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LTA Headphones Project - Freely accessible modular headphone platforms (Startup/Crowdfunding)

If you're interested in this project, how would you most likely make use of it?

  • I'd like to modify the current designs and then manufacture the modified parts on my own.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    8

TomislavL

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Hello everyone,

My name is Tomislav, I'm a headphone enthusiast, a long-time audiophile, currently a university medical student and a hobbyist headphone designer/DIY-er from Croatia with a dream of having my own headphone brand one day. I'm making this post in order to present the project I've been working on for the past almost four years in hopes that the community will like it and make good use of it, and with a bit of help, it may just help me get one step closer to making that dream become reality.

Let's get right into it. I've been working really hard on the process of developing my own platform of fully modular headphone designs that could be used for various purposes, from DIY to series production, by combining my own custom designed headphone parts with existing accessories that can already be bought on the market. My goal has been to end up with headphones that would be very competitive in that mid to high-end price bracket between $400 and $900. The project introduces several new ideas and concepts, utilizes the most advanced materials and state-of-the-art industrial 3D printing methods, while also relying on traditional craftsmanship and meticulously building products by hand. In addition to that, all of the headphones have been designed from ground up with lots of built-in customization features, and I've generally been focused on making headphones behave like very flexible modular platforms, rather than fixed products. It's been a single-person endeavor from the start, with a limited budget, and working on it alongside being a full-time university student has made it extra difficult, but I've taken it very seriously and really wanted to develop it to a high level, hitting all the development goals before releasing it to the public.

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The project is now ready to be revealed in its entirety, and I want to do that in the most transparent and open way possible. In my situation, as someone who has a lot of plans for the future related to designing and building headphones, but is currently entirely unknown, I believe that's the best way to approach the community. For that reason, the project is very much focused on involving the community, and the most attractive part of this is the fact that I'm making a huge portion of the project available to everyone for free, including fully developed and production-ready raw CAD files of two entire, fully modular headphone models that anyone will be able to use non-commercially in order to 3D print or CNC machine parts and build their own headphones, by following what I've done, or by further modifying the designs. This allows you to skip an enormous amount of work and save a lot of money you'd otherwise spend on conceptualizing, designing, R&D, prototyping and testing of a new product, and allows you to go straight to manufacturing. This could be a game-changer and a massive boost to the activity of the DIY community, and at the same time a good way for me to demonstrate my work and hopefully show the potential of things coming in the future. I think something like this is unprecedented, could inspire a lot of existing or new DIY-ers to spring into action and I believe it has the potential of developing into a sort of a headphone equivalent of the O2 amplifier, where multiple people could build their own versions of the headphones with a great cost/performance ratio.

You can download the CAD files for free from my website, and also read a bit of additional info regarding what you need to use the files. For any additional questions, feel free to contact me and I'll answer ASAP.

I've gone through a lot of testing and developing over these last few years to make sure I'll end up with something competitive, and have built multiple iterations of prototypes, including the final production ready ones that I'm presenting. In addition to that, since a project such as this is bound to be met with some skepticism, I've done my best to describe and document every step of the way and have collected hundreds of photos and renderings, as well as hours of videos showing various stages of development that can be found on the project website. I'd be very grateful if you'd visit it and let me know what you think.

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I've also prepared a PDF file that contains the project described in great detail and neatly divided into chapters, which should provide a decent overview and be a good source of info. Please have a look and go through it if you're interested, as it's impossible for me to cover everything about a project this large in a single post. I know it's a bit long, but it's a big project with a lot of work behind it.

PDF file download (~9MB, 90 pages)

You'll find two headphone models described in the PDF, the V1 and V2, both finished and fully developed. A third model, V3, is in very late stages of development, but not yet ready for release, and you can find information on it on my website. Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask here or contact me privately, especially if you'd like to get involved in the project. In any case, look at the current stage of the project as only the beginning, not the end, as plenty of new things are coming in the future.



Become an early-backer

Now let's get into the "desperate dealer" part of this post. ;)

In addition to everyone having the ability to make the headphones on their own, because this project is in a start-up phase and desperately needs support to keep evolving, and since I have the building process nailed down, and have made some valuable contacts with a couple of manufacturing companies over the last few years or prototyping, I am able to offer parts built from absolutely the best materials and at top quality in form of DIY kits, or as fully pre-built headphones, for those who may want to get them, but don't want to deal with the headaches involved with making things from scratch. In most cases, the prices will be lower than what you'd spend on building a single unit, because I won't have to go through any trial and error phases and I'll most likely build multiple units at once. That's simply economies of scale at work, especially when it comes to CNC machined aluminium parts available for some versions.

If that's something that would interest you, then until Dec 10, so just a few days left, you can join the crowdfunding campaign on Crowd Supply (Mouser Electronic's platform), and get the DIY kits or pre-built headphones in various configurations through a well organized system provided by one of the biggest electronics equipment distributors in the world, just for that extra layer of security. The campaign is very small, with a goal of only $1500, but still, it would not only help me out by reducing the cost of production per unit in case of making more than one kit or headphone at once, but also brings the project one step closer to being at least somewhat profitable, which would be a life-changer for someone in my situation and would enable this project to grow further far more quickly. Most startups run crowdfunding campaigns to collect funds that enable them to actually develop a product, I tried my best to avoid that and do it at the very end, with the development completed, and for the transition from prototyping to possible low-volume production. My goal now is to build actual production-grade headphones (not just prototypes) and get them out into the world, for people to own, try, review, and spread the word about. Again, that's entirely optional and I don't want to make it sound like supporting the project is in any way mandatory, but if you do decide to help, know that every little bit is greatly appreciated.

After the campaign ends, I will be able to sell DIY kits or headphones through my website, not through Mouser. In case you'll be interested then, you can always feel free to contact me through my website and I'll answer ASAP, even if there's something you don't like, we can work together to fix it. I've got a break at the university almost until March 2021, so it's an ideal period for me to build a few units of headphones as I have plenty of free time.

I believe that given a chance, I can bring a lot of interesting things to the headphone community. Working on this project forced me to learn a lot of skills from scratch, such as 3D modelling using CAD software, using industrial 3D printing methods previously almost entirely unutilized in the headphone industry, post-processing the 3D printed parts (for which I've written and filmed a very detailed guide, freely available too), etc., so I've gained a lot of experience and knowledge that I'll be able to share with other community members. I'm also applying that to new projects and am already working on several new headphone models, with a lot of plans for the future, including potential higher volume production models, working with proprietary driver developers, working with medical audiology experts at my university regarding potential hearing aid product developments, etc. I'm not there yet, but I have to start somewhere, and that's exactly where any sort of involvement or support from the community can be a massive boost.

Thanks for reading and apologizes for the wall of text. If I'm allowed by the admins, I'll make a thread about this project in the actual headphone section of the main forum where we can discuss the actual headphones in more detail, get more in-depth about each model, discuss the idea of modular headphones and the customization features that make them possible, etc.
 
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Doodski

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Wowowow. Maybe you can be the next Beats! :D
 

bigjacko

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Wow what a nice project! I like the idea of modular headphone that we can change the driver and do modding on the headphone. It is truly amazing that someone finally doing this. Best wish to your work and hopefully you can achieve your ultimate headphone goal! I just occasionally saw this somehow and found that no one is excited about this. I am too late to the party and found that the party was not even on. The crowd funding goal is $1500 but only got $50 in the end? I don't want to see such a great work got buried by other useless talk. Should we @ some giants here so we can get some light in here? Doodski is a giant but not enough, we need more!:D
 
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TomislavL

TomislavL

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Wow what a nice project! I like the idea of modular headphone that we can change the driver and do modding on the headphone. It is truly amazing that someone finally doing this. Best wish to your work and hopefully you can achieve your ultimate headphone goal! I just occasionally saw this somehow and found that no one is excited about this. I am too late to the party and found that the party was not even on. The crowd funding goal is $1500 but only got $50 in the end? I don't want to see such a great work got buried by other useless talk. Should we @ some giants here so we can get some light in here? Doodski is a giant but not enough, we need more!:D


Hey, glad you like it. Yea there's a lot of work that went into this project, and I truly believe there's a ton of potential in it (and keep in mind I still haven't "revealed my best cards" ;)), but not a lot of awareness of the project yet, since I just started presenting it publicly a few weeks ago, so it's obviously gonna take some time. The crowdfunding was unfortunately a big flop, I mean, I understand why, you can't sell something that nobody is aware of, and the crowdfunding platform I used isn't exactly the first place audiophiles will visit when looking to buy something, unfortunately platforms with far larger audiences like Kickstarter or Indiegogo aren't available in my country. Maybe I'll run a new campaign sometime in the future, depends on where this will go from now. My goal was very low because all I needed was to make 2 or 3 headphones in final production form, not just prototypes, so they could be sent out for people to try out, give impressions, reviews, suggestions for future changes, etc. Now that the crowdfunding is over, I'll put up a shop section on my website and try to sell a few headphones or diy kits over ebay, etsy, shopify and similar online sale platforms as well, and hopefully that will work out sometime in the future, but I understand why it's difficult to buy something that's brand new and unknown, even if the designs are entirely transparent and can be inspected, and the parts the headphones are built out of are well known and proven how good they can perform in many other builds. At the same time, being a university student, it's hard to throw together money to build production-grade headphones in very small quantities, since costs per unit are through the roof in that case, so it's gonna take me much longer to do that now than it would have with some help through the crowdfunding. ;) I guess that's the curse of trying to do something at a less than ideal point in life financially speaking, especially with the world going crazy due to the pandemic and budgets for what I guess could be considered "luxury items" being tighter than usual.

I guess we'll see where this project goes, if not before, then when I finally get to build a few representative units and ship them out for reviews.
 

somebodyelse

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I like the idea. I don't like the web site not rendering with scripts disabled. I really don't like file downloads that don't work with scripts disabled. I have some sympathy with using Autodesk's platform, but it's all but unusable without Windows.
 
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TomislavL

TomislavL

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I like the idea. I don't like the web site not rendering with scripts disabled. I really don't like file downloads that don't work with scripts disabled. I have some sympathy with using Autodesk's platform, but it's all but unusable without Windows.


What do you mean, the website doesn't work, or just the download links? So far I didn't get any complaints, but I can change the links or upload to a different client if there are issues with downloading. As for Autodesk, yea I'm aware that much of their stuff is focused on Windows, but that's what I started working in because they had great offers for student licenses, so I got used to it and just decided to get a full subscription and keep using it.
 

somebodyelse

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The site fails to render almost all content with scripts disabled, a depressingly common failing with sites built on website-as-a-service platforms like Weebly. Instead I get a header image of your headphones, and a series of alternating white and grey sections I can scroll through where your content would render if Weebly were doing their job properly. If I use the debug tools I can see the content in the underlying HTML, so unlike some of them it's not using scripts to dynamically load content into an empty shell of a page - they've just screwed up the CSS so it's invisible.

The downloads are a similar whatever-as-a-service problem - some of them have a link you can click do download if scritpts aren't enabled, but this one either doesn't or I didn't spot it.

Both of the above are familiar problems that I can work around easily enough with sufficient motivation, but on a properly built site I wouldn't need workarounds. If I'd found it through a web search, rather than a forum I was already logged in to, it would have taken significant effort to find out how to contact you to report it, and I wouldn't have bothered - it's just one of a great many broken web sites.

The first hit's always free ;) Their offer has worked exactly as intended. There was some hope that the browser-based version would make it viable for linux users, but for some reason you can only use it after logging in with the Windows desktop version, and may have to do so again periodically to keep the account active.
 
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TomislavL

TomislavL

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The site fails to render almost all content with scripts disabled, a depressingly common failing with sites built on website-as-a-service platforms like Weebly. Instead I get a header image of your headphones, and a series of alternating white and grey sections I can scroll through where your content would render if Weebly were doing their job properly. If I use the debug tools I can see the content in the underlying HTML, so unlike some of them it's not using scripts to dynamically load content into an empty shell of a page - they've just screwed up the CSS so it's invisible.

The downloads are a similar whatever-as-a-service problem - some of them have a link you can click do download if scritpts aren't enabled, but this one either doesn't or I didn't spot it.

Both of the above are familiar problems that I can work around easily enough with sufficient motivation, but on a properly built site I wouldn't need workarounds. If I'd found it through a web search, rather than a forum I was already logged in to, it would have taken significant effort to find out how to contact you to report it, and I wouldn't have bothered - it's just one of a great many broken web sites.

The first hit's always free ;) Their offer has worked exactly as intended. There was some hope that the browser-based version would make it viable for linux users, but for some reason you can only use it after logging in with the Windows desktop version, and may have to do so again periodically to keep the account active.

Hmmm...that's odd. I definitely know what you're talking about though, the alternate grey/white backgrounds with no content is what I sometimes get as well, and even the website editor sometimes just doesn't work for a couple of hours at a time. However, it's a free platform to build a website, so I guess I can't expect perfection. Currently the site works fine for me and loads up properly from my windows pc and laptop, and from a macbook and iphone. In the future I have plans for a proper website, but that will cost a certain amount and can only happen once the project gets to a more professional stage. If you want to download the CAD files but can't, give me a PM and I'll send you links.

And yea I guess the Autodesk's plan worked, but even if it wasn't for their free student license, I'd still use it. I tried Solidworks and Catia for 30 days, and didn't like either of them as much as I like working in Inventor. I guess it's all subjective, as they all pretty much can do the same things at the end of the day.
 

somebodyelse

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Not odd at all I'm afraid - as I said it's a common failing in site building platforms. It works for you because, like most people, you aren't using plugins like NoScript. Keep it in mind when you get the chance to change the website - not working with scripts disabled is a reasonable indicator that they've not considered other things like accessibility either.
 

bigjacko

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I use NoScript but I can still load the website perfectly. What no script do you guys use?
 

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somebodyelse

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Interesting - I may have leapt to conclusions the blocker responsible, or we've got some different settings. The content is inheriting hidden visibility, and staying hidden, so I assumed a script would be responsible for unhiding it. The easyupload page appeared but nothing downloaded, and pages like that are annoying, unnecessary friction.
 
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TomislavL

TomislavL

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Yes, in the V2 model, the 50mm drivers, same as used in many Kendrick's, Aurorus, etc. Really excellent drivers that are easy to work with and have a very, very high performance ceiling. They easily outperform drivers from many upper mid tier headphones that can be bought from OEM's like Audio Technica, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, etc., and cost less to buy. (understandable since manufacturers sell theirs as "spare parts" and blow the cost out of proportion, so if you put together an existing headphone out of original spare parts, it ends up costing twice as much as if you were to just buy the headphone).
 

bigjacko

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Yes, in the V2 model, the 50mm drivers, same as used in many Kendrick's, Aurorus, etc. Really excellent drivers that are easy to work with and have a very, very high performance ceiling. They easily outperform drivers from many upper mid tier headphones that can be bought from OEM's like Audio Technica, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, etc., and cost less to buy. (understandable since manufacturers sell theirs as "spare parts" and blow the cost out of proportion, so if you put together an existing headphone out of original spare parts, it ends up costing twice as much as if you were to just buy the headphone).
Do you know other drivers? How do you know this one is good?
 
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TomislavL

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Do you know other drivers? How do you know this one is good?

I've tested a lot of drivers from various sources, aftermarket and OEM, including headphones that I owned that I took drivers out of and used them in prototypes to see how they'd behave. The reason I ended up using these is because they performed really well, again, that's something that everyone who used them in DIY or for actual production headphones will confirm, I was skeptical before trying them due to their relatively low price, but the first time I heard them I was blown away. They vastly outperformed drivers like the ones out of a Beyerdynamic DT880 in my testing for example, and those cost like 50 dollar a piece. Both objectively and subjectively, just a clear-as-day step up in resolution, detail, extension in the bottom, speed, resilience to extreme SPL, etc. Of course, there ARE better drivers you can buy, like the HD800 drivers, Focal Utopia drivers, AKG K812 drivers, etc., they can all be bought as spare parts from their manufacturers, but they cost 200-300 dollars a pair, and that puts a different perspective onto a DIY project. It's something I definitely have plans to try out in the future though, and I already have a baffle on a future headphone model designed with some of those drivers in mind.
 
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somebodyelse

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(understandable since manufacturers sell theirs as "spare parts" and blow the cost out of proportion, so if you put together an existing headphone out of original spare parts, it ends up costing twice as much as if you were to just buy the headphone).
Are you sure about that? When I was looking for spares for the HD600 it looked like you could get all the necessary parts for less than the cost of a new pair. Nobody seemed to have all the spares necessary, possibly on purpose, but between 3 suppliers it seemed like you could get them all.
 
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TomislavL

TomislavL

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Are you sure about that? When I was looking for spares for the HD600 it looked like you could get all the necessary parts for less than the cost of a new pair. Nobody seemed to have all the spares necessary, possibly on purpose, but between 3 suppliers it seemed like you could get them all.

Maybe there are some exceptions, but from my experience spares are generally quite expensive, especially when you don't buy them directly from the manufacturer but some of their distributors who then put additional costs onto them, and you have to account for multiple shipping costs as well in case you can't buy all parts from the same place. When it comes to DT880Pro drivers specifically, I know there was quite a gap in total cost. For instance currently on Beyer's spare parts website just a single driver+baffle (what they call a system in the catalogue) costs 50€ each, plus the pads are like 30, cable 20, headband spring 15, then you got the padding, hinge yokes, the actual cups and grills, etc. I know when I bought the DT880 drivers from a distributor (a pair of systems) it came out to over 130€ with shipping, and at that moment the headphones were around 200€ total, now they're 175. Either way, 50€ for each driver vs. 13-14€ each for the Peerless ones, while the performance shows an opposite picture of what you'd expect based on their cost. Doesn't really matter how much the drivers cost though, only the performance matters at the end of the day. If the DT880 drivers had been the better sounding ones to me, I would have used them instead regardless of costing a bit more. In the V1 builds I used a pair of drivers that costs 150 GBP, purely because they sound very, very good, and that's what matters to me. Someone else can put in a pair of 10 dollar drivers from Aliexpress into a V1 DIY build and maybe feel like they're good enough for what they expect, it's all up to whoever is doing the build.
 
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TomislavL

TomislavL

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Just an update, in case anyone is interested in headphone parts for a DIY project regarding the V1 and V2 headphones, or finished builds, I will be making a bulk order for part production some time this week, so if you'd like to get some or all headphone parts (especially CNC machined ones), send me a PM. Trying to drop the cost per unit as much as possible, so the more parts I'll order, the better.
 
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