Improving headphones by voiding warranties

[Dan] had been wanting a pair of Bluetooth headphones for quite a while. Most of the reviews for wireless headphones in the $50-$80 range complained of tinny sound and dropped bass. Nevertheless, he stumbled upon a $20 pair of headphones with similar reviews and realized that he could switch out the driver and make a decent pair of cans.

The donor drivers came from a pair of Sennheiser HD 540 headphones. These are very respectable headphone speakers that cost about what you would expect for pro audio gear. To to get Bluetooth working with the Sennheisers, [Dan] removed the PCB and battery enclosure and attached them to the headband with velcro.

For his build, he had to cut the cable on the Sennheisers and solder them to the Bluetooth board. There was never any danger of ruining a good pair of headphones, though. If he screwed up he was only out a headphone cable. Now [Dan] has a nice pair of Bluetooth headphones that can reproduce bass. Not a bad deal for a $20 pair of headphones.

Self-tuning piano can tune itself, can’t tuna fish

At Hack a Day, we don’t throw the term genius around lightly. We’re obligated to bestow that title on [Don Gilmore] for his amazingly simple self-tuning piano. To appreciate [Don]’s build, you need to realize that just because a piano has 88 keys, that doesn’t mean it has 88 strings. Treble notes have three strings per key while tenor and bass notes have one or two strings each. This usually comes out to more than 200 strings per piano, and [Don] can bring them all up to tune in under a minute.

[Don]’s system needs to perform two functions. The first one is sustaining the strings so the computer can ‘hear’ the strings. He does this with a magnetic sustainer that is a lot like an E-Bow. To bring the strings up to the right pitch, there are small heaters underneath the pin block. Running a little bit of current through these heaters allows [Don] to decrease the tension of each string and lower the pitch.

This tech reminds us of the Gibson Robot Guitar, a self-tuning guitar that does it’s trick with motors in the tuners. The Gibson didn’t do well on the sales floor, given that everybody and their mom can tune a guitar. Pianos, though, are another story. [Don] is looking for investors to bring his idea to market, and we hope to see it on the floor of a music shop sometime in the future.

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Printrbot files in the wild

After a few months of eager waiting, [Brook Drumm] has finally released the files for his paradigm-shifting 3D printer, the Printrbot. If you didn’t order one of these during the Kickstarter, you can now print your own set of parts.

[Brook] gave his Printrbot to the world last November with the promise of being extremely cheap, extremely easy to build, and having a relatively high print quality. The simplicity of the Printrbot was amazing, which probably led to the Printrbot getting $830k worth of funding on the initial Kickstarter. Although the files for the 3D printed parts are out in the wild now, there still aren’t any instructions on how to build it apart from a Flickr slideshow.

[Brook] promised to release the files for the Printrbot much earlier, but we’re guessing he’s been busy printing and assembling  the 1200 Printrbots that were claimed in his Kickstarter. While we’re on the subject of cheap 3D printers, [Richard Sum], the English gent behind the SUMPOD sent in a link of one of his $600 printers milling MDF and extruding for seven hours straight. We’re on the cusp of Star Trek-style replicators here, people.

Build your own self-driving car

If you’ve ever wanted your own self-driving car, this is your chance. [Sebastian Thrun], co-lecturer (along with the great [Peter Norvig]) of the Stanford AI class is opening up a new class that will teach everyone who enrolls how to program a self-driving car in seven weeks.

The robotic car class is being taught alongside a CS 101 “intro to programming” course. If you don’t know the difference between an interpreter and a compiler, this is the class for you. You’ll learn how to make a search engine from scratch in seven weeks. The “Building a Search Engine” class is taught by [Thrun] and [David Evans], a professor from the University of Virginia. The driverless car course is taught solely by [Thrun], who helped win the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge with his robot car.

In case you’re wondering if this is going to be another one-time deal like the online AI class, don’t worry. [Thrun] resigned as a tenured professor at Stanford to concentrate on teaching over the Internet. He’s still staying at Stanford as an associate professor but now he’s spending his time on his online university, Udacity. It looks like he might have his hands full with his new project; so far, classes on the theory of computation, operating systems, distributed systems, and computer security are all planned for 2012.