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George's Project Blog

Welcome to my project blog; covering hardware & software projects, hacks & prototype products. Please feel welcome to e-mail me if you'd like to ask about or comment upon anything featured on the site.

Snowboard Helment Headphones

  • Introduction

    The finished itemOften a simple hack can save a considerable amount of money - particularly when it comes to replicating 'optional upgrades' to commercial products.

    Whilst on a recent skiing/boarding holiday in Italy, I decided to replace my snowboard helmet for a newer, lighter model. Now buying gear like this is always expensive when you're actually at a ski resort - but our hotel offered a discount card for one of the local ski shops, making it reasonable value.

    The helmet's neckbandI decided on a Red Trace II helmet which - apart from looking rather good - also had the capability to be upgraded with a integrated headphone kit. The official kit was about £50 though - almost as much as the helmet itself. No doubt this could be found online for less - but in my experience these kinds of accessories (and generally any audio products sold under sports brands) tend to be lacking in quality; priced for brand rather than capability. Instead, when I returned home I decided to re-purpose an old set of Sennheiser HD202 Pro headphones by removing their cases and inserting them in place of the official headphone accessory kit - for which the soft padding around the back of the helmet was already prepared.

    Sennheiser HD212 ProI should point out at this point that I would never hack/modify anything intended for life-saving or protective purposes (certinaly not in such as way as to potentially compromise their effectiveness). However, in this case I am not altering the helmet itself in any way - I'm simply adding a different set of headphone drivers in place of the official kit.

  • Fitting & Use

    A Sennheiser HD212 driverThe Sennheiser headphones I'd chosen were reasonably cheap when new. Although entry-level set, they offered reasonable audio quality and were intended for a 'closed' design, much like the helmet would be. I didn't wear them often as I'd since bought a higher-end set for home use, and these were to big for travel use.

    Removing the foam pads revealed phillips-head screws that held the enclosures together. With these removed the drivers were freed, embedded into a plastic plate that also provided a mounting point for the audio socket.

    Inserted into the neckbandThe helmet's padded neckband was hollow and accessible via a zippered edge that ran the length of the band. An eyelet on one side provided a hole through which the audio cable could pass. Each side contained a void for a headphone driver (filled with foam spacers). Removing the spacers, I found a plastic ring on each side that would presumably keep the official drivers in place. As it happend, the plastic plates within which the HD212 drivers were embedded exactly matched this hole, dropping in without significant modification. A small slot needed to be cut from the foam on each side to permit the audio connectior of each driver to be inserted, but it was otherwise a perfect fit.

    Using The HeadphonesWith little effort and no additional expense, I now had integrated audio that could be used with my phone for calls and music playback, and would likely offer better audio quality than the official audio kit. Obviously, with a helmet not designed for such integration this would have been more difficult, but all snowboard helmets I've seen feature these foam-padded bands that could be opened, cut as required then re-sealed with a zipper for future access.

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