Introduction: Coffee Cup IPhone Speaker

About: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.
This speaker set is made from a regular pair of earbuds and a paper coffee cup. This is inspired by these cup speakers that made some noise in late 2008. I always thought that they were a cool design and playful and wanted to try it out to see if it was effective.

To be fair, the original creator admitted it wouldn't be when he said, "The increase in volume, of coarse, is radiculous, but hey, you get stylish iPod accessory out of nothing!"

Still, I figured why not try it out and just see hear what happens. I have an old pair of earbuds that I can try it out with and a couple coffee cups that were just hanging out on my desk waiting to get recycled anyway.

Step 1: Cut a Hole

This step is easy enough.
  1. Draw a dot in the center of the bottom of the cup
  2. Use that as a guide for placing your earbud against it
  3. Trace the shape of the earbud
  4. Cut out a slightly smaller shape

Step 2: Stick the Earbud In

Shove the earbud in from the back and keep it in place with a couple pieces of duct tape or, as pictured, gorilla tape.

Step 3: Add a Couple Toothpicks for Legs

The speakers needed to be pointed up so I attached two halves of a toothpick to the bottom with more tape. Not too sturdy, but enough to try it out.

Step 4: Test!

Thanks to randofo, I was able to use a decibel meter to check the improvements in volume.

The first test I did was to put the meter right at the mouth of the cup. I compared this reading with a measurement of the volume coming from the other earbud at the same distance. The height of the cup was about 5" so I measured the earbud from 5" away as well.

The difference? Huge! The cup speaker was about 15 decibels louder than the naked earbud. Pretty impressive, right?

Well, no, not really. That would be assuming that your ear is right up in the cup and if you're doing that you might as well just be wearing them.

So time for more testing...

Step 5: More Tests!

Next I moved the meter to 11" and 18" away from the earbuds to see how effective it would be if I was sitting near it.

The results here were much more down to earth. At 11", the improvement with the cup was about 3 decibels for the cup. At 18" it dropped to about a 2 decibel improvement.

Basically, the sound was a little more focused and louder if you sit right in front of the cup. It's a bit of work for little volume gain, but it does look funny and pseudo-effective and to be honest that's pretty cool.

And yet... none of this really matters because, if you haven't guessed by now, the sound is crap. Pushing the earbuds to full volume leads to distortion even when you're close to them. Adding some air between you and the earbuds makes it sound even worse. For now, I'll be sticking to my current desk speakers.
Coffee Cup Challenge

Participated in the
Coffee Cup Challenge