Introduction: Tin Can Speaker

Picture of Tin Can Speaker

The Problem: I have a Creative Zen Microphoto. It's great. One problem - being that I can't share my music.

The Solution: A pair of portable speakers. I could just buy them, but I really don't want to shell out upwards of £30 for a decent set which need 400 AAA batteries and have a 20 minutes battery life. So it's going to be a homebuild, using as far as possible stuff that I already have. Because I don't have a soldering iron, it's a no-solder job.

Step 1: The Start - My Donor Speakers

Picture of The Start - My Donor Speakers

I had a pair of old Creative (match my Zen!) computer speakers lying around gathering dust. I decided to use these to give the sound to my vision.

Using a screwdriver, I took the casing to bits. Obviously, all speakers are different, but mine had three screws holding the driver to the casing.
***Note: At first I was planning to use the right hand speaker. This needs mains, but has volume, bass, treble and mute knobs, as well as an amp. Unfortunately, the amp was on a big, wide PCB. After a fair while considering if I could cut it in half, I gave up on this, and just used the left. This means it is quiter, and less cool, but now passive.***
Taking off the screws released the meaty driver.

Step 2: Getting Teh Driver Out of Teh Boxx

Picture of Getting Teh Driver Out of Teh Boxx

The clever people at Creative had passed the cord through a small hole in the case, then soldered it on. This meant that I had to cut it off the driver, then reattach it.
This was made harder by the fact that I don't have a soldering iron. Undeterred, I set off to find a new case.

Step 3: Finding a Case

Picture of Finding a Case

This step required some serious thought. I needed a cool casing that was smaller and neater than the original body to make it worthwhile. I thought though many things... Altoids... pencil cases and the like. Then I came up with a tin can.
Seized by trepidation, I ran and found one (clean, no less!) in the bin. As if God-sent, the top is almost exactly the same diameter as the driver. Perfect. The shiny metal looks good and is strong, though as some point I may well paint it.
Using a brawdawl, I poked a hole near the bottom. The wire passed through this, and to prevent any jerking (stop giggling at the back) I tied a knot on the inside, then one on the outside to cover my overenthusiastic twiddling. As no weight will be put on the wires, I just stuck them through the holes on the driver terminals, and wrapped them back round themselves. A quick test proved this made no difference on the sound quality.
Out of its natural housing, the driver was tinny and weak. Put inside the tin with a reasonable fit, it instantly sounded better, with good, powerful bass.

Step 4: The Final Step - Attaching the Driver.

Picture of The Final Step - Attaching the Driver.

Once more, luck was on my side. The tabs which previously held the driver to the box could be bent over, and then used with the original screws to secure it on the tin.

Step 5: Results

Picture of Results

Considering that it cost me nothing, the sound is very good. It's just a passive speaker, but it is pretty darn loud on full volume without too much distortion.
I hope that you have fun building it, and that somewhere along the line someone will work out how to easily cut a PCB in half, and work out the best material for a grille (still a major flaw in my design).
Thanks for reading. Comments and critiques welcome.


Da Nugesta (author)2009-09-08

Great instructable!

tom_bom (author)2009-09-04

for a grile, you could use fly door screening, cut into a circle and then cut triangles out around it. pull out the speaker, pull it tight over it and hold it in place behind it with a rubber band. then replace the speaker. :)

mattyuke (author)2009-05-04

needs and amp in there somewhere

ow im 2 gd 4 u (author)2007-12-11

hey, I made 1 of these this morning because i was bored. only problem is that it is insanely quiet. any idea how to fix it? because i have to hold it right to my ear to even hear it.

cdizzle (author)ow im 2 gd 4 u2009-02-09

You can also add a hole to make it a tad louder Because the sound travels from both ends of the speaker not just the front

think you need an external power supply

Are you using both channels from the headphone jack, or just one? Using both will double the volume, then with your ipod/zen/zune/other mp3 at full volume it shouldn't be too bad. Also if you use too big a speaker with no amp it will be really quiet.

knoxarama (author)2009-02-01

you know the can isn't made of tin right?

benhudson (author)knoxarama2009-02-05

Quite right :) It's steel. But tin can is the idiom for all cans in the UK.

kaotikorps13 (author)2008-02-02

This is really fun. It works and looks great with tin drink cans like ice tea and soda's as well!! Also cool to do with cardboard tubing

ive seen it done with coffee cups

sadunpererarules (author)2008-12-16

im gonna put a speaker on either end. what about the power supply?

Henell (author)2008-06-12

You need a amplifier to make it more loud, and then you have to carry a battery with you as well. You can use the amplifier from you computer-stereos and run it with a 9v battery.

man-p (author)Henell2008-11-18

9v's have low milliamp hours

emattrose (author)2008-09-21

Since you're only using one speaker can you only play half of the stereo output? Or does it work to splice the two wires together and get all of the sound? Sorry, I don't know much about speakers.

fentanyl3 (author)emattrose2008-10-27

Yes, but remember that two sine waves combined will either add to or take away from each other. In other words you won't get a stereo effects, but you won't lose sound in the case of songs that play some of the sounds on one side, and the others on the other side, unless they are out of phase they will somewhat cancel each other

macrophage (author)emattrose2008-10-11


bustedit (author)2008-09-15

that would be hot. take an entire case of 12 cans, shallow cardboard box and all, and have 12 mini speakers in one box. make a pair, and it would look sick, but probably not be cheap anymore!

chinnerz (author)2008-08-02

I recommend you make something called a "headphone amp" it will boost the sound levels without drinking all of your players juice. although all small amps will do. another one is called "the champ, 50w amp" that would be best for this project.

qwerty90210 (author)2007-07-05

i made practically the same thing but with 2 dr. pepper (my fav) cans and i put that wire mesh on top

Siebe (author)qwerty902102008-06-29

WOW qwerty i like your idea! i think im gonna do it with the energy drink with a lion on the front xD Thanks

Derin (author)2008-06-24


soundblaster combined with a zen at full volume=ahhhh my ears

chevyboy666 (author)2008-06-09

i made mine twice and spliced it into one headphone plug little bit of scotch tape on the wires and a good little kit to play for me and a couple friends pics soon

hesperaux (author)2008-05-10

The tube thing with no discernible purpose is actually to increase the bass reflex effect. Putting tube or cone-shaped holes in speaker enclosures increases the BFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF BFFFFFFFFFFFFF and gets rid of the BMM BMM coolness. Some people thought that BFFFFFFF BFFFF sounded better... O_o is meant to add echo, but I would wager that Creative did almost no audio engineering on that hole. Just a thought.

theatre_tech_guru (author)2008-02-14

that hole also makes sure that when your playing music the speaker does not blow out

mad4tunes (author)2007-12-29

An excellent plan, and I will be building several of these for the grandkids. For a grille, I plan to pick up a piece of cheesecloth and hair scrunchies to hold the cheesecloth in place.

jalinx (author)2007-11-01

If you smash'em a little bit you can modify the angle and will give them a funny twist

jinventive (author)2007-10-24

BTW that `odd funnel thingy with no discernable purpose` does actually have a purpose. It is called a port and when the speaker is playing low bass notes air is forced in and out of the enclosure creating a better bass response from a budget, mid-range speaker.

benhudson (author)jinventive2007-10-25

Thank you :) I shall modify it soon.

Yerboogieman (author)2007-10-14

(if you had a smaller amp) what i would do is put the amp and both speakers at both ends put a bunch of fiberglass insulation in there, and call it a ghetto bazooka tube, lmao.

Punkguyta (author)2007-06-08

You would have had more luck wireing the speakers as they were to a battery pack. Also, I just bought a nice set of speakers from walmart for your "ipod", stereo drivers, cost me $20, takes only 4 not 400 AA batteries and I use it all the time and the batteries are fine, not to mention it's loud. Just invest your money in something like that then ruining a pair of computer speakers.

CaffeineHouse (author)Punkguyta2007-08-02

you mean those white ones that fold-out? those have the worst sound quality I've ever heard.. i would actually rather rip apart some computer speakers.

he's right, those are very tinny if i bought one i'd put a capacitor in fast

Punkguyta (author)CaffeineHouse2007-08-02

You musta got a dud, they don't beat a home stereo, but hell they're better than sticking ear buds in your "ear". -Punk

benhudson (author)Punkguyta2007-06-10

Amplifier is coming, there would have been one, but the PCB wouldn't fit. Anyone with an ounce of sense could tell I was being sarcastic about the 400 batteries. If you read the other comments I made, you could have realised that I took steps specifically so that if I wanted to, I could disassemble the whole thing and put it back together.

Punkguyta (author)benhudson2007-06-10

Yes I paid attention, it's just a speaker can, so it can't be all that hard to get apart eh? Maybe you could build a diy amp, I've seen a 5-10 watt diy amp on a pcb as small as like 1"x1.5" or something like that, fairly small for such power and it was like around $15.

benhudson (author)Punkguyta2007-06-14

I've seen with hindsight that I seemed quite hostile before, so I'm sorry for that :-) I was planning to use the one with the computer speakers, but it was huge, so I'm probably gonna get an Lm386N, which is really small, and only uses a 9v. 20dB gain by default which is good, can go up to 200 with different resistors.

Punkguyta (author)benhudson2007-06-14

Not bad, that should do the trick.

acaz93 (author)2007-06-06

Hi there , This Is Great For me ! Bu It Need A LittleMore Amplification , I Recommend on Adding A Lm386 Circuit , I'm Sure Tha You Will Be PLeased With The Rsult , Thanks a lot cheers

benhudson (author)acaz932007-06-07

It does. I'll check it out :) Thanks

Taciturn_Shade (author)2007-06-06

nice instructable, maybe you could have used the grill from the original case. sand all the white paint off to keep the metal look, wont be shiny but will offer some protection.

benhudson (author)Taciturn_Shade2007-06-07

I did think about that, but decided not to just in case I later change my mind and decide I want them back as they were before. I'll see how it goes though :)

TheCheese9921 (author)2007-06-06

OMFG, I have those exact same speaker, lol

benhudson (author)2007-06-06

Hey everyone. Hope you enjoy this Instructable (my first).

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