Segments in this Video

Introduction: How to Make Headphones (02:08)


In this video, Zoe Laughlin will examine the construction of headphones and make her own set.

Headphone Origins (08:22)

Headphones are available as over the ear headphones and in-ear earbuds. At the Connected Earth exhibition, Laughlin learns about the history of headphones including telephone exchanges, stereo, portability, noise cancellation, Bluetooth, and earbuds.

The Autopsy (03:20)

Laughlin disassembles various headphones to better understand key components. Her three main areas of focus are the driver, the connection, and the casing.

The Driver (03:18)

Laughlin creates a rudimentary prototype to better understand how drivers work. Components include a copper coil, a diaphragm, and a magnet.

Materials Science (04:14)

Terfenol-D can make any surface that will vibrate into a speaker. Prof. Brian Smith explains material properties; his team is working on a small scale model.

Acoustic Science (05:39)

A sound engineer helps Laughlin test the acoustic range of three drivers. They discuss frequency, bass, and output.

The Connection (05:17)

Bluetooth harnesses low power microwaves to allow device communication. Laughlin demonstrates a Faraday cage and discusses aspects of wire connectors. She creates a cable for her headphones.

The Casing (04:55)

At Bowers & Wilkins, Laughlin learns how design impacts sound performance. She examines ear cups, a headband, a driver, and materials.

Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (06:26)

In an anechoic chamber, Laughlin experiences beamforming. Filippo Fazi discusses directional sound and demonstrates ear tracking technology.

Ear Cups (02:10)

Laughlin uses a mold of her hand and a vacuum formation machine to create the cups for her headphones.

Noise Cancellation (03:39)

Prof. Steve Elliot researches ways to use opposing sound waves in noisy environments. Laughlin experiences sound inside a mock airplane cabin.

Soundproofing Test (04:39)

Laughlin tests three noise reducing materials to determine the best one for her headphones—vinyl, polyurethane foam, and green glue.

Construction (04:08)

Laughlin creates a pair of headphones with an aluminum headband, plywood driver mounts, plastic ear cups with polyurethane foam, a driver, a memory foam cushion covered in silk, and her homemade cable.

Credits: How to Make Headphones (00:36)

Credits: How to Make Headphones

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How to Make Headphones

Part of the Series : How to Make
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3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In this episode, Zoe explores an item that is extraordinarily intimate and transports us to other worlds – Headphones. With 12 pairs sold globally every second, Zoe is on a mission to build her own, unique pair. In search of inspiration she heads to Hull University to discover an exciting new substance that can turn any surface into a speaker – from a wall to a table and even the bone of your skull. In the depths of an anechoic chamber she experiences the wonder behind ‘directional sound’ and ear tracking technology which creates a personal ‘sound bubble’ without the need to wear headphones at all. A trip back through headphone history reveals the stethoscope style home contraptions of the 19th century and the game changing 80’s Sony Walkman. Zoe also heads to high end manufacturers Bowers & Wilkins; a mock aircraft cabin to explore the principles of noise cancellation; and on a trip down one of London’s busiest streets with a billboard style boxed contraption slung across her body, all in the name of material research. Her final Headphones raise the bar high, with a distinctive head band, to avoiding big hair issues, alongside characterful plastidip connections. Even Zoe admits – ‘…they probably look ridiculous but I don’t care!’

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL210770

ISBN: 978-1-64867-987-2

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.