My motor-scooter has a built in radio, with a small speak either side of the front panel, below the handlebars. It's a JonWay, i.e. cheap Chinese, so I suspect the radio is more suited to developing countries where helmets are not yet mandatory.

For me to listen while wearing a helmet, I need zero traffic, or a headphone jack, and I'd like to do the jack myself. I may not find the radio board without too much dismantling, but the speakers are very accessible, so I may have to grab my input signal directly from them.

My electronics knowledge has all but evaporated after 15 years of non-use, so all I can start with is that I'll need a high impedance input, to make the increased load on the amp negligible, and my own power amp stage. Where do I go from here? I would like to do a rough design myself, maybe make the amp component a kit, but nothing ready made.

  • \$\begingroup\$ ...I thought it was illegal to wear headphones while driving? (In the USA) \$\endgroup\$
    – Earlz
    Mar 17, 2011 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I needn't be wearing earphones while driving. Many bike helmets have built in speakers, and the law requires we wear a helmet. The speakers don't cover the ear as headphones do, technically. \$\endgroup\$
    – ProfK
    Apr 28, 2013 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


Don't worry about the input impedance of the stage. Even a low 1 kΩ impedance will only decrease the load from 8 Ω to 7.94 Ω. A more typical 10 kΩ will be invisible to the power amplifier.

Power amp for driving headphones is pretty easy. In fact, you could just do it all in one stage. See the CMoy amp for a popular and simple design:

alt text

If your headphone amp will be battery-powered and mono, just connect the input of this schematic to the red wire of the speaker, and the ground to the black wire.

If you want to run stereo, or power it from the same supply so you don't need batteries, then you need to check whether the speakers are driven bridged or not. With a signal coming through them, you should always see an AC voltage between the two terminals of a speaker (to make sure you're measuring right). Then check if there's also a voltage between each terminal and ground. If there is, then it's bridged. If one wire has zero volts to ground, then it's ground. You can make sure with a resistance check.

If it's not bridged, then you can just do the same thing with two amps.

If it is bridged, you can't use that circuit. You don't want to short the active speaker outputs to ground or short the left and right outputs to each other. So you'd need to build a diff amp for each input stage, and connect ground to ground, V1 to one speaker wire (red), and V2 to the other (black):

alt text

Then Vout of this circuit connects to Vin of the previous headphone amplifier circuit.

If the speakers are driven class D, you might need additional filtering, but probably not.


You can grab the input signal off of the speaker or replace the speaker with a power resistor. The radio is designed to drive a low-impedance so you want to keep a low impedance on the output and amplify from there. I did this with a car radio/cassette deck so that I could listen to some old cassettes on my home stereo.

For the amplifier you could use an amplifier IC like the TDA7056A from Phillips (and IIRC others). There may be single package audio amp ICs from National and TI that could. The TDA7056A is a large through-hole package with a metal-tab for heatsinking.

You may be better-off using a small portable radio or ipod like gadget and coming off of the headphone jack.


What you actually want is to reduce or attenuate the voltage down to headphone levels. A voltage divider(or L-Pad as audiophiles call them) will do that just fine, and only needs two resistors. The only downside is that the resistors might get a little warm so use ones that are rated for 10 watts or so.

I'd say a use a ten ohm and a one ohm and put the headphone out across the one ohm.

Lots of people are making "L pad headphone attenuators", I'm sure the audio nerds know more than I do about them.

I've also heard of transformers being used.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.