DIY Custom Molded Earbud Roundup

Headphones have become ubiquitous these days. Thanks to the iPod and the smartphone, it’s become commonplace to see someone wearing a pair of earbud style headphones. Earbuds aren’t always comfortable though. On some people they are too loose. On others, the fit is so tight that they cause pain.To that end, we’ve found a few great solutions for this problem.

[cptnpiccard] has documented his custom molded Sugru earbuds in an Imgur gallery. He’s molded a pair of standard earbuds into a cast of his ear. He uses them both for hearing protection and tunes while skydiving. Sugru’s FAQ states that while the cured material is safe for skin contact (and in ear use) some people are sensitive to the uncured material.

While discussing his project on Reddit, a few users chimed in and mentioned they’ve made custom molded earbuds using Radians custom earplug kits. The Radians material hardens up in only 10 minutes, which beats waiting an hour for Sugru.

The absolute top of the food chain has to be building your own triple driver in ear monitors, which is exactly what [marozie] has done. Professional custom molded monitors can cost over $1000, which puts them in the realm of professional musicians and audiophiles. [marozie] discovered that mouser stocks quite a few transducers from Knowles. These tiny speakers don’t come cheap, though; you can spend upwards of $70 just for a single driver.

[marozie] took a cast of his ear using an earmold impression kit. He used this cast to create a mold. From there it was a matter of pouring resin over his carefully constructed driver circuits and audio tubes. The resulting monitors look and sound incredible.

It goes without saying that making custom in ear monitors involves putting chemicals into you ears. The custom earmold kits come with tiny dams to keep the mold material from going in too far and causing damage. This is one of those few places where we recommend following the instructions. Click past the break to see a demo video of the ear molding process.

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Super Simple FM Transmitter

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Making your own FM radio is practically a rite of passage for hackers. How about making a small FM transmitter?

Originally designed by the Japanese multimedia artist [Tetsuo Kogawa], this simple FM transmitter can be built with only 10 components and about an hour of your time. The method shown here is one of the easiest to build, and it’s called the Manhattan Style — the same method used when [Bill Meara] built his BITX radio. It’s unique in that instead of using traces it uses one copper PCB which is used for all ground connections, and then small islands of the same PCB glued on top to form nodes for the circuit to connect to. Besides being an extremely easy way to make a PCB without any fancy tools, it also makes you think about circuits in a different light. In fact, it gives “floating ground” a whole new meaning!

While its 10 component count is impressive, it can’t beat this 3 component FM transmitter we shared a year ago! Stick around after the break to see how to make your very own.

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Bass Bump Headphone Amp

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Headphone amplifiers make for simple, practical electronics projects. The Bass Bump Headphone Amp is no exception, since it’s made out of easy to source parts, and can be built on a proto-board.

We’ve seen many variants of the classic cMoy amplifier, including this pretty one. The Bass Bump differs by providing control over bass frequencies. It does this by putting a filter in front of the amplifier, with a potentiometer to select the mix of frequencies. This goes into a LM386 audio amplifier. At the output is a Zobel network to keep the impedance low at high frequencies. The amplifier can be powered from either a 9V rechargeable battery, or a USB port.

It’s a simple build, but definitely a good one to try on a rainy day. The write up explains how the analog circuitry works, and gives you full instructions on how to build it. After the break, check out a video overview of the project.

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A crystal radio amplifier in a jar

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The cool thing with crystal radios is that they are solely powered by the incoming radio waves. However, it usually means listening to your AM radio station with an earpiece and even then, depending on the antenna length, ground connection, and radio station, it can be quite hard to hear.

Even though it is cheating, [Steven] decided to make an amplifier for all the different crystal radios he had made over the years. His design, based on an LM386 amplifier was firstly tested on a breadboard and then permanently soldered onto a perfboard. To make the complete system easy to transport, he opted for a peanut butter jar where he embedded the speaker in the cap. The on/off switch and volume controls are mounted on the side, and easy alligator clips are used for the antenna connection.

The final result is not the one shown in the picture above as [Steven] painted the jar black, giving it a sweet look.

GPS audio tour brought to you by surface speakers

The team at Eschelle Inconnue wanted to “trace a sound cartography of Islam” in Marseilles, France, so they came up with a clever little GPS walking tour powered by an Arduino, MP3 playback module, and a surface transducer speaker.

The team used a Processing app to define geographic areas where each MP3 file would play. An Arduino on the build queries a GPS module and selects the audio file from an MP3 playback module. This isn’t uncommon, and a lot of large outdoor museums (think battlefields) have similar setups.

Determining which audio to play at what location is fairly easy, but that’s not what makes this build special. Instead of simply hooking up a pair of headphones to the build, the team decided to use a surface speaker that turns just about any solid material into a speaker. From the writeup, this is supposed to, “diffuse sounds by giving the illusion to collect them, to listen to the words of the walls, the whisperings through the materials” but we think it’s just a great way to have several people listen to the same audio file at the same time.

PVC boombox is not a potato cannon

After [Luke] built a suitcase mini-ITX rig for LAN parties he was left with one problem: he didn’t have any speakers and he didn’t want to use headphones. Not wanting to do something boring like a USB-powered speaker setup, he built a PVC Boombox.

Built around 3 inch PVC pipe, the boombox houses an off the shelf 15 W amplifier, bluetooth receiver, and charge controller. [Luke] found a deal on a dozen 1400mAh lithium ion batteries and despite the standard, “if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t use lithium” trope commonly given as advice, he forged ahead anyway. [Luke] picked up a power converter that charges the batteries and provides some protection. The batteries are charged though wall power with a transformer and a huge cap scrounged from an ATX power supply.

[Luke] is pretty pleased with his boombox. Not only does it put out some decent quality sound, the battery life should be tremendous. It’s not a ground-up build, but we think it’s a pretty nice project. [Luke] will be taking the ‘boomtube’ to the Detroit Maker Faire next month, so if you see him make sure to say hi.

Portable SID plays chiptunes

[Markus] on the DangerousPrototypes forum came up with a great little SID player.

The SID was (is?) the awesome sound generation chip inside the Commodore 64, and along with Game Boys and NESs laid the foundation for the chiptune scene. We’re happy to finally see a small SID player that doesn’t resort to SID emulation or a relatively huge MIDIbox.

The SID player itself is a shield on a CUI32 PIC dev board. The PIC32 emulates the 6510 and 6526 CPU and CIA chips found in the Commodore 64. A small USB memory stick stores the High Voltage SID Collection and the file system is navigated with an OLED screen. [Markus] says that the player draws 370 mA, so he runs it off a small wall wart. Still, we’re wondering if it’s possible to run this off of an SD card with a SwinSID so power draw can be reduced and a fully portable SID player can be realized.

We’ve got a touch of nostalgia for chiptune and demoscene music right now, so we’re going to listen to some [Nelly Furtado] [Janne Suni] right now, but you can check out the video demo [Markus] posted after the break.
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