In this post I show how I built headphones into my motorbike helmet.
Since I started riding a motorbike, I gradually took on challenges associated with it, such as riding on the motorway, filtering, and lately – riding with music (sometimes). While it can be considered less safe, it presents a different set of challenges and offers a different experience. Your visual acuity elevates, as you compensate the lack of sound cues from the environment, watching out for more dangers and preempt other road users’ actions.
Listening to music while riding puts the experience many levels up. The tactility of the road, the smell, the wind, are now part of the music experience. Pick the right track, and the ride becomes even more visceral while you massage your cerebellum with heightened senses.
Apple earbuds (the old pre-smartphone control form factor) is the shittyest sound quality / longevity / ear comfort buds ever. They will be our donor set.
A while ago, I kept fixing my Marshall Major headphones over and over again until the whole body finally broke years ago. I kept the drivers hoping to 3d print new cups for them, but time came to put them to use!
No regrets. Make sure to note which one is left, which one is right. You can keep track by the colors of the ground and signal cables, they’re all different in these earbuds.
To avoid the cables ripping out, feed them through holes with a knot. If your drivers don’t have a hole, make one in the casing or something.
Solder the ground and signal cables to the respective pads on the speaker drivers. They usually have a + or – or both indicated. Secure the solder with a piece of tape or epoxy to prevent any part of the helmet form rubbing down the wires and solder joints.
I cut off excess plastic to slim down the profile of the driver enclosure so that it fits tighter into my helmet’s headphone cavities.
Modern helmets have cavities for headphones or radio comms in them, where the Marshall drivers fit nicely. Feed wires around the back rim of the helmet, pushing them into the gaps between the shell and padding.
I have a hook on one of the neck straps, which I tied the cable around with lots of slack, to ensure that if my ipod or cable gets caught, it won’t pull on the headphones ripping them out of the helmet.
The resulting cable runs down to about chest level, where jackets usually have chest pockets where you can clip on or put your mp3 player. You can also use a female-female adapter to plug a longer wire if your phone/music player is in your backpack or pants pocket.
The resulting sound quality won’t be as good as any mid-range in-ear buds, because the headphone drivers don’t sit tightly against your ears like they’d normally would. You loose some range, but because of that gap you are able to hear the road better.
My pick still sits with in-ear buds with complete sound isolation. Just you, the music and a gasoline air pump propelling you forward with tiny explosions.