LaFolia DIY Magnetostatic Ribbon Loudspeaker Project

lafoto2Are you interested in high fidelity, hi-fi speakers or maybe just interesting DIY projects? Then this La Folia site might be just what you are looking for! Read on…

This site (online since 1996) includes a detailed step-by-step guide on how to build an incredible pair of home-made High Fidelity flat magnetic ribbon speakers. I’ve included my own instructions, the original building recipe, diagrams, references and list of materials too.

La Folia and these magnetostatic planar units are based on a concept and design developed in Denmark by Ole Thofte – he wrote a few mails to me in the distant past, all positive, luckily, so having published this site is fine with him  too – phewww ;-).

LaFolia truly is a great do-it-yourself high-fi project, it’s easy enough for a complete beginner (i’m proof of that) and cheap enough so that you won’t end up in debt by trying it out, actually, you can start off with almost nothing and test the concept, read more on that in the my experience section.

Just be warned you might just get bitten by the bug too and have at least 100 hours of your time suddenly sucked into developing your own planar speakers. Time is a scarce resource these days too… so if you do get the LaFolia sickness (LaFolitis), don’t blame me! ;-)

What are these magnetic-ribbon-planar-loudspeaker thingamabobs?

lafoto3Many will be asking, “What the hell are Magnetostatic Planar Ribbon Loudspeakers?” (magnetostats for short).

Take a look at the photo and you’ll get a minimal idea of what I am talking about, check out the rest of the site and you’ll understand what I am talking about.

In a few words they are flat loudspeakers, very much like your ordinary unit, where the membrane is flat and stretched out (instead of a cone) with a suitable conductor stuck on it, within a magnetic field created by a large amount of magnets.

On the other hand, I can tell you that it’s a real down to earth short-cut to Hi-Fi Heaven for those that are not scared of a bit of work and adventure.

What makes this project so attractive is it’s low cost, extremely high end quality sound, to a level that would normally require 10 times more investment, as there are commercial speakers that use the principle. Added bonus: the warm snugly feeling a home-made handmade dream planar magnetostat speaker bring to your ears.

As with all things in life, you’ll have to live with the loudspeaker’s low sensitivity and high power requirements, maybe even a burnt out amplifier if it doesn’t have a fuse or relay to protect it against “short-circuits”, plus they are gigantic and hard if not impossible to locate correctly in smaller rooms. I am also sure they’ve been the reason for more than one divorce, so thread lightly!

On a down-to-earth level, I can tell you it uses very much the same principles of any normal run-of-the-mill loudspeakers, only that instead of using a cone shaped diaphragm to produce the sound, you use a flat membrane stretched out over a MDF fibreboard frame and instead of having a copper coil within a magnetic field, it uses a long flat thin aluminium foil strip cut out in a very specific design, which is then placed within a homogeneous magnetic field generated by normal flat magnets which have been stuck on a supporting  perforated iron plate.

It’s very important to note that anybody can build these planar ribbon speakers, with no special skills other than patience, a few tools, approx. $500 US dollars, some manual dexterity, patience, hard work and some common sense, you too can do it!

Finally, magnetostats are a proven principle and real collective project, it’s not just something some nerdy hifi freaks imagined and pulled out of a hat, it’s a principle and design already in use by many different High End loudspeaker producers and brands, including famous ones like Apogee, Magnepan, DALI, Carver, among others.

Can I build a pair of flat Magnetostatic Loudspeakers?

pic13This is more than a mere experiment, it’s a proven DIY project and concept, with a large amount of knowledge behind it, I personally learnt about this loudspeaker project while living in Denmark in the mid-Eighties, where the original article describing it was published in “High Fidelity” magazine – a Danish monthly publication.

I will quote many articles from various Danish magazines, where the planar loudspeakers were dubbed “La Folia”. I can in no way claim authorship of this project, I was just the first person to publish it online, in the hope that more DIY Hi-Fi nerds would benefit from it and, at the same time, that it would hopefully help propagate this community project around the world, giving us all a greater pool of knowledge and experience to benefit, build and improve the design and methods.

I include detailed information on the building process of my own La Folia Planar model, which I enjoyed everyday while I lived in Chile. Since I moved out of the country and taking them along was impossible, I gave them as an added bonus to an acquaintance that bought my trusty NAD 3300 amplifier.

I added a few changes and innovations to the original design and construction method, some are mentioned in “my experience” and some are side notes in each of the sections of this site.

If there are other innovations or new projects, I’d be happy to hear about them and add them to the resources section. I even expect some Scandinavians will contact me (some did) with more info on newer ideas, projects, concepts, sites and more.