Headphone design and customisation

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by BrettromOz, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. BrettromOz

    BrettromOz New Member

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    Jul 13, 2011
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    Are there any businesses in the UK or Europe that provide headphone design, prototyping and customisation/manufacture services for OEM's? In particular in-ear style with a hands free microphone for use with an iPhone or similar. Also, are there any online suppliers of top end headphone components eg. cables, jacks, earbud speakers etc.

    Finally, what is the most critical element/s of a good ear monitor style headphone?

    I have a specific application that I am unable to find anything in the market that meets all my needs so I am wanting to customise something using all the best features of the various designs that are available.

    Thanks for any help, advice and suggestions.
     
  2. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Apr 28, 2010
    Messages:
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    Hi BrettromOz

    Suppliers of components tend to sell them in 1000's, you can get samples but obviously companies who manufacture components don't tend to deal with anything on your scale (if you are just making this for yourself). Most of the type of component you need will be custom manufactured to a companies spec - this type of component would not be resold (eg an iGrado driver) by the manufacturer for obvious copyright and intelectual property reasons. An iPod 3 button remote is a licensed apple product, using one of these in a design can cost £10,000+ as the technology has to be developed, licensed and approved for sale by Apple.

    Basically if you want to make your own headphone adapt one which already exists. It is only an by the huge scale which audio products we enjoy can be built for an affordable price. OEM parts which are available for anyone to use in their own build (not designed for a specific headphone) will mainly be crappy. Obviously resisters and other very basic but necessary components can be a couple of pence some really nice Potentiometers used in headphone amps can be over £30 each!

    Although it is tempting to believe that everything you buy costs less than a fiver to make this is simply not true. By making 100,000 of something you inevitably make all the raw materials and labour really cheap but this is not the biggest cost -

    Research and development
    Final design
    Prototyping
    materials
    Building the factory
    Staff wages
    Training staff
    Testing a production run
    Packaging
    Adequate quality control
    Business TAX
    Export costs
    Import TAX
    Supporting a distributor
    Marketing
    Selling to retailers
    Retailers profit
    Local TAX

    All this and I still think you would find it nearly impossible to build the same audio product (if it is any good) for the same as the retail price.

    I am a big fan of modifying things and self built items too. I am not saying don't build your own thing but I am saying start with the nearest existing object and mod from there till it is just right. I think that is probably easier, faster, cheaper and unless you are a genius it will probably work better.

    If you are a genius and the thing you are making is going to be awesome, can I reserve one now please!:D
     
  3. BrettromOz

    BrettromOz New Member

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    Jul 13, 2011
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    Hi Robin - many thanks for this. Your feedback is much as I had already thought. Unfortunately there is no genius at work here but still I'm keen to learn more. I've just been through my in-ear headphone collection and have over 10 sets of varying styles and qualities with another two designs on order and due shortly. It seems I cannot get anything that is either comfortable or fit for purpose.

    After taking your comments on board, I'd still really like to prove a concept I have in mind. I have plenty of discarded headphones that I can "butcher" and "reassemble" in a way that I think will work for my application (using whilst riding my motorcycle ie high noise environment and wearing a helmet).

    I have idenitified a workshop that can do the work for me ie soldering, joining, finishing etc, using the components I already have but need to get more insight into the workings of headphones. Ignoring cost considerations for the moment, I would like to engage an electrical/audio engineer who specialises in this field to explain how headphones work, design considerations, and provide wiring diagrams/schematics for my concept.

    Is there anyone out there who can help me in this regard?

    Thanks

    Brett
     
  4. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Apr 28, 2010
    Messages:
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    I cannot point you directly to a headphone/earphone designer as the people we know who do this kind of work normally guard themselves from this kind of inquiry. You can imagine the amount of contact you might receive from customers if they knew they could share their thoughts with the designer. Head-fi.org has a number of Audio professionals who have enough anonymity to discuss indepth issues, I would suggest starting a topic on this and then privately messaging anybody who has some deep knowledge on the subject. Although I have tested a huge number of Audio toys I have never built any myself so unfortunately I don't have much to add. Good luck with this project - you should definitely post the results here when you are finished.
     
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