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Old 08-27-2007, 10:35 PM
cnpeters cnpeters is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: St. Louis (Eureka), MO
Posts: 283
Default In ear headset - a cheap project

Wanting an in-ear headset without the extravagant prices commanded by commercial vendors, I decided to roll my own. Total cost was $70 ($50 for the Comply headset, $10 for the Shure inline volume controller, $10 for heatshrink, Radio Shack project box. I contributed the mic and plugs from a gutted AvComm PNR cupped headset). I tested the set yesterday in the air, and it worked well. ATC said sound quality was fine (with a tone to stop bugging them after the third radio check). Noise attenuation of the Comply foam tips was a little better than my PNR cupped sets (QFC) - I'll try to borrow an ANR set to compare. Comfort was far better - flew 1.5 hours, didn't notice set or earpieces.
I roughly followed the links below, but as with Pete Howell, I just used the Shure volume controller and did not use any transformers, pots. Made things real easy.
Here's Pete Howell's VAF write-up:

This is the completed set. I tried two earbuds - the Shure E2C @$65 (better sound quality for music) and the Comply set @ $50 (very comfortable tips, a little better sound blocking). Also note the Shure inline volume controller lower left - that plugs into box, then headset into that. Of note, I wanted a separate jack so I can take the headset away and use it for the mp3 player, etc.

Here is the in vivo pic - I'm using the Shure ear buds, but used the Comply ones mostly inflight.

Details of construction:

Frame - To make the wire frame, I used some wire from a leftover Van's piano hinge. I made a prototype wire with a coat hanger, shaped for a bit until it felt comfortable - don't forget to move your head in all directions to ensure the set and mic stay in place. I then bent the hinge wire to the shape of the coat hanger template - these two steps alone took an hour. The trick with the latter is to try and 'roll' bends and not get kinks.
After wire hookups, heatshrink was applied for a more finished look. On my next set, I will try and keep the mic wires running along one side of the frame wire with epoxy before heatshrinking to provide a more polished look.
In the pic, the mic was just sitting here. I did not trim down the original AvComm mic, but others have. Weight was irrelevant, so I will do same next time. Plus, muff fit better on bigger mic body, and there was no time spent floxing a new body.

Here is the box - original headset wires from plugs come in, re-attached mic circuit chip (used to be in head cup) to appropriate wires, ran earphone wires to 1/8" stereo jack. On the latter, the planes I fly are mono intercoms, so I put a jumper between the right and left channel jack terminals - I will change this later when the RV is done, as I intend on a stereo set up. For the mic wires from the box to the mic, I used a piece of 2 conductor RCA patch cord from the scrap bin. Cord entries to the box were protected with strain relievers from the original headset. A little epoxy ensured no slippage.

That's about it. Works well, was cheap, and only was about 5 hours of work.
Thanks to Pete Howell and the others who blazed this fun project ahead of me,
Carl Peters
St. Louis, MO
RV-9A finishing kit

Last edited by cnpeters : 08-27-2007 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 08-27-2007, 11:47 PM
G-force's Avatar
G-force G-force is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Castaic, CA
Posts: 526

Cool project, and thanks for letting me know about the the Shure inline volume controller...I was working on an audio project this week (putting sat. radio on my motorcycle through an intercom system) and was wondering if there was a a simple way to ad an inline volume control. Thanks!
Mike Sumner
Castaic, Ca
2018 dues paid
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Old 08-28-2007, 12:22 AM
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Leland Leland is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Livermore, California
Posts: 145
Default Inline Volume Control

Originally Posted by G-force
wondering if there was a a simple way to ad an inline volume control. Thanks!
The newer NR10 Comply earplugs supposedly have more noise reduction and come witn an in-line volume control, for $60.
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Old 08-30-2007, 07:31 AM
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SmittysRV SmittysRV is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 444

Great IDEA!

I went out to the hangar yesterday and found a 10 year old stereo headset that was replaced by a newer model long ago. I felt like a kid again riping it apart. I salvaged the rubber grommets and the volume control and drew out a schematic of the original wiring before taking the electrical harness apart. I went to Fry's electronics and bought some long heat shrink rubber tubing and nothing else, mainly because they didn't have any of the other stuff I was looking for! Unbelieveable!

Next stop, Radio Shack. They have it all. I bought a Project Box.

A 1/8" Stereo Panel Mount Jack.

A bag of assorted Grommets.

And a 6 foot stereo cable with two plastic coated wires and a shield for the mike.

I also picked a really cheap circuit tester to make sure I made the connection (arr-arr).

Got my smarts from Wikipedia. (since I don't know Jack about Jacks)

I am going today to Target to get these battery powered noise cancellation earphones. I have a friend who rides Harleys and swears by them.

Here's my progress so far. I will make the neckpiece this afternoon and connect the mic:

Last edited by SmittysRV : 08-30-2007 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 08-30-2007, 04:19 PM
videobobk's Avatar
videobobk videobobk is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Near Scipio, in Southern Indiana
Posts: 1,776

This looks like a great project and that all the real thinking is already done! Think I'll build a set to go along with the QT Halo's I bought at OSH. No use having my lovely co-pilot wearing those old Sennheiser ANR's. One question, however. Wouldn't it have been simpler to just put a 1/4" to mini plug adapter into the headset output and plug the earpieces in there? I have a couple of those, both stereo and mono. I don't know if Radio Shack handles them anymore, but I think I bought them there. I don't know if there is a .206 adapter or not.

Also, if we are heading that direction, why not wire up the panel with mini outputs/inputs instead of the 1/4" and .206" plugs that go back to the days when we hand-cranked our phones? I talked to the proprietor at QT about this and it makes no sense to use such old technology today. IMHO, anyway. Thoughts?

Bob Kelly
Bob Kelly, Scipio, Indiana
Tech Counselor
Founder, Eagle's Nest Projects
President, AviationNation, Inc
RV-9A N908BL, Flying
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:40 PM
cnpeters cnpeters is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: St. Louis (Eureka), MO
Posts: 283

Makes perfect sense - like the idea. The project box was originally done as per the links I posted since extra parts were added (tranformers, etc). I just copied the same idea, but didn't need to add any electronics for the mic circuit. I may do your idea if I can find the adapters. Also, putting in the 1/8th jack on your panel (or desired place) makes sense - will probably put both conventional and this jack in, so can switch headsets around if desired.
Carl Peters
St. Louis, MO
RV-9A finishing kit

Last edited by cnpeters : 08-31-2007 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 12-16-2007, 04:26 AM
jyates jyates is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: 2500' above Godzone
Posts: 7
Default Success!

time for a wee update...

Firstly, I adjusted the mic gain using the pot on the circuit board I had removed from the 'donor' headset... I had tested it in an aircraft last weekend, and while the engine was not running, I had played with the squelch on the intercom system and the mic was operating as it should... so I was confident it would be ok.

Additionally, my 'courier' from the US dropped by work the other day and handed me the earphones... the NR-10s are a nice matt black, have an inline volume control and come with a carrying pouch and have one set of slims (too small) and a set of the standard foam plugs (just right)...

I was going to take them flying, but I was heading up with my instructor and wanted to wait until I was solo, so I could plug my other headset in as well and have it ready as a backup in case everything turned to custard. So, in the meantime I mowed the lawns with them (plugged into my mp3 player) and they worked as well if not better than my usual ear protectors... although I am a little dubious about the 40dB claim... also, I have found that if I wrap the cable up and over my ears (Shure e3c style), it significantly reduces the amount of noise transferred along the cable from 'rubbing' on clothing etc.

Anyway, I finally got a chance to go flying today, after I pulled the pin yesterday due to the cloudbase... and the end result, with homemade boom, telex 750 mic & NR-10 earphones is...


I flew for 1.4 hours today, and it was fabulous... no bulky headset making my head all hot, sweaty and uncomfortable... I could wear my sunnies without the legs breaking the seal on the earpieces... and it was so light I barely knew it was there! bliss...

Now I know that the earphones are suitable, I will need to tidy the unit up a little (finishing some of the headshrinking etc), order some spare foam plugs and then I think I will start work on the Mark II version using the Spruce cheapy mic...

Thanks to all for the info and inspiration...

Last edited by jyates : 12-16-2007 at 04:29 AM.
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Old 01-21-2008, 01:55 AM
jyates jyates is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: 2500' above Godzone
Posts: 7
Default Grrrrrrr

Ok... small update:

I have had to 'hard wire' the mic to the circuit board and dispense with the 2.5mm plug and socket...

The mic starting cutting in and out... which is very annoying on an intercom as it starts clicking and popping in your ear, even when you're not actually transmitting or saying anything, as the intercom adjusts to the mic signal dropping in and out. At first I thought my 'awesome' soldering had given way, but it turns out the 2.5mm socket was a little dodgy... and any sideways pressure put on the 2.5mm plug would be enough for some of the contacts in the socket to disconnect from the plug. So, I tried swapping it out for a slightly different model...

Unfortunately, it was just as bad... so I tried a different 2.5mm to see if it would help to reduce the pressure on the plug and therefore minimise the chances of the plug and socket contacts coming apart, but that was no good either...

at which point[1], I decided that the setup it was just going to be too unreliable, so I just hardwired the mic cable (a slightly more robust curly one I borrowed from a telephone operators headseat) directly to the circuitry and have had no issues since

The curly cable is a little heavier, but is nice as the natural 'give' in the cable means it does not pull on the headmount and acts like cable relief. And by using the clothing clip that come with it, you do not notice any extra weight.

Its slight less modular, although the mic boom has a plug on it anyway... so if the mic dies, I just need to find another -100 model Telex Airman 750 to butcher

[1] I should also note that by this stage I had burnt my finger and scorched my desk with the soldering iron, pretty much melted a 2.5mm plug and raised my BP by around 30 or 40 points due to frustration with the whole stupid thing
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Old 01-21-2008, 08:05 PM
TravisHamblen's Avatar
TravisHamblen TravisHamblen is offline
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Minnesota (Brrrr!)
Posts: 79
Default Sale on the NR-10 earphones

I just ordered a pair for me, they are now on sale from $79.95 down to $39.95. This is the straw that broke the camel's back, I've already started my roll-you-own headset using my brother's old headset for parts. I got the headband formed from piano hinge, and I must say it came out quite nice. Worse case scenario is that the old mic from my brother's headset doesn't work and I have to spend $17.50 at ACS for a new one. Otherwise I'm looking at less than $70.00 for a new homemade system!!! Check out the link for the sale on the Comply High Tech Noise Reduction NR-10 Earphones HC-NR10:
RV-7A (flying)
IO-390X 215hp (Barrett Precision Engines)
Dynon EFIS & EMS, Trutrak Digiflight II,
XCom, AvMap EKP-IV, Flightline Interiors

Lake Elmo Airport (21D)
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Old 01-21-2008, 11:16 PM
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loopfuzz loopfuzz is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: ptown
Posts: 368
Default db reduction?

Originally Posted by TravisHamblen View Post
I just ordered a pair for me, they are now on sale from $79.95 down to $39.95.
It looks like a good deal, but I'm not sure about the quote they have about "noise reduction at an average of 48 decibels" for these. 48db seems really high (or low, however you want to look at it) for a average noise reduction.

According to the following chart. The Shure and Bose in ear phones don't have that good. And if you were too actually take the avarage of them it would be closer to 35 db for the Shure.

But still for $39 it's probably a good deal. Did somebody already rate these for sound quality compared to the Shure or Bose?

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