Home-made speakers are nothing new. In fact, at one point in time, almost all audio stuff was built from a kit.
Today, however, there are a bewildering array of pre-built options from the cheap clock radios at Wal-Mart to $10,000 a pair Bowers and Wilkins obelisks.
So, why bother?
To most people, the most important reason would be price. As a rule of thumb, no more than 40% of the cost of a pair of speakers goes to parts - sometimes less, and sometimes more. Even though it's not practical to buy the parts by the thousand as commercial vendors do, homemade speakers can cost over 40% less than their store-bought equivalent - and even less than that if you take the time to find the parts as surplus.
The quality is also an issue. The majority of low-priced speakers - in other words, anything below $200 a pair - are junk. In this price range, however, there are a plethora of designs using low-priced components that make a mockery of what you'll find at best buy for double the price. Because there's relatively little profit in these less expensive speakers, the parts are almost always far, far cheaper. As a result, a thriftily built pair of homemade speakers will generally outperform commercial speakers costing as much as three times as much.
For more pricey speakers, this works doubly so. While it is possible to save only 30% off the price of a commercial offering, this is a big deal when you're using $160 Seas Excel woofers and $180 Hiquphon tweeters. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars can be saved in this way, and because these high-end components are designed to last, they can often be purchased used at a fraction of the retail price.
Others build their own speakers as a matter of convenience - often, certain locations or situations require specialized speakers. Some people desire a line array's movie-theater level punch in their home cinema, while others want speakers able to maintain a high level of quality even at very low volume for use in unusually small rooms. Obviously, there's not much of a market for these sorts of specialized speakers, and if you want some, you build them yourself.
However, more than any other reason, people build speakers simply because it's fun. It's far more rewarding to spend $180 on parts and six weeks on your prized home-theater towers or mini-monitors than to simply drive out to Best Buy and plunk down $600 for something roughly as good. Your speakers will be a reflection of you, exactly how you like them - no more wishing you could get a better veneer, or get just a little bit less treble out of the center channel.
Regardless of your reason, I hope to provide information to everyone - especially Madison residents - on building your own speakers.