3D Printed Headphones

A little while ago I was wondering how hard it would be to design and 3D print a set of great sounding headphones, preferably a closed back design. I searched far and wide for info on headphone design, but about the only literature I could find was a chapter in John Borwick’s epic Loudspeaker and Headphone Handbook, but it’s heavy on theory and light on practical info. Furthermore, I couldn’t find anyone on the internet who had actually done it themselves who I could learn from. Therefore I’ve had to figure it all out myself.

I’ve now created the page Homebrew Headphones where I share my findings on how all the design variables affect the sound, how to test them and also share my designs, so that you can build them yourself.

I initially started with an open back design which pretty much replicated my pair of Grado SR225’s, purely because this looked like the easiest way of proving whether or not it is even possible to build your own headphones. The only pair I built were pretty agricultural, but sounded awesome.

3D printed headphones by Shannon Ley

As the goal was a closed back design, I never bothered ‘beautifying’ this design, but down the track I might make the design look better and get a pair machined from aluminium.

A closed back design proved more difficult to get sounding great – my first go was pretty mediocre. Therefore I made a test rig which enabled me to vary every factor I thought may impact the sound and get quantitative results on its impact. If you are interested, the results are here and the test rig looks like this:

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The single ‘headphone’ was held to the rig using clamps, with the bolts controlling the location and pressure on the cushion to ensure test repeatability. The grey object just visible is a microphone. Below shows the rig testing a normal pair of headphones. More info on my test setup can be found here.

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My second iteration of the closed back design is shown below. I have incorporated everything I have learned on the rig shown above, and straight out of the printer the sound is absolutely awesome. They sound bright, have a decent but balanced amount of bass and awesome clarity. I’m absolutely stoked with the result!

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A bluetooth version had been on the cards for a while and after some encouraging comments on Reddit, decided to create one, made solely with 3D printed and ebay sourced parts. Below is my first version. It still needs some refining, but works well and sounds good.

And some of the internals: