Introduction: Breathe New Life Into Old Headphones

Picture of Breathe New Life Into Old Headphones

I found this sweet set of Alpha Electronics vintage headphones at a garage sale today for $1.00. I couldn't say no to this awesome old school style! Unfortunately, they were in slightly rough shape and since they are so old (I would guess early 70s), they used the 1/4" male audio jack which most of today's audio listening equipment doesn't use anymore. I knew with a bit of slight modifications and a little TLC, I could bring these old headphones back from the dead!

What you'll need:

-Vintage headphones

-Female 3.5mm stereo audio jack

-Male to male 3.5mm stereo audio cable

-A rubber grommet

-An audio source


-Soldering iron and solder

-Helping hands (not necessary, but they make things a bit easier)

-Varsol (paint thinner/mineral spirits) and paper towel for cleaning

-Epoxy glue

-Electrical tape


Here we go!

Step 1: Cleaning

Picture of Cleaning

The first thing I did was put a bit of Varsol on a paper towel and wipe down the entire set of headphones to get all of the dirt and grime off of them. They were pretty dirty, but actually came out pretty nice after some serious scrubbing.

Step 2: Remove Speaker Cover and Cut Old Cable

Picture of Remove Speaker Cover and Cut Old Cable

Now just get some scissors or wire cutters and snip the old 1/4" jack and cable off as close to the headphones as possible.

Next, remove the earphone cover on the same side as the original cable went into.

Step 3: Solder on Female Jack

Picture of Solder on Female Jack

Now, get your female 3.5mm jack and solder the three wires you just cut to the three terminals of the jack. In my case, the wires were already properly colour coded (red=right, white=left, black=ground). Just strip a bit of the jacket off of the end of the wires and solder them to the terminals.

Step 4: Prepare Grommet and Secure Jack

Picture of Prepare Grommet and Secure Jack

In my case, I had to cut the grommet in half because the threads of the 3.5mm jack weren't long enough to go all the way through the full grommet. I simply cut mine in half with scissors.

After your grommet is ready, hold it on the outside of the earphone body and feed the threads of the 3.5mm jack through from the inside. Then screw on the end piece of the 3.5mm jack to hold everything together.

Step 5: Glue

Picture of Glue

Now, mix up some epoxy glue and glue the rear of the 3.5mm female jack in place just to keep it from moving when you plug and unplug the male cable.

Step 6: Ear Cover Repair

Picture of Ear Cover Repair

One of my earpiece covers had a couple of small tears in it, so I cut a couple of pieces of electrical tape and patched them from the inside.

Step 7: Reattach Ear Cover

Picture of Reattach Ear Cover

Now, just carefully stretch the ear cover back over the headphone.

Step 8: Done!

Picture of Done!

Now, plug your audio source into your restored headphones via your male to male aux cable and blast some tunes! The one downside to using these massive headphones with a battery powered audio source is that they will probably drain the battery much faster than earbuds or other small headphones, but they look so cool!

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable!


Ididnotki (author)2017-11-22

Great restore though because these old cans where designed for big current amps and modern mobile devices don't pump out that sort of power I tend to replace the speaker drivers as well ( just some hacked out of a cheap £15 to £20 set of modern earphones ) that way you get the same performance of a modern set with all the kudos of their retro styling, also older cans tend to be much more robust and sturdy

overnimbin1 (author)2016-08-13

I have a decent set of phones but can't get sound without the jiggle techniq.would love to rewire and wondering where to get 2nd hand wires from.thx cool idea of yours.?

ctx1985 (author)overnimbin12016-08-14

Hi there,

You can salvage wires from all sorts of old electronics that you may find out on the curbside. It's been a while since I did this Instructable, but I remember the original wiring was nothing fancy (I think maybe 20 gauge stranded copper). If you are talking about the coiled cord itself, you could buy something like this on eBay:

And then just cut off the female end and wire to the headphones.

splib (author)2015-01-02

Cool work !

These vintage phones must be 8 ohm, and speakers in them (usually) wouldn't sound superb. The chassis of the vintage phones is something they don't make anymore (cutting production expenses). I am working on a similar project, besides, taking the speakers from modern KOSS (the plastic squeeky sound of a cheap chassis just killed the joy of listening), remaking the earpads in real leather and insulating the inside of the cans for better sound.

Wish I could get hold of cans this fancy

ctx1985 (author)splib2015-01-03


Yeah They're pretty nifty cans I have to say. If you're really set on getting some similar, I see them at garage sales fairly often for next to nothing, Seriously, like $0.50 - $1.00. I would say garage sales are your best bet for finding an old set like these. They don't have the best sound quality in the world, but for 40 year old haedphones they actually sound pretty good haha. Thanks for the comment and good luck on your project!

d alan (author)2014-11-21

some of these folks can communicate via keyboards so I imagine they can read . thats why i'm commenting I got my first radio in1963 i was 6 years old it almost fit in a pocket .haha . lts still in my folks house somwhere .I get a warm feeling in my gut whenever I see 60' 70' even 80' tech . please dont run into the future blind . the bogus wires were fixed hahas .

elgrego.swartz (author)2014-11-13

I'm actually doing the same thing, really helpful.

ctx1985 (author)elgrego.swartz2014-11-13

Glad I could help. Post some pics when you're finished!

cowcrusher (author)2014-10-29

cool!!! thanks for sharing.

ctx1985 (author)cowcrusher2014-10-29

Thanks! Glad you liked it!

ChickBang (author)2014-10-27


for some reason i can't reply to you, but first of all this does'nt really have to do anything with the 'ible but it might be because hidden files on it of it is seperated into different sectors and only one is useable

shepnstein (author)2014-10-01

couldn't you just use a 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter?

Polymorph (author)shepnstein2014-10-18

But then you end up with this huge 4 inch long plug sticking out of your phone or MP3 player. A nice long lever waiting to get bumped and break the jack.

It is also quite likely that the coil cord is deteriorating and may have broken wires.

And that wouldn't make a very good Instructable.... ;')

ctx1985 (author)Polymorph2014-10-18

That's what I was thinking exactly. The headphones are close to 40 years old and the wires were already partially exposed where they met the ear piece (you can see it in one of the photos), so I figured at the very least it would be a good idea to rewire them. It's also nice to not have a cord dangling down when you're not using them as well. Thanks for the comment :)

ctx1985 (author)shepnstein2014-10-02

Hey yeah you absolutely could! I just liked the idea of being able to unplug the jack from the headphones themselves as well and would rather not use an adapter. But yes, if you wanted to go that way, you could buy a female 1/4" to male 3.5mm adapter and use that instead.

ashnman2 (author)2014-09-11

I didnt even look at ur instructable yet. But I thank you so much. Ive been building up enough steam to work on a pair of OLD Pioneers I got. Not much help online anywhere. I was actually going to post my RE-Mod with a built in Amp once time permits up here. But I wanting to see what someone like you did before I even open these things up to see what I got to work with....

Thanks again.

ctx1985 (author)ashnman22014-09-12

No problem at all! Thank you for the kind words. If you can find a fairly small headphone amp similar to a Fiio E5, I think you could easily fit it inside one of the earphones. Not sure what your Pioneers are like, but there is plenty of extra space inside my headphones for an amp and small battery. I'd love to see yours when you finish!

ashnman2 (author)ctx19852014-09-12

Whenever I get em done, Ill share the link with it. Or at least send a pic..That Amp might be perfect. Thanks again.

ashnman2 (author)ashnman22014-09-12

this is what Im working with.

ctx1985 (author)ashnman22014-09-12

Yeah I'd love to see a pic when they're done! Those are some nice headphones! They look really retro space age kind of style. They look like they're in near mint condition too! From the looks of them, there will be plenty of room for a headphone amp inside them! Good luck on the project!

jennace (author)2014-09-08

You got one helluva deal there! Great job on the rework & modification. They look sweet!

ctx1985 (author)jennace2014-09-08

Thank you very much! :)

joaqi823 (author)2014-09-08

It is now very tempting to go outside and look for some headphones

ctx1985 (author)joaqi8232014-09-08

Haha I hope you find some! That's what I like about garage sales...Most times, you end up finding something you didn't know you were looking for.

aaron.gosselin.92 (author)2014-09-06

SPPOOwhy does my 32GB SDHC only hold 1 minute more of video then my 4GB SDHC?

Are you sure you don't have anything else on the 32 and the quality of the video on the 32 is probably higher then the 4 but if that's not the case try reformatting it

Gutterclean (author)2014-09-06

Very cool. Would rather these than a pair of Beats.

ctx1985 (author)Gutterclean2014-09-07

Thanks! They actually have pretty decent sound quality too!

waslessen (author)2014-09-07

Awesome, they look great. I gotta start looking for similar ones at thrift stores. Why the electrical tape and not thread to close the tear though?

ctx1985 (author)waslessen2014-09-07

Thanks! Thread would be a better option, but I am a TERRIBLE sewer haha. I think in my case, the electrical tape was a better option lol.

Phil B (author)2014-09-06

Headphones like this are good for sealing out unwanted noise in the surroundings, like traffic. That would give another reason for using them. If portability is not an issue, it might be possible to use a small intermediate amplifier between the player and the headphones. That would avoid overburdening the amplifier in the player and would save the player battery, even though other batteries would be needed for the amplifier.

mrandle (author)Phil B2014-09-06

The nice thing about this mod is with the female jack on the headphones the cord is optional so you could use it just as a set of ear protectors. Also if you get the cord caught in equipment it doesn't rip your head off .

ctx1985 (author)Phil B2014-09-06

Thanks for the input! I've seen some really cheap headphone amplifiers on ebay and was actually thinking if I can find a kit that's small enough, I may even be able to fit it inside one of the earphone housings as there is quite a bit of extra space in them. Thanks for the helpful info :)

Phil B (author)ctx19852014-09-06

I am hardly an expert. You can get 386 integrated amplifier chips for very little money. There is a double chip that includes two 386 chips for very little extra. You would need to look for the configuration needed for an audio amplifier. There are not many extra parts to add. I think each amplifier can run off of its own 9 volt battery.

I tried making an amplifier with a 386 chip so my father could use it as a cheap hearing aid. I think other people have had more success than I had.

technovative (author)2014-09-06

Nice score, and mod.

ctx1985 (author)technovative2014-09-06

Thanks! Yeah can't beat $1!

aaron.gosselin.92 (author)2014-09-06


aaron.gosselin.92 (author)2014-09-06


MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-09-06

Nicely done, they look much nicer now! Thanks for sharing!

Thanks so much :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a 29 year old guy who's passionate about building and fixing things, sometimes if they aren't even broken. I get a ... More »
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