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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The Melloman, Mk. II

mello

Way back in the 60s, strange electronic instruments were all the rage. The most famous of these made before the era of the synthesizer was the embodiment of musique concrète, the Mellotron. This instrument had an incredibly complex arrangement of magnetic tape that allowed a performer to play a keyboard and have the sound of any instrument come out of a speaker. This system was prone to failure, and there has been a lot of technological improvements in tape over the last fifty years, leading [Mike Walters] to build a new version of his famous Walkman-based Mellotron, the Melloman.

This build is an upgrade over the previous Melloman made in 2009. Like the original, this build uses 14 portable tape players, each loaded up with a continuous tape for each note. The tapes contain two octaves of the same note, one each on each channel, which are routed to the output whenever a key is pressed.

There are a few improvements over the old Melloman. Instead of transistors, [Mike] is using optocouplers to send the recorded sounds to the output. This build is also a whole lot cleaner, with the wiring looking very professional. As for a sound demo, you can check out the video below.

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Radio-Walkman-megaphone hybrid

[Erich] rethought the use of a megaphone and ended up with this Mega-Tape-O-Phone. His first move was to ditch the megaphone’s amplifying circuitry in order to add his own based on an LM386 chip. From there a radio receiver joined the party followed by the guts of a tape player. He relocated the head of the tape deck to the end of a flexible cable and coated the outside of the megaphone bell with magnetic tape. Now he’s surfing the airwaves and scratching away happily.

The use of the tape head has been seen here before, but it was never in a mobile package like this is. Join us after the break for some video of this in action.

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Melloman tape-looping keyboard

[Michael] tipped us off about an incredible build from back in 2005. The Melloman is a keyboard that uses a different tape loop for each key. The instrument is generally known as a Mellotron, and consists of a different looping tape for each key. When a key is depressed, the head comes into contact with the key and plays the sound sample.

This particular implementation uses 14 Walkmans to supply the tape loops. The Walkman units are constantly playing but the audio output is not enabled until a key is depressed. The main description of the instrument is on the final project page linked above but there are many construction photos available in the build log.

Update: After the break we’ve embedded a video that will take you on a tour of the components of the Melloman. To clear up the looping issue: a Mellotron uses tape loops, but the Melloman uses tapes that are 30 minutes on each side instead of loops.

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