Introduction: DIY Travel Speakers
Do you face a situation in your life that while travelling, camping or in outdoors you and your friends/relatives want to hear to some music which has to be loud? In such a situation you would plug in your earphones, raise the volume, just relax and listen to music. But what about others? Speakers can be a better and healthier option to listen together. But the problem comes when you have to carry those large, bulky speakers in your suitcase or backpack which should not be a good idea. They are expensive and need to be plugged to an external power supply which is not available everywhere. Portable speakers can be a better option but they are too expensive and some of them do not have that loud and clear sound. Why don't make your own portable- battery operated and solar powered speakers that has sound much louder and better quality than normal portable speakers? This instructable will guide you the same thing.
The project consists of two amplifier circuits each connected to an 8ohm, 1watt speakers. The amplifier circuit has LM386 IC which known for its less price and good sound. The speaker has an aux input which can be connected to any audio device (such as your iPod, mp3 player, tablet, phone or a DVD player). It also has a volume control feature for each speaker controlled using a potentiometer (or variable resistor) for each. The speakers are battery operated which can last for greater than one day for an 8v, 1.0ah battery pack. Since, the power consumed by the project is less, it can also be powered using a solar panel in bright sunlight (see step 18). The sound produced by the speaker is louder and clearer even than what you expect! It can also be used to watch movies with your friends using a phone or tablet attached to it and kept on a clamp as the speaker of your phone or tablet is not capable to produce a loud sound (see step 19). The materials used to make it are simple like cardboard, tape, paints etc. and no power tools are required to make it which makes it a good weekend project and to get started with electronics.
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Here is a video of the project in action:
Some features of this portable speaker:
- Has a loud sound. If you tune the pots at maximum volume, the sound will fill up your entire house.
- Has a clear sound unlike some speakers that have that 'hum' or shrillness in voice which is very unpleasant to hear when they are tuned to full volume.
- Is cheap and easy to make. The cost of the project is $4-5 as it uses simple materials like cardboard, paints, tape etc. to make it. The entire enclosure of the project is made using cardboard which is easy to assemble.
- Is battery operated (and also solar operated) which makes is portable. You need not necessarily plug it to an external power supply.
- Can easily fit in your suitcase or backpack. The speaker and enclosure are small in size and lightweight as not heavy components are added inside. Both the speakers are not separated and connected to each other with cables which makes it easy to handle and accommodate in your suitcase.
- Can be used to hear music, watch movies and even play games.
- Has an aux input jack which makes it connecting to audio devices easily using an aux cable.
- Is multi-purpose. Use it in your house, outdoors, while travelling, camping, in parties etc.
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Step 1: Parts and Tools
The following parts and tools are required to make this project. The total cost of the project was around $5 or 300 INR. Most of them can be obtained from your local hobby stores or over online stores.
- 2x 8ohm 1watt speakers
- 2x LM386 audio amplifier ics
- 2x 8 pin IC sockets
- 2x 10K Potentiomemters
- 4x 220uf electrolytic capacitors
- 4x 10ohm resistors
- 3x 1K resistors
- 1x Battery pack (to power your project)
- 1x Solar panel (optional)
- 1x LED
- 1x Male adapter jack
- 1x Female adapter jack
- 1x Toggle switch
- 1x 3.5mm audio jack
- 1x Aux cable
- Thin wire
- Rainbow cable
- White paper
- Paper adhesive
- Paper tape
- Paper cutter
- Double sided tape
- Soldering iron
- Soldering wire
- Hot glue gun w/glue sticks
- Wire cutter/stripper
- Fume extractor
Step 2: Mark and Cut Cardboard Pieces
The first step is to cut the cardboard pieces that will make up the enclosure for the project. For this cut a total of six pieces measuring according to the text below. You can use cardboard from old boxes lying around your house.
You can vary the size of pieces according to your requirements to make it larger or smaller. The size largely depends on the size of speaker you have so check all the measurements before cutting your cardboard.
- 2x pieces measuring 8.5x20 cm
- 2x pieces measuring 9x20 cm
- 2x pieces measuring 9x8.5cm
Step 3: Make Hole for the Speakers
The next step is to make holes for both the speakers. Measure the diameter of the speakers and make two holes at equal distances having a diameter little less the speakers so that they can easily pass through them.
The size of the enclosure and the hole you make completely depends on the size of your speakers so make sure you take measurements according to your materials.
Step 4: Stick the Pieces Together
Stick the cardboard pieces together using paper adhesive to form an enclosure. Do not stick the back cover now as it has to made removable later so that any modifications in the project can be easily done or connections can be easily fixed.
Step 5: Install the Speakers
Mount both the speakers to the holes that were made earlier using some adhesive. Make sure that whole of the speaker remains exposed outside the enclosure.
You can also use hot glue or any strong adhesive to stick them but it would be a little difficult to remove them if you need them for other projects later. Do not add any kind of adhesive to the front tissue part of the speaker as it can get damaged leading to speaker not working.
Step 6: Cover the Enclosure
For making the job of painting the box later a little easy, it is necessary to cover the enclosure with white paper. This is optional and you can skip it if you want to use spray paint.
Take some white papers and cut some pieces measuring the same as the cardboard pieces that were cut earlier. You can skip covering the base as it will remain unnoticed. Stick all the papers to the enclosure using paper adhesive.
Step 7: Prototype the Amplifier Circuit on Breadboard
Now here we start with all the electronics stuff. Since the output of any audio device is not enough that it can drive a speaker loudly which can spread the sound throughout your room. The output signals are just enough to power a speaker that can produce a sound equivalent to that of an earphone. But to produce a loud sound, you need a device connected to your speaker called an 'amplifier.' As the name tells, it amplifies or strengthens audio signals so that they become powerful enough to drive a speaker loudly. You may have seen big amplifiers used to power big speakers in parties or your audio system. But there are amplifiers in small portable speakers as well like this one.
The amplifiers circuit here consists of an LM386 used to make small and cheap amplifiers with some external components attached to it. This circuit was the best one in dozens of LM386 circuits that I found throughout the web. The role of external components here is to filter the audio signals and remove any harshness or hum. They also help the chip to be used in a better way. Since there are two speakers used in the project, you need to make two separate such circuits, one for each of the speakers.
The reason why you should need to prototype the circuit before soldering it is to check whether the circuit works properly, to correct any errors or to make any modifications. Connect everything according to the breadboard layout given above. Power it using a 9v battery and connect the audio jack to your cellphone or any other audio device. On playing a music, you will hear a loud sound coming out of the speaker.
Step 8: Solder the Amplifier Circuit on Perfboard
After prototyping your circuit, move on to soldering it. The best way to do it is to use a perfboard however you can also you a copper stripboard or an etched pcb.
Use an IC socket instead of directly soldering the IC to prevent it from overheating. Refer to the schematic above for soldering the circuit.
Step 9: Connect the Speakers to the Circuit
Connect the speakers to the amplifier circuit using some rainbow cable. Refer to the schematic above for connecting it. Make sure that you connect them with the right polarity.
Step 10: Install and Connect the Adapter Jack
An adapter jack is added here to power the speaker easily with any type of power supply not being limited to only a battery.
First make a hole for the jack and stick it in place using hot glue. Connect the negative terminal to the circuit's gnd. Let the positive terminal be remained unconnected as it will be connected to the switch later.
Step 11: Install and Connect the Toggle Switch
For easily switching the speaker on and off without the need of removing the battery again and again, I added a toggle switch that would help in switching the speaker off easily.
For connecting it, first make a hole for the switch and stick it using hot glue. Then connect the first pin of it to the positive of adapter jack and second pin to positive of the amplifier circuit. Refer to the schematic above if didn't understand it.
Step 12: Install and Connect the Potentiometers
Two potentiometers are added here one for each of the speakers to select the right volume to meet your needs. Sometimes you wish to hear the sound loud while sometimes you want it to be quiet.
First make two holes for both the pots. Then fix them in place by tightening them with nuts. Connect them according to the text below or the schematic. Finally add a knob to both of them.
- Pin 1 ---- unconnected for now (will be connected later)
- Pin 2 ---- pin 3 of IC1
- Pin 3 ---- gnd
- Pin 1 ---- unconnected
- Pin 2 ---- pin 3 of IC2
- Pin 3 ---- gnd
Step 13: Install and Connect the Earphone Jack (Aux Input)
That's the most important thing in the whole project. For taking audio input through your iPod, cellphone or mp3 player, there has to be a audio input jack known as through which you can easily connect an aux cable (one end to the speaker and one end to an output device or an audio device).
For connecting it, first identify all the pins which is important for the speaker to work properly. Refer to text below or the schematic for connections.
- Left (tip) ---- pin 1 of pot 1
- Right (ring) ---- pin 1 of pot 2
- Common (sleeve) ---- gnd
Step 14: Connect the Power Indicator LED
What if you forgot to turn off your speakers and they were left on overnight? The circuit would still consume current even if an audio device is not connected and your battery would be drained out. To prevent such a thing, just add an LED that would indicate if the device is on or off so you won't easily forget to leave it on.
First make a rectangular hole in the box then stick a piece of white paper over it. Connect the positive terminal of led to positive of the circuit and negative terminal to negative of circuit with a 1K resistor. Adjust the led in such a way and stick it to the base so that the light falls on the white paper and it glows when the led is switched on. You can just connect the led directly to the box without the paper if you want.
Step 15: Add the Back Cover
After completing all the electronics stuff, finally add the back cover to the box. Do not stick it or permanently fix it as you will need to remove it sometime to fix any connections or make any modifications.
I used two metal pieces to connect them by sliding the piece of cardboard over the metal piece which I got from one of the kits.
Step 16: Paint It!
Paint the enclosure using spray paint or acrylic paints. Make sure you do not paint over the speakers and other parts. You can cover them temporarily using some paper tape while painting. The choice of colors and pattern of painting completely depends upon you.
I painted the enclosure using red color with a white stripe in between.
Step 17: Powering and Using the Speaker
For powering the speakers, you can use any power supply which can be adapter, battery or even solar panel. The thing to power it is a battery pack which makes it portable. The battery also lasts for several hours as there is no high power consuming part in this project.
I used an 8v 1.0ah rechargeable battery pack that I made with two 4v 1.0ah batteries connected in series. You can use any type of battery from 9v to li-ion and ni-mh to alkaline. Connect all your batteries and power supplies to a male adapter jack so that it can be connected to your speakers easily.
For using the speakers, first connect one end of your aux cable to your speaker and other end to any audio output. On playing a music and switching your speakers on, you will hear an incredibly loud and clear voice that will be beyond your expectations. Adjust both the pots to select the correct volume.
Step 18: Solar Powering the Speakers (Optional)
As mentioned in the last step, the speakers can be easily made solar powered as they are not much power consuming. This is an optional step and is not necessary to make it work. Only thing to keep in mind is that the supply voltage of your solar panel should be greater than 5 volts.
For connecting your solar panel, connect the positive terminal to the red wire on adapter jack and negative terminal to black wire of adapter jack.
Step 19: Add a DIY Phone Stand (Optional)
To watch movies with your speakers connected, it can be sometimes painful to hold your phone for a long time. In this case, making your own cardboard phone stand fixed on top of the speakers can be quite handy. You can even use a ready-made clamp if you already have it however this step is optional.
Follow the images above to make your own cardboard phone stand. Fix it on top of the speaker using some double sided tap or hot glue. Check if your phone stands properly on it vertically as well as horizontally. You can even make a clamp for your tablet but it would not fit on top of your speaker.
Step 20: You're Done!
Finally this brings this instructable to an end. Enjoy the sound of your own do it yourself speakers while traveling or camping. Use it to watch movies on your laptop or your mobile at night with high quality and loud sound.
If you have any doubt related to this instructable or found an error, feel free to comment or ask a question. Do post your pictures if you've made one yourself or did some modifications.
Please vote for me in all the contests if you like this instructable.
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