5 Feb

Compare In-Wall Speakers – Micca, 652W, VM Audio


Recently, I got very interested in building speakers and as a result, I google my way around everything there is to know about speaker building. I was intrigued to find that there were many people who are also passionate about this subject and there is a whole science and art behind it. Being a technologists and avid maker of things, I was comfortable in picking up some of this knowledge and turning it into a project.

 

As with all creative projects, it requires money, dexterity, knowledge gathering & application, and a great deal of perseverance as well as patience. I understand that not everyone are inclined to work and think this way but they do care about what they buy and hence this article. It is directed towards folks who are looking for the best in-wall speakers but are not able to make the decisions as they don’t have any information regarding it’s sonic performance against other comparative products.

 

The tests in this post compares three top-selling in-wall speakers that can be found in Amazon. Unfortunately, there are no side by side comparison of these products in terms of sonic performance for users to make a productive decision regarding cost vs sound quality. In this post, I summarize a test rig that I prepared that will hopefully help you in arriving at this decision.

 

Under the tests were the 3 units shown below which appear to be to top sellers on Amazon and have received favorable ratings.

 

 Micca M-6S 6.5 Inch 2-Way In-Wall Speaker (referred to as ‘Micca’)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0047PO2Z8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

$38.53

652W Silver Ticket 2-Way In-Wall Speaker (referred to as ‘652W’)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LGYPCMK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

$25.98

VM AUDIO Shaker 6.5 2-Way In-Wall Speaker (referred to as ‘VM Audio’)

https://www.amazon.com/VM-AUDIO-Shaker-Surround-Speaker/dp/B00MV8QNFA/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1486299559&sr=8-11&keywords=vm+audio

$12.99

 

The test lab for comparing the speakers

Like all good experiments, it is important to have an experimental bed that will be constant for all test conditions for the speakers. Effectively an environment that can be kept constant whilst feeding the same audio source and determining the sound profile. Note that I have not used any measuring equipment to do this comparison and might spark debates from audiophiles. However, the end goal was simply to measure the sound from the speakers for the same consistent input and determining it’s quality against each other. It can be said that everyone has a preference towards a particular taste in music but that would not detract from the fact that you are judging the same music coming out of each of those speakers. As long as my feet are on the ground and not dancing vigorously to the music, I felt the tests were going to be an objective one.

 

were simply my ears with everything else being constant including the passage of sound to my ears and all furniture as is.

 

The test rig…

For the test rig, I made a rigid plywood box with an open front that will comfortably sit the speakers flat and taped with duck-tape to minimize sound leakage. This set-up was fine since the requirement for a tightly sealed box or sound deadening material were not an issue as the speakers were subjected to the same conditions under listening tests. The speakers connected to the in-house amplifier, chromecast audio and power supplies (Fig. 1).

 

I was already somewhat familiar with the VM Audio speaker whilst building out the amp rig and had a general feeling of what this sounded like. I plugged the Micca speaker as I was anxious to hear this speaker considering all the rave reviews received in Amazon. I was immediately awestruck by its sound, and all the music I pushed through it on my Android tablet (google music player) sounded pretty good.

 

However, the speakers were stored in a cold room (NYs inclemental weather) and so I knew they needed to be warmed up for a good test. Some folks also recommend a break-in period of 2-3 days of continuous music before you can fully appreciate the sound. However, you can argue that all three speakers under test were subjected to the same temperatures and break-in period and a direct measurement one after another would not skew the tests. One could also argue that the materials used may have very different properties to each other requiring different levels of break-in before they are fully ‘cured’. I won’t into the details of this so I thought it would be best to let the speakers sit in room temperature for a few days and conduct a protracted listening tests for all three speakers.

 

For the tests, it is important to make sure that speaker placements are exactly the same ie. position on table, from the wall and any other objects nearby. It was important that I was also listening from exactly the same position of where I was sitting. I was also aware of the fact that resting hands behind your heads would compromise the tests. If you don’t believe me, place your hands facing forwards behind your ear and you will see how different all the sounds appear. Such were the lengths I was prepared to go to in order to pick out the various nuances of sound emanating from the speakers. In case you were thinking, I was not exactly a sitting robot 🙂 It was the only way towards appreciating and optimizing a product as I have further audio projects in mind for my new found passion.

 

Results..

After subjecting all three to protracted listening tests I have provided the following results for the readers. Keep in mind that the applications for these speakers are for in-wall application and subjective tests such as this only qualifies its rendering capability of sound. It would be hard to say how the speakers will sound on your wall and according to the room size and your furniture placement. Equally, the type of amplifier you choose, will all add up to give the final overall sound that will come out of these speakers. Sound engineers call the in-wall environment as an infinite baffle whereas the closed-box tests is how I am conducting these sound tests. It is safe to say, the quality of the listening tests are arguably the same for each speaker and any deficiency in particular frequencies, distortions of the sound would be a faithful measure of the ability of the speaker to render sound.

 

Initial testing…

 

Micca

Warm sounding, less distortion (well matched to this amplifier).

Whitney Houston, OTOWAA voice, dialog

  Some timbre distortion evidence when changes gear, otherwise voice clear, good mid range and appears to have more bass than VM

Cons

 lower sensitivity (but that is ok, the 60W more than capable at listening to high volumes)

need to show the loudness at mid-point of the chromecast

 

$25 625

 Treble (bit grainy (harsh) and high), whereas Micca sounds like together

 However, broke in is about half hour whereas Micca broke in 1 hr

 Micca warmer and more enjoyable to listen, feels like you could listen to this for a long time without being fatigued

Sharpness in the higher frequency that is noticeable

VM $10

Surprising good, does not have the deficiency of the mid priced one

 

I was quite surprised by the results of these tests as the addage, ‘you pay for what you get’ would naturally apply but not so for these batch of speakers. The V652 has a harsh treble that you just could not discount from all the listening tests. The Micca sounded more warm across the frequency range and was enjoyable to listen to as it depicted no harshness like the V652 and also had a good soundstage. I was most struck by the performance of the VM Audio which for the price point has to be a bargain for what it delivers. It holds itself up against the Micca very well and has a muscular quality to the sound. Although not as warm sounding as the Micca, it did not have any harsh qualities throughout the frequency band.

 

Conclusion

After subjecting the speakers to a break-in and listening to the same music repeatedly through each speaker, I was able to reach the following conclusions.

 

Sound Quality:

 Micca, VM, $25

 

Sensitivity:

 $25, VM, Micca

 

Overall (value for money):

 VM, Micca, $25

 

Your money will go a long way with the VM but if you are really picky about sound and like a more restrained (or mellow) listening experience then you can opt for the Micca.

Bear in mind that this speaker is almost 4 times as much as the VM speaker and as everyone says, sound is a subjective quality.

 

Further work:

I hope that this post benefits some of the readers in deciding what in-wall speakers to choose since ratings are not always the most accurate measure of picking out the right ones. My next tasks will be to see how these speakers sound like with the proper optimization of other parameters such as sound box dimensions, rigidity of box, fibre materials, amplifier matching etc. Like I said the acid test would be to hook these up to your own walls and see how they sound but based on these tests you can get an idea of the quality of the sound that each produce.

 

25 Aug

Organize your papers, mail, receipts for just $3


Okay, I am a big fan of Michaels, Dollar Tree and other shops where I can buy the necessary items for my creative projects. The other day while I was shopping in Dollar Tree I came across these organizers (Fig. 1) which are cardboard type trays to organize your papers. It was the perfect thing I was looking for and they came in packs of 2 for only $1.

 

 

Paper cardboard holder

Paper cardboard holder from dollar tree

 

I decided that I was going to get a bunch to organize my papers, mail, receipts and alike to keep myself efficient in the mini-office that I made for myself. When I got home, I had more ideas on how to bind these organizers together to make a stackable tray (shown in the pics). I was quite impressed myself to have come up with this idea since the trolley shelf was sitting pretty doing nothing and suddenly it became more valuable.

 

Cardboard paper holder

Paper organizers stuck together

 

How to put them together:

Assembling the organizer was a breeze… you actually have to bend one of the flaps to close the base and the unit looked as though it could hold up to some light use. I then made 6 of these units and then stuck them with Elmers glue. I wasn’t sure how strong this bond would be but I thought I would give it a try anyways. I have used Elmers wood glue and that was a fantastic product and produced a really strong bond for all my wood projects. In fact the joints were so strong that the force would literally tear away the wood around the joint rather than the glue joint itself!

 

As usual, one has to let the glue dry which did not take too long, the curing time for this glue seemed to be a few hours. For some of the joints I put glue in between and stuck them together with clear sticky tape. The finished product is shown in the pics.

 

The whole ‘stackable tray’ unit fits snug in the trolley shelf and I couldn’t be happier. Now, I need to wade through all the papers, open my mail, pay the bills and all the un-fun stuff….sigh.

 

Paper cardboard organizer

Paper cardboard holder in office environment

paper-organizer-4

 

Hope you like this post.

Stay tuned for more creative ideas and projects brought to you by ferdouse.com

 

23 Aug

Attaching a cheap and cheerful folding door – easier than you think


The other day, I found myself in an empty basement of my Uncle and Aunt’s house in NY (don’t ask me how I got here, it’s a long story). Bless my Uncle and Aunt for helping and supporting me go through some difficult times in the last year or so.

plastic folding doors

Plastic folding doors

Anyways, onto the topic of my post which I thought fellow readers might very useful  ie. how to put up a cheap and cheerful folding door. The plastic door I picked up is from Lowes for under $30 to insulate my room from the excessive heat wave that was happening around the NY area. I had brought the portable AC unit down from the attic and positioned it in the window and then I was left with all manner of tasks on how to insulate the room and keep the room cool as well as reducing the electric bills. Naturally the wide open door was my first area of concern and I had temporarily hung a bed sheet with two push pins which you can imagine was a sorry tale for a door. I came up with the idea of a folding, sliding door that would do the job of putting a barrier from the cool air escaping as well as being functional. Normally I often research the heckl out of anything I want to buy by going to reviews, youtube etc. until I build up enough knowledge and confidence that I have made the right decision and can do the job with eyes closed (ok not quite). Of course you don’t have to follow my lead, you can just simply buy the product and follow my simple instructions.

 

Surprisingly, once I got around to installing it, it was a breeze and pretty much anyone could do it.

 

Here are the steps to putting it up:

  1. Measure the opening of the doorway that you are installing the folding door and make sure you purchase the folding door that is bigger than this opening.
  2. My opening was 76” x 29” and the item I purchased covered openings of 88×32
  3. I cut the length of the item to fit the drop length of the opening. This is where you need to make sure you cut it to the right size. Too short and you could leave a large gap at the bottom and too big means it won’t close as it will drag on the floor. I actually put the top rail on the doors and measured it before I cut the excess off the bottom. In this way you have ensured that the cut will be exact to size. I used my humble electric cut-off saw which did the job nicely.
  4. Make sure that you know which is the top and bottom before you do the cut. One can easily make a mistake and cut the excess from the top. The way you can tell is that there are a number of holes that hold the guide plastics that feed through the top rail.
  5. Drilling or screwing to walls – I was not sure whether I needed anchor plugs but once I screwed my first screw of the top rail, I realized it had some tension to hold up the rail even though the screw went in easily. You need to decide whether to use anchor screws or not on your project and how rigid you want the thing to be. I thought this would work for me and if I needed to reinforce the thing later, I could screw fatter screws through the thin plastic railing.
  6. Once you put everything up, you realize the mechanics of the whole thing. Some additional screws (supplied) were required to fasten the loose flap that will be bound to the wall on the opposite side of the door opening. The handles with magnetic catch are used to snap the door in place when closing.

 

I installed the whole thing in just under an hour but it can be even quicker for some folks since I took extra time in measuring and reading so as not to make a mistake. You realize immediately what the differences are between say a proper robust folding door to a diy cheap and cheerful one that I have. First the folding door will bend once you open it since there are no rails at the bottom to keep it straight. However, since the whole thing is very light, I wasn’t too worried about that, I just moved it slowly using the handles and using my arm to keep the whole thing straight. If I got too lazy, I would open it slightly and then slide the rest of the door from the top.

 

As usual, I can see all kinds of bells and whistles going off in my head as to how the whole thing could be improved. After all, I am an engineer 🙂 For those readers who are interested, please read on..

folding door magnetic door hinge

folding door magnetic door hing

 

Mechanics of the sliding and folding door..

As explained previously, the door relies only on the top rail to move it back and forth and this causes the door to bend when you slide the whole door where the handle is. The cure for this is to have either bottom rail guides to put this in place just like sliding insect screens you see on external windows and doors.. Alternatively, you can make the whole thing heavy enough that the weight would simply prevent the unit from twisting when you slide from the middle. This would require strong top rail mountings and most definitely anchor joints.

 

On this cheap and cheerful folding door there are gaps that come from the bottom and the side of the door where the magnetic catch is. Naturally, this would not be the best choice for an effective insulation of the room. You could put a strip of plastic of the same thickness as the magnetic strip to cover the gap and you could put some cloth or ribbon at the bottom to cover the gap in the bottom. Guide rails at the top, side and bottom could cure this problem however expect to pay upwards of hundreds of dollars for that luxury.

 

However, for now I am very happy! Now to find the other holes to stop the cool air from escaping.

 

20 Aug

Make your own custom under the table keyboard holder


I will be posting some projects here that you can try for yourself and will start off by showing you how easy it was to make an under the table keyboard holder shown in Fig. 1.

 

 

make your own under keyboard

Under the table keyboard holder – easy to make

 

 

There is nothing better for the mind and soul to make something that is both practical and functional. I came up with the idea of the keyboard holder since I saw these types of contraption before and has obvious benefits, particularly when you have to do much typing. I recently purchased my first mechanical keyboard as I knew I was going to do a lot of typing and did not want to develop carpel tunnel syndrome! Anyways, the keyboard I picked was a Logitech G710+ that I purchased from ebay at a discount. I couldn’t be any happier and I knew that in order to make the most of it, it needed to be placed in a comfortable position. Luckily the desk that I had had a small thin drawer which I took out and would seat the sliding door compartment to hold my lovely keyboard. You can see the finished product in Fig. 1.

 

You will be surprised how easy this was to do and it took me under an hour to make and fit the whole thing. Here are the overall steps..

 

  • You want a piece of wood of the right size that is going to seat your keyboard.
  • I cut the wood to size on my table saw and made sure there was a half inch gap on either side to accommodate the sliders.
  • The sliders I purchased for about $6 from Lowes (14 inch size)
  • I wrapped the wood in the plastic sticker that I got for a $1 to cover the defects. I thought that would be a lot faster than painting etc.
  • I then screwed the sliders accordingly to the keyboard base
  • The sliders that go into the side of the inner compartment was positioned such that I had a comfortable height for typing

 

 

The task of putting everything together was simple as it required a handful of screws to put the sliders in place. The end product works wonderfully well and I can tuck away the keyboard when not in use. If you would like more details on how to make this, please feel free to drop a line.