Dayton HPSA500 500 Watt Home Theater Subwoofer Amplifier Review

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If you are looking for a quality subwoofer plate amplifier for your next home theater subwoofer project, the Dayton HPS500 may be just what you may be looking for. This amplifier delivers 273 watts RMS @ 8 ohms and 540 watts RMS @ 4 ohms so it has enough for just about any 12″ and 15″ sub. Features include a variable 30 – 200 Hz, 24 dB/octave cross over , full parametric Bass EQ, high power class AB output stage, soft clip circuitry and auto on/off to name a few. While Dayton also offers a 1000 watt model, I feel this is the best compromise between price and power.

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Build Quality

Dayton is known for putting out some great priced high quality products, the HPSA500 is no different. The face of the amp features a quality nicely labeled control panel with high quality knobs, RCA inputs and power switch. Unlike cheaper plate units, this amp has a very nice weight to it. The back of the amplifier features a black plastic protective cover that protects the amplifier’s internals. Removing the cover reveals a heavy duty power supply and excellent quality circuit boards. The output speaker wires are heavy duty with silicone jackets. Every thing about this amplifier screams quality there is not a single characteristic that I can point out as being “cheap”.

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Specs

The specs on this amplifier are pretty nice considering it’s relatively low price tag for an amplifier delivering over 500 watts. In addition to a 24 db/octave variable crossover and parametric EQ, the amplifier has some convenient features like auto on/off, master on/off switch and L/R/LFE inputs. I should not that I did not find much use for the the parametric EQ which allows you to adjust specific frequencies in the playback spectrum. I personally don’t see much use for it in the range this amplifier is expected to operate in. Never the less, its a nice little feature that some may find useful.

High power class AB output stage
Patented tracking downconverter power supply
Full parametric bass EQ
Phase reversal switch
Advanced soft clip circuitry
Toroidal power supply transformer
Auto On/Off
Power output: 273 watts RMS @ 8 ohms, 540 watts RMS @ 4 ohms
S/N ratio: 98 dB (A weighted)
Crossover: 30 – 200 Hz, 24 dB/octave
Dimensions: 11-15/16″ W x 11-15/16″ H x 5-1/4″ D

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Setup and Installation

Installation on this amp is pretty basic, as is usually the case with most subwoofer amplifiers. Simply cut your opening , connect + and – leads, screw it in and you’re done. I used mine on my own enclosure design which had the amplifier location and size in mind. You should be aware that this is a good size unit so installing it in an existing retail enclosure may be a challenge as they usually tend to be compact, undersized and use small amplifiers. This will definitely not fit anything less than a 12″ retail sub enclosure. Click Here for exact Amplifier measurements.

Setup is a breeze, simply set your crossover at your desired level, usually picking a frequency that slightly overlaps your front main speaker’s frequency range. On my receiver, I can fine tune my main’s crossover frequency so I can set the subwoofer amplifier’s frequency rather easily. If you are not sure, then 100hz cross over frequency is a good place to start, then fine tune from there. As mentioned previously, I found the parametric EQ to be of little use to me, not because it doesn’t work but simply because I don’t see a need for it. Luckily, the EQ is defeatable to that is where I left it.

Sound Quality and Performance

The sound quality of the Dayton HPS500 is quite impressive. My HPS500 is being used to power a 4 ohm Dayton Reference 15″ sub in a ported enclosure tuned to 18hz. My amplifier is primarily used to power the low end of my home theater. It has absolutely no trouble delivering sub 20hz wall rattling bass without so much as breaking a sweat all the while still maintaining excellent clarity. I was previously using a weaker off brand amp to power a 12 and it would heat up quite a bit, this one is still very cool to the touch after pounding out bass for 2 or 3 consecutive movies. Music is delivered with the same clarity and depth. It should be noted that mine did heat up a lot more when playing music vs home theater mode. To prevent overheating, I highly recommend adjusting the amps gain a few notches down when playing music. My Sony receiver seems to up the bass output when in 2 channel mode vs home theater mode. All in all sound quality and performance is top notch.

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Overall Impressions

Overall, this amp is nothing short of perfect for 12″ and 15″ home theater or music subwoofer applications. It’s built great, has plenty of power and the sound quality is awesome. About the only downside for some may be in sizing it to an existing retail enclosure as this is definitely not your run of the mill “Best Buy” unit . Then again, if you have a small retail sub, then this is probably too much power and would be better suited with some of Dayton’s smaller offerings from Parts Express. Other than the unnecessary Prametric EQ, I have absolutely no complaints with this unit. Best of all, the amp is very affordable! If you are in the market for an affordable high power subwoofer amplifier, then this is it. Did I mention Parts Express has a 1 year no questions asked replacement warranty on it!

Floor Standing DIY Dayton Classic Transmission Line Speakers

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Click Here to Download Plans and Parts List in PDF

Click Here to view plans for a Cheaper and easier to build Transmission Line Kit

Let me first say that these are not my design. I found the plans a while back and I believe the designer’s site is no longer online. I believe Parts Express has the single woofer version in their Speaker Project Showcase but these are much better. Anyhow, these WTW (woofer tweeter woofer) transmission line floor standing speakers are my favorite speakers I have built to date. I basically built these out of curiosity as I was not familiar with Transmission Lines at the time. They also looked a bit challenging and nothing like your typical speaker so I figured it would be a fun build. It took me a couple of weekends to build the pair but the results were well worth it. The sound is magnificent in either home theater or music set ups and unlike anything you will hear at your local Best Buy. Mine are currently in use as the mains in my home theater setup and I would not trade them for anything, at least anything I could afford. Considering you can build a pair for around 300 bucks and get the sound of $1000+ speakers, there really is no reason why you should not build yourself a pair.

A Word on Transmission Line Speakers.

If you are not familiar with Transmission line speakers, they are basically long “tubes” for a lack of a better term, with a port on one end and a speaker on the other, in this case 2 6.5″ Dayton Classics. If you are familiar with Bose, then you are probably familiar with what they call their “Wave guide Technology”, which is Bose’s fancy way of saying Transmission line. These types of speakers provide extremely smooth, clear and low bass. The sound is very distinctive and hard to describe, as the bass is not hard or punchy like your typical speaker. So if you are looking for something different then these are definitely worth building.

Building and Assembly Tips

First let me say that these are a bit challenging to build but by no means impossible. In fact, they were my first real speaker building project so they are not extremely hard to build. If you decide to build these, here are some tips.

-I highly recommend a the pieces be cut on a table saw, at least all the deflectors as the angles can be challenging to cut with a circular saw. Fit quality will also be much better.

-Speaker cutouts should be done with a router and a circle cutting jig like Parts Express’ Jasper Jig . While they can be done with a jig saw, the cosmetics will suffer and you will not be able to flush mount the speakers.

-Predrill all screw holes when assembling.

-Make absolutely sure you have run the speaker wire before assembling the las piece otherwise it will be extremely difficult to run it all the way to the back of the speaker. I left one of the sides as the final piece.

-For the port, first cut it out with a jigsaw leaving about 1/4″ from the sides and top/bottom trim pieces (see plans) then go in with a router and flush trim bit for a perfect finish using the sides and trim pieces as guides for your trim bit.

Click Here to Download Plans and Parts List in PDF OR Click Here to view plans for a Cheaper and easier to build Transmission Line Kit

Building the Parts Express Tritrix Speaker Kit

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Tritrix Build How To and Review

The Tritrix has quickly become one of the more popular speaker kits of late since Parts Express dropped the price to a measly $119 bucks (you can view the kit here). So not only is this one inexpensive kit to build, it is also one of the few great transmission lines on the internet. I am a huge fan of transmission lines so at that price I just had to build it. Now, I did not use the pre built CNC cabinet kit Parts Express offers for an extra $100, after all building your own enclosures is most of the fun, at least for me. That and the fact that you can easily build it for less than half that.

Plan Changes

Before I get into the build, I have to point out a few issues that I personally do not like about the original plans which you can view here.

The first, is that the plans as well as the PE CNC kit have the baffle in between the sides. Doing so leaves, in my opinion, too little wood on the sides of the woofers and tweeter. If you were to build it as the plans call for, you would have about 1/2″ of wood to the sides of both woofers. this makes the baffle weak and prone to breaking. To fix it, I modified the plans by making the baffle a full 7 1/2″ instead of the 6″ called by the original plans and making the sides 13 1/2″ versus the 14 1/4″ called by the original, you can see the modified plan below and the original plans here. This makes the baffle much stronger by giving you an additional 3/4″ on each side yet does not change the internal volume of the speakers. The rear panels remain the same.

Second thing is that the space between the tweeter and woofers is way too small after you route the holes for flush fitting. This makes it very difficult if you plan on finishing them with veneer or vinyl laminate. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until after I had cut out the holes so I decided not to flush fit the woofers. If I were to do it again, I would add 1/4″ on the plans to the tweeter and bottom woofer placements. Some die hard purists may say that this will alter the sound , I personally think that my ears aren’t good enough to tell the difference. At any rate, the modified plan below reflects this. Now if you do not plan on veneering or you don’t mind making grills to cover the drivers up then you can use the original measurements

Finally, there are no dimensions for the diverters at the bottom. I just made the front diverter 6 1/2″ and the rear one 5 1/2″.

Parts List

Parts Express Tritrix Kit – $119 includes all drivers, cross over parts, stuffing and binding posts to build the speakers

2 Rolls Parts Express Black Ash Vinyl covering (There are several other choices available if you don’t like the Black Ash) – $40

8 Parts Express 1 1/8″ X 1/2″ Cabinet Feet – $7

Box 100 3/4″ #8 Black Mounting screws for drivers – $2.50

-4 3/4″ 2′ X 4′ MDF panels or 1 4’X8′ panel. I use the pre cut panels available at HD because they are much easier to handle/transport, but you can get a full 4’X8′ for cheaper to save money- $45

-1 box 1 1/4″ or 1 1/2″ drywall screws – $6

-Wood Glue – $4

– Painters Caulk – $2

Total Cost – About $225.00 (Parts Express has Free Shipping on the Tritrix Kit) Get everything you need from PE in 1 order so you can get free shipping

Building the Tritrix

Building the Tritrix is pretty straight forward, unlike the folded designs which can be a little trickier. Here are the panels that you need to cut if you follow my “modified” plans. Otherwise, you can view the original Tritrix plans here:

Sides – 4 panels @ 13 1/2″ X 36″

Tops and bottoms – 4 panels @ 6″ X 13 1/2 ”

Front Baffles – 2 panels @ 7 1/2″ X 36″

Rear top baffle – 2 panels @ 29″ X 6″ the angle should be cut with saw set to 12 degrees. I suggest cut he angle first, then cut the panel to length.

Bottom rear baffle pieces – 2 panels @ 13 1/4 ” X 6″

front bottom diverters – 2 @ 6″ X 6 1/2″

rear bottom diverters – 2 @ 6″ X 5 1/2″

Assembly of these are a breeze. Make sure you predrill and counter sink all holes, apply wood glue then screw together with 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ drywall screws. I suggest you start with 1 side panel , attach the top and bottom pieces, attach front baffle then the lower rear baffle piece. Now for the only slightly tricky part, attaching the rear top baffle piece. The easiest way to do this is to measure and locate the location on the side according to the plans, then draw two lines where the panel will be and drill the holes (see pic below). This makes it easy so that you don’t have to drill blind.

After you have the the holes drilled, just line up your panel with the lines and redrill the holes from the other side into the panel. Once you have that done, install the diverters at the bottom then caulk all joints with “painters caulk”. It’s important that you leave one of the sides for the last piece. I find that this makes assembly much easier on transmission line speakers because it makes the diverters much easier to install.

You may notice on the pic below that I went a little over size on the baffles, this is so that I can then come in with a flush trim bit on the router using the tops and bottoms as guides. It is much easier to end up with a “perfect” fit rather than trying to be perfect when you cut the pieces. I did the same with the sides, adding about a 1/4″ to the length than what the plans call for. If you want to do this just add about 1/4″ to the length & width of the front baffles and the same to only the length on the sides, all other pieces should be cut to the sizes specified on the plans.

Finish assembly by attaching the final side. One of the problems with attaching the side last is that you will need to reach inside the speaker through both the speaker holes and rear port to finish caulking the last side. If your arms are too thick they may not reach so you can apply both glue and caulk on the edges the side will go up against. Glue and “painter’s caulk” will work just fine when applied together.

Once you have the speakers assembled, it’s time to cut the speaker holes. If you plan on flush mounting the speakers, you will need to use Parts Express Jasper jig and a router for this ( other router circle jigs will work as well). A plunge router, a cutting bit and Jasper Jig are essential tools if you plan on making speaker building a regular hobby. You can get a decent plunge router and bits on Ebay for rather cheap. Of course you can still use a jig saw for cutting the holes and not flush mounting the drivers.

If using the Jasper Jig (or similar) and you haven’t done this before, you can cut the recess first by setting your plunge router to match the depth of the driver (about 1/4″) and the placing the pin on the Jasper jig at the over all diameter of the driver(see pics below). Then it’s just a matter of incrementally moving the Jasper Jig pin to smaller diameters until you reach the cut out diameter. When cutting the final hole cutout , you don’t want to try to cut all the way through the 3/4 inches because the wood will burn and the bit will dull. Instead, cut about 1/4″ depth at a time until you cut all the way through. As I mentioned previously, I did not flush fit the woofers because they are just too close to the tweeter and will make veneering very difficult. You can avoid this problem by following my plan OR you can follow the original Tritrix plans if you aren’t planing on veering or don’t mind making speaker grills. Luckily, since the recess is 1/2″, on the woofers, you can use a rabetting bit on the router to cut the recess later (you cannot do this with the tweeter because the recess is an odd size). Yet another option is to wait until after you have veneered to cut out the speaker holes and recesses. One thing to watch out for when cutting the tweeter recess is that you will need to cut out a little notch so that the wire terminals and wire will fit in the hole (see middle pic below) once you install the tweeter. You can do this with the router and cut out bit. Just cut a little bit at a time and test fit the tweeter until you have it right. If you don’t have a router and will not be flush fitting, then just make the cut out diameter like 1/8″ bigger than it should.

Once you have the cut outs done (or want to wait until after veneering to cut the holes), it is time to fill in all the screw holes and/or any wood imperfections. I use Bondo to fill in all holes and any joints that are not to my satisfaction. I do not recommend using products like joint compound for this because it pretty much sucks and does not adhere to wood very well. I also avoid the minwax type wood fillers because they take forever to dry. Bondo is the absolute best for filling in holes and imperfections because it is easy to sand, strong and drys within 15 min. Below is the final product prior to veneering. One last note, I highly recommend you pick up a a bag of #8 mounting screws for mounting the drivers. The kit does not come with them and you may not find similar screws at Home Depot, at least not in black. The screws will add an extra $2.50 but your finish product will look much better than if you use silver ones.

Bases

Though the Tritrix plans don’t specifically call for bases, I highly recommend them for 2 reasons. Reason number one, they make perfect homes for the crossovers. There are no convenient places inside these speakers to put them. It is also very easy to access them from the bottom of the base without having to remove the speakers should you need to do any trouble shooting. The second reason is that bases make your speakers more stable since these are on the narrow side. The simplest bases to make are square about 3″ tall. My bases are 3″ X 9″ X 15 3/4″, of course you can make your’s any size you wish so long as they serve the 2 purposes stated above. You can finish the bases with the Parts Express rubber Cabinet Feet or spikes

Crossover

The Tritrix Crossovers are very easy to build. They don’t have many components so they should be a breeze to put together. You can view the Tritrix crossovers here . I used 1/4″ luan for the xover boards with all components hot glued and sautered. Make sure to keep the coils as far apart as possible to minimize “mutual coupling”. The best way to accomplish this is to lay one flat and the other standing on end (see picture). As I mentioned in the section above, I built bases to house the crossovers (see below). You can mount the crossovers to another 1/4″ piece of luan (or similar) and screw that on to the bottom of the bases. To run the wiring into the speaker, simply drill an appropriate size hole through the base and through the speaker. You can fill in the hole with painters caulk or silicone after you have ran the wires.

Finishing and Stuffing

Ok, you’re almost home. You can finish your speakers any way you like. I used Parts Express black ash vinyl because it looks good, its easy to apply and is relatively cheap. Of course you can veneer or paint as well. The final step is to stuff. I used about 1/2-3/4 of the bag stuffing the front. Make sure to fluff up the stuffing before putting it in the speaker. It is also helpfull to glue a dowel (or similar) inside the speaker in between the two sides. The dowel helps to keep the stuffing suspended and not letting it all fall to the bottom. I used a little less than 1/4 bag to stuff the back, again fluffing it up as you stuff it into the port. Once your stuffing is complete, install the speakers, hook them up to your amp and listen to them. If you are sure your xover wiring is correct, you can adjust the stuffing. Add a little more for hollow sounding speakers remove a little for muffled bass. Remember, these are 5 1/4″ drivers so don’t expect punchy wall rattling bass, that being said, there will be a surprising amount of bass for drivers this size. Your speakers should sound full and have smooth bass. Keep adjusting the stuffing if until you are satisfied.

Troubleshooting

I must admit that even though I have built quite a few speakers in my time, I still mess up xover wiring from time to time. This was the case with these, so here is a brief xover troubleshooting guide.

Tweeters sound harsh/distorted – You more than likely have the lowpass section of the xover to the tweeters. Turn amp off immediately to avoid damage. Check crossover. Make sure you have the high pass section to the tweets. Also make sure you don’t have any broken sauter joints.

No bass or too little bass– This is a common one and happens the polarity is wrong either on the woofer, tweeter or crossover connections. Check this thoroughly both on all drivers and xover. This one happens to me all the time especially when using wire that is not marked well. If all is well in that department but still no bass, you may have over stuffed. Remove stuffing and try again. If you find that you have removed alot of stuffing and still no bass. Then the culprit is more than likely your amp settings. This is especially common on home theater systems. Make sure you set it to stereo and that your front mains are set to large. This also happened to me and once I corrected it I was surprised by the fullness on these speakers.

Conclusion

The Tritrix were quite fun to build and for the price you can’t go wrong with this kit. I spent a little over $200 in total for the pair. This includes the wood, the Tritrix kit from Parts Express, screws, glue and the vinyl covering, so they are a very economical and worth while kit. I have to say that you will not find speakers ANYWHERE that sound this good for this cheap. Despite their small driver size, they have surprisingly full bass which I found more than suitable for home theater duty. In fact, I disconnected my much larger dual 6 1/2″ woofer Transmission lines to try these out. After watching a couple movies, I found that I lost very little by way of the overall HT experience. Of course, these sound just as good in a stereo system. I give this kit 2 thumbs way up and I highly recommend you build yourself a pair! Click here to take advantage of Parts Express Free Shipping on the Tritrix Kit

Harbor Freight Hot Blade Decal Remover – Remove Foam Tape and Pin Stripping the Easy Way

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The Harbor Freight Decal remover makes taking off decal, pin stripes and the like very easy to remove from your vehicle without damaging your paint. The decal remover is essentially a soldering iron with a box cutter type blade holder. Best of all, it’s less than 10 bucks! This thing works great for removing foam tape adhesive from body trim as well. No need to use harsh chemicals that might mess up your paint not to mention it takes only a fraction of the time.

Find the Hot Blade Decal Remover at Harbor Freight

Using it is pretty easy. Slide on a box cutter type blade, it comes with two blades by the way but the blades it uses can be found at Home Depot and the like. Once you have the blade on, simply plug it in and let it heat up for about 5 minutes. Be sure you are using a fresh blade so you don’t damage your paint. Once ready, hold it at about 30 degrees to the surface you are scraping and slowly start scraping. You don’t need to apply too much pressure as the hot blade will do all the work for you. The hot blade will remove most of the foam tape, decal, etc but you will have some residue left.

Removing the residue is also fairly simple with this thing so no need for chemicals. To remove the residue, unplug the device and let it cool off. Once cool, again place it at about 30 degrees to work surface and slowly remove the residue. The long handle makes it real easy to hold at the 30 degrees unlike the regular scrapers that are short and difficult to place at the necessary angle.

Conclusion, if you have a lot of decals, foam tape, pin striping, etc to remove from your vehicle then this thing is an absolute must and I highly recommend it.

Dayton APA150 150W Power 2 Channel Home Theater/Audio Amplifier Review

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The Dayton APA150 is a compact yet robust 150W 2 channel 4 ohm stable amplifier that works great as either a stereo amplifier for your 2 way set up OR as a component amplifier in a home theater set up where a separate preamp is used. This amp is robust enough that it can be bridged to power a small subwoofer. In any case, this amp makes for an excellent unit and cannot be beat at only $158.00.

Build Quality

Like all Dayton products I have used, this thing is built very nicely. It has a quality anodized black aluminum face with a bright blue led, a sturdy volume/gain knob and a solid push button power switch. Despite its small size, this amplifier feels like a BRICK it is so heavy. The back of the amplifer feature dual terminals that accept either bare wire or banana jacks as well as dual RCA inputs for your source. It also has a master on/off button which allows for the amplifier to either be turned on/off manually or an auto feature that senses the signal from your source. All in all, this is a very high quality unit that is built very nicely for the low price.

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Specs

The specs on this amplifier and quite nice and more than suitable to serve as a subwoofer amplifier, component amplifier in a multiple amplifier system or a standalone amp in a simple 2 channel set up. This little amp features 75 Watts RMS X 2 Channels @4ohm or it can be bridged into 150 Watts RMS X 1 channel 8 ohms. This amp also features a defeatable electronic 50-150 Hz low-pass(18 dB/octave) crossover that can be used when powering a subwoofer.

2 x 75 watts RMS power @ 4 ohms
1 x 150 watts RMS bridged mono @ 8 ohms
Toroidal power supply
Class A/B design
Adjustable 50-150 Hz low pass crossover
Adjustable Volume/Gain control
Gold-plated 5-way binding posts that accept up to 8 AWG wire
auto-on/off, silent turn-off
Signal-to-noise ratio: greater than 100 dB
Dimensions: 5-1/2″ H x 6″ W x 11-1/2″ D

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Setup and Installation

Set up and installation is a breeze with this amplifier. Simply connect your speakers to the binding posts, connect the RCA cables to your source, set your crossover if you are using to power a sub, select auto or manual on/off and plug it in. Once you have the amp running just set your volume/gain at the desired level. I have 3 of these as I am using them as a component amps in a multi amp home theater being fed by a preamp. After playing around with it, I set the volume/gain at a little over half way and had no other adjustments to make other than defeating the XOver. All in all, very easy and basic setup/install.

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Sound Quality and Performance

My main reason for using these little amps is because I wanted 4 ohm stable units to power my DIY speakers. Compared to my previous Sony receiver, these amps simply blow it away. With my previous receiver that was not 4 ohm stable, I simply could not turn the volume very high without clipping. These amps have no such issues. In addition, the sound is crisp and clear where my previous Sony unit would break up on the center channel during loud scenes. The 75 watts per channel are more than enough to power my large 2 way mains and center. You simply are not going to find anything at your local Best Buy that will compare to these at this low price. All in all, I am extremely happy with the sound and performance from these amps. Best of all, they did not cost me a fortune.

Click Here for Additional Information on this Amplifier

Clean AV Home Theater Wiring with Decora Style Wall Plate Connectors

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Decora Style Wall Plates

Home theater systems are great, but they come with 1 serious drawback, unsightly wires! Most of us men could care less about wires, but the spouse is a different matter. Try convincing the wife that wires everywhere is a small price to pay for AV heaven and you will be in for a rude awakening. So how can you get to AV heaven with high SAF (Spousal Approval Factor)? The  answer, decora style wall plates!

Common Decora Wall Plate Types

Speaker Binding posts

“F” connector for Cable/Satellite

Video Component for DVD/Blu Ray Players/Gaming systems

DVI for Blu Ray/TV

Decora wall plates come in various types. You may have seen these at home depot and you may have noticed that some of them are well over $20 bucks! If you’re like me, then you sure as hell are NOT going to pay $20 bucks for something so simple. Not only that, but you will need several depending on what you are installing. So a word to the wise, do not buy these at Home Depot, I say again DO NOT buy these at Home Depot or the like!

Master video component and speaker plates

Instead, check out Parts Express to get them at about 1/2 the cost.

Installation: Now that you know where to get them, the question is how easy are they to install? Well, installation is straight forward.  If you have access to your attic then you easily run all your wire up there then either run the wires through the wall. Running wires through the wall is fairly straight forward as long as you have a fish tape reel which allows you to easily fish wires out of walls. If the room has exterior walls, then fishing wire can be tricky because of the insulation, horizontal 2×4 blocking and vapor barriers. Instead, either consider ceiling mounting your plates for things like surround speakers.  The image below shows a ceiling mounted double gang box and plates for a projector component video jacks and rear speaker binding posts. In short, avoid running wires on exterior walls interior walls have no such obstacles. Here are the installation steps.

Ceiling Mounted Double Gang

1.  Determine the location preferably on interior walls.

2. Inspect the attic space to make sure you can run wires.  For running wires behind walls, you will need to drill holes on the top 2×4 wall plates.  A handy way to determine the locations where to run wires in the attic is to poke holes in the ceiling with a wire coat hanger in the general locations where you plan to install your plates.  You will be able to see the hangers sticking out once you clamber on up to the attic which will help you locate your wire feeding locations.

3. Run wiring.

4. Cut out wall holes for your gang boxes. Low voltage “old work” boxes work great and are much easier to install than regular wiring boxes. Cut outs for Single gang boxes are 2-1/8″ x 3-5/8″. Double gang boxes are 4-1/8″ x 3-5/8″.

5. Fish wire out.

6. Install your low voltage boxes.

7. Connect wiring to wall plates.

Easy wiring on Speaker Binding Post

8.  Screw on wall plates to boxes.

9. Finish by installing the decora cover.

Wired Home WHIRK2 Installation Manual How To

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Wired Home IR Kit

What is it? The Wired Home WHIRK2 is a 4 unit IR (Infra Red) repeater kit that allows you to place your components (cable box, satellite box, DVD player, Blu Ray player, etc) in a remote or hidden location.  This lets you control your components with your remote control even with the component infra red eyes out of sight. Very cool if you want to maintain a modern and sleek entertainment area with your ugly control boxes out of site. Works great with solid AV cabinets that have solid doors.

Best Price on Wired Home WHIRK2 IR Kit

Components: The kit consists of 3 basic components, the IR Eye, control unit with power plug and IR emitters (you get 4 of these).

IR Target

IR Controller

IR Emiter

Installation: Other than running the IR target wire, installation is pretty straight forward and wiring consists of nothing more than connecting the 3 IR target wires to the supplied connector.

Step 1. Locate where you would like to install the IR target.   Just below the TV is an excellent place if you have a wall mounted flat screen. Otherwise, just above the TV is also a good place if you have it on a stand. The key here is that the target must be within site your remote. Remember that this is what you will be pointing your remotes at so it cannot be hidden.

Step 2.  Run the IR target wire. The wire will connect to the IR controller and the supplied wire is plenty long for installs where your components will be in the same general location as the IR controller such as components inside an AV cabinet.  This type of install will be the easiest.  If wall mounting, drill a hole for the IR Target tube.

The tube is designed for wall mounting and has a threaded body for the included nut that secures it in place. Of course, most people will not be able to use the nut as it requires behind the wall access so make the hole slightly smaller than the tube so that it stays in the wall without the nut.

Fish the wire out of the wall once you have the tube installed. You will get a much cleaner installation if you are using decora style wall plate like the one below. As you can see, I drilled a hole in the plate for the wire.

IR Target wire

Step 3: Secure your IR controller/hub. Inside or behind your AV cabinet is an excellent place. It must be within about 10 feet of your components as the IR emitter wires are about this length and have a headphone type connector at the ends of them that plug directly into your ir controller.  Also keep in mind that your IR controller/hub will need to be withing 6ft or so from a power outlet.

IR Emitter Plug

Step 4: Connect the IR target wires to the supplied connector. Red goes to V+, black goes to G and white goes to IR. You will need a small screwdriver to secure the wires to the connector. It will help if you plugin the connector to the controller before you connect wires so that you can see which wire goes where since the labels are on the controller and not on the connector.

IR Target Connector Plug

Step 5:  Connect your emitters to the controller. The controller is clearly labeled.

Step 6: Connect the power to your controller.

Step 7:   Test that everything is working by holding  the emitters up to your component’s infra red eye.  The emitters come preinstalled with double sided tape so that you can secure them directly over your component’s infra red eye.  Be sure to test before you stick the emitters on! You don’t want to mess up the adhesive tape by pulling the emitters off and resticking them on. Below is an emitter installed directly over the IR eye of a Sony Blu Ray player.

Installed Emitter on Blu Ray

That’s it, you’re done! Now enjoy a clean AV space with no clutter or ugly boxes sitting on top of your cabinets.  Below is the final product, No boxes! Find the Wired Home WHIRK2 IR Kit at Parts Express.

 

Look Ma', No boxes!

How To Get Black/Ebony or Espresso Finish on Any Hard Wood Surface

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You’ve no doubt tried using one of those ebony stains you find at the big box stores only to end up with something that’s nowhere near being black and you can pretty much forget about espresso because I have yet to find a stain that’s even labeled as being espresso.  So how do you get that black or espresso finish?

The answer is  wood dye!  This stuff comes in either  liquid  or powder form with the best being the powder form.  I have had best success with water as it yields a totally black finish.  Now don’t bother trying to find these at Home Depot because they simply do not carry these dyes so you will need to buy online. Woodworker’s Supplies carries a huge selection of  JE Moser brand. Either the Ebony black or Flemish black will work great.

With dyes, not only can you just about any color but they are superior in many ways. For starters, they very economical because a small of jar goes a long way. The powder keeps for a very long time. Even when mixed, it doesn’t evaporate, it requires no stirring because the black never comes out of solution once mixed so you end up with a consistent color.

So just how black can you get?  The pic below has 2 pieces of oak, one dyed the other stained with Minwax Ebony stain. I’ll let you guess which is which.

You might be thinking, black is great but how do I get an Espresso color?  Now you could get an espresso dye but one set back with the dye is that it doesn’t give you that deep rich almost translucent color. That being said,  if you use the black as a base then apply a stain / polly you will get an amazingly rich dark Espresso color that is dark yet translucent that still lets the grain show. Below is the technique I have been using with great results on everything from baseboards to doors and furniture.  If you just want a black, then you can simply skip step #5 and go directly to clear poly.

The Espresso Technique

1. Prepare the wood as you would for any other stain application so sand to a relatively smooth surface.

2. Once sanded, apply the dye. On solid lumber, you can apply relatively liberally for thin woods or veneer you want to apply just enough to get it black but not so much that it’s wet. One of the great things about the dye is that it soaks completely into the wood so you don’t have to worry about streaks or anything like that.

3. Let it dry. Instructions say to let dry for 24hrs but I’ve had success with applying the next step within a couple of hours. You will know it’s dry when it goes from black to a very dark charcoal gray.

4.  One of the downsides to using this dye is that it causes grain raising so you will need to steel wool it to knock it back down.  You don’t want to sand the black as you will end up with wood color again. If you want a smoother surface than what the steel wool gives you then you can safely apply 2-3 coats of poly then sand. This will protect the dye from sanding through. Of course you want to sand carefully.

5. Skip this step if you just want a black color. Otherwise, this is where the magic happens for the Espresso look.  To achieve the Espresso color, you will need a can of Minwax Polyshades stain/poly in one  Bombay Mohogany color. Use satin even if you’re going for a gloss look as a final application of clear poly will achieve that.   You can find this color at Home Depot. Without the black underneath, this stain usually gives you a burgundy color but with the black you end up with the Espresso color we’re shooting for. 1 coat will suffice as it will give you that deep rich color that allows the grain to still come through. More coats will obscure the grain and will not be as rich and deep in color.

6. Once dry, steel wool the piece to accept the clear poly as the piece will be rather dull.

7.  Finish by applying either gloss or satin clear poly depending on what you’re going for.

That’s it! There’s your Espresso color. It’s rather time consuming and laborious but the results are well worth it.  Below are some pics of projects where Ive used this technique.

Harbor Freight Central Machinery 8″ 5 speed Benchtop Drill Press Review

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Harbor Freight Drill Press

Today, we are talking about the Harbor Freight 8″ Central Machinery Benchtop Drill press. This is actually the least expensive of all the drill presses offered by Harbor Freight. You can find this drill press for 50 to 70 bucks, depending on if Harbor Freight has a Coupon  (check out current Harbor Freight Coupons). This drill press is the perfect tool for drilling cabinet door hardware, European hidden hinge cups or pretty much anything where precision is important.

Check this Drill Press out at Harbor Freight

Now a cheap tool is next to useless if it doesn’t perform. Who needs a 40lb paperweight? Certainly not me.  Fortunately, this little drill press does not disappoint in the performance department as well as build quality.  Starting at the bottom, we find a heavy gauge steel/cast iron base which provides stability to the unit.  There’s no wobbling whatsoever when placed on a flat benchtop. The base has holes for bolting the unit down to your benchtop or a dedicated stand. Next we have a heavy gauge/cast iron drill table.  The drill table has 2 adjustments, up/down with about 8″ of travel and  side to side 45 degree adjustment to either side for jobs requiring an angled hole.  The up/down adjustment is accomplished with a locking lever on the back left side of the table.  The side to side angle adjustment is done with a bolt found under the table.

A tour around the main drill assembly, we find a 3 handle lowering mechanism. The handles are metal and the lowering mechanism is nice and smooth on both the down and up stroke. The front of the press has a simple up/down power switch.  My specimen does not have much by way of a safety mechanism on the switch , interestingly I’ve seen others of the same model that do. If this is important to you, the get the model just above this which is like 10 bucks more. That one also has a keyless chuck by the way. Finally, on the left we have the depth stop. This is a simple mechanism consisting of a threaded rod and a pair of nuts. You get a maximum of 2″ worth of travel so 2″ is the max thickness you can drill with this press. Overall, all the adjustments on the drill press work great.

Check this Drill Press out at Harbor Freight

One of the main features of this drill press is the speed adjustment. This one has a 5 speed adjustment.  Now I’m no drill press expert so I’m not sure if this is common or not but the speed adjustment on this model is of the mechanical sort. It consists of 2 sets of pulleys at the top of the drill press, 1 for the drill and the other for the motor. The pulleys are connected by a small belt and the whole thing is covered by a lid that’s easy to open and close.  Speed adjustment is performed by moving the belt up and down the sets of pulleys. There is a knob that enables you to increase/decrease the tension on the belt by loosening the motor. One nice feature is the diagram right on the lid that depicts the belt settings for a given speed. The drill is capable of 620, 1100, 1720, 2340 or 3100 rpms. You also get another diagram that gives you recommended speed settings for given materials.  These diagrams a nice little feature since you don’t have to go back and forth to the manual. Generally speaking, the speed adjustment mechanism is pretty easy and straight forward to use.

Out of the box, there is some assembly required. Luckily, there’s no wiring or anything like that. It’s basically just a matter of attaching the base, table and main drill assembly to the main column. One of the trickiest pieces to install is the chuck because it needs to be pressed onto the drill head. This is done by moving the table all the way up against the chuck and turning the lowering mechanism to press in the chuck. There’s a couple other little knobs to install but the whole thing goes together rather easily in about 20 minutes.

Overall, this is an excellent value. This is a quality little drill press despite the super low price. I would highly recommend it to anyone that’s in the market for a precision drilling instrument.  You may not find this a suitable press if you are a professional woodworker but it’s more than enough for the DIYer or hobbyist and it sure beats paying hundreds of dollars for a floor standing model. If you are getting this drill press, I highly recommend getting the separate table attachment. Especially if you’re getting it to do woodworking. The separate table adds 35 bucks to the cost but is well worth it.

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How to Finish Reconstituted Ebony Veneer

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In my opinion, Ebony is probably one of the most beautiful hardwoods on earth. There’s nothing like the dark brown and black grain pattern. This makes it excellent for using in modern furniture design. That being said, it is extremely expensive so most pieces use Ebony veneer which is also quite expensive. A 4’x8′ paper backed veneer sheet can easily go for close to $400. So on my last project, I decided to use the next best thing, reconstituted Ebony veneer which is 1/4 the price.   If you aren’t familiar with reconstituted veneer, it is basically a less expensive wood that is faux finished to look like whatever type of wood it is imitating, in this case Ebony. Since it’s real wood, it can be stained and polyed just like any other wood.  Since it’s an “imitation” product, it’s not nearly as beautiful as the real thing so it needs a little bit of help to get it looking like the real thing. Here’s a good technique to getting that reconstituted Ebony veneer looking close to the real thing.

As you can see in this picture, the reconstituted stuff does not have the same coloring as the real stuff. The brown streaks are more of a tan and not nearly as dark as the real thing. It also lacks some of the depth as the real thing.   Even when polyed, it does not look any where near as good as the real stuff. To get it there, we need to darken just a tad.  Of course, this is personal preference so you can make it as dark as you want. However, the beauty of this wood lies in the contrast between the lighter brown and the black.

The Tecnique

The technique is quite easy.  To start, you will need some Ebony stain. Normally, ebony stain is quite worthless in my opinion as it doesn’t really give you that dark of a finish. We will take advantage of this on our reconstituted veneer.  You can use regular oil based stain. Even better, is the new All in one Stain/Poly Ebony color from Minwax which is actually the stuff I used.   Now you don’t want to apply it straight from the can as it will be too dark. Instead,  we will poor some out in a jar and mix it about 50% with mineral spirits and stir it. This will make it a wipe onable.   The mineral spirits will allow it to go on smooth without streaks.

Now that you have your mix, grab an old tshirt and tear off a piece to use as an applicator.  You want to fold it into a square or rectangle so that we can get a smooth finish.   Now dip it into your stain mix, squeeze out the excess as we don’t want it to go on too wet.   Apply it using long strokes going from one end of the work piece to the other in the direction of the grain.   When finished, you will see that the reconstituted veneer takes on a darker tint which more closely resembles a polyed real veneer finish. Now it’s just a matter of letting it dry and applying clear poly to obtain your desired gloss level. My personal preference is satin.

That’s it, that’s all there is too it. Below are a couple of pics with the reconstituted veneer next to real ebony. The results are excellent and they look very much alike!

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