Introduction: DIY USB Altoids Speaker. (Super Easy)

Picture of DIY USB Altoids Speaker. (Super Easy)

Hi, everyone. As you probably noticed I love making projects out of Altoids tins this is already my 2nd Instructable of an altoids tin project ( DIY ALTOIDS SMALLS JOULE THIEF FLASHLIGHT )what can I say, I like the mints and I have many tins laying aroud so let's give them a new life.

I've seen a couple of Instructables on how to turn these small tins into mini portable speakers for the mobile phone, but in many cases they just fit a speaker into the tin without an amplifier circuit so I bet the sound is not really good.

I wanted to make this project as simple and basic as possible so that it can be copied easily and of course improved by anybody who wants to give it a try also I wanted to keep it as cheap as possible.

The heart of this project is the amplifier circuit based on the LM386 which is a power amplifier designed for use in low voltage consumer applications (It can be powered from 5v to 12v). The gain is internally set to 20 to keep external part count low, but the addition of an external resistor and capacitor between pins 1 and 8 will increase the gain to any value from 20 to 200.

Of course you can go to the store and get a pretty good quality mini speaker for probably a bit less than I spent on this project, but where's the fun in that? We're makers let's build our own.

This DIY project is great for beginners in electronics. It´s not complex, It´s very cheap, it´s useful and it´s fun to use! I think I might make it into a Bluetooth rechargeable speaker. But that would be another project.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

1 - 3 mm LED – (Color of your choice)

1 - 3 mm LED Holder - Chrome or plastic.

1 - 100 Ohm resistor (Brown-Black-Brown)

1 - Male USB conector.

1 - 3.5 mm Audio Jack

1 - 10 Kilo Ohm Potentiometer

1 - 220 uf Electrolytic Capacitor

1 - SPDT Toggle Switch

1 - 8 Ohm Speaker (Mine is 3 Watt)

1 - LM386 IC

1 - 8 Pin IC Socket

1 - Small PCB board (mine is about 4.5 X 2 cm)

1 Altoids Tin - Flavor of your choice.

Step 2: Tools

Picture of Tools

Soldering Iron


Soldering Paste


Small File


A Sharpie

Cutter (If you have a Dremel tool is easier)

Double Sided Tape or Hot Glue

Wire Strippers

Heat Shrink Tube or Electrical Tape

Extra Wire

Safety Goggles

Helping Hand (Optional but very useful)

Step 3: Prepare the Tin

Picture of Prepare the Tin

Ok, so if you want a nice and smooth finish this step is probably the hardest part. Take your time and do it carefully if you succeed in this step, you´re halfway gone in this project. I separate the lid of the tin to make it easier to drill and don´t bend the tin in the process.

Grab your drill bits. Find one that is as close to the size of your components. I found out that a 9/11ths sized drill bit works perfectly for the switch an audio jack but try to run on just smaller, because as you know, you can make the hole bigger but you can never make it smaller. I decided to use a scrap block of wood to prevent the tin from caving in and denting.

You may want to mark where you want each hole so measure out all of the internal parts (switch, audio jacks, potentiometer, led and USB conector) and decide on the best placement inside your tin for them all and make sure that everything will fit and nothing will interfere, use a nail or a push pin to leave a little dent this will help you to place your drill in the exact point you want yor hole.Now lightly press as you start drilling let the drill bit do the work for you. If you press hard against the tin you will mangle it.

Step 4: Making the Amplifier Circuit

Picture of Making the Amplifier Circuit

I won't go over the whole process of soldering all of the connections together it's a very simple circuit with a few number of components. Just follow the schematic (I modified it a little, I didn't add the 0.05 uf capacitor and the 10 ohm resistor conected from pin 5 to ground) and you can see the pictures to help you understan the diagram. I solder extension wires that then will be soldered to the components out of the circuit board( Led, Switch,etc). I highly recomend to mount the circuit in your breadboar before you start soldering to check if everything is working fine.

To make the LM386 a more versatile amplifier, two pins (1 and 8) are provided for gain control. With pins 1 and 8 open the 1.35 kΩ internal resistor sets the gain at 20 (26 dB). If a capacitor is put from pin 1 to 8, bypassing the 1.35 kΩ resistor, the gain will go up to 200 (46 dB). If a resistor is placed in series with the capacitor, the gain can be set to any value from 20 to 200. Gain control can also be done by capacitively coupling a resistor from pin 1 to ground.

Don't forget to use heat shrink tubing on all of your exposed connections.

Step 5: Final Assemble - Soldering

Picture of Final Assemble - Soldering

We're almost done, to reduce the chance that we get a short you can use some electrical tape or like me you can cut a piece of faux leather and tape it to the bottom of the tin with some double sided tape this will make things appear classy.

Now just mounteverything in their place (I used double sided tape for the speaker an the amplifier circuit) and solder the wires coming out from the circuit board to their corresponding component, if you want you can put some heat shrink tubing so you can insulate your connections after soldering.

I used a pin to make small holes in a circular disposition on the lid of the tin just above the speaker, but this is step is optional.

At this point you can test to see if everything is working. So, is it?

Step 6: We're Done!!

Picture of We're Done!!

Now just plug in your mobile phone or other Mp3 player and enjoyed your music!! To power your speaker you can use any USB power supply, when I'm in my bedroom I like to use my Power Bank.

This project actually turned out much better than I thought. Obviously it doesn't generate a ton of bass, but the volume it puts out is really surprising, given the size and the simplicity of the circuit. Believe me, It´s really LOUD!!

This is actually not my first Altoids Speaker, I build another one that is powered by a 9 volt battery (as you can see in the last 2 pictures, the red tin) and I'm planning to make another one but using a rechargeable li-ion batterry and of course with the corresponding charging circuit but that'll be a different project and another Instructable if you want.

I recommend this project for all starting DIY people. It works for both kids and adults. It gives you a practical gadget that you can actually use or give as a gift to someone.
It's a great weekend project for beginners and kids, and teaches a lot of electronic basics in the process.

Please let me know what do you think and If you decided to give it a try post a picture in the comments below.



auto13142828 (author)2016-10-26

I have a shielded 3" speaker which says 4 OHV on the back. Will this work?

DanielC225 (author)auto131428282016-10-26

try it.the worst that could happen is it being too loud or too quiet

auto13142828 (author)DanielC2252016-10-29

If it's a poor match then I would have wasted a lot of time and money. You are no help.

DanielC225 (author)auto131428282016-10-29

the lm386 is pretty bulletproof from my experience and i know that speaker should work because i have used some like it before.

Ggungaby (author)2016-09-22

Where would you recommend I get the electronics? I doubt Hobby Lobby would have them.

DanielC225 (author)Ggungaby2016-10-26

radioshack. or you could salvage from old electronics.

studentgeek (author)Ggungaby2016-09-26


Maverick14 (author)Ggungaby2016-09-22

I think you could buy them online on eBay or Amazon. They are cheap!

Muhamed Gondzo (author)2016-09-22

Very good projeckt, maybe I'll make one for myself, just for fun ☺

Me to, I have a lot of projects built in these little cases, and I think I have the majority of the parts laying around the house somewhere. Might just do a bluetooth one as well. I recently built a bluetooth stereo speaker set out of some old cheap stereo speakers from the 70's they sound fair but not great. Of course I left the majority of my hearing in Nam so nothing sounds great any more.

RandyJ22 (author)jerry.ericsson22016-10-02

Me *too.


spenproject (author)2016-09-23

Two questions

One can you make it Bluetooth?

Two if so can you post a schematic


Maverick14 (author)spenproject2016-09-28

Yes, I'm planning to make a wireless, Bluetooth and rechargeable version. I'll buy online a USB Bluetooth audio receiver and a Li-ion rechargeable battery with it's charging circuit but I'm still not sure if it's gonna fit in an altoids tin.

RandyJ22 (author)Maverick142016-10-02

Thanks for the instructions.

. . . with ITS charging circuit, not IT IS charging circuit.

spenproject (author)2016-09-28

i used a pre-assembled amp. its cheaper eiser and smaller just some advice. here is the link

spenproject (author)2016-09-28


Maverick14 (author)2016-09-28

Yes, I'm planning to make a wireless, Bluetooth and rechargeable version. I'll buy online a USB Bluetooth audio receiver and a Li-ion rechargeable battery with it's charging circuit but I'm still not sure if it's gonna fit in an altoids tin but that will be another instructable in this one I tried to make a very the more simple and easy to make altoids speaker.

Ephah Sha (author)2016-09-23

How interesting it is!

Maverick14 (author)Ephah Sha2016-09-28


Fathomlis (author)2016-09-21

Good work! awesome stuff! ...

Maverick14 (author)Fathomlis2016-09-21


gawrycht (author)Maverick142016-09-22

Interested in trying this with my son as a weekend project, but would like the battery option for his use. I assume the same parts and schematic for the battery option as the usb power source? I know nothing about electronics, other than soldering, so I don't know if the power source requires changing any of the other components...

Maverick14 (author)gawrycht2016-09-23

Hi! Yes it's exactly the same parts and schematic just replace the USB connector for a 9 volt battery clip so you can easily connect your 9 volt battery and change it when necessary (also it's a good idea to use a rechargeable 9 volt battery)

SumitS5 (author)2016-09-23

wow good job.

Maverick14 (author)SumitS52016-09-23


StephanV1 (author)2016-09-23

thats very cool. :-)

Maverick14 (author)StephanV12016-09-23


Ryalbobby (author)2016-09-23

That is some good piece of work

Maverick14 (author)Ryalbobby2016-09-23


carlhoffman (author)2016-09-22

Surely this speaker sounds tinny... <insert rim shot here>

Seriously, well done!

SREngineer (author)carlhoffman2016-09-23

Small, cheap speakers will lack good fidelity. It appears this is the type used in modems so you could hear the dialing tones and the negotiation sounds; no fidelity needed there1

Maverick14 (author)carlhoffman2016-09-22


akagrawal306 (author)2016-09-22

Wow its amazing!

A good portable speaker!

But I am curious to know about the drill, i always run in trouble whenever i need it as dont have it. Can you please explain how to make it from a dc motor how to connect bit like you made it. please.....

Waiting for yours reply.......

Maverick14 (author)akagrawal3062016-09-22

Thank you so much! Haha well about that drill I found it useful for this project because I powered it with my bench power supply with different voltage to adjust the speed because my drill has no variable speed. My plan is to use this DC motor to make a mini bench drill press.
I only remove the metal part of a electrical connector (picture 1) and use it as chuck drill bit but probably I'll buy a propper one online later (picture 2).

akagrawal306 (author)Maverick142016-09-23

wow great! but is it possible to make a standard drill which drills even on the metal surface or the brick walls??

TrystanM1 (author)2016-09-22

I would've used a female USB so that you can plug in your phone's charger into it and use it that way. If we used a male USB, it would require an OTG cable (and an adapter for iPhones) which is a micro USB cable to a female USB port. But you do have the option of an AUX cord so it makes sense and upon that discovery of mine, this comment became obsolete.

bunglenutter (author)2016-09-22

Why did you take out the capacitor and resistor?

jimvandamme (author)bunglenutter2016-09-22

I pulled out my 1980 National Semiconductor Audio/Radio Handbook for the answer to this.

The LM386 has a tendency to oscillate in the RF range (5-10 MHz) on the negative swing when run into a heavy load. It's not a continuous heavy oscillation, but a little bit of fuzz on the bottom end. The solutions are to damp out the oscillation with the RC circuit, or to run a few turns of the output lead through a ferrite bead. If you run it at a lower voltage, or a lighter load, it may not oscillate. If it doesn't bother you or neighboring radio receivers, no problem.

bunglenutter (author)jimvandamme2016-09-22

So it's not really needed in this case because it's low voltage?

jimvandamme (author)bunglenutter2016-09-22

I guess Mad Man Muntz was before your time, but he manufactured cheap TVs in the tube era. He'd go around to the design benches and snip out a component. If the TV still worked, it was off the parts list after that.

So if it works for you without the damper circuit, with no radio interference, no problem. But the parasitic oscillation might intermodulate with the signal somehow; I've seen reports of high noise levels. Try it with and without the cap.

You might look for a more modern chip. The NJM2113, for instance, has a push-pull output so no output capacitor is needed. Most chips today are class D, so they are more efficient. But so many are surface mount only.

DonutTheGREAT (author)2016-09-22

This has better features than the iPhone 7

rgthingmaker (author)2016-09-22

the best use for an empty altoids box is to hold your business cards although I had to cut the corners on my cards so I could get them out I tried to get altoids to make their boxes a little bigger ,but they would not do it .

JanetsJewelry (author)2016-09-22

Great tut. Wish I knew something about electricity or what those parts are. I am a classic case of why we need STEM classes in schools. This looks like a great project for chemistry(?) class.

Maverick14 (author)JanetsJewelry2016-09-22


EmmitS (author)2016-09-22

Great build. Another challenge would be to turn two Altoids boxes into a pair of earphones.

Maverick14 (author)EmmitS2016-09-22

Thanks! Yes, that could be a good idea for a future project!

markaagius (author)2016-09-22

Looks good, but can you show in your circuit diagram;
1: Which pins on the USB plug to use.
2: Where the switch should be.
3: The polarity of the jack socket.
I assume that the tip is + volts and the tin box/outer ring of the juck socket is - volts (Earth)

I've never made anything that uses a USB plug/socket and don't want to blow up anything.

Maverick14 (author)markaagius2016-09-22

I hope this will help you!

Maverick14 (author)markaagius2016-09-22

Thanks! Don't worry it's really simple the positive of the USB connector goes to the middle pin of your switch and then solder a wire from the other pin of your switch to the positive of your circuit board. I'll let you a picture so you could identify which pins to use of the USB connector and in the 3.5mm audio jack you'll only choose one (left or right) and ground because it's a monophonic audio speaker if you want to make it stereo you need to duplicate the circuit amplifier.

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