Upgrade Your In-ear Headphones

I’m a fan of my Etymotic er6i (which have mysteriously vanished…) headphones, so this simple hack caught my eye. [James C] sent in this simple method of upgrading the more affordable apple in ear headphones. The idea is simple, use a small hole punch to cut out the center of some cheap foam earplugs. Then replace the soft surrounds on the headphones with them. I’m guessing that this trick would work for quite a few in ear headphones that I’ve seen lately.

25 thoughts on “Upgrade Your In-ear Headphones

  1. Great idea, and like all great ideas I can’t believe I didn’t think of it already. Looks especially handy for motorcyclists. Blocks out more wind noise than the default rubber and makes for a more secure fit in your ear. It’s a PITA when your buds fall out inside your helmet.

  2. this is timely. i’ve been trying to make a better crystal radio earplug, since modern ones have a stunningly bad 57 dB sensitivity. so far, the results are good with the piezo elements used in cell phones. i think i have a handle on the electrical part, but the acoustics are a bit daunting. this foam insert trick should make a nice high-acoustical-impedance coupling.

    i’m looking for 120 dB sensitivity and will still likely need a resonant chamber on the other side of the element so as not to just lose half the acoustic energy, though i could just use a tube to the other ear, stethoscope style.

  3. ack.. I’ve been thinking about doing this for about a month and a half.. thought I was so clever. I may have an improvement to this design. If I ever do it I’ll be sure to drop a link in these comments.

  4. Back in 2003 and 2004 I was a fan of the Sony earbuds that where quite spendy in those days. I always lost one or both of the ear pads while riding the train to work. I Macgyvered a number of those foam earplugs as replacements. They always worked very well…until the inevitable oil and grime built up on them and became hard.

  5. Those work quite nicely, but are a real pain in the ass to apply / remove.

    Make sure you don’t have to talk to anyone when going out wearing them.. Leave your cell phone at home, etc. ;-)

  6. earbuds are bad for your ears. They make the inner ear very warm, which increases the earwax produced. This in turn causes you to turn the volume up on your music device, and then you blow out your ears.

    open, over the ear ‘phones are much better. Plus, you can put them inside your earmuffs for when it gets cold for music when you are walking to work.

    1. I remember the ‘earbuds’ that came with my old Sony Walkman. The transponders fit sideways into the ear allowing any back pressure to escape since they didn’t block the ear opening at all. They sounded great with very good low frequency response and a wide midrange and treble. I wish I still had these, but they got stepped on a few years ago by an irresponsible offspring. The walkman they came with was the cassette tape sized micro unit with the built in FM radio. The radio part still works but the tape drive motors have given up the ghost. IMHO the best product Sony ever made!

  7. Think about your ears, and only do this if you are listening at a very low volume. Unlike open ear earphones, with ear plugs there is no place for the air pressure to go. Ear buds can cause similar problems, but this hack looks like it would make things even worse.

    Remember, all of the sound pressure the ear bud makes has to go somewhere, and all that is standing in it’s way is your very thin ear drum.

  8. KOSS makes ‘The Plug’ headphones. These have scary levels of volume and use a earplug end. Sound quality is not great, $20 price is. To replace the stock pads with the ear plug of your choice, simply heat up a straight big of wire and melt it through the center.

    None of these solutions offer the sound quality of a good in ear headphone. I also recommend picking up the cheap rat shack sound meter so you can pick a good 85db level for whatever headphone you use.

  9. this is also not a hack. this is kindergarten craft time. im a long time hack a day reader and i am irritated to see a guy who can use a hole punch sandwiched between real hardware hacks. this is a wake up call, people dont come to hack a day to read about some dolt with foam and a glue stick; they come here to read articles about legitimate hardware hacking.

  10. @the prophet

    that’s funny, 11 people before you who took the time to comment on the article all had positive comments about it. maybe it’s time to expand your l33t thinking beyond axwesome hardware hacks, and realize that this was a pretty neat idea…

  11. You can also use the sure e2c foam ones. They fit perfectly with the plastic tube in them. You can get them for about $10 at most audio stores or music shops that sell PA equipment as they are the same as the ones for the in-ear monitor sets used by musicians

  12. This works well. I had some fairly decent Sony earbuds that were forever losing rubber buds, and the far-eastern replacements go hard and cracky. I usually use half a foam earplug on each side though, it seems to fit better. Another quick word to the wise – earplugs are good for temporarily sealing holes up to 10mm in electrical or electronic enclosures, masking screw holes for spray painting, all sorts of things.

  13. The replacement foams for the Shure E2Cs actually go one better: there is a PVC tube in the center of the foam that slide snugly over the posts on the E2C’s and the best part is that one end of that PVC tube is capped with a smaller diameter. That smaller diameter end snaps TIGHT over the Apple buds post making a perfect seal. Its so tight you’d probably need to cut the PVC tubing to get them off the posts (when you’ve finally soiled the foams beyond utility.)

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