Making Your Own iPhone Speaker Box

by Michael Cox

    The iPhone's ubiquity means there's an entire ecosystem of products professionally designed to amplify and shape its sound, and you can connect your device to a stereo system using only an adapter cable. However, sometimes DIY is the most satisfying way to go. Building custom iPhone speakers is really a matter of determining your needs and resources. Decide whether you want to spend money and time assembling a stereo amp and hi-fi speakers, or keep it simple with items you find around the house.

    High-Fidelity Speakers

    If you're good with wiring and carpentry, building your own stereo speakers can be a satisfying project. Your investment may even result in better sound than that provided by commercial speakers at the same price. A high-fidelity speaker usually requires at least a woofer for low sounds and a tweeter for high frequencies, as well as crossovers to separate those highs and lows and a "tuned" enclosure. The best way to get started with DIY speaker construction may be to purchase a kit, providing the internal electronics and instructions for constructing the cabinets. The cost of a kit can range from under $200 without enclosures to over $1000. Time investment also varies considerably, but expect it to take much longer if you're inexperienced with DIY electronics or must build your own cabinets.

    Simple Speakers

    An alternative to building your own cabinets from scratch is to repurpose an existing speaker enclosure with new electronics. Going one step further, you could find unusual items and install speaker hardware in them. Clever speaker enclosures have included gasoline cans, beer cases and even an empty mint tin. You won't have much control over audio quality in a found enclosure, but you could certainly create a conversation piece. If you've already got the enclosures, your cost will be the electronics and any hardware you need to mount and wire the speakers.

    Amplifiers

    Your iPhone's headphone jack is fine for driving headphones, but external speakers need more power than your device can muster. As with speakers, amplification can take numerous forms, from a battery-powered circuit for a small portable speaker to high-quality stereo amplification for bookshelf speakers. Again, your comfort level with a soldering iron and circuits will determine how you approach this project and how much time it will take. If you prefer to focus on the speakers themselves, you can find inexpensive, high-quality amps available to power them. Kits are also available for less than $50, but some don't include a power transformer, which you must buy separately.

    DIY Acoustic Amplification

    If you're not electronically inclined, no problem: amplify your iPhone using ingenuity and common household items. Crafty low-tech "speakers" might include newspaper rolled into a cone and taped to the bottom of the phone, or a horizontal toilet-paper roll cut on one side to fit your phone and stabilized with push-pin "legs." People have even reported that simply placing the iPhone into an empty paper coffee cup amplifies and enhances its audio. If you'd like something a bit more permanent and artistic, carve a "dock" from a block of wood or a piece of hollow bamboo. Cost and time for a DIY acoustic speaker start at next to zero, but the sky's the limit if you experiment with materials and craftsmanship.

    About the Author

    Michael Cox writes about lifestyle issues, popular culture, sports and technology. In a career spanning more than 10 years, he has contributed to dozens of magazines, books and websites, including MSN.com and "Adobe Magazine." Cox holds a professional certificate in technical communications from the University of Washington.

    Photo Credits

    • Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images