Introduction: DIY High Performance Noise Isolating Headphones

About: Hello, my name is Eddie. I'm one of those people that can't leave well enough alone so I'll inevitably take things apart and modify them to suit my needs. As evidenced from my Instructables, I've been into …

OK, you can spend $250 on a pair of noise cancelling headphones with marginal performance or make this super-effective pair of custom noise isolating cans for much, much less!

Step 1: Parts:

  • First you'll need a pair of protective ear muffs. There are several types available with various degrees of noise isolation. 3M/Peltor make some good ones for a reasonable price.
  • You'll also need a pair of 40 mm headphone drivers. You can harvest them from an old/broken pair of headphones or buy them online. I got a matched pair new from eBay for about $25, they are great and rival anything from Beatz.
  • A headphone cord, also salvaged from a cheap pair of cans.
  • Driver adapter. I modeled this in SolidWorks and printed it on a 3D printer but it is not necessary.
  • An old t-shirt

Step 2: Preparation

Although you don't have to separate the cups from the headband, it is easier if you do.

Drill a hole for the headphone wire. Make it as small as possible, seal it later with hot glue or silicone.

Now, before you tell me that don't know how to use 3D modeling software of have access to a 3D printer, you don't really need one. However, if you have access to a 3D printer, you can use my STL file if you'd like.

Step 3: Driver Assembly

Thread the cable through the hole and make a knot in it so that it won't pull out accidentally. Don't make it so tight that you damage the cable.

Thread the cable through printed adapter and solder the terminals.

Install the adapter assembly and take up the slack in the cable

The adapter is a force fit but you can also put some glue on the tabs. The ear pad will also help keep it in place.

Step 4: Final Touches

  • Cut out a piece of an old t-shirt and use it as a protective screen for your driver.
  • Snap in the ear cushion
  • Admire your work and enjoy!

Step 5: Demonstration Video

Plug in your sound source and put on your favorite tune. You'll be surprised by quality of the sound and level of noise isolation.

And you'll smile all the way to the bank!

So, what is the difference between noise cancellation and noise isolation?

Noise cancellation is usually electronic active circuitry that "cancels" outside noise by pumping an inverse of the ambient noise back into the headphones. Great when it works, but usually hit and miss.

Noise isolation is another name for blocking out as much of the outside noise as possible through passive means, usually with ear plugs or in this case insulated ear cups.