While Apple may have dabbled with transparent earphones with their Beats Studio Buds +, their AirPods line sticks rather religiously to the white plastic construction. However, maverick engineer and YouTuber Ken Pillonel decided to switch things up and build a transparent version of the AirPods Pro. Known famously for building the world’s first USB-C AirPods Pro case, Pillonel’s set himself on a mission to hack the company’s products to make them more repairable, customizable, and user-friendly. The transparent AirPods Pro case shown here is a culmination of all his work, including an earlier project where he built a screw-based repairable version of the AirPods Pro case. Pillonel decided to try 3D printing the case out of clear resin to make something more akin to the Studio Buds +, or to the Nothing Ear (2). The result is quite eye-catching, to say the least!
Designer: Ken Pillonel
The video at the top of the article chronicles Pillonel’s process, which involves 3D printing the AirPods Pro case’s components and then treating them to achieve a clear finish. Once done, Pillonel put the case together, assembling every part including the status LED on the front, a wireless charging coil on the back, and in signature style, a USB-C charging port at the base. A highlight of this build is that even though it’s transparent, it’s held together with screws, which means you can disassemble and repair the case whenever you want.
While the video documents Pillonel’s entire process, the YouTuber’s been more than forthcoming when it comes to other people trying to copy his work. He’s listed his entire process on the website in a nifty step-by-step guide, and you can access the 3D files on his Patreon.
The results look fascinating, especially when the green light causes the plastic to illuminate in this overtly cyberpunk fashion (along with Ken’s branding on the ribbon cable that leads to the light). There are, however, some caveats – the AirPods Pro weren’t designed to be transparent, which is why the internal component placement doesn’t necessarily look as aesthetic as one would hope. The wireless charging cable on the rear has an almost industrial appearance to it, but then again, it’s a matter of preference. The third part is that the earphones are still opaque. Given how hermetically sealed they are, it’s virtually impossible to build transparent earbuds, so the most you can really do is apply a vinyl clad on them or give them a paint job. That said, the transparent AirPods Pro performs just as well as intended, with all the features you’d expect from Apple’s product. Ken’s design hack just makes things better by lifting the opaque veil on the TWS earbuds case… and by making it infinitely repairable too!