that moment where you wonder what you have just gotten yourself into!

Somehow we have to make two giant Betsy baffles out of these boards.

-Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #4 - 07/01/19 at 04:19:41
 

Here is some of the Paduke. I've machined the first three boards which is setting the thickness for the entire project. That turned out be 1.74 inches in the end, however in this picture it was closer to 1.85. After I had every single board machined in both Paduke and Wenge I ran everything through a final polishing pass because I assumed that is what my wood guru Bob Zigler would have done : )



BTW, I found out what my planer was actually capable of doing when I ran a tapered 8 inch wide 2 inch board 4 feet long through it and by the end it was at a full  1/8 inch cut. While the bandsaw dropped and F-Bomb on the Wenge, the Planer just dug-in and got the job done to my complete astonishment. This was a holy-crap moment that still has me shaking my head!  If you drop a 2 inch solid Paduke board on you foot you're going to anciently drop an F-Bomb yourself... but if you drop the same size Wenge board on your foot, you're going to the hospital.

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #5 - 07/01/19 at 04:31:23
 

Here is all the boards machined square and to the same thickness.  



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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #6 - 07/01/19 at 04:37:48
 

Now the brain melter for amateur wood workers like myself... figuring out how to stretch the wood you have after machining to get the job done without buying more!



Clearly I have not enough to create a full rectangular panel, so I have to figure out a way to get the missing wood to land in the center of what would be the cut-out for the woofer!

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #7 - 07/01/19 at 04:41:20
 

After a few days I came up with this...



As if it wasn't stressful enough trying to stretch the wood (at $22 a BF) HALF of the Wenge was 1/4 sawn, and half was not.  Now, Wenge that is not quarter sawn looks like frikin black and yellow plywood.  It's hateful looking so now two of my 8 inch x 48 inch boards had to be cut into 1.74 inch strips and rotated 90 degrees to and glued back together to create the illusion of a quarter sawn board.


Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #8 - 07/01/19 at 04:45:27
 

Here is another view of how I joined the boards into panels with what I had. Getting the jointer at a perfect 90 so I can flip the boards at will was easier said than done, also I glued and clamped one joint at a time so I didn't get surprised when it was all done with a curved panel.  That's why it took so long.



Of course by now we're on week two, and a plywood or MDF model would have been a two day gig to get to this point.

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #9 - 07/01/19 at 04:51:46
 

The next big thrill is to try to cut the arc perfectly...  the bandsaw option is out, panel is too heavy to lift.  We all know the only way is the dreadful router.  This is too serious for a mid-fi router, so I had to remove the PC from my router table and make a jig big enough to swing the arc.  

Interesting note:  The radius of the arc will end up being the same length as the height... around 42 inches.  Sacred geometry at work here...



It took a carbide spiral SATAN bit to make this cut.  It's a SATAN bit because if you run it too slow it will worm it's way at mach 6 through your board and then through side of your building with the router and you attached!  Baddddd asss bit... scares the crap out of me.


Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #10 - 07/01/19 at 04:58:07
 

Here is another view of the first cut.



Yes it's polished like a mirror... the Satan bit that cost as much as a Chinese router has my complete fear and respect.

To not blow out any of the edge was a real thrill. Problem is I have to do it three more times with equally perfect results. By this time I am realizing that even one mistake anywhere in the rest of this build will be catastrophic. This is really slowing me down at this point. Every move is pondered.

I now have a real understanding for why it takes so long to build perfect cabinets. God Bless you Bob Ziegler!! And You too Randy...  If I can make these monsters look as good as yours, well... that would be my goal since I'm trying to exactly match the pair!

Steve

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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #11 - 07/01/19 at 05:06:15
 


It was a perfect day for it... idillic in fact.  72'F nice breeze, birds chirping, low humidity, no bugs.  Don't worry I appreciated every second of it.  



Both sides of the first panel are done with no flaws.  Trying to do the second one without waiting 24 hours would be certain disaster... can't chance it.  Going too well.

-Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #12 - 07/01/19 at 16:23:08
 
Steve, they look great!!

Shop looks great as well.

Guys, you don't even want to know how much I cringed to see Steve's old table saw sitting out in the rain with a crustacean of rust on the top. But the dam thing still worked!

Zygi
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #13 - 07/01/19 at 16:43:13
 
I guess he was done with it!   Smiley

Those slabs of gorgeous wood look incredible, can’t wait to see more of this endeavor.

Best,
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #14 - 07/01/19 at 17:01:38
 
I know from a luthier that wenge is very hard to work with. But it's a great tone wood for instruments--I have it as neck and fingerboard for one guitar and one bass, and they are favorites.
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #15 - 07/01/19 at 17:14:58
 
Tell me more about the router bit. I would assume solid carbide with some sort of coating??
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #16 - 07/01/19 at 18:26:20
 
Steve...The Cathedral wood shop has come a long way since Decfest.  

Glad to hear the tree didn’t take it out.  If I can make to to Decfest again this year....it will be interesting to hear how the room sounds now that it’s closed off.  
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #17 - 07/01/19 at 19:28:07
 

The shop sounds very respectable.  It would drive me nuts if it didn't.  Absorption on all four walls and the roof.  Bass is wonderful out there.

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #18 - 07/01/19 at 19:31:57
 
Donnie,

Here are the Satan bits I use:  https://www.infinitytools.com/routing/router-bits/carbide/straight-spiral-router...



#85915, the actual bit is the tallest one in the picture... see it's devilish horns?

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #19 - 07/01/19 at 21:21:27
 


Wow !!!

Very cool .....

Steve ..... might I suggest that this baffle be named the "Big Bertha" .....

Looking forward to seeing (and hearing) the finished project.

Happy listening,
Randy

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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #20 - 07/01/19 at 22:12:04
 
That is a kick ass cutter.
If you ever dull it down, take it to Countyline Tool Grinding and have it resharpened, They are right there in E. Peoria, I guarantee you that you have driven past  their shop a thousand times.
You probably can get 2 regrinds out of it to bring the cost of ownership down a bit.
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #21 - 07/02/19 at 01:42:55
 
Here is the tree this evening... still moving slowly towards the ground through my shed.



Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #22 - 07/02/19 at 01:44:42
 



Basically at this point the fence is holding it up.

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #23 - 07/02/19 at 01:52:51
 

Getting ready to cut the hole for the woofer...





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Reply #24 - 07/02/19 at 01:54:18
 

No vacuum hose for this cut...



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Reply #25 - 07/02/19 at 01:57:33
 



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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #26 - 07/02/19 at 02:07:54
 

Fixing the side where on the last cut I blew out a large chunk of Wenge... and then lots of sanding.  Trying to keep everything perfectly flat...



Next will come the linseed oil to seal it up.

Steve

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Reply #27 - 07/02/19 at 02:10:30
 

Letting it swim in linseed oil for awhile before I wipe it off.



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Reply #28 - 07/02/19 at 02:12:02
 

After it was wiped off.  Will get a second coat tomorrow.



This is the back side

Steve
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Reply #29 - 07/02/19 at 02:23:24
 

Next I have to figure out how I want to handle the base that keeps it upright.  I can make a nearly 24 inch base scaled from the original Betsy which is about 12 inches... or change it.  I pondered this for a long time.  Despite the fact that I can not even lift the baffle, when it is on the floor it becomes weightless.  That means precious little effort to tip it forward.  Since I have cats and grandkids I don't want to see smashed, I decided to shorten the back to 12 inches and put 7 inch feet on the front.  This way even the smallest amount of pressure from behind will cause the baffle to lift up off the floor at which point it is no longer weightless.  Also, the thought of 24 inches behind the speaker was scary since I'd be tripping over it all the time.

So with the following sketch I went to work...



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Reply #30 - 07/02/19 at 02:30:45
 

I ordered 20 BF of OAK and started jointing it up. I decided to make it solid once I got started... more mass, and that's an important component in the Betsy baffle design.



Steve




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Reply #31 - 07/02/19 at 02:33:12
 

Now to figure out how to attach them to the baffles.



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Reply #32 - 07/02/19 at 02:38:07
 

Here is another shot of the oak bases.  I'm going to dowel them into place and use lag bolts so they can be easily removed.



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Reply #33 - 07/02/19 at 14:18:15
 
Steve, looking good. I can't wait to see how they look all put together. They are going to be one heavy speaker. You will need to get a dolly to move them around.
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #34 - 07/02/19 at 14:45:37
 
Steve,

Thanks for letting us ride along with you on this!

So these will be Bass baffles? To pair with the normal Alnico Betsy's?

What Bass driver are you using?
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #35 - 07/02/19 at 15:11:34
 


Steve said "Fixing the side where on the last cut I blew out a large chunk of Wenge... and then lots of sanding."

Yep ….. when routing the outside edge of just about any hardwood, it is VERY easy to blow a chunk out of the wood …..
I have done that several times and it makes you sick to your stomach to mess up a beautiful slab of hardwood.

At this point ….. I just use a band saw, trace the shape of the baffle from a template, cut out the baffles on the band saw close to the line and then clamp the two baffles together and use my belt sander to make the edges as smooth as a baby's butt …..

Of course, Steve's baffles are too big to easily (if at all) run through a band saw ….. so he did something different.

I am impressed ….. for anyone who has never attempted a project like this, there is a lot more to it than you can even imagine.

Very nice ….. !!!

Happy listening,
Randy

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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #36 - 07/02/19 at 23:11:11
 

Thanks for the kind words Randy... yea, just too heavy and large to cut on the band saw unless you cut the pieces before they are glued together. That was my original plan until I found out my bandsaw didn't like 2 inch thick Wenge! I'm sure it will cut it fine, but being somewhat new at this, I didn't feel it was the time to be increasing the blade tension ; ).

My blow-out looked the like a scar on Mars... I packed it full of Wenge splinters from the cut and it's very hard to tell anything happened. A lighter wood would have been a different story.

Steve



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Reply #37 - 07/02/19 at 23:20:00
 

Yes, these are intended to be bass baffles to pair with the Alnico Betsy speakers. My hope was to find a lower efficiency woofer with a steep natural roll-off that I could either series or parallel with the Betsy and in either configuration not use a crossover. Since the Alnico Betsy driver is more sensitive and has over 3 octaves higher response, even though both drivers are hooked together, the high frequencies will naturally go to the Betsy driver, and the low frequencies will naturally go to the bass driver. Any overlap is seamlessly canceled by running the bass drivers out of phase relative to the Betsy drivers.

I found the perfect drivers, some Seeburg DDS1 drivers. Basically vintage disco tech drivers with alnico magnets and cloth surrounds. Probably about 88/89dB from what I can tell.



I painted them black to match the Betsy drivers. You can see them in one or two of the previous pictures in the background of my shop.

When I got these drivers I laid them on the floor next to my Betsys and hooked them up as described without a baffle.  It was perfect.  You practically couldn't hear them which is what I wanted.  I could have lived with that just fine, but once I got the image in my mind of a 2 inch thick solid hardwood Betsy at a full 42 inches tall I just had to make a pair.  Couldn't help it.

The first full listening test was to be honest a lot more bass than I was expecting which was great!  Then when I figured out to wire the woofers 180 degrees out from the Betsy drivers the mid-bass overlap disappeared and so far it was for my personal taste the best sound I've possibly ever heard.  There was zero mid-bass bloat or room contribution in that critical area and I found it so refreshing that I was just spellbound by it.

I'll put together some photos and more impressions about the sound in the next couple days.

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #38 - 07/02/19 at 23:26:18
 

Quote:
there is a lot more to it than you can even imagine.


Yup, like when I found out half of my Wenge was quarter sawn and half wasn't so I had to rip down all that wasn't and rotate the pieces 90 degrees and glue it back together without loosing the 1/2 inch of wood from the four cuts on the table saw.  

The biggest lesson I learned is that you want more wood than you need and that a good sounding stereo provokes a lot less mistakes than a bad sounding one!

Steve
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Reply #39 - 07/03/19 at 00:34:02
 

So here are a couple more shots of the front feet getting put on, and from this point forward, they got carted into the listening room.  I'll take some pics of the finished baffles next.



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Reply #40 - 07/03/19 at 00:34:36
 

By this point I got too excited and forgot to take more pictures... happens every time!





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Reply #41 - 07/03/19 at 02:10:56
 

Quote:
Steve, they look great!!

Shop looks great as well.

Guys, you don't even want to know how much I cringed to see Steve's old table saw sitting out in the rain with a crustacean of rust on the top. But the dam thing still worked!

Zygi


Hehe... seeing that saw set out in the rain all those years was instrumental in motivating me to build the shop.

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #42 - 07/03/19 at 21:15:51
 
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Obsession is a bad thing, or is it??


It gets things done ; )

Steve
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Dana
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #43 - 07/06/19 at 15:43:57
 
Ya know... If the woofer thing doesn't work out what a beautiful coffee table with a space for your bowl of chips.

Or maybe a pair of subwoofer coffee tables that way you wouldn't have to worry squashing the guests when they get a little rowdy.

Actually thanks for sharing I hope they sound as good as they look.

Dana

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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #44 - 07/11/19 at 03:44:39
 

Here are a couple teaser pics. In this particular configuration the photo shows it as a full-range speaker rather than a bass baffle, so it is quite literally a perfect scale replica of the Caintuck Audio Betsy Baffles.  



As I'm sure I said in earlier posts, it was a lot more effort that I bargained for but turned out to be well worth it.  This is one of those rare speakers with so much mass I can't lift it.  It feels like a giant magnet stuck to a steel floor.




Because the driver is large enough to accommodate heavy binding posts, the speaker wires can be connected directly to the driver itself.

-Steve  :)

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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #45 - 07/11/19 at 03:58:23
 

My bass baffle implementation is non-duplicatable because it is based on obsolete vintage alnico Seeburg drivers from the 1950's.

The full-range drivers shown in the picture are a current production driver from a small company called Lii-Audio who specialize in crossover-less full-range drivers.  The model is the F15 which is the largest driver in their line, and the least expensive.  I'm not sure it would be priced so reasonably if more people heard it in this magic Caintuck Audio Betsy Baffle design.  I'm not blowing smoke here either.  This combo is producing more low bass than the smaller sized baffles featuring multi-15 inch driver arrays by a huge margin.  

Here is a spec sheet on the drivers used.




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Jeff of Arabica
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #46 - 07/11/19 at 05:16:51
 
Damn Steve, that is bad ass!  As an owner of Randy's Betsy Baffles and of his Bubinga 15" Augie bass drivers, I have enough knowledge and experience with Randy's designs to fully appreciate what you have done here.
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #47 - 07/11/19 at 05:20:39
 

The efficiency of these drivers in combination with these baffles is easily at or over 100dB 1w/1m and that is all the way down to 50Hz at which point it begins to roll off. I realize there are many 100dB speakers out there but consider this, many are rated at 2.83v not 1w/1m which translates to a lower figure, usually by around 2dB. Also many 100dB speakers are using a crossover and more than one driver. Also many full-range drivers that claim to be 100dB have absolutely no bass compared to this, which is a crossover-less full-range 15-inch driver with only 14 grams of moving mass.

As a result, its sound is unique, reminiscent of the vintage drivers from the 50's that were nice and tight, which this certainly is. The difference is that there is no cone break-up at the listening levels you would be able to tolerate in your home. It sounds exactly like the original Betsy driver, but with an octave lower bass. The top end is the same, slightly rolled response that I never have a problem enjoying.

The Alnico Betsy drivers by comparison are faster and more extended in the top end. A pair of the Betsy speakers with either driver create a believable you are there sound stage with reference precision.  The F15 drivers in the big betsy baffles create a believable they are here sound stage (which is rather different) with dynamics and projection better than any speaker I have ever heard, proving the validity of the special shape of this baffle design.

The F15 drivers in these baffles will get louder, hit harder, have more bass, and sound bigger than any other Decware free-standing speaker driven by our larger TORII and ZMA amplification with nothing more than a 2 watt Zen Triode amplifier! It's simply insanely good and incredibly hard to believe when you hear it. For all those who own a 2 watt Zen Triode and wondered what it would sound like with a 40 watt ZMA, this is the same result only better because no other speaker has this projection, not even my corner horns.

However with the F15 driver there is no doubt in my mind, especially for Zen Triode owner's that even a triple-sandwich of MDF or cabinet grade plywood used to create a Big Betsy on a budget would provide reasonably similar results, which is scary exciting since the drivers are less than $500 a pair.

I will have these set up in my room indefinitely, so a great time to hear them would be 2019 DECFEST in October 4th, 5th, 6th. Between these and Bob's re-designed HR-1's , the Omegas and Randy's baffles there will be quite a bit of new sound this year! Of course that doesn't even include all the anniversary mods and the new soon to be released CSP325 preamp!

Happy listening!


Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #48 - 07/11/19 at 05:33:21
 

Quote:
Damn Steve, that is bad ass!  As an owner of Randy's Betsy Baffles and of his Bubinga 15" Augie bass drivers, I have enough knowledge and experience with Randy's designs to fully appreciate what you have done here.


Thanks Jeff... they are blowing my mind pretty hard on a number of different levels. The frequency balance is so good. Warm, full, and without any detectable peaks whatsoever. Just a joy to listen to, and to my great satisfaction they have the scale of the big horns, specifically my corner horns, and the imperial horns, which I wasn't frankly expecting.  Also many times the impact and projection, so live sounding and simply effortless. They will absolutely faithfully reproduce a full orchestra at live levels with convincing realism which is rare because you don't normally hear this sound without a box or a horn or both...

I just can't get used to the live playback levels. Listening to 'Los Invisables- Santana' as I write this and it feels exactly like it did one evening listening live around the pool and bar area at a place in St. Thomas Island while on vacation. It's definitely a demonstration of sound getting bigger instead of getting louder, but man you can feel it in the whole structure, the bass performance has literally destroyed all of my other speakers including the corner horns.  I certainly didn't expect that! The Audio Gods have already let me know that making the same size baffle in a rectangle will ruin the sound, and I've seen and can understand exactly why I just haven't figured out the words to explain it yet.  A living demonstration of Sacred Geometry is the best I can do at this point...  I mean the thing that blew my mind the first time I ever head a pair of Randy's Betsy Baffles was the fact that they had such good bass when I was expecting basically none.  It shouldn't be happening, and now that I have scaled the speaker up the effect as well as the fascination is the same, with performance an octave lower and over twice as loud, it just shouldn't be possible.  Fun Stuff!

Steve
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Re: Steve's BIG BETSY Project
Reply #49 - 07/11/19 at 06:03:04
 

I just thought of how to describe the sound...

The sound of this speaker is what you always wish would happen when you turn up the volume of your stereo but never does.

Steve
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