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.



    • Tape Contest

      Tape Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure

    42 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    ummm, i did the exact same thing in slideshow format a while ago, I love your work, and subscribe, but a little credit would be nice

    6 replies
    fungus amungusAztof

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I hadn't seen yours before. Besides, I did give credit to the original place I saw this idea in the intro. That one was posted online several months before yours.

    Aztoffungus amungus

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I originally got my idea from a short article in one of the (fairly) recent issues of Make magazine, which (and i don't mean to troll here, but) i believe precedes the website where you got your inspiration for these speakers.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I'm wondering if anyone has given credit to the guy/gal who first put their cupped hands to their mouth to amplify sound?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    i've been doing this for at least 7 years with Styrofoam, paper, and plastic disposable cups.  when ever friends came over and we wanted to listen to music, we did this.  i only had a CD player so this made it possible for more than 2 people to use it at once (not very well mind you but better than nothing.
    in fact one of my friends did this with his "hit clips" ( for those that dont know what they are)  

    the idea is not very original and its more of a "poor mans" solution if any thing else.  saying this is your idea is like saying you invented how to shoot a rubber band off your finger.

    hopefully this does not come off as rude or mean.  i'm just trying to clarify that credit for this is imposable to give and MAKE did not come up with the idea.

    fungus amungusAztof

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    And the idea was probably done before that MAKE article. Regardless, I cite my inspiration and have no concern with any other prior art since none of it directly affected this.

    Not sure why it matters since the whole point of this Instructable is that there's no point to doing it. Who cares who came up with the bad idea first?

     Honestly, I bet people have come up with this idea long before the Make magazine did. It's not that complicated to think of. In fact, I almost made this from a completely original idea a couple months back.

    And as long as you cited the place you got it from, you're fine.

    spark master

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Oh lest I fergit, this a nice and simple project, and it sounds reasonable. I may make a pair out of old headphones.

    By putting the phones at back of cup (not dropping in), you get more sound and some amplification. A Bose Wave Radio and tuba have bent gradually enlarged sound tubes (pipe organs have long unbent ones), this allows for louder and directed sound.

    There is a very nice explanation for it and I can't remember it, (too far back to High School)


    spark master

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi All,

    I ask this question here as there may be sound centered people who remember this guy,(me thinks it was a guy).

    There was a web site a number of years ago where a gent recorded vibrating telephone poles/wires. He gave instructions on How to build the listening pick up, he was trying to get the sounds of "singing" telephone poles from across the world.

    Does anyone remember him/her, and have the url to his old site?

    Then we may be able to use WayBack Machine to find it!

    Please cross post this request across the web so it can be found, send an email or post it here.

    I think it was a hoot, and would like to try it


    Have a great day,
    ( don't get caught)



    8 years ago on Introduction

    This was an easy to follow tutorial. Kudos to anyone who actually came up with the idea


    It allows some more room in the cup for the sound waves to bounce off of before it leaves the cup, I believe.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    Why not use a cheap pair of old school headphones?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea, stupid implementation, this is a mono speaker, stick both ear plugs in so that you don't miss half the song. Or, make 2, and have a stereo setup.

    2 replies

    Um, thanks? It's an OK idea, but the point of the whole Instructable was to test it out and see if it was worth doing. The results are that it isn't. Why waste time making two bad speakers?

    Mount it near your bed so you can go to sleep without waking up with a pair of mangled earbugs in the morning. Or you could just buy a dock!