(Last Updated On: October 6, 2020)

Step-by-step guide on DIY noise cancellation without breaking the bank.

We all know how expensive state-of-the-art noise-canceling headphones can be. And sure, it’s okay to splurge on a high-end gadget that you know could make life a little more enjoyable, or peaceful even, but there are times when it’s just not in the budget to do so.

However, if you want to improve the noise-isolating capabilities of your earphones or headphones, but your budget is tight and you don’t want to spend extra, there’s always the DIY option.

With help from a couple of easy step-by-step procedures, here’s a walkthrough on how to make noise-canceling headphones and earphones all on your own.

Quick Links

Click on the links to jump to the relevant section.

Understanding Passive vs. Active Noise Cancellation

Noise cancellation in headphones and earphones occurs in two ways – actively and passively.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) starts with a built-in microphone picking up ambient noise in the wearer’s surroundings. This noise is fed into the ANC system, which generates an opposing sound frequency. This frequency is then fed back to us through the speakers. When the opposing frequencies collide, they cancel each other out, resulting in reduced ambient noise.

Passive noise cancellation (PNC), on the other hand, is more commonly seen in most headphones and earphones in the market. PNC headphones and earphones do not require a power source to work and instead make use of noise-isolating materials like pads or foam to insulate our ears from unwanted background noise.

Since active noise cancellation involves more sophisticated engineering and internal technology, there’s currently no way to manually DIY such a feature into a pair of regular headphones or earphones. However, adding or improving passive noise cancellation capabilities on a standard pair of headphones or earphones is certainly doable.

Aside from being affordable, upgrading your headphones or earphones with better passive noise cancellation is a great way to get more out of your gear.

PNC headphones are typically better handling middle and high-frequency sounds, like barking dogs, loud voices, and car horns, which are often what our ears are more sensitive to. While they can’t block them out entirely, they do well in muffling disruptive sounds, so we can stay focused and hear our music better.

In this article, we’ll be tackling how to make noise-canceling headphones and show you how to better soundproof your earphones.

Let’s get started!

How to Make Noise-Canceling Headphones

Learning how to DIY noise-canceling headphones isn’t as complex as it might sound. With this helpful tutorial and a few simple materials, you can easily learn how to do it yourself.

Things you will need:

First, make sure to run through the checklist of all the materials needed. Aside from ensuring you have everything you need before starting a project, it’s also good to consider purchasing extras in case you make a mistake along the way. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Noise-isolating earmuffs or ear protectors. You can use a pair similar to the one used in the tutorial, but any other brand will do too.
    Howard Leight by Honeywell Leightning L3 Shooting Earmuff (From:Amazon).
    Howard Leight by Honeywell Leightning L3 Shooting Earmuff (From:Amazon).
  • Replacement headphone speakers
    Replacement 40mm Headphone Speaker Driver (From:Amazon).
    Replacement 40mm Headphone Speaker Driver (From:Amazon).
  • Any working earphones for the plug and cable
  • Small Polyethylene (PE) foam (about the size of the two replacement headphone speakers)
  • Pliers
  • Soldering iron
  • Glue gun

Step-by-step guide to make noise-cancelling headphones

Follow these steps to make noise-cancelling headphones:

  1. Remove the earpads by peeling them off. As they are typically attached using adhesive, they should be easy to remove and reattach.
    Removing earpads from headphones (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Removing earpads from headphones (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  2. Remove the insulating foam inside the earmuffs.
    Removing insulation foam from headphones (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Removing insulation foam from headphones (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  3. Cut out a hole in the foam the same size as the replacement speakers. You can place the speaker in the center of the foam as a guide and simply cut around it.
    Cutting a hole in the foam (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Cutting a hole in the foam (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  4. Using the soldering iron, make a hole at the bottom of the headphone cup for the wire.
    Soldering a hole in headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Soldering a hole in headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  5. Using pliers, twist or pry open the earphone casing to reveal the speaker.
    Opening the earphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Opening the earphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  6. Using the soldering iron, carefully detach the speaker from the wire.
    Detaching the speaker from earphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Detaching the speaker from earphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  7. Pass the wire through the hole you made in the headphone cup, making sure to knot the end of the wire to prevent it from getting dislodged or tugged out.
    Inserting wire into headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Inserting wire into headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  8. Carefully solder the wires to the speaker. Keep in mind that the common or ground wire goes on the negative pad.
    Soldering wire to speaker (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Soldering wire to speaker (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  9. Place the foam back inside the headphone cup.
    Placing foam inside headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Placing foam inside headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  10. Using a glue gun, apply glue to the back of the speaker and attach a small piece of PE foam.
    Gluing PE foam to speaker (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Gluing PE foam to speaker (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  11. Place a bit of glue on the inside of the headphone, and secure the speaker on it.
    Gluing speaker inside headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Gluing speaker inside headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  12. Once you’ve completed all the above steps on the other headphone, use rubbing alcohol to clean the rims where the earpads go.
    Cleaning headphone with alcohol (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Cleaning headphone with alcohol (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  13. Reattach the earpads.
    Reattaching earpads (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Reattaching earpads (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
  14. Secure the wire to the opening of the hole in the headphone, and you’re done.
    Securing wire to headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).
    Securing wire to headphone (From:HTibor DIY Youtube).

How to Make Noise-Canceling Earbuds

If you’re more of an earphone user and you feel that the standard earbuds that come with your earphones are not doing enough to isolate background noise, there’s a quick hack for DIY-ing noise-canceling earphones.

Things you will need:

Similar to the first procedure, make sure to gather all the necessary materials needed to complete the project. You will need the following:

  • A standard pair of in-ear earphones. You can buy new ones or use an existing pair that you already have.
  • A standard pair of earplugs
    Black Noise Premium Ear Plugs (From:Amazon).
    Black Noise Premium Ear Plugs (From:Amazon).
  • Scissors or a cutter
  • A nail, or anything you can use to create a small hole in the earplugs.

Step-by-step guide to make noise-cancelling earbuds

Follow these steps to make noise-cancelling earbuds:

  1. Remove the existing earbuds from the earphones.
    Removing earbuds from earphones (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
    Removing earbuds from earphones (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
  2. Take a pair of standard earplugs and cut off the ends using scissors or a cutter.
    Cutting ends off earplugs (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
    Cutting ends off earplugs (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
  3. Pass a nail through the center of the earplug to create a hole.
    Inserting nail into earplug (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
    Inserting nail into earplug (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
  4. Slip the earplug over your earphone in place of the old earbud, and you’re done.
    Placing earplug on earphone (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).
    Placing earplug on earphone (From:OneCrazyHouse Youtube).

What to Expect When Soundproofing Headphones or Earbuds

Realistically, when it comes to DIY noise-canceling headphones and earphones, you have to expect that there will be differences when compared to the real thing that costs four to five times more.

Such changes can include the following:

Change in fit

Earmuffs and earplugs are made from different materials than standard headphone pads and earbuds. Earmuffs are made with thick insulating materials meant to protect the wearer from loud sounds, and in some cases, cold weather. They’re also softer and more lightweight.

Earplugs, on the other hand, are made from dense polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU) foam. They’re thicker and are designed to be compressed before being placed in the ear, after which they expand to create a nice seal in the ear canal. This is in contrast to typical earbuds which are made from plastic or rubber and often do not seal the ear as well.

While some earplugs are reusable, others are meant to be disposed of after a few uses as they can become deformed over time. If you do decide to use disposable earplugs, you may find yourself regularly having to repeat the process when replacing old earplugs. The upside, however, is that you can buy earplugs in bulk for a very cheap price.

Because you’re dealing with different materials for this DIY project, it’s important to take extra care in choosing earmuffs or earplugs that fit well to ensure that you’re getting the best in terms of comfort and noise-blocking.

Change in sound quality

Since headphones and earphones are manufactured to accommodate the standard stock earbuds and pads, changing these particular parts could change the acoustics of the headphones or earphones and affect sound quality.

If you find that your newly refurbished DIY noise-canceling headphones or earphones are a little lacking in the sound quality department, you can opt for sound-boosting apps like Boom Music.

Boom Music Equalizer (From:Globaldelight.com).
Boom Music Equalizer (From:Globaldelight.com).

Boom Music is a music player equipped with immersive 3D surround sound, an advanced equalizer, and powerful bass boosting capabilities that work on any headphones. It has an intuitive system that allows you to tweak your sound preferences and create custom presets so you can enjoy your music the way you like it.

You can also log in to your Spotify or Tidal account through the app and listen to your music from there, or choose from over 20,000 radio stations it has access to. Boom Music can be downloaded for free on both Android and iOS devices.

Conclusion

A DIY project like this may seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s definitely a rewarding one. Hopefully, after following the steps closely, you’ve now been able to refurbish yourself a solid pair of noise-canceling headphones without having to dip too deeply into your wallet.

How did you find our guide? Do you think we missed out on some important tips? Or perhaps you have your own helpful DIY tips to share? We’d love to hear about them, so feel free to leave us a comment!