Introduction: Another (Yes, Another) Altoids Tin Speaker

Picture of Another (Yes, Another) Altoids Tin Speaker

I've seen so many amazing Altoids tin speaker builds out there, both on Instructables and elsewhere and I wanted to try my hand at one too! This project uses two tins (one for the amplifier circuit, battery, charging circuit, switch and jacks, and another one just for the speakers). I wanted to use decent quality parts so I could get the best sound quality possible. That being said, you can definitely go to the store and get a pretty good quality mini speaker for a bit less than I spent on this project, but where's the fun in that? I decided not to integrate bluetooth into my amplifier. I have two iPods (one Classic and one 5th gen Nano), neither of which has bluetooth capability, so I just didn't have the necessity for it. That being said, if you would like to integrate bluetooth into your own, there is enough room for a module inside the amplifier tin behind the charge circuit board.

Here's a demo video on Youtube. I apologize for the poor quality as I was just using my digital camera. Sounds much better in person.

It actually turned out much better than I thought. Obviously it doesn't generate a ton of bass, but the volume it puts out is very surprising, given the size. In addition to being a nice portable stereo, it would also be a good fit if you want something that puts out a little more power than your built-in computer speakers, or even just to have some tunes in the kitchen while you cook dinner.

Supplies: (There are a ton of different parts out there that you can substitute, but these are just the parts that I used). There are a lot of great cheap parts on and they ship free to almost anywhere as well.

- Altoids or similar metal tins (x2)
- Female RCA panel mount jacks (x4)
- Male to male RCA couplers (x2) or L+R RCA cable
- Female 3.5mm panel mount jack
- Amplifier:
- Rechargeable lithium battery:
- Lithium battery charger:
- Switch:
- Speakers (x2)
- Male to male 3.5mm aux cable
- Some cork (for lining the tin)
- Some foam (to insulate the speakers)
- Primer and paint (if you want to paint it)
- Rubber feet (for the tins)

* Adafruit has some really cool stuff for projects like this. The above links are all from Adafruit. I also got a 10% discount from my Pro membership, so keep that in mind too if you have a pro membership!


- Drill and various bits
- Metal file
- Glue (epoxy, hot glue gun, super glue, etc.)
- Soldering iron and solder
- Heat shrink tubing
- Thin gauge wire
- Needle-nose pliers
- Awl
- Sharpie

Let's get started!

EDIT: I ended up finding a solution for the speaker grilles. I added a step near the end.

Step 1: Plan Everything Out

Picture of Plan Everything Out

Grab a pencil, a ruler and some graphing paper. Measure your tin and sketch it to scale on some paper. Then measure out all of the internal parts (amplifier, battery, charger, switch, jacks, etc) and decide on the best placement inside your tin for them all and make sure that everything will fit and nothing will interfere. You don't want parts touching and shorting each other out when the tin is closed. It's a boring step, but in the end you'll be happy you did it! My final tin changed slightly from my drawings. The only differences are that I put the 3.5mm input jack next to the on/off switch and then centred the RCA output jacks on the other side.

*** Note: If you follow my schematic, don't go just by the colours as I had to use several colours more than once because I didn't have enough to do every wire a different colour. Also, if you have AutoCad, I've attached a .dwg file of the amp design. I'm just using a trial version, so I don't think I can .pdf it.

Step 2: Mark Your Tin

Picture of Mark Your Tin

Now that you've got a good idea of where everything is going to go, you can mark all of the areas of the tin that you'll need to drill, cut or file out. Use your Sharpie to mark the centre point of all of your holes and then make indents with your awl. This will ensure that the drill bits don't skate in the next step.

Step 3: Drill, Cut and File!

Picture of Drill, Cut and File!

Grab your drill and make some holes! It's a good idea to make pilot holes with a small bit and then gradually work your way up to the actual size you need for the hole. After you're satisfied with all of your holes, test fit all of the parts that will be going in them. 

Step 4: Paint It

Picture of Paint It

This step is optional. I wanted to paint my tin a lime (which ended up not so lime) green just to make it look nice, but it looks great with the standard Altoids paint job as well. If you are painting your tin, do it after you've made all of the holes in it but before you install any of the components. 

First, separate the lid from the bottom by gently bending the two hinge tabs at the rear. Next, sand off all of the original paint and clean it well. Then prime it and paint it. When it comes to priming and painting, less is more. Just do several light coats of each as opposed to one heavy coat or the paint will probably run. Hold the can 6 - 12" away from the surface you're painting and use fast sweeping motions to paint it. There are plenty of tutorials on the web as well if you need additional help.

Step 5: Line the Top and Bottom of Your Tin

Picture of Line the Top and Bottom of Your Tin

We don't want to short out any of the electronic components when our stereo is on, so we need to insulate them from the metal tin. I used cork to do this, but there are a variety of materials you can use. Just trace the top and bottom of your tin onto a sheet of cork or rubber or whatever and then cut it out and trim it if necessary. Then grab whatever glue you have and secure the insulation pieces to the top and bottom of your tin.

*Note: I actually ended up just cutting pieces of cork the exact same size as my amp and charger because space was an issue and my cork was a bit more than 1/8" thick.

Step 6: Solder

Picture of Solder

Before you solder, make sure you have your RCA and 3.5mm jacks along with anything else that's going in a hole you drilled installed. It's also not a bad idea to put some loc-tite or similar thread locking compound on the threads of the RCA and 3.5mm panel mount jacks so they don't come lose from constantly connecting and disconnecting cables. I won't go over the whole process of soldering all of the connections together. There are plenty of resources on the web that will show you how to do it all. Don't forget to use heat shrink tubing on all of your connections as well!

There is also a helpful diagram here:

t's for a specific amp, but it should apply to most other amps as well.

Step 7: Secure All of Your Electronic Components and Put It All Together

Picture of Secure All of Your Electronic Components and Put It All Together

Now, simply attach all of your electronic parts (amp, battery, charger, etc.) to the cork sheet with some hot glue or epoxy glue so they don't come loose when you're running down the street to catch the bus. After everything is in place, make sure the tin still closes properly.

Step 8: Speaker Tin

Picture of Speaker Tin

Now that your amplifier tin is finished, you can start on the speaker tin. Just draw everything out as you did with the amp and mark the centre points of your speakers on top of the tin and the centre points for your other two RCA jacks on the side or bottom (depending on how you want your setup to be configured) and score them with the awl. I also used a piece of cardboard to make a template for tracing the speaker outlines onto the top of the tin. My final design ended up slightly different than my drawings. The only change was I centred the RCA jacks on the back of the tin.

*I've attached a .dwg file from AutoCad of the speaker layout. I just have a trial version of AutoCad though, so it won't let me .pdf anything. Anyone can download a free 30 day trial though.

Step 9: Drill, File, Cut, Etc.

Picture of Drill, File, Cut, Etc.

Now you can drill, file or cut out holes the same diameter as your speakers on the top (the speakers I used have a 40mm diameter) and drill out your holes for the RCA jacks as well. The speaker holes don't have to be a perfect circle, just rough is ok because you won't see the holes after the speakers are glued in. The Sharpie outlines are the exact outside diameter of my speakers (40mm). I left a bit of extra material around the inside edges because the speakers will mount on the top of the tin. Test fit your speakers after you get your holes just right.

*Important: If you are using RCA couplers and not a cable, the distance between your RCA jacks and their height from the bottom of the tin is absolutely critical. Since the couplers are solid and won't flex, the spacing between the RCA jacks on both the amplifier tin and the speaker tin has to be exactly the same or the couplers won't connect. See the photos in the final step of the two tins connected together to get a better idea of what I mean.

Step 10: Paint It

Picture of Paint It

Now just sand, prime and paint the tin as you did with the amplifier tin. I remembered to take photos  of the primer this time haha.

Step 11: Line the Inside of Your Tin

Picture of Line the Inside of Your Tin

I just used some self-adhering felt to line the inside of my tin to help better insulate it. This step is totally optional. 

Step 12: Mount and Solder Speakers and Jacks

Picture of Mount and Solder Speakers and Jacks

Now just mount your speakers however you like. I hot glued mine in from the inside of the tin to ensure a good seal. Then attach your jacks and wire them to the speakers. After you're done just make sure the tin closes alright.

My initial idea for speaker grilles were these dust covers (pictured), but they ended up taking up too much space inside the Altoids tin. The tins were just too small to accommodate these pieces as well as the speakers. If you are using a project box that is slightly larger than an Altoids tin, these would work great! I decided to show how I modded them just in case anyone wants to use something similar in their setup. The inside diameter of the dust covers was 45mm and my speaker outside diameter was 40mm, so they were basically perfect...Unfortunately, my speakers were 25mm deep and the Altoids tin is only 21mm deep, so I already had to mount them partially outside the tin which is fine, but just no room for grilles. This setup would work in an Altoids tin if you used speakers that are approximately 3/4" deep. Mine are closer to an inch and I did the math and figured if you used 3/4" depth speakers it would be viable.

I've been trying to think of something to use for the speaker grilles, but I just can't come up with anything. I thought of a 40mm computer fan guard, but the diameter of the circular part is actually less than 40mm. The only other thing I can think of at the moment is maybe to cut up an old stainless steel strainer and harvest the mesh from it. Anyone have any ideas?

Step 13: Add Insulation and Close Up Your Tin

Picture of Add Insulation and Close Up Your Tin

Now you just need to insulate your tin. The type and amount of material you use will determine the sound you get. If you want a tinny, treble-filled sound don't add any insulation. If you want more of a deep level, add a lot. If you want something in between, just loosely pack it. I just used a couple of cotton balls. The only way to make a perfect seal would be to glue the tin shut permanently. I chose not to do this in case I ever had to get inside it for servicing any parts, but obviously it's up to you.

Step 14: Speaker Grilles

Picture of Speaker Grilles

These are optional, but I would recommend having something to protect your speakers. I found these dust covers that are shown in a previous step at my local hardware store and managed to modify them to fit as speaker grilles. I simply cut them a little bit smaller, then glued a plumbing washer around the outside of each grille. I then epoxy glued them to the edge of the speakers, being careful not to get any glue on the cone.

Step 15: Finished!

Picture of Finished!

Now just plug in your iPod or other Mp3 player and blast some tunes! It won't sound as good as your Rega amp and B+W speakers, but for something that fits in your pocket , it's not bad.

The point of using the couplers instead of a cable is that when the two tins are attached via the couplers, they form a 90 degree angle and, in turn, become their own stand.

When you're not using it, you can store the male to male RCA couplers in one of the tins as well.

I've also ordered a cheap little cell phone stand off of eBay that will act as a speaker stand when you use RCA cables instead of the couplers. Will post a pic once it comes in the mail.

I am currently testing the battery run time at mid-level volume and will post when the battery finally dies. 

I hope you enjoyed this instructable! Feel free to leave any questions, suggestions, comments or criticisms :)


samorphanos (author)2015-04-19

Hi, I am relatively new to this kind of stuff and I had a few questions that I was hoping that you could answer. I am not using a lithium battery, but a AA battery pack instead. It has the positive and negative wires coming out of it for connection, but which goes where on the Adafruit board? From what i understand, one power contact is labeled VDD and another GND. Also, I was wondering which contacts to solder the wires from my 3.5 mm jack to. Thank you!

ctx1985 (author)samorphanos2015-04-21

Hi there,

I'll do my best to answer your questions.

If you are using non-rechargeable AA batteries, then you would simply solder the red positive wire coming from the battery holder to the point marked 'VDD' on the Adafruit board and the black negative wire from the battery holder to the point marked 'GND' on the Adafruit board.

From your 3.5mm jack, solder a wire from the left terminal to the input marked 'L' on the amplifier board, the right terminal to the input marked 'R' and the ground terminal to the ground on the board. On the 3.5mm jack, the tip of the male connector is left, the center portion is right, and the base is ground. The best way to make sure you're soldering to the right connections is to plug a male to male cable into the female jack and then check fro resistance between each of the tabs on the rear of the female jack and the exposed tip of the male cable.

Hop that helps!

Dukanater (author)2014-07-05

having a similar speaker grill problem thought about the fan covers and such also this is a very good idea i went to my local lowes and i cant seem to find these id love to replicate this idea if you could help me pin point what im looking for totaly lost in the plumbing section lol a link on the website maybe or something i can print to bring in to the store would be awesome

having put up my tut yet but here is what im working on =] figure ill let you look at what you helping build =D

also if you notice i have the washer i did find on my desk you can see it on the first picture to the right of the helmet it wasn't deep enough thought to cover the speaker id have to stay like 4 of them and then add a screen which is kinda silly so if you can get back to me with what you used would be awesome

ctx1985 (author)Dukanater2014-07-08

Hey great looking project so far! So I'm actually amazed that I managed to find these grilles on eBay as I originally bought them in a hardware store in Poland haha. They're more expensive than I paid, but I don't think you can buy the specific covers I used in North America. This link is from eBay UK, but it shouldn't be a problem ordering them. As for the washers, I find some plumbing sections in hardware stores have them, some don't. I ended up ordering some off of eBay from China for next to nothing. Just enter the diameter and thickness of washer you want in the eBay search and it will come up with a bunch of them from China. I used rubber cement and glued two washers together as one wasn't thick enough to clear my speaker completely. Hopefully this helps! Here's that link:

calebryan (author)2014-07-01

What did it cost you total to make this? In parts, not tools or glue or whatever, just the speakers, circuits etc.

ctx1985 (author)calebryan2014-07-02

I would say all in for the cost of parts and having them shipped to me...around $60-ish. You can get a lot of the parts for a bit cheaper if you don't mind sacrificing quality a bit, it's just mainly the parts from Adafruit that drove the price up. Hope that helps!

ayavorsky (author)2014-04-14

Great Project! Love it!

But what about battery ? there should be some BMS , so the battery voltage won't fall too low , when it is being overdischarged it becomes unstable and dangerous to charge again...

ctx1985 (author)ayavorsky2014-04-14

Thanks! Actually, the battery has built in circuit protection so the charge never drops too low and the charger protects the battery from over charging as well, so it's no problem :). I guess that's one of the benefits of using Adafruit's higher quality (but more expensive) components.

ayavorsky (author)ctx19852014-04-15

Oh! cool :)

sixhitter21 (author)2014-02-04

how does the battery charge up bc i can't see the battery circuit clearly in your schematic?

ctx1985 (author)sixhitter212014-02-04

Hey. The battery charges through the LiPo charger. The battery has a JST connector on the end and just plugs directly into the charger, and then another JST connector comes out of the charger to the amplifier so you can still charge the battery while you're listening to it. Hope that helps!

out-of-the-box (author)2014-01-16

Very nice! Extremely good quality. I might have to make one. Excellent!

ctx1985 (author)out-of-the-box2014-01-16

Thanks so much! I'd love to see some pics if you make one!

sixhitter21 (author)2014-01-15

Quick Question what kind of speakers did u use?

ctx1985 (author)sixhitter212014-01-16
stevenarango (author)2014-01-11

Your project looks great and your instructions very clear..

specially the pictures, your schematic was a bit confusing but its all ok now.

i have ordered the parts and i will be making one like yours will post pictures as i go along. thanks for a great project. the best i have seen.. cheers mate.

ctx1985 (author)stevenarango2014-01-11

Thanks so much! I really appreciate that. Sorry for the confusion with the schematic, but glad it's all sorted out now. Can't wait to see some pics of yours!

BurgersBytes (author)2014-01-09

Cool project! Instead of using epoxy to nail everything in place, I have found premium clear silicone calking to be a better solution when things may need to be replaced later like the battery or a circuit board. Plus it insulates and dampens vibrations. Once it cures it is difficult to remove, but not so hard as to destroy things. I've also found that the Chinese often use it in their creations.

ctx1985 (author)BurgersBytes2014-01-09

Thanks! That's a good idea about the silicone. I was actually considering sealing the speaker tin with it just so it's a little more airtight as well. Thanks for the suggestion :)

agis68 (author)2014-01-09

awsome!!! i love the speaker design

ctx1985 (author)agis682014-01-09


dnash2 (author)2014-01-08

I have NO electronic experience, can I do this?

ctx1985 (author)dnash22014-01-08

I would say yes. I would go on google and find a tutorial on soldering and give it a read beforehand, but yes. If there are any questions that arise during your build process, I would be happy to answer them as well.

avianeddy (author)dnash22014-01-08

same here, would LOVE to give it a go...

avianeddy (author)2014-01-08

Absolutely amazing. Compact, lightweight, would like to hear it... but this is a winner. And the illuminated DIAL? >>... wow... Yes!

ctx1985 (author)avianeddy2014-01-08

Thanks so much! I couldn't resist the illuminated dial haha.

mhitchcock (author)2014-01-08

This is very cool! I know space is tight, but when I see the two tins and two speakers... I wonder if you considered putting one speaker plus electronics in one tin, and one speaker plus battery in the other? Then with a cable between the two you could get separation between the speakers for a stereo effect.

ctx1985 (author)mhitchcock2014-01-08

I actually didn't even think of that. !t's a great idea! I'd love to see a finished version like that if you decide to build one! Great idea man :). And thanks for the kind words!

fx8 (author)2014-01-08

That's the most awesome and coolest audio amplifier project i've ever seen. Really good job. :)

ctx1985 (author)fx82014-01-08

Thanks so much! I really appreciate the kind words :)

mph121 (author)2014-01-06

I really like how compact and inexpensive this is. I will have to try it! Although I would use a different method of connecting the amp and the speakers instead of the big RCA couplers, maybe another 3.5 mm cord.

ctx1985 (author)mph1212014-01-06

Thanks! I was thinking the same thing originally, but then I realized that the am I used is a differential output amp, meaning the speaker outputs can't share the - wire. I had to use insulated panel Mount RCA jacks so there was no chance of the two negatives of the speaker terminals coming together. You could use two mono 3.5mm jacks though as long as you insulate them from the metal tin.

mph121 (author)ctx19852014-01-07

Ok that makes sense. I'll definitely have to try this.

ctx1985 (author)mph1212014-01-07

Let me know how it goes. I'd love to see some pics of it when you're done!

gluvit (author)2014-01-07

This is nice

ctx1985 (author)gluvit2014-01-07

Thanks! :)

JasonE (author)2014-01-04

Very cool! I'll be giving this a go!

ctx1985 (author)JasonE2014-01-04

Thanks! I'd love to see some pics of it when you're done!

ctx1985 (author)2014-01-04

Yeah it was just that I had 4 female RCA jacks already, so I figured I might as well use them.

nbagf (author)2014-01-04

Why go through the trouble of using couplers? You could have had one tin have male RCA connectors and the other female. Most likely it was just what you had at the moment, but its a suggestion.

emikayee (author)2014-01-04

These turned out great!
I had a quick question, I see the bevels of the tins aren't green, did you mask them or just not sand them and then rub the paint off after painting?
I ask because this is one of the better altoids tin paint jobs I've seen here!
Really, good work!

ctx1985 (author)emikayee2014-01-04

Thank you so much! Haha the bevels were a little tricky. I did mask them...If you look really closely on one of the steps where I took pics of the tin masked off, you can see it. That being said, it still didn't end up perfectly after paint. I just went around the edge with my fingernail when the tins dried just enough to handle and gently scraped off any of the overspray. It was a little time-consuming, but turned out well in the end. Thanks for your comment!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a 29 year old guy who's passionate about building and fixing things, sometimes if they aren't even broken. I get a ... More »
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