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Making Your Own Smartphone Speakers – MakeUseOf Tests

Tina Sieber 25-04-2013

diy smartphone speakersThe average smartphone speaker is an insult to an audiophile’s ears. Poor quality, low volume, and a lack of bass can ruin the sound. Since those speakers are in-built, there isn’t an easy way to fix them.


However, before you invest in external speakers, try some quick & easy DIY solutions to significantly improve the sound your mobile produces. These super simple hacks make do with basic household items. Imagine your friends faces when you produce some ace sound with nothing but a salad bowl.


To compare the sound, I first built all DIY speakers I was going to test and marked a spot on the table where I would set them up, with the original speaker being the reference point. The speaker of the Samsung Galaxy Note II sits in the bottom left on the backside of the phone.

I compared sound volume and quality. Quality is described as objectively as possible, but obviously comes down to personal taste. As does the music selection I used.

To gauge the volume, I placed a sound level meter (Android app) at a distance of about 1m and around 30cm above table level. The speaker level of my Samsung Galaxy Note II was set to around 75%. The reference point for measuring the volume is at 2:40 in the song Sun by Two Door Cinema Club. With the phone lying flat on the table and the speaker pointing upwards, the reference volume at this point of the song was 68 dB.

diy smartphone speakers



The most simple DIY smartphone speaker alternative is a plain bowl. Don’t underestimate the size and material of the bowl itself. I tested several different ones, including a bamboo and a plastic salad bowl, as well as smaller ceramic and metal bowls.

The winner in terms of volume was the medium-sized metal bowl, which was 5 dB louder. Note that amplification increases when the phone speaker faces the bottom of the bowl.

smartphone speakers

The best quality was produced by the larger bamboo bowl. Compared to the plain speaker, the sound was richer and had gained significant depth. It’s the best quality sound of all DIY speaker alternatives tested.


smartphone speakers


Sound Volume: 73 dB (+5 dB)
Sound Quality: richer and significantly more depth

Alternatives: Other vessels you could try are a large glass or vase or maybe a bucket.


Inspiration: Bowl as iPhone Speaker, Glass as Smartphone Speaker

Rolled Up Magazine

This was the most difficult to produce speaker. I used a cutter knife to carve out the slit for the phone. The result was disappointing, both in terms of volume and quality. The gain was only 3 dB, even when turning the opening towards the sound level meter. The quality is definitely much better than the phone lying flat on the table, but it the music sounded slightly muffled, as if listening to loud music through closed doors.

smartphone speakers



Sound Volume: 71 dB (+3)
Sound Quality: improved, but slightly muffled

Alternatives: Instead of a magazine, you could also take a toilet paper roll or a plastic pipe.

Inspiration: CocaCola

Toilet Paper Roll & Cups

Similar to the magazine speaker, but slightly enhanced is the toilet paper roll with plastic cups on either side. When placed in the right direction, those were clearly the loudest DIY speakers, even though I used very small and thin cups. I imagine the result will be even more impressive when using larger and more sturdy cups. This will probably also improve the quality. The sound was rather flat, with very little depth.

how to use speakers with smartphone

Sound Volume: 72dB / 76 dB (+4 / +8)
Sound Quality: improved, but very flat

Alternatives: Use a longer paper roll and bigger cups for a better quality sound.

Inspiration: Wildfire Creative DIY Smartphone Speakers

Potato Chips Tube

This is definitely the most ridiculously looking smartphone speaker design. To stabilize the tube, I cut off two rings from a toilet paper roll, taped them to the bottom of the tube, and inserted a pencil on either side. Worked much better for me than taping paper clips to either side.

Despite looking and smelling very unique, this was the best package. It wasn’t the loudest speaker or the one with the best quality sound, but it was fairly loud and produced a fairly good sound. And it wasn’t just louder, but actually sounded better without stuffing in toilet paper. Although you could argue that the music gains more of a club sound with the extra layers of fabric reflecting the sound.

diy smartphone speakers

Sound Volume: 70 / 74 dB (+2 / +6)
Sound Quality: richer, more depth

Alternatives: You can use any other paper roll or pipe, just seal off one end.

Inspiration: Mashable DIY Pringes Speakers

More DIY Speakers

If you search around a little, you will find many more DIY speakers and variations of the above. One of the most simple ones that only requires a toilet paper roll wasn’t doable with my huge phone. However, you could just roll a sufficiently large piece of paper or cardboard into a horn shape. Others are designed for the iPhone, like the Whirlwind foldable horn speaker or the iPhone SoundFrame. To create stereo sound, you could channel your headphones into a pair of cups.


It doesn’t take much to improve the volume and quality of your smartphone speaker sound. However, cheap household items obviously won’t be as good as a set of proper speakers. Nevertheless, testing various DIY speakers is a cool project to figure out what sound you like best.

Have you tried any of those DIQ speakers and which one sounded best to you?

Image credits: Sound Speaker via Shutterstock

Related topics: Mobile Accessory, Speakers.

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  1. Samantha
    November 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    I was messing around with my small orange juice box container, and thought, "Let's just stick some ear buds into here". I proceeded, poking a second hole with my pencil, and the sound was slightly amplified. Also, it's a nice way to keep earwax to yourself and share your music!

    • Tina Sieber
      November 7, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Thanks for sharing, Samantha!

  2. tammy harris
    March 25, 2015 at 10:32 am


  3. Lawrence
    January 21, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Back in the days of home made crystal radio receivers it was common to put your earphones in a bowl so everyone could sit around it to hear it at the same time. My uncle used a glass crystal bowl, I don't know if he experimented with bowls made of other materials. You can find crystal radio kits on line.

  4. GodSponge
    April 27, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I looking into the headphones and cups idea. I like that and i have several old pairs of earbuds that may work.

  5. Patrick J
    April 27, 2013 at 4:41 am

    When I saw the link on the website, I thought it is about making an actual speaker by doing some electronic stuff, but I was surprised to see the article. Nevertheless, it's a good one with loads of innovation.

  6. Rick Harris
    April 26, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Another thought: I bet a large diameter (may 3-4") piece of PVC pipe would work pretty well too. Especially a 90 degree curved elbow joint. Cut a slot in the top, similar to some of the examples in the article, in which to insert the bottom of the phone. I would think the larger the diameter the better as it would resonate longer wavelengths better and thus enhance the bottom end (which is what is missing with the tiny in-phone speakers).

    • Tina Sieber
      April 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Yes, I was thinking a PVC pipe might work well. Would love to hear from anyone who actually tried it!

  7. Rick Harris
    April 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    A bowl-shaped sink works quite well too (don't run the water...)--Prop the phone up against the back (usually vertical) side of the sink with the speaker at about 45 degree angle to the bottom of the sink, facing the largest curve. Great for music while in the shower.

    Also, it is unlikely that a bucket, glass, or vase will sound as good as the wooden bowl, due to both the shape as well as the material. A parabolic shape will, I believe, provide (all other things being equal) the greatest amplification. And a reflective material with good resonant qualities will provide the best enhancement. Wood has been used for several thousand years as a preferred amplification material due to its resonating quality. As the sound waves come in contact with the wood they reflect off (and are focused, depending on the shape) as well as cause it to vibrate sympathetically, thus producing more sound waves. The wood changes the harmonics of the resonating sound waves and can improve the overall quality. The type of wood, the size, the thickness, the shape, how close the source is, and whether it's physically touching the wood or not (and probably a few other factors) all come into play in determining how much amplification occurs and if the sound quality is improved or not and to what degree. For examples of how this works, think about violins, guitars, the soundboard on a piano, etc. All of these instruments use wood to naturally amplify and enhance the sound.

    I would guess that a large diameter bowl, not too deep, with thin walls made of high quality spruce, rosewood, or mahogany (Steinways use Sitka Spruce, I believe) would prove to be quite a good enhancement. Historically Italian red spruce in particular has been celebrated as one of the best amplifiers and most desirable "tone" woods (think Stradivarius violins). It's also probably among the most expensive.

    For those of you out there with large and varied wooden bowl collections (come on, there's gotta be somebody...), experiment away and let us know what you find out...

    I guess we could take a field trip to the nearest World Market and do some tests...


    • Tina Sieber
      April 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks for the comprehensive explanation, Rick. This is awesome!

      Will put my phone into a big wooden bowl next time I see one and report back. ;)

  8. macwitty
    April 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Pity "Toilet Paper Roll & Cups" didn't worked out better as that was the funnies but good to know that just put the phone in a bowl improves sound. Handy tip when being in a hotel or so

  9. Jim Gibson
    April 26, 2013 at 11:21 am

    That is great. I often use my mobile without earphones so an alternative to external speakers which can be costly is the business. Thank you.

  10. Scott M
    April 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

    This was like a Popular Science article.I loved it.These ideas are perfect when you are out somewhere and don't have any speakers to plug in.This is a very useful article for myself.Thanks.

  11. Amir Meta
    April 26, 2013 at 6:47 am

    I've tried few of them works like charm, but then i realized i got money to buy small speakers set :)

    • Tina Sieber
      April 26, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Well, commercial speakers have their advantages, but I still like the above solutions. You can build them whenever and wherever you need, for free, from stuff that would otherwise go to the trash, and they don't need a power outlet to run.

      DIY speakers are perfect for picnics, the beach, or you could set up several DIY speakers around your home as functional decoration. They are so versatile and flexible; I now actually regret not putting more focus on how you could use them in the article...

  12. Bal Mukund Agrawal
    April 26, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Great Article...and some of the best ideas for music lovers....

  13. Chris Marcoe
    April 26, 2013 at 2:16 am

    I've seen some very complicated speakers made for different phones. And I've also seen the Pringles can. But I've never seen the magazine or the bowl. I really like the idea of the bowl, because you are saying that it is an improvement, sound-wise.

    Thanks for another great article, Tina!

    • Tina Sieber
      April 26, 2013 at 7:57 am

      Yes, the bowl sounded best. But I imagine that a pair of proper quality and size cups and a slightly bigger paper roll, maybe even a Pringles can, would sound equally good, plus much louder.