Introduction: DIY - $25.00 Soundproof HiFi Headphones

Picture of DIY - $25.00 Soundproof HiFi Headphones

Mowing, chainsawing, jack-hammering, running compressors, etc.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could listen to music or podcasts while you're doing these loud tasks?  Want to actually hear your iPod?

This DIY article will show you step-by-step how to construct completely soundproof, high fidelity headphones using firing-range rated ear protection and high quality headphones.  You can literally ride your lawnmower while blowing leaves and chainsawing shrubbery, and all you will hear is Hotel California in your ears.

Wrapping each ear in its own individual sound studio, and completely blocking out exterior sound is pretty shocking the first time you put them on.  These headphones sound incredible.

They are so good, in fact, that they can be dangerous.  If you build with care as instructed here, you will have built headphones that put you in a bubble, absolutely null to the outside world.  You will only be able to hear what's playing through the headphones, and only a visual cue will be able to get your attention.  Please remember that it can be dangerous to block out all outside noises.  
This will take about two hours from start to finish.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

#1 - Firing-range hearing protection
        [Peltor President - $15.00] - Great brand, very comfy, most sport a -26 DB rating.

#2 - Headphones
        [KOSS KSC-75 - $10.00] - Hands down, the best headphones you can buy under $50

#3 - 6 ft long Red / White stereo cable with 3.5mm mini-plug.
        [Any brand - $2.00 or less]

Side note - Don't waste your money on an expensive cable.  Things that matter are thickness, how it feels (rubbery, not plastic'y), and a tight 3.5mm connection. 


[The quality of your headphones and hearing protection does matter however.  I built mine with the above components for $25, and they sound incredible, but you can certainly spend more if you're a real audiophile.]

Step 2: Tools

Picture of Tools

- Wire strippers
- Drill
- Soldering gun
- Epoxy, glue, or caulk to seal a small hole

- Small pliers
- Razor blade (or X-Acto knife)
- Beer.

Step 3: Preparing the Y-cable

Picture of Preparing the Y-cable

We have to have a cable in order to thread wires through the headphones, so we need to make one.  This wire will be replacing the very small wires that are currently connected to your headphones.

Step 4: Preparing the Head-gear

Picture of Preparing the Head-gear

Each earmuff has a foam insert, which is the mechanism that blocks the outside sound. Millions of tiny pockets of air trapped inside the foam force sound waves to dissipate through the medium before it has a chance to get to your ear drum.

In this next step, we're going to cut a shallow divot into each foam insert.  This divot is where we will be placing our headphones.

Try not to mangle and hack up the foam. Cut a shallow divot, don't dig out a hole.  Think surgeon, not hand-grenade.

The inserts need to come out. Grab it with your fingers, it will just pull right out.

Step 5: Wiring It Up.

Picture of Wiring It Up.

Now, we're going to drill some holes and thread the cable through the headgear.

Left and right sides matter , because if you're like me - you you want the cable from the headphones going out BEHIND you. 

If you're making these headphones, you'll be working when you wear them.  You don't want cables draped around your ears, or falling in your face when you're bent over.

The very last slide is to check your work.

Step 6: Preparing the Sound

Picture of Preparing the Sound

Don't be afraid, this is very easy, and I'll explain it step by step.  All you need to know is how to solder.

I usually use Koss headphones, but in this tutorial I used Sony.  It doesn't matter what headphones you use, as long as they are the over-the-ear style.  Earbuds will not work for your soundproof headphones.

All we want out of these headphones are the drivers themselves. We're going to destroy the plastic neck band, and get to the sound drivers without damaging them.

Step 7: Rock Out.

Picture of Rock Out.

Repeat the process for the other side, and put a dab of glue, caulk, or epoxy to seal any holes you drilled and lock in those wires.  Let it sit for a while and you're on to the next step...

...which is to load every song by The Eagles' Hell Freezes Over album on your iPod, put on your new headphones and mow the yard.

Good luck!


cta93 (author)2011-12-10

Any anticipated problems with substituting other ear muffs, such as the Howard Leight L3 or similar? I like the design, I just want slightly higher DB protection. Thanks!

dsjackson1 (author)cta932011-12-10

I don't think the process would be any different with the Howard Leight headgear. They appear to be built the exact same way as the Peltor earmuffs I used.

If you're worried about DB protection, take care to not mangle the foam when you're carving the divot. Measure properly and use a sharp razor blade, and try to make one long cut instead of "chopping" at the foam with the razor.

Those foam inserts are THE sound blocking barrier. Be calculated and think "surgeon". If you tear, stretch and mangle the foam, you'll damage that sound blocking barrier.

If you run into any problems just post it and I'll try to help. Good luck-

CrawJac (author)2011-12-06

I did this with some cheap earbuds and they are great! It was so simple and I can't hear a thing other than the sound from my iPad. Thanks!

bowmaster (author)2011-10-09

This is cool. I have a pretty nice (as in, $20 nice) pair of over-ear headphones that broke (plug got yanked at an angle, completely destroying it) that had good sound quality but terrible noise isolation. Can't wait to mod them into these.

dohse (author)2011-08-27

The headphones I'm using for the drivers are the same Sony headphones used in the instructions. Since it is the type with only one cord going into the ear pieces, one of the headphones has wires going out to the other earphone. The earphone without any "out" cords looks just like the one in the picture, but what about the one that both "in" and "out" that also has a green cord?

Thanks, I have everything ready to go and all I need to do is solder, but I'm afraid of botching it!

dsjackson1 (author)dohse2011-08-27

To make it simple, there may be extra stuff in there. Each driver should have exactly two wires soldered onto it, not more and not less. If there's anything else - cut it off. You solder twice on each driver, that's it. Positive and negative.

Just cut that additional wire that goes through the headband off - it was just carrying the signal to the driver on the opposite side. If there are any additional wires, like the green one you mentioned, cut them off. If you've already identified a positive and a negative to solder, don't worry about it what the green wire was supposed to do. You don't need it.

If you're unsure, test each driver by touching the wires to the solder points I showed in the Instructable before you solder. Plug in your Ipod, and once you get sound, solder it down. Remember, SOLDER FAST. Clean the points, get your iron really hot, and make a quick dot. If you hold the heat to the driver for more than a few seconds, you will burn the voice coil up. Let me know if you have any more questions.

dohse (author)dsjackson12011-08-29

Thanks - I amateured my way through it. I had never soldered before so I decided to avoid burning out the drivers by leaving a length of the original wires on the driver and soldering that to my Y-cord. Figured out which wires on the driver I needed by doing exactly what you suggested and cut off the rest. My soldering looks like absolute crap (so I was smart by not trying to solder it to driver) but they are hidden in the ear muff and more importantly, it works. Project came out awesome and was a good excuse to get my feet wet with a soldering iron.

hawkz (author)2011-07-15

In step 4, the second pic shows headphones with padded head band. Where did you get these headphones and are the compatible with the mod. What's keeping me from choosing other ear muff protectors is the ability to route the wire to the other side.

dsjackson1 (author)hawkz2011-07-18

The headphones I used in the tutorial are Sony behind-the-neck style sports headphones - just because I had them laying around. It doesn't matter what kind of headphones you use, as long as they are over-the-ear style with a big, round driver. Earbuds won't work because they can't produce enough sound. You can take ANY paid of headphones and hack them up like I did in the tutorial

You can use any kind of ear muff protectors you like, but I much prefer running the wire through the headband. I once made a pair and tried zip-tying it all in place, which works, but didn't look nearly as nice.

Wesquire (author)2011-07-03

First off, thank you Dsjackson for the great build. The instructions were perfect. I had no soldering experience and made it from your instructions.

For anyone building it, my hardest part was getting the ear muffs back in with the headphones inside. If you make sure that the headphones fit flush in there from the start, it is a lot easier. Also, put the headphones in BEFORE you put the muffs back in. When you put the muffs in, crinkle the foam around the headphones first (think wrapping an apple in a napkin that isn't big enough). Then lower one side in at a 45 degree angle, making sure to keep the entire headphones crinkled like when you began. Then put in the other side of the same headphone. Repeat for the other ear.

This helped a lot.

Thanks again for the great build, Dsjackson. Great sound. Great Instructable.

stormyapril81 (author)2011-06-26

These are so awesome, it's almost unsettling. It's an awesomely unsettling experience. The closest comparison I can think of is the old-school headsets in music stores, except the sound is exponentially more crisp and clear and the outside noise is COMPLETELY blocked.

stefire (author)2011-06-18

Simple Idea, usually the best. Closest thing out there commercially are racing radio headphones, stupid expensive, not stereo. I'm building a pair this weekend.
Well executed and a fantastic Instructable. A touch of humor makes everything better.Thank You

deusexmachina (author)2011-06-17

Awesome instructable!

El.Jefe (author)2011-03-24

AMAZING sound quality. You can not buy a set to sound and perform better. Thanks for the post you truly changed my life for literally 25 bux!! You Rock!

katiesalvatierra (author)2011-02-01

This idea is genius!

Teguess (author)2011-01-31

Very thorough instructions, easy to follow. This guy definitely knows his way around a set of headphones!! Thanks for the great post!!

bluelite (author)2011-01-31

Love mine! Great isolation. Terrific sound.

DR0PH3AD made it! (author)2016-01-12

I did this about 16 years ago out of necessity. When tracking our drummer he wanted the play back so loud that we were getting bad bleed over on the mics. After that, anytime a pair broke (head band, wire fixed, etc.) and the drivers still worked I would run out and get another pair of work muffs and transplant them over. Here are two pics of the yellows and a shot of the whites for our vocalist. I also made two more pair into red muffs.

altomic (author)2015-08-16

awesome. I love it.

grimerking (author)2013-09-07

Great guide. Thanks for posting it.

I used a pair of '3M Peltor Optime III Ear Defenders' and the speakers from a pair of Sennheiser HD 202 Headphones. They worked out a bit more expensive than your version, but the sound quality is amazing.

wgrabarz (author)grimerking2015-05-07

How did you manage to fit HD202 drivers inside, is there a way to disassemble those earmuffs? I have Peltor Optime II and tried stuffing Koss KSC75 inside but they lost all the bass and started sounding like cheap earbuds. probably because the are open to begin with. I have a pair of HD202s however but the driver is too big to fit through the hole and I don't want to hack em up too much in case this whole project doesn't work

deathtomayo (author)2014-12-13

I've been considering getting some noise cancelling headphones for drum recording but this looks simple enough. Thanks!

CreativeGeek (author)2013-12-05

"#2 - Headphones
[KOSS KSC-75 - $10.00] - Hands down, the best headphones you can buy under $50"

>>Portapros/Sportapros are pretty epic too, especially as they use KSC35 drivers. Or you could spend $50 and get some actual KSC35s.

83drummer (author)2013-10-14

I made this using drivers from very good sounding headphones (I needed to change the headband for use with my helmet), the big kind not the neckband style, but the volume and quality has dropped to the bottom.. It seems to need something to resonate against; any ideas on how I could make it better again? Right now the foam is behind and around the driver; I'll try to put it behind the foam, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to increase the volume back to the old level. I'll also try to use the old resonating chamber again (or what's left of it), or try the toilet paper roll hack..

rasikananda (author)2012-12-07

Awesome!! I'm building a recording studio and these will be great for monitoring and performing :)

One question: In the image showing the positive and negative wires, your description is "3. Same here. The colored, solid, darker wire is the positive. The smaller, lighter wire is the negative."

but the image shows the solid thick wire as negative and the thin copper wire as positive.

Which is it? Am I not reading it properly?

Thanks so much!

Here's the image I'm referring to:

dsjackson1 (author)rasikananda2012-12-09

Ah, well to be honest - it's going to be different for every set of headphones. The pics I posted were more "examples", and it's possible I made a mistake.

The easiest way to figure out which wire goes where is just to test. Plug the 3.5mm jack into your iPod, and play some music. Try the wires one way, and if it sounds like garbled mess, you know it's supposed to be the other way. You won't hurt anything.

Email me directly if you need any more help, I'm happy to walk you through it. - dsjackson1 at live dot com.

dsjackson1 (author)dsjackson12012-12-09

I guess I should clarify. You should have the exposed back side of the driver on a table in front of you, the 3.5mm jack end of the cable should be plugged into your ipod, and you should have music playing moderately loud.

Now, all you're doing is touching those cables to the solder points on the back of the driver until you hear music. Then solder it down, and bam, you got it.

Send me pictures of what you have if you need any more help.

cineris (author)2011-06-24

Anyone know a good place to find that cheap audio cable?

hawkz (author)cineris2011-07-11

Yeah man. You can get some cheap & good quality silicon wired audio cables from

While you're there, pick up some 3.5mm to 3.5mm f/f adapters and use them with this retractable cord for a wire extension. Pull apart the retractable cord (throw away the spring components and you'll have a pretty slender extension for your new awesome headphones!

Audio Cable:

3.5mm to 3.5mm f/f adapter:

Retractable cord:

Lisa_1202 (author)2011-02-01

Great idea, Daniel!!!!

amyj303 (author)2011-01-31

The best headphones I've ever used!

thunderlightning (author)2011-01-31

What a great idea - and the instructions are so helpful!

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