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Picture of Make a Real Working Speaker for Under $1.00!
Here's how to make a real working paper plate speaker for under $1.00!
 
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Step 1: Watch the Video!



Step 2: $1 Paper Plate Speaker?

Picture of $1 Paper Plate Speaker?
Back in 2007, YouTube user HouseholdHacker posted a parody video on how to make a High-Def speaker for under a buck.

MythBusters took on the challenge and busted it.

Although that particular method doesn't seem to work, it doesn't mean you can't make your own speaker for under $1. 

Actually you can, and it's really easy!

Watch this video to see how!

Step 3: How Does a Speaker Work?

Picture of How Does a Speaker Work?
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To understand how a speaker works, I took one apart.  

In it's simplest form, a speaker is just a coil of wire glued to a piece of paper, and placed near a permanent magnet.  

When alternating current flows through the coiled wire, it is either attracted, or repelled by the permanent magnet.  

The audio signal from your stereo is a form of alternating current.   When attached to a coil of wire and set near a stable magnetic field, the variations in polarity and amplitude will make it vibrate thousands upon thousands of times per second.  

If this coiled wire is attached to a diaphragm, the vibrations will push a larger volume of air and generate sound waves that we can hear.  

In the pictures above, you can see a paper speaker cone, the yellow spider (which holds the voice coil in place over the magnet), the voice coil with wrappings of magnet wire around it, and a strong permanent magnet at the bottom of the assembly. 

The two ends of the voice coil wire are what connect to your stereo system. 

That's all there is to it!   Now let's see if we can make one!

Step 4: Gather Your Materials

For this project, let's use;

* A foam bowl for the speaker basket
* A paper plate that fits onto the top of the bowl as the speaker cone
* Button magnets that can be stacked into a cylinder
* A sheet of printer paper to form the voice coil support
* Magnet wire to form the actual voice coil (Magnet wire is thin enameled copper wire and can be salvaged from many electronic devices for free, or bought at places like Radio Shack)

You're also going to need a hot glue gun and some scissors.

Just for fun, I used a knife and cut holes in the sides of the foam bowl so it looked more like a speaker cone.

Note: None of these materials are sold individually because they only come in packs, but if the pieces are pro-rated, the cost is around $0.80 per speaker!

I found some magnet wire inside an old TV.  Many of the small transformers on the circuit board were loaded with the perfect wire for this

WARNING: Be aware if you are salvaging electronics at home.  Capacitors on the circuit boards may still hold a charge and pose a risk of electric shock.  This project should not be attempted without adult supervision and adequate training.

Step 5: Make an $0.80 Speaker!

You get what you pay for, but it works!

Step 1: Stack about 5-6 button magnets to form a 1"-2" cylinder
Step 2: Cut a strip of paper and roll it around the stack of magnets, then tape it to itself.
Step 3: Cut a second strip of paper and roll it over the first, then tape it to itself.

Note: The two pieces of paper should not be connected to each other.  Instead, they should be able to slide apart freely.  The inner paper is going to serve as a spacer, because when it's removed, it will create a slight gap between the top tube and the magnets. 

Step 4: Wrap about 50 turns of wire around the tube.  It doesn't have to be super tight, but should be firm.
Step 5: Secure the wire coil in place with some hot glue.

Step 6: Pull the stack of magnets and inner coil of paper out of the tube. 

You should now have a hollow tube with a winding of wire around it.  This is your "voice coil".

Step 7: Glue the voice coil to the bottom side of a paper plate.
Step 8: Cut the voice coil to a length that will slide over the magnet stack, and hover the wire coil near the top of the magnets.
Step 9: Fit the paper plate with the voice coil overtop the magnets, and glue the plate in place.

I chose to paint the speaker black in an attempt to make it look a little better.

Step 10: Remove the coating from the tips of the wires.  You can use sandpaper or an open flame to burn off the enamel.
Step 11: Hook your speaker up to a stereo with a built in amplifier and press play.   

You should hear your music playing out of your paper plate!

It's not going to be very loud because any magnet you can get for this cheap is going to be very poor quality.  But it does work and it's a fun project!

Troubleshooting:

If you don't hear anything, double check your connections.  The two wires from the voice coil should connect to the positive and negative terminals of one channel of your system.  It doesn't really matter which wire goes where, as both will work.  

Your stereo will also need to have a built in audio amplifier to push a higher wattage to the plate.  If you're trying to run this from your iPhone or MP3 player, you might hear a faint noise, but your results will be much better if you first amplify the power output.

If you still don't hear anything, either your wire is damaged (shorting out or broken), you don't have a good connection with your wires to your audio source, or your magnets aren't strong enough.


What difference would a stronger magnet make?  Let's find out...

Step 6: What Makes The Speaker Better?

The strength of your magnet plays a huge part on the strength of the sound.

I made another speaker using a Neodymium magnet.  These are among the worlds strongest magnets.

The voice coil is made the same way, wrapping paper and wire around the magnet, then removing the voice coil shell and cutting it to size.

I used scrap wire I found on an old sump-pump motor for this one.  

This time, instead of using a foam bowl for the speaker basket, I just glued the magnet to another paper plate for a base, and made some accordion style supports to hold the coil over the magnet.

When the leads were connected and the music turned up, I was amazed at the results!  It was rocking out!

Pouring water into the plate shows just how powerful the vibrations are with the stronger magnetic field.  It also makes quite a mess. 

Step 7: Other Projects

Picture of Other Projects
Well, there are 2 ways to make your own Paper Plate Speaker!

If you haven't see the video yet, watch it here!

If you like this project perhaps you'll like some of my others. Check them out at www.thekingofrandom.com
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JustinL35 months ago

Does it have to be voice coil? What if you just use conducting wires?

SiddharthK5 months ago

Where can I get Neodymium Magnets ???

Lagash2 years ago
Maybe here I have some dumb questions: on step 4, why 50 turns?

I have found different enameled copper wires and I am trying to choose one.
Some are about 1mm diameter (more like 0.9 mm) and others are closer to 0.1-0.2 mm.
If I do, for example, 250 turns with the thinner one do I get different results?
I do not have any experience but I can imagine (in a pure sci-fi way) that in this case is generated a stronger magnetic field and maybe I obtain the same "kinetic" vibration with less current.
Is this somehow right or all I get is just higher resistance and higher consumptions?

...a more practical question: the thinner cable "melts" when I try to peel the coating with a lighter, it curls a bit and forms a tiny ball at the end of the wire.
It works if I solder it to other cables, shall I continue with this method or is better if I peel the next wires with a knife?

thanks for the attention and sorry for my English.

I don't know how many turns you would need for a speaker like this, but I do know this. It works better for me if I use sandpaper to take the insulation off the ends of the wire. It is nice and clean.

rniedra1 year ago
So now i don't need to buy subwoofers for my car i can make some hundred of thoes and put in my car ok i am just joking i am 11 years old Sorry for my bad english i am a Latvian
what type of wire would you suggest to wrap around the magnet, and would it be better if I wrapped the wire around the magnet more???
ToXiCATOM1 year ago
cool DUDE I favorited this instructables!!!
very nice instructable.favourited.i made a speaker using your diirections.thanks
m.m.m2 years ago
and sometimes we should sand paper the connections of the wire for troubleshooting.
vibil2 years ago
cool
The King of Random (author)  vibil2 years ago
Thanks!
madarhod
Did you mean madarchod?
farmerboyk2 years ago
In the video at 3:59, your FINGER is releasing fire. Magic!
The King of Random (author)  farmerboyk2 years ago
Haha nice :)
kbryson2 years ago
DUDE, totally put the goo on the plate and see what happens!!!
The King of Random (author)  kbryson2 years ago
Haha, I like how you think!!
indigo4012 years ago
If you hook LEDS up directly to the speaker NOT the speaker wire coming out of the receiver they will flash with the bass it's really neat you should try it
The King of Random (author)  indigo4012 years ago
Nice .. I've been meaning to try that!
Great fun and awesome educational experience!!!

Just spent the last couple hours building a couple mid-range and base speakers with the wife and kids. Used small bowls for the mid-ranges and a large plate for the base. We have an old boombox with an equalizer and were able to easily test the frequency range of each. They worked beautifully. My 11 year old son is now building a tweeter out of a paper cup.

Spent the first hour taking apart a broken wall wart transformer plates to unwind the magnet wire. In the end we use only the larger magnet wire and spools I already had. It isn't worth the effort to salvage wire - way too much work and risk of injuring yourself. It was educational though.
Thanks for your great feedback! What inspired your awesome project, and will you have a video showing the result and the frequency range tests?

I'm curious to know what magnets you used as well?

Thanks again :D
I saw it on the weekly Instructables email and thought it would be fun to do with the kids as a family project. Sorry, no video this time. Nothing astounding on the frequency reproduction, The larger plate had good base (nice at reproducing the deep drums) but not very good at higher frequencies. The medium sized bowls had good medium freq' reproduction, but not too good on the deep base or higher twangy notes. The cup was the best and appeared loudest probably because it has more directionality.

The magnets were mostly of the black polished shiny variety and varied in size and shape. You find them in lots of stores as cheap toys. I also had a bunch of neodymium magnets of various sizes and shapes.

We also found the speakers buzzed as they bounced on the hard surface so we put a napkin under them and fixed the issue.
The paper cup was lighter too, allowing it to travel further in each direction, also creating a louder sound.
The King of Random (author)  james.m.k2 years ago
That makes sense. A plastic cup was the first thing I ever tried, and even hooked up to an mp3 player and a week fridge magnet, I could hear sound. Thanks for your comment James!
I don't recall how old I was, but once I plugged a microphone into a headphone jack and could very clearly hear the music. Proving to myself that speakers and microphones are simmilar enough that one can be used as the other, no matter how poorly they do it.

I thought that was funny as all get-out.
The King of Random (author)  james.m.k2 years ago
Exactly right! I've also done the reverse and used a headphone as a microphone. Although the signal has to be amplified to get much of an audible result. I've been thinking about doing that as a project as well one of these days.
Mr Collinsworth, I really appreciate your detailed reply. Thanks very much for sharing your experiences!
The paper cup worked the best and was the quickest and easiest to build - only about 5 minutes. He used two paper cups back to back and just a couple straight pieces of file folder cut about an inch wide and 8 inches long to connect them. No accordion necessary. He also used only about 25 turns of heavy magnet wire around a stack or cheap 1/2 inch common magnets - much less than we used on all the other speakers which ranged from 50 - 200 turns.
if you still have it put as muck power through it until it melts, while playing dubstep or some bassy music, film it and upload it if you do
I plugged one of these into a wall outlet and it evaporated the wire :) And yes I got it on film.
UPLOAD
Haha maybe some day. Makes a loud bang and a lot of smoke as well just so you know.
james.m.k2 years ago
Hah! Genius!

Reminds me of when I "made" a phonograph when I was in 2nd grade. I was curious if the grooves in records were really just sound vibrations and an analog of what the air does.

I used a turntable (I couldn't make that), a straight-pin, and aluminem (sp) foil for the speaker. Wasn't loud, but it was clear!

My mother was not amused. ^_^
But yours is better!
The King of Random (author)  james.m.k2 years ago
Very cool!
I forgot, I also placed a record needle (attached to the player) on top of foil and made a microphone! I think that was the same day! Lots of fun for a little kid!

^_^
M.C. Langer2 years ago
Awesome!!! Thanks for sharing!
The King of Random (author)  M.C. Langer2 years ago
You're welcome, and thanks for checking out another project!
Hey, you have simple but incredibly awesome projects! You become a great source of Macgyverisms for me! :-)
The King of Random (author)  M.C. Langer2 years ago
I'm really glad to hear that you found some value in them! I remember how impressed I was when I saw your work, and will probably visit them again!
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