With the right supplies, it's easy to make your own high-quality iPod or mp3 player dock. Using some scraps of circuit board, sample speakers, and wood that I had laying around the shop, I was able to craft a pair of decent sounding and neat looking speakers that even light up in the dark.
Unfortunately these speakers were crafted over the course of a year, and very little was documented. I have dismantled the speakers in an effort to demonstrate how they were put together. As always, this is not a finished project and any suggestions for ideas to improve this pair of speakers is welcome.
P.S: Please comment on the instructable, any suggestions to improve it, or improve the project are more than welcome! I will be submitting this to the Art of Sound contest, so look for me there!
Step 1: Safety First
When working with electronics, always be aware of four things: Power, Heat, Polarity, and Static.
Power: This project does not exceed 9v ever, but that can still be dangerous, especially if any wires puncture your skin.
Heat: Soldering irons reach extreme temperatures that can burn your skin very easily, be careful. Also, never leave the heat on a lead for an IC too long, it can burn out the IC and ruin your project.
Polarity: Capacitors can become little rockets if they are put into a circuit backwards (not to mention it can ruin your project.) Be mindful of which lead is the cathode and which lead is the anode.
Static: Though this should not be an issue, ground yourself when you walk up to your workbench. This prevents you from building up a static charge and sending thousands of volts through your poor little ICs and burning out their insides.
Remember, don't be stupid. If something feels wrong, put down your project, turn off the power to it, and walk away. Wear safety glasses and keep a fire-extinguisher nearby. You can never be too safe.
Step 2: Getting What You Need (Supplies)
I was fortunate enough to work as an intern in an electronics lab for two summers, which gave me access to many of the parts I needed. However, if you are not so lucky, there are some wonderful places to get parts for relatively cheap (be careful of shipping though!). Below is a list of electronics distributers that have many if not all of the parts that are needed for this instructable.
Also, a great source for LEDs:
And a wonderful source for IC datasheets:
I have broken this down into three sections: First, your electronics, or the true guts of the speakers. Next, the case for the speakers. Finally, the finishing touches, or what makes the speakers truly unique.
Electronics: (Figure 1)
2 2.1K Resistors
2 470uF Electrolytic Capacitors
2 4.7uF Electrolytic Capacitors
4 0.1uF Ceramic Capacitors
Bunches of scrap wire (from old computer power supply)
2 Speakers (free samples from PUI Audio)
2 10k Potentiometers
2 9V Batteries
Box: (Figure 2)
Wood (whatever you have lying around should work)
Plexiglass (I had some, this is not necessary)
Excess Copper circuit board
Finishing Touches: (Figure 3)
Gold Paint (Home Depot)
Wood Stain (Home Depot)
Of course, none of this can be put together without tools: (Figure 4)
Drill and Drill Bits
Good Luck and Be Safe!
Step 3: Electronics: Part One
Soldering the parts together is a very individual thing. You do it based on the way that you want to do it. One way to solder everything together here would be "dead-bug" style. This is where you solder all the components directly to each other as I have with no circuit-board. In this case, this worked out because as the diagram shows it is a simple circuit. Of course, you could also do this with a proto-board, or even an etched circuit board if you really wanted. Since the circuit is simple, I'll just leave a few pointers for this step and leave you to soldering the circuit on your own.
- Clamp the IC or IC socket (smarter to use a socket) in a hands-free device (Mr. Hands or something)
- Solder all of the ground connections on the chip together first.
- Next, solder all of the capacitors to the chip.
- Next, solder all of the resistors to the chip.
- Solder the potentiometer leads where they need to go.
- Solder the speaker leads to the capacitor and ground.
- Finally, Do not worry about attaching power leads, that will come in Part Three of electronics.
Step 4: Electronics: Part Two
Here is where I created the control panel for the speakers. This consisted of a switch and two potentiometers to individually control the left and right gain (volume). I only had to do it this way because I was too cheap to go out and buy a single potentiometer that had two separate resisting discs in it. Again, the way that you put together this control board is totally up to you.
I used a piece of spare copper to create a common ground. That way, rather than twisting a bunch of black wires together, I could just solder them to the copper panel. So, using your handy drill, make a couple of holes in the copper for the potentiometer shafts, switch, and stereo input line.
Next, firmly put the potentiometers in place and solder on wires and solder to ground according to the circuit diagram. Here is where you will want the stereo-headphone port or line to come in as well.
Solder the 9v battery clips with the positive side on the switch at this point as well. Put the black lead to ground (remember, you can just solder it to the front panel!) and then run a red lead out of the other side of the switch.
Now you have a completed front-control panel and we can hook this up to the amplification circuits.
Step 5: Electronics: Part Three
Here, we merge the amplification circuit, Part One, with the control panel, Part Two. Paying close attention to our Circuit diagram again, attach the leads from the potentiometer where they belong on each IC. Set the potentiometer levels at 0 (this should be all the way to the left) and clip the 9v batteries into their holders and switch the circuit on.
Plug it in to anything with a stereo output and test it out! One trouble I found with the circuit with my speakers is that I can easily over-drive them. In order to prevent this, I preset the potentiometers on the control panel and only control the volume using the source (in my case, an iPod).
Now it's time to build or salvage a nice case for your new iPod stereo.
Step 6: Box
This is one area where you can get truly creative. As shown in figure 1, I have an assortment of plastic, metal, and wooden boxes that could have been used for this project. However, I chose to build my own.
If you are not that good with wood-working (like me) I would suggest using a box you found that looks pretty cool. However, if you decide to do it the hard way, here's some tips.
- Especially for a speaker box, use 1/2 inch, dense wood. This will help create a sturdy box that will resonate nicely.
- Cut out the left and right side to your box in a single pass if you can. This will make your box more square.
- On that note, use a square!!! This is an excellent tool that everyone should have!
- Be consistent with your material, don't just use a bunch of scrap. Make all the wood the same thichness, that just makes it easier to work with.
- Use finishing nails and a nail-sink to put your box together, it looks a whole lot better.
Step 7: Customization
When you make your own speakers, you want to truly make them something that no-one else has. In this case, I had been looking at a lot of steak-punk instructables recently and decided to emulate those ideas.
I took the speakers off of the box, stained the box with a rag, and painted the speakers gold at the same time. This is also when I added the LEDs to the back. That was as simple as adding another positive line coming off the switch, through a resistor, into the LED and then grounding the LED.
Be creative when it comes to finishing up your project. I know that I'm thinking of redesigning these speakers yet again to include either more LEDs, or more speakers so that they produce a better bass sound.