Custom headphones – Part 1: Design

I spend a fair amount of time at work using video conferencing software for meetings with colleagues in other locations. This means wearing my Microsoft headset for periods of an hour at a time. The headset is good, and the microphone seems very reasonable, however I have pretty big ears, and I find they get pressed against my head by the padded rings. After an hour or so it can be a little uncomfortable.
So I hit upon the idea of making a custom pair of headphones. The main aim was to make them such that they fit comfortably over my ear, without just being huge round things. I also decided not to integrate a microphone. I figured I would just get a separate decent podcaster mic or something.

So with the project goal in mind I set to my trusty Maker notebook to sketch out some ideas. Starting by figuring out my ear size and shape to form the reference size for everything else.

I also had a pair of pretty reasonable headphones where the fabric over the padding had flaked into a scratchy mess. So I dissassembled them to get at the 40mm speakers.

dissassembled headphones

And so it began, with the electronics and a shape worked out for the bit that would press against my head, I designed the rest to connect the dots.

I actually hit on the design pretty quickly, as it mostly relied on the tools and materials I have to hand.

design page 1


I’d turn hollow wooden cylinders to take the speakers, drilling holes in one end to allow sound through, and turning a ‘lid’ for the open end. This was basically like turning a box. Obviously the internal diameter needed to be 40mm, and I wanted to keep the wall thickness as thin as possible whilst retaing a good solid feel. They are afterall supposed to survive frequent handling.

I decided the cylinders could just be glued to a wooden ring that formed the shape around my ear, then I’d stitch leather around the cylinder and over the ring to hold the padding in place and form the main ear enclosure.

That then left the question of how to arrange the headband and hold both earpieces against my head.

I had seen a few headphone designs and knew I’d want each ear piece to be able to pivot on a horizontal axis to fit to the side of my head. So I decided to turn a ring that would fit around the speaker cylinders and have a pin that passes through to allow them to pivot (slightly) inside the ring. Then I would have some stiff wire running out the top of the ring, to attatch to a headband.



I realised that the metal wire used for clothes hangers probably had about the right stiffness and springyness to provide the main structure of a headband and also the verticals that come up from the rings. So I bought some and was about ready with my design.

This was an ambitous project, part of what appealed was that it would keep me busy for mutiple weekends. This in contrast to many of my projects where I try to complete in one weekend. True to my predition it has taken about 4 weekends to complete, perhaps a total of 25 ish hours. I’ll split the stages of manufacture over a few posts.

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