Introduction: Super Effective Sound Isolating Earbuds

I work a lot with very loud equipment, and have done so for many years. As such I've spent a lot of time trying to come up with solutions for how to best block out ambient noise while also listening to music/audiobooks. This is especially tricky because the noise isolation must be effective enough to not only allow played audio to be heard over ambient noise, but to be heard at a safe volume to avoid hearing damage.

There have been plenty of tutorials for how to make sound damping earbuds that have spread around the internet, but most are inherently flawed. With the method presented in the above video I demonstrate how to cover all acoustic weaknesses in inexpensive earbuds to make their noise isolation just as effective as solid ear plugs.

Items used for this project:

  • Inexpensive Sony Earbuds
  • 3M Peltor Tri-Flange Ear Plugs
  • Clear RTV Silicone

Out of all my projects I've used this one most often. I put these plugs in at least once per week to mow my lawn every summer, and even more often when working on my many other loud hobbies. If you give this a try leave me some feedback in the comments below!

Instructables sometimes doesn't display embedded videos properly on mobile devices, so if you don't see the video above here is a direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOD7ulQEh-U

Comments

author
RocketPenguin (author)2015-05-16

Couldn't you just buy these http://www.amazon.com/Xcessor-Replacement-Silicone... instead? No need for cutting, gluing, or modifying... And if you cover the back side of the earbud, doesn't that seal the air vent for letting air move in and out as the diaphram moves?

author

Those look like they would work well, I didn't know they existed. You do cover the air vent with the silicone (if they are vented earbuds) but the internal air volume is great enough for the tiny speaker to not require venting. Covering the vent doesn't make a difference in the audio quality that I can hear.

author

Ah. And I guess I could just drill a small hole where the vent is if I really wanted to... But yea, I guess it doesn't matter too much as it is a very small coil and diaphragm...

author
ShakaKahn (author)2015-05-15

Thank you for this Instructable! I'm of the same mindset as aje 127, can't wait to give this a try. Why people have to be such negative ninnys in the comments section I have no idea. No need for the rude attitudes people!

author
aje127 (author)2015-05-14

omg. Thank you so much. This is brilliant. I listen nonstop to audio books when I'm out working in the yard (riding lawnmower) this is perfect. Thanks

author
Laral (author)aje1272015-05-15

Heh-heh-heh. Me too! It's great. I'm currently listening to the entire Star Wars BBC dramatization in honor of Star Wars Day, May 4th. I'm not using power tools so noise isn't the issue. It's more that the ear cups slide out easily when I bend down or twist around. These earplugs look like they are in there to stay.

author
NightHawkInLight (author)aje1272015-05-14

Yep, that's exactly what I use them for!

author
J_M1 (author)2016-05-04

That's a useful article, but I prefer good quality sound isolating earbuds rather than cheap ones. Have actually tried Shure SE846 and am pretty happy with their quality - didn't know much about shure though (and thought that sony or panasonic produce better headphones!) but read good things about them on whathifi.com , innerfidelity and headphonescompared.com

author
nancyjohns (author)2015-08-18

Noice

author
FreddieBarlett (author)2015-05-28

Will this improve (at least a bit) the quality of the sound? I mean like when you press the earbuds in to your ear it's start to sound better. Will this be the case?

author
SimoMies (author)2015-05-15

Never would have thought of coating the earphones themselves in silicone. Nice and to-the-point 'ible. If you wanna improve, make your info available for us that prefer non-video comms ;)

author
einnor12 (author)2015-05-12

How can we do it?

author

It's explained in the video. Instructables sometimes doesn't display videos properly on mobile. I'll add a direct link in the text.

author

It would be nice if you fleshed out the instrucatable fully so people don't have to depend on streaming YouTube.

author

My primary audience is on YouTube and that's where the revenue is generated to support my projects. Unless Instructables creates a program where they share some of the advertising income they earn through the people that post on this site, YouTube will always be the primary host for my tutorial content.

author

I have no problem with your using Instructables to drive traffic to your YouTube video, but that doesn't relieve you of the responsibility of creating a good, complete Instructable! This isn't a binary thing - anyone who takes the pains to produce a video that you say you do already has 80% of what's needed to create a quality Instructable.

author
Laral (author)Battlespeed2015-05-15

You could add annotations or subtitles to existing videos right from within Youtube but the tools are really clunky and make timing very difficult.

author
shazni (author)NightHawkInLight2015-05-14

You could take screen shots and write what you say :-)

author

That's understandable. However, I think if you want to participate in a community, you should tailor your content to that community.

author
Laral (author)NightHawkInLight2015-05-14

I see. Just for the record, I see no ads on either site. Either because I use AdBlock Plus or because I have a PRO membership here. I'm not sure which.

author
Laral (author)toekneebullard2015-05-14

I agree. Step-by-step WRITTEN instructions with links to all the products used is the norm and certainly desired in this case. I think video-only instructions with no text overlay seem like they are by people too lazy to write for people who are too lazy to read. I'm not saying that the author is lazy but it could definitely appear that way.

author
NightHawkInLight (author)Laral2015-05-14

I write scripts for my videos, plan shots, overdub, color correct and grade, many other things. It would be much easier to write. That's not what I do. I put work into my videos so that people will watch them, not bypass them for an article. But thanks for the passive aggressive accusations of laziness, that brightened my morning.

author
Laral (author)NightHawkInLight2015-05-14

Whoa! Down boy. If you read my comment you'd see I wasn't implicating YOU. I'm sorry that you took offense where none was intended. That said, I see far too many cases on Youtube where an instructional video is slapped together in a case where TEXT would have been far more informative, faster, and easier to follow. As for the video itself, the quality reflects your care in producing it. No argument there. BUT a text overlay would be very desirable for anyone, and especially for someone like UncleEd, who apparently has a hearing disorder.

Just for the record, I published a video-only Instructable myself:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Great-Coffee-with-an-Alternative-to-the-Aerop/


You'll note that I did add a text overlay to clarify each point of the process. I also took care to set up the shot and crop the final video using a primitive camera and freeware (Avisynth and Virtualdub).

author
schabanow (author)2015-05-14

Hint: RTV silicone solves into gas. You should make a kind of ... thin starch-jelly (?) from silicone and gas then just dunk phone case several times with intermediate drying cicles in order to gain the sum layer of silicone... I DIDN'T TRY THIS. ))

And what is it for? I mean to cover the cases with silicone? Does it really gain noise' insulation?

author

I don't understand the first part of your comment. Yes, the silicone provides noise isolation.

author

Sorry. I meant you may try to make liquid solution your silicone paste into gasoline (the flammable liquid stuff that propel your car). RTV dissolves into gasoline very quickly and easily. Then just dunk your ear phone case into liquid silicone solution. Then pull it out and let it dry to evaporate gasoline. Now you have got pretty thin and vulnerable layer of silicone covered your ear phone case. Then just iterate steps described above in order to get silicone layer thickness you want.

author
schabanow (author)schabanow2015-05-15

Be sure your plastic doesn't react with gasoline firstly!

author
schabanow (author)2015-05-15

If you will want to explore the gasoline / silicone solution you need firstly become sure your plastic doesn't react with gasoline.

author
JamesGannon (author)2015-05-14

Had seen this before with plastidip but nevr the ear plugs and silicone is much more a houselhod item for most of us! Ingenious innovation!

author

Thank you!

author
schabanow (author)2015-05-14

And please pay attention that these ultimate ear-buds may be pretty dangerous when you walk across the street for instance. Or drive a car... o_0

author

It's illegal where I live to wear earbuds of any kind while driving. I can't warn against everything that should be known by common sense.

author
schabanow (author)2015-05-14

Sorry I just red an answer for my question about silicone covering. I see... Hmmm... It's intriguing matter...

author
Laral (author)2015-05-14

A good idea using those earplugs. But have you tried this WITHOUT the silicone to compare before and after sound-deadening effectiveness? I also think using multiple layers of Plasti Dip would work just as well and would be a lot more attractive and professional looking. You could use black and no one could tell the difference.

A couple of 'Miss Manners' spelling corrections:

1. It says right on the tube in the video 'RTV Silicone'.

2. The word is Sound DAMPING, not dampening. We're reducing the sound, not drenching it in water. ;)

author
NightHawkInLight (author)Laral2015-05-14

Plasti-dip is a good idea, some others did suggest that on YouTube. I have tried both with and without the silicone, that's how I figured out it was needed in the first place many years ago when I made them many years back. Thanks for the corrections, I'll fix those.

author
tjacobs5 (author)2015-05-14

Great Idea! I'm gonna do that!

author
UncleEd (author)2015-05-14

I hope that in the future there will be some thought to accommodating those of us who have hearing impairment and would like to limit additional impairment. The audio in youtubes often doesn't make it to us. Without text, we miss out on a lot. (pardon the understatement.) My guess is there was an explanation how these ear buds do more than ordinary ear buds.

Ironic, I guess, given the topic of this instructable.

author
Battlespeed (author)UncleEd2015-05-14

UncleEd, the only explanation given is that a lot of the ambient noise that reaches the ears is actually conducted to the ear through the hard plastic shell, and that covering the shell with the silicone damps that conducted sound. The replacement of the rubber tip with the ear plug tip improves damping around the tip simply because it provides a better fit with the ear canal.

author
UncleEd (author)Battlespeed2015-05-14

Thank you. You may have something there. Would be interesting to have a sound booth to try these and some of the other types to see how they compare. I'm sure they'd be helpful for lawn mowing and in the shop.

author
Battlespeed (author)2015-05-13

Slight correction - that's RTV silicone, not ATV. RTV means "room-temperature vulcanizing" - i.e., the silicone turns rubbery at room temperature. It's commonly found in hardware stores plumbing departments, something else not explained in either instructable or video.

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Bio: I like turning boring things into awesome things! Usually on video.
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