Quality Sound-Proof Cans From Personal Protective Equipment

Working in a noisy office can be distracting. To combat the problem in his workplace [Rikard Anglerud] bought himself a pair of 3M ear defenders. They were good, but not quite good enough to completely extinguish the noise, so he inserted the drivers from a pair of cheap headphones and played a low-level white noise. This prototype proved effective, so he returned to the project and produced a much nicer pair that approach much more costly cans in their execution.

[Rikard’s] first set of headphones left something to be desired in the quality department. The second set followed with a pair of better-quality drivers sourced online, and more care was taken with cable routing and in their fitting. Finally some filler was used to remove the moulded 3M branding, and make them look more hi-fi than workwear.

From an audiophile perspective these cans might not approach a very high quality pair because their drivers are unlikely to be matched to the acoustic properties of their enclosures. But it sounds as though he’s achieved an adequate result despite that, and completely satisfied his need to exclude office noise.

13 thoughts on “Quality Sound-Proof Cans From Personal Protective Equipment

  1. Nice build, but why not using around the ears headphones with noise canceling over the shelves? They are pretty good nowadays, and wireless too.
    Definitely looking for a DIY noise canceling project.

    1. I work at D3ll , open office with Jabra 80 noise cancelling around the ear phones, and the noise of the cubicle cannot be cancelled by this,I mean it is 300USD for not so good results, just saying.

  2. Just to kill the noise why not pair the over-ear muffs with cheap memory-foam earplugs … 6pr for $1 plus the cost of the muffs. Easier and cheap.

    That said id probably have gone a similar route as the builder.

  3. Nice! I wonder if you could link them into your desk phone? What’s next? How about some VR Goggles with noise cancellation? I love the idea of VR glasses to do office work, perhaps have a quick snooze without getting caught?!

  4. DIY is IMHO the only way to get headphones anymore in the age of hyper profits, Beats, etc; for $25 you can make $300 ‘cans’ I did this for both general aviation and home use. I rewired some mil 8ohm David Clarks for 300ohm gen av(150Ω + 150Ω phone speakers will work if you cant get the real ones) and a pair of folding Chinese mil-style hard shell shooter’s hearing protectors to which I added headphone repair speakers for radio chatter. The general aviation ones I added mil surplus in-ear under can CEPs with foam tips which is great for my crappy hearing so I can hear ATC/tower.
    The Clarks came with all of the foam I needed, the Chinese/mil hearing covers required adding some felt to back the speaker and I used a large patch of some of my wife’s old tights/stockings material to keep the foam clean form skin and ear wax.
    Drilling one of your ear cups for a 3.5mm jack and getting any foam tip(or retrofitting) short cable earbuds designed for bluetooth collar clip headset adapters will work great, then adding the transducers to your cans is optional but try to match impedance.
    I would like to know though for music vs radio comms what specifications to look for in a replacement headphone speaker.
    Anyone who can solder and drill a hole, even with a screwdriver, can plan poke, grommet, maybe stress relief or shrinktube some wire and perhaps hot glue the speaker enclosure to the shell can still own a nice pair of headphones without getting robbed.
    One thing I recommend is not having permanently attached cable, add 3.5mm bulkhead jacks then use 90° adapters so the 3.5mm 1-2m coiled(phone cord spring coil) male-male audio cables will unjack if you walk away or your kids get tangled vs ripping your headphones apart; a 90° adapter is also pretty smart tip for the other end of the cable to spare your laptop form tangle and walk away unless the audio jack comes out of the front. I just wish I had built mine for TRRS vs TRS so I could split the cable for both laptop and radio usage with a boom mic. If you want a good boom mic look for a David Clark aircrew headset style boom, this project lets you print the plastic if you can bend some wire. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:52767

  5. I should add make sure with mil surplus to gen av headset conversion to put the right value pot onto the audio loop as the one matching 8Ω is not correct for a 300Ω set, the mic also has to match. FYI civil helicopters use 8Ω like all US mil aircraft radios/intercoms do.

  6. My experience with hearing protectors at the makerspace tells me your phones will be comfortable for about 30 seconds. Try some of the bluetooth noise cancelling phones. They work well and are comfortable to wear for long periods. I have some Sony Wh-h900n phones from Costco (I don’t think they sell them any more) that are great.

    1. Passive hearing protection doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all. Get good ones that fit correctly and they can be as comfortable to wear as any other over the ear headphone. Active noise canceling is great an all, but it can never match passive for all round effectiveness and then also needs to have a battery or power cable – added awkwardness to use.

      So as long as the bulkier look doesn’t bother your employer or yourself this is great. (My active noise canceling might look smaller but are definitely heavier with the battery and way worse at damping sound – they are the goto for most times in my life – being wireless and more portable. But when I want the best quiet I can get I also reach for passive hearing protection.

  7. These remind me of when I was cutting code for the CNC section of company and I was in a small office just off the main factory floor. Earbuds and ear protection was our solution but then the phone never got answered. :-)

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