Cheap and accurate speaker measurement

Measuring an oblate-spheroid waveguide, circa 2010

Never embark on a loudspeaker project without decent measuring tool. This is my set of tools to measure speaker performance. My criteria is simplicity and accuracy.

  • Sound Card
    Soundblaster Live! 24 bit - $60
  • Software
    ARTA. The demo is free and fully functional, except you cannot save files
    Alternatives: HOLMImpulse, REW (Room EQ Wizard), Speaker Workshop. All free.
  • Microphone
    DIY Panasonic WM-61A microphone - US$3 (plenty from ebay)
    Alternative: Behringer ECM8000

To utilise the WM-61A is quite easy. Electret mics all needs "phantom power" and the circuit is something like this, just need a 9-volt battery, 2k2 Resistor, and 10uF Capacitor (non polar). Of course if you want the real deal you can create something like SL's measurement mic or something like this.

The output plugs to left channel if USB DAC's "Line-in". On stereo 35mm connector it's the pointy bit. Mic's ground is the one connected to the body.

The finished product! ... I use chopstick to make it more tasty.

Close-up pic of the WM-61A. They're only like $3 a piece but very flat!

Download and install ARTA from this website, it's quite easy to use. For more functionality such as enclosure design etc. You need to use Speaker Workshop which is free, but very difficult to setup. I actually tried and gave up.

What I like to measure using ARTA are:

1. Frequency response. Simply point the mic to the speaker, choose "FR1" and click the play button. There will be pink noise heard and graph should appear. Something like this. In this case there were two measurements - the yellow line shows bass reflex port response.

2. Harmonics distortion - When a speaker is fed a tone, let's say 40Hz it should only sound 40Hz right? Well unfortunately no. There will be other tones heard as well and these are called harmonics. Ideally the harmonics should be none. The harmonics came in multiplies so for 40 Hz. ther will be:

2nd harmonics - 80Hz
3rd harmonics - 120Hz
4th harmonics - 160Hz

People say that 2nd harmonics sounds more pleasant than 3rd and above. To measure these harmonics, choose "SA" or spectrum analyzer then configure the generator to sine wave at the required frequency.

3. Harmonics sweep - this is similiar to the above, only that it is performed in sweeps. To do this quit ARTA and in the start menu there will be a program called "STEPS". Similiar to ARTA, run this and you'd get this diagram. In the example below it is clearly shown that the driver being measured performs best above 70Hz, where its harmonics are low. This is TangBand W3-1364 and with distortion of around 1% like that it's quite impressive.

So when all has been measured will the speaker sound good? NO. I view these measurements as a guide only, a debugging tool. Tranducer performance is much more complex than the above measurements.

But those who do not measure, don't know.

Update 2/7/09

I imported quite a few of these mics, and people have been asking for them. I'm always happy to distribute to fellow diyers, but there is none left now. Please do not ask me to send you the mic. And btw. a group buy at diyAudio or SNA may be the way to go (and do let me know if you organise one!)

Update 27/8/12
The microphone can be easily found in ebay:

Update 4/3/16
In 2015 I was asked to commission a pair of loudspeakers for Princeton University 3D3A project. I thought it was a good opportunity to compare my mic's measurement with purpose-built lab.
Fig 1: Backyard measurement using this microphone
Fig 2: 3D3A anaechoic chamber
Fig 3: Sonogram measurement using this mic
Fig 4: Sonogram measurement by 3D3A

Looking at the comparison it is clear that this seemingly simple microphone is up to the task!


The Deliverator said...

Hi Gainphile,

Where did you get the WM-61's from? Or did you have them shipped from the USA?

Anonymous said...

I got them from ebay from a guy in Canada. Bought 7 of them. if you're in AUS let me know if interested. They were like only $5 each.

Anonymous said...

I love the simplicity of your mic.

Liking the blog too, I linked to your blog from my web site

Deliverator, I have spare wm mike units, I'm UK based if its any good to you...

merajsalek said...

Hi Gainphile,

Do you have any more of those mic capsules? I'd like to get one.

I'm located in QLD 4068 - how can we proceed?


kamashi said...

you say "Simply point the mic to the speaker"

I thought the mic shouldn't be pointing to the spkr but in a perpendicular position. I mean just in front of the driver but pointing to the ceiling.

am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Hi gainphile,
Very interesting pages.
I was wondering whether you have any of the Panasonic capsules left?
I'm in Port Melbourne and dropped into Jeremy's a few weeks ago to see the preliminary Plutos.


Unknown said...

didi-key has them for $1.87

Unknown said...

found them at digi-key parts for $1.87 ea.

gainphile said...

Ever tried shipping them to Australia? ;)

shivap said...

is not mic preamp required?

Anonymous said...

So when all has been measured will the speaker sound good? NO.

So what is the use?

gainphile said...

Measurements are like a guide. A reference in which acoustical information are perceived.

No measurements = no guides, and one can easily get lost :)

Anonymous said...

Ic, I have a non branded 12" woofer let's say. Mate it with a B&C DE250. How can I start making the right crossover for this then?

Christopher said...

RE: "I have a woofer and a DE250, how do I make a crossover"

It's like asking: "I have some sheet metal and a can of fuel, how do I make a rocket that can fly to the moon" (almost).


Luckily, there are many helpful guides and quite a few "Econowave" designs upon which you can base your design to at least get a start, if there doesn't happen to be one which uses your exact woofer.

If you have measurements, then you could most likely get some excellent help with crossover design on a DIY speaker building forum.

Anonymous said...

Would you recommend a new sound card since Sound Blaster Live is older now?

Sam said...

What kind of capacitor are you using (film, electrolytic)? In the picture it looks a bit like bipolar electrolytic.

What kind of effect different types have on measurements and is it possible to use different value than 10 uF?

I have 10 uF Panasonic oscon and 2,2 uF film and polypropylene types. Would any of these work or do I need to get new ones?

Thank you.

gainphile said...

Yes it is bipolar electrolytic. The capacitor is for DC blocking only, so as long as it is not ridiculously too small it would work.

Unknown said...

Would the above system be able to detect frequencies above 20kHz.

Unknown said...

Would the above system be able to detect frequencies above 20kHz.

Unknown said...

Would the above system be able to detect frequencies above 20kHz.

Anonymous said...

Would the above system be able to detect frequencies above 20kHz.

Anonymous said...

Great. I have some of that capsules and I will def try this setup.