Speaker Box to Amplify Tablet Sound & Vibrations

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About: At Drake Music we are leaders in music, disability and technology. We are innovators, educators, curators and advocates. We believe everyone has the right to express themselves creatively through music. We ...

Have you ever stuck your phone in a mug to make the sound louder? This simple DIY project works on the same basic principle to amplify sound from an iPad using a small capsule speaker, with a few added extras thrown in.

This fun piece of kit is called the "Darch Resonator" in honour of its creator, Dave Darch. It is a simple hack to make a basic speaker box, to mount and hold a small capsule speaker to use with an iPad to amplify sound. This enhances the iPad as an accessible musical instrument.

Using stuff you can probably find around the house you can:

  • Amplify sound from a small iPad speaker
  • Feel vibrations from the sound - great for if you're playing music on your iPad in a group, or for someone who is hard of hearing
  • Have a secure hands-free way to hold a speaker & iPad at the same time

How we use it

Dave realised that in noisy classrooms or performances, the small speakers we use to play sounds from iPads weren't really cutting it. They needed a boost and some extra amplification. Also, in that busy rehearsal space full of wires, people and instruments, it can be awkward to find a position for the speaker that’s safe and secure. The Darch Resonator takes care of all of that.

Plus, mounting the speaker in the Darch Resonator has a massive added bonus... it lets some sound vibrations be physically felt through the folder. This means it’s easier to tell when you’re making sound in a noisy performance and it is a fun sensory experience too. We use it a lot in our workshops with young people and it helps them to connect with the iPad as an instrument and to understand which of the sounds they are creating through this extra sensory feedback.

How hard is it?

Not hard at all! This is a beginner level project, with no special skills needed and not too much technical equipment to get hold of. We reckon it will take between 20 - 40 mins once you've gathered your materials, depending on how confident you are at making stuff. This could also be a fun thing to make with kids.

Off we go!

Step 1: Materials

Here's everything you need to gather to make & use your very own Darch Resonator:

  • Lever arch file / ring binder (if you buy one, around £5, we used a spare one, kindly donated)
  • iPad
  • X-Mini 2 capsule speaker(£12.99)
  • Compass (£1.50)
  • Pencil
  • Screwdriver - Cross-head
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • 2 80cm pieces of 10ml Velcro 1 wrap - double-sided to secure to itself (around £7 for 2m or £18.50 for a 25m roll)
  • 18cm x 30cm piece of non-slip matting (£1.65 for 1.2m)

(Prices checked online, April 2019)

Optional extras

As the old saying goes, there's more than one way to cut a hole... these optional extras are some of the other things you can use to make this speaker box. If you don't have any of these, don't worry... just use the stuff above.

  • Cutting mat
  • Stanley knife
  • Drill
  • Drill bit (any size)
  • 60mm hole saw drill bit
  • Splitter (which you can use to attach more than one speaker)
  • Glue
  • Elastic

Step 2: Mark Out Your Hole

We are going to draw out where we will place the hole on the binder. This is the bit where it is good to be a bit precise as the measurements below will give you the correct placement for the speaker to be secure and still to leave room for the iPad to be added later.

BASIC INSTRUCTIONS:

Draw a 60mm circle on your binder, making sure the centre is 5.5cm in from the right-hand side and 5cm from the top. Lightly score the circle.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  • Make a mark for the centre of your circle, measuring in 5.5cm from the right-hand side and 5cm from the top.
  • Use your ruler to set your compass at 30mm.
  • Put the compass needle on the centre mark and draw a circle, it should measure 60mm across.
  • When it is drawn, use the compass in reverse, with the pencil in the centre, and score all around the using the sharp needle to break the paper cover of the folder.

NOTE: We've gone for a very snug fit as this gives the best vibration and is most secure, however this means it is more difficult to remove the speaker later and your Darch Resonator might get a little damaged in the process. You could go for a slightly wider hole, but this runs the risk of the speaker not fitting tightly enough.

Step 3: Cut the Hole

This is the most fiddly part, but it's still not too tricky. Please always work safely!

BASIC INSTRUCTIONS:

Cut out the 60mm circle at the position you've marked using scissors, a craft knife or hole saw.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  • Start cutting out your circle by using the screwdriver to make a hole at the centre point. We laid the folder flat on a cutting mat to begin with, then when the hole was nearly made we lifted it off the mat to make the final push through.
    Note: You could also start with a drill instead of a screwdriver. If you have a 60mm hole saw you can just use that for this whole section, though you won't have the prongs to hold in the speaker if you do.
  • Using your scissors, cut in a straight line from the centre hole to the edge of your circle - don't cut past it!
  • Make 7 more line cuts to the edge of your circle, in a star shape (see picture).
    Note: If you're confident with a stanley knife then you can cut the star shape using that. Cut from the outside edge of the circle to the centre, using a metal ruler as your guide.
  • Fold the prongs of the star down, they will hold your speaker in place inside the folder. This is where scoring the circle comes in handy.

Tips:

- Cut carefully to make sure the hole is the right size.

- Hole too small? Cut a little further (a mm on each side) and bend the flaps down more.

Step 4: Fix the Speaker in Place

Here you'll see the Darch Resonator really taking shape!

STEP-BY-STEP

  • Twist the speaker to open it out to it's fullest
  • Insert it sideways into the hole with a firm push - see the first image.
  • Make sure the lead is on top - poke it back through if it is underneath

Be careful not to push too hard and make the speaker fall out of the other side. It might feel like the hole is too small, but if it measures 60mm then that is correct. You want a snug fit, so that the speaker is secure and gives you a good connection to feel the vibrations.

Step 5: Add Non-slip Matting

  • Lay your non-slip matting on the top of the folder. It should measure 18cm x 30cm. This will hold your iPad in place.
  • Make sure your lead is out on top of the folder, as in the image.

Note: You can glue this into position for extra security or to make sure you don't lose it. We used superglue to do this, but we think PVA would probably work just as well too.

Step 6: Strap in the IPad

Last step is to add the iPad itself so you can start to make music and hear and feel your sounds.

  • Take your 2 pieces of velcro. These will be straps which will hold your iPad securely in place. You should have 2 which measure 80cm.
    Note: If you don't have velcro to hand you could also use elastic. This will need to be shorter, we estimate around 40-45cm to make it tighter, then the two ends would need to be sewn together.
  • Place the iPad onto the non-slip matting flush with the left-hand side of the folder, about 2cm up from the bottom.
  • Make sure the end where you will plug the wire in is closest to the speaker.
  • Secure it snugly in place with your two pieces of velcro. Put them at the edges of the iPad to make sure they don't cover the screen.
  • Connect the iPad to the speaker.

Now you're ready to start making some sounds and feeling the vibrations!

Step 7: More Info

You can check out the incredible work of Dave Darch who invented this instrument here: https://www.alittlelearning.org/

And if you're interested in finding out more about Drake Music's R&D program, developing accessible musical instruments for disabled musicians, you can go to our website here:

https://www.drakemusic.org/technology/

Feel free to get in touch if you'd like any more information!

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