How to build your own headphones

Building your own headphones from scratch can be quite difficult to get into when you have no idea of where to start. We’ve compiled a list of items your would need and considerations of how they would change the final sound of your headphones. It’s a rewarding experience and you can tailor it to your own tastes.

Here is what you’ll need:
• Drivers (preferably our Nhoord Red ;)
• Cups
• Earpads
• Cable
• Headband

Tools:
A Soldering Iron & Good Solder
Electrical Tape
2 x Cable Ties
Possibly Sandpaper

 

 

Cups
Cups come in many shapes and sizes and are the second most important component of your headphones. Some of the most popular cup shapes are Grado RS and GS clones. These designs gained popularity when Grado modders started replacing their plastic SR series cups with home made wooden cups.There are alternative shapes that are unique to some cup makers. The type of wood (http://www.head-fi.org/t/686212/the-great-grado-experiment-4-tonewoods-tested-more-to-come) used will also influence the sound of the cup, so it’s important that the cups are at least made from a tone wood. Metal cups can also be used. They are usually components in two part constructions with a wooden sleeve that holds the driver.

Here is a list of cup makers:
Wabi Sabi Headphones
Yew Woodworks
Turbulent Labs
Rholupat

 

 

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Earpads
Drivers and cups create the basis of your headphone’s sound. Earpads are the quick modifiers with which you can fine tune the sound for specific albums. Here is a list of the various earpad designs:

Grado S-cush: Will enhance the bass as it’s closer to the ear
Grado L-cush: Less bass but increased midrange detail & soundstage
Grado G-cush: More soundstage and focussed midrange detail, bass is less prominent
TTVJ Flats: More bass as it’s closer to the ear, but high impact
TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads: Like the originals, but with a little more clarity
Sennheiser HD414: Like the S-cush pads

There are also differences between the sound of the original Grado and clone earpads, which are mostly attributed to materials and construction techniques. Clone L-cush pads usually come in single layer foam which does not have the same structural rigidity as the Grado pads, which pushes them closer to the ear and adds more bass, but still keeps the increased midrange detail. This should be seen as another tool to tune your sound and rotating pads every now and again is a great way to explore your music through different ears.

 

 

Cables
Cables are a bit tricky as there are a lot of different stances on what sounds best between copper and silver, and whether the cost of some higher quality cables are worth the extra expense. We would rather not get involved in that debate, but we can give you some tips to use when searching for cables.

There are two different plug sizes to take into consideration; 1/4 and 3.5mm. 1/4 is bigger and more at home in desktop/amp setups. 3.5mmm is more geared towards ease of use for plugging directly into phones and computers and is a more common size. You get adapters that will upscale/downscale the size if need be.

Be sure to buy a cable that has a plug on the one end and two strands on the other, and that both these strands are open ended. This means that you can see the wire (tinned or not) and there are no plugs attached.

Here is a list of cable makers:
ImpactAudioCables
PETEREK
plusSound
Double Helix Cables
Venus Audio
Amplifier Surgery

 

 

Headband
The term headband is a bit confusing as it can mean one of two things: 1.) A complete assembly that includes a leather/vinyl strip, gimbals and rod blocks; or 2.) Only the leather/vinyl strip that gets replaced on current Grado headbands. For clarity, we’ll refer to 1 as a headband assembly and 2 as a headband.

There are three different headband assemblies that work with Grado style cups and those are the Grado SR, RS, Prestige and Reference series headbands (Headband, Rodblocks & Gimbals), the Sony MDR7502 headband and the cheap Vivitar headbands that are liberated from their drivers.

Headband Assembly:
Headphile (Look at Deal 6) 
Rholupat
Trew Audio (Sony 7506 Headband. It fits most cup designs)
Vivitar Example

Headbands
Turbulent Labs
Rholupat
plusSound
Mod House Audio

Complete Headphones
Spirit Labs

Putting it all together
Assembling your headphones might sound very difficult to do, but it’s quite easy. The most difficult/stressful part is soldering the drivers to your cable, and even that is easy.

We’ll start by looking at the fit of the drivers in the cups. This is only to see whether the cups will need to be sanded down a bit or whether electrical tape should be applied on the side of the drivers to get a tight fit. Do not force the drivers into the cups at this stage. Once you have the sizing sorted out, get your cable ready and push the left- and right hand strands each through the hole in the cups they will be set in. Now we need a install a cable tie to each cable that will stop the cable from accidentally breaking off the contact pads in the event of a sharp tug on the headphones. Measure about 45mm (this is a ballpark figure, as it might be different depending on the chamber length and placement of the cable hole) from the tip of the cable and install the cable tie there. Repeat this on the other cable and ensure that the length is the same, or the cable will be unbalanced. Time to solder the drivers to the cable and let them cool. Now install the drivers into the cups and ensure that a tight fit is achieved. You will now have two cups with installed drivers. Attach the cups to your headband, put on some earpads and you are done!

 
 
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Jaco Burger