Soundbox DIY

Have liked the look of this box for a while, but also interested in making my own (to partner with Koma field and fx kits).

Also, really like these sort of sessions that fuse real acoustic sources with synths and loops

Altogether, the leaf audio box looks like it is a decent price, particularly if you don’t have a Koma box.

However I’m trying to come up with a few ideas to include in a DIY sound box

  • bigger Kalimba (17 keys?)
  • spring doorstop
  • music box mechanism (fixed melody is fine, just need to find a good key to steal wound notes from)
  • small bells
  • seed shaker
  • guiro / ridged surface
  • cheese grater
  • taut guitar string(s) wound onto some steel posts
  • rubber pad (to hit with a small mallet as a kick)
  • rubber band (‘double bass’ :wink:)
  • one of those clicky fidget gadgets

Maybe it’ll just be a small briefcase / box of loose audio devices, rather than I try attach all the devices to a soundboard box with pickup…

Any ideas on other small items, plucky scratchy clicky toys to throw into the mix?

The more I think about building such a box, it might be better to create a relatively bare box out of a nice sound resonating wood that has built in microphones, amp and instead of permanently attaching sound making objects, has a variety of clamps and surfaces to grip (in a sonic-conductive way) any random object that comes to mind on a given day to best pick up their sounds when hit, scratched, shaken etc… moreso a ‘soundboard’


Learn to wind your own pickups (it’s not very hard) and a whole new world of electroacoustics open up to you. Nothing wrong with piezotransducers, but magnetic transducers are a whole other flavor (and easier to use in live/noisy environments).

EDIT: DIY is definitely the way to go with this stuff, a big part of what makes it interesting is when it’s a unique, self-designed instrument made specifically for that particular person’s music, IMO.

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that’s a nice tip - you’re right, a lot of fun to be had manually creating sounds to record, will look into DIY pickups.

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I made a full blown guitar pickup winder with hand tools, using parts from a free sewing machine, a $10 counter from Amazon, a cheap magnetic door switch for an alarm system from the hardware store, a piece of plexiglass, a plastic project enclosure and three screws. Took a couple hours, works really well.

If you’re not trying to make guitar pickups you don’t really need the counter or anything and it’s even easier. All you need is an old sewing machine and some double sided tape - stick the bobbin (which can be as simple as some alnico strat pickup magnets from eBay stick through holes in a pair of thick popsicle sticks or something) to the flywheel thingy on the opposite end of the machine from the part that actually sews and feed the wire on by hand, don’t even need to modify it. The only slightly ricky part is that cheap modern sewing machines usually have speed controls that are kind of awkward to keep seady for the 10-15 minutes it takes to wind a pickup, but there are all sorts of ways around that. I just pulled the guts out of the pedal on mine and put them in a project box with a pot on it so I can set the speed manually. Too fast and you’ll break the wire, but too slow and the pickup doesn’t wind tightly enough (although my main guitar is actually loaded with the first set of pickups I ever made that are REALLY loosely wound but they still sound great somehow).

Also I haven’t made one yet myself but Heinbach posted a great video about making a DIY stereo EMF pickup a while back. Should cost maybe $10 even if you have to pay to ship the parts. Or get a Soma Ether off the shelf, either way.

EDIT: check out some of the stuff Neptune does with amplified springs.


Very interested in this idea. I knew there was some precedence for these kind of boxes, but there’s not many around. I’ve been digging around and i’ve found a few threads…

The Error instruments Spring Thing has a really nice feature, which is an audio input (example here). This would be pretty high up on my feature list for a DIY build, but i’ve got no idea how to go about it.

Very similar in design is the Electro Faustus Blackfly. The closest thing I could find to what I would want from this kind of box is this blackfly modified by UglyCasanova:

Sounds incredible.

Analog Industries has a tutorial for making this style of spring box with just a piezo, which looks like a great start, but I imagine a good part of what you’re paying for with these products is the amp section? And this would be where my primitive knowledge of electronics trips and dies.

Related, some time ago Electro Harmonix released a few percussion effect boxes that have since faded into obscurity. Had some great names, though - Rolling Thunder, Sonic Boomer, Super Space Drum… From what I can tell they worked on a similar basic principle - contact mic in an enclosure. The difference was they concentrated on building effects in. I’ve hunted down a schematic for the space drum, but you need to sign up to get access (which I probably will). Could be a good lead on extending the circuitry - though i’m far from competent, I love to brainstorm.


I wish there was a DIY waterphone guide!

To make a basic hydrophone you can take a contact mic and either use a rubber coating like plastidip or make a watertight enclosure. Plenty of tutorials on youtube:

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I found a PDF of plans for making a hydrophone from some old magazine a while back but I think they’re on my old laptop that isn’t here. It’s basically an electret capsule (cheap lav mic or similar) inside of a watertight container like a film canister FILLED WITH MINERAL OIL. The oil is key, because it’s nonconductive and noncorrosive so the microphone will still work submeged in it, but it has similar acoustic properties to water so the sound will probagate from the water through thecanister and oil to the mic pretty well. The main thing seemed to be making it 100% watertight and not having any air bubbles inside.

One of the many things I got interested in but didn’t get around to trying.

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Here’s a big collection of information on building piezotransducer based hydrophones. Back when I was reading up on them a lot I decided that electret was the way to go but I don’t remember why now. I know I discounted things like plastidip early on because all of the recordings and descriptions showed a big loss of high end because of bad acoustic coupling. Still looking for those plans (EDIT: scroll down).

OTOH, Digikey has a bunch of waterproof electret elements in the $2-$5 rangeyou could probably build a simple driver board, stick one of those on it, attach a long cable and cover the whole thing in silicon grout or something with the waterproof part sticking out.

EDIT: The original Kevin Hardy design on here is the one I settled on, although it looks like since then they’ve moved to a piezo design also, so maybe that really is the way to go now.

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