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  • Writer's picture7-DAYZ

Can't afford studio monitors... (The Speaker Saga, Part I)

So I (re) made some. My dad had a pair of old Infinity speakers he'd gotten from a cousin many years ago - sadly these speakers initially came to our family because his cousin committed suicide and left his nice audio gear to my dad. We used them growing up. I didn't know a thing about what made audio gear good or bad at the time, but my siblings and I loved that they'd get turned up with the Mannheim Steamroller blaring at Christmas time - they sounded great.

Then one fateful day my dad played them without noticing someone had cranked the pre-amp volume control (he'd gotten a nice one of those from his cousin as well) and "boom-crack" - no more functioning sub-woofer in either speaker. They went from great sounding to crackling garbled and unlistenable in a matter of seconds. And so they sat, with a bunch of old records and other audio gear for nearly 20 years; they even survived a couple moves in their dilapidated state.

As the years went by the sun faded them, and since they didn't work, they'd often been used several times as end tables - with the stains and pockmarks that come with such use, as you can see in the "before" gallery below.

I had an audiophile friend at the job I currently had, and when I was describing the old audio gear at my dad's, we started talking about a restoration project. Little did I know I'd soon need a pair of studio monitors for my own music. So with the help of my friend Ken over at MagicClam, we ordered replacement parts to upgrade the damaged woofers. We installed and tested those, then I set off on what would be a 18 month project of getting them re-finished. Why so long, you may ask? Because I had never done wood staining before, and I was about to learn alot... the hard way.

Oregon is not the type of climate that is conducive to staining in the winter months, its cold, raining, and wet most of the time. This was a problem because I started in late summer, took too long on the initial prep and staining, and then ended up putting the project on hold until I could start again in warmer weather.

My main mistake starting out was putting too much stain on, as well as not realizing I was staining an oak veneer on these speakers. Oak doesn't like to take stain to begin with I learned, and I had not sanded deep enough on this first pass to get the dark color I wanted - as the stain couldn't set in without proper surface prep! Bottom line was that the stain dried too thick and I had a choice to make - call it good enough and leave them pretty ugly, or start over, and re-sand and re-stain both speakers entirely. I admit at this point I really wanted to give up. But I also wanted to make use of these speakers - because, to me, music is hope, life, and victory. The fact they'd belonged to a relative that had felt there was no hope other than to take his own life made me determined that these speakers could be more than just broken re-purposed end tables. They were made to sing - to make joyful sounds rather than be a symbol of a broken life. I already knew I could make them sound the part with the new sub-woofers, now I had to see if I could recover my missteps and make them look the part as well.

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