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Cardboard Headphones: The Most DIY of All Headphones

The finest in hobo chic.

A pair of kinetic headphones by Zimoun keeps the beat simple.

Cardboard headphones? You bet. The Zimoun Studio in Switzerland has created the most D.I.Y. of all headphones, and they’re made only of cardboard, dc-motors and cotton balls that bang against your ears.

Compared to Beats by Dr. Dre’s or even a pair of Skullcandy headphones, this is all about keeping it simple. To the Swiss sound artist Zimoun (a one-name artist like Prince), it’s all about bringing the mechanical rhythm to industrial materials.


“The beats are constantly generated by the motors, the interplay between the ball, the wire and the cardboard, its friction, tension and vibration,” said Ulf Kallscheidt, an assistant to Zimoun in the city of Bern. “So, in that sense, the beats are getting generated by the materials themselves.”

Zimoun have been experimenting with cardboard for years. From walls to pillars and desks, the artist has created endless pieces from cardboard, dc-motors and cork balls. Last year, he built eight sculptures, including a rotunda pieced together from cardboard bricks, which looks a lot like a castle, and a wall piece with 144 live wires squirming around in open cardboard boxes.

“144 prepared dc-motors, wires isolated, cardboard boxes” by Zimoun.

Why cardboard? “For the material itself, its sound properties, weight, functionality, modularity, aesthetics, availability, simplicity, as well as its ecological factors,” said Kallscheidt.

This is highbrow art, after all. The title of the kinetic headphones is: “2 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes.” (Now there’s a catchy headline.) The headphones are not for commercial sale, as it’s an edition of six pieces which sells for thousands of bucks, sold in art galleries exclusively.

329 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, toluene tank by Zimoun.

While nobody from the studio admits to wearing the headphones out on the street (could you imagine wearing them on the subway?), it may be because they are simply too precious. Acoustic sound is a fave, even if it is just the crackling of packing paper in hauntingly empty spaces. Zimoun opens his next show at the Beall Center for Art + Technology opening February 6 in L.A.

Zimoun’s latest installation, “43 prepared dc-motors, 31.5kg packing paper.”