Introduction: Fix Your Busted Headphones!

Picture of Fix Your Busted Headphones!
A few weeks ago, my favorite pair of headphones started acting strangely - at first I thought it was my playback devices, but the problem seemed too consistent across all of the devices to be rooted there. I got my hands on a a really dinky pair of ear buds, and sure enough, it was actually my headphones that were busted. The cord was in good shape and the earphones were in enclosures, so I figured it was the plug. The plug is often the most abused part of your headphones, and the rubber that supports the wiring can sometimes get damaged too.

For this project you will need the following:
  • wire snips/strippers
  • soldering iron
  • solder/flux
  • replacement jack

Step 1: Cut the End Off Your Headphones.

Picture of Cut the End Off Your Headphones.

Yep. No turning back now - just go for it. Then use your wire strippers to remove the wire casing around the cord. My headphones had coated wires within the main cord housing, if your headphones are like that too, you will have to strip down enough insulation to wire to solder the new jack into place.

Step 2: The Fix.

Picture of The Fix.

Disassemble your new headphones jack and thread the housing onto the existing headphone cord (see images)

I used a 'helping hands' clamp tool to hold the new jack in place while I threaded the three wires into place. With the archaic set of headphones I was using, it didn't particularly matter which wire was fed into each pin - I tried all possible configurations,  I put the white wire in the long pin, and the red and black wires in the smaller pins. Gingerly, heat each pin, and solder into place.

Step 3: Check It and Jam It.

Picture of Check It and Jam It.
Go through checking the strength of your solders, then crimp down the plug into place.  Slide the enclosure back down, and screw into place.

Now, pump up the jams. Do the robot.

robot v.1.1 from Audrey Love on Vimeo.


jlyvers743 (author)2012-08-04

Where did you buy that replacement part, the actual jack? This could save us $85 on a new charger for a laptop! Wohoo, thank you!

audreyobscura (author)jlyvers7432012-08-05

There you go :)

NRen2k5 (author)2012-03-18

Reminds me, I have an old pair of Sennheiser headphones with a ¼" plug that I’ve been meaning to replace with a ⅛" plug. Same process as you outline here of course.

NRen2k5 (author)NRen2k52012-03-18

That should say 1/8", but Instructables’ support for Unicode characters is evidently broken.

xaenon (author)NRen2k52012-03-31

why not just use an adapter? I'm pretty sure Radio Shack sells them.

StevenMcFlyJr (author)2012-03-28

This doesn't always work ... newer headphones in the last few years have a "fiber" strand in them. Once cut ... well, you're screwed.

FrozenIce (author)2012-03-25

what if something happens to the headpiece??

dan1897 (author)2012-03-21


k5cqb (author)2012-03-19

I fixed my wife's last night. I didn't replace the plug, I just sliced away the bulky rubber boot and re-soldered the loose connection.

frisbeechamp1983 (author)2012-03-18

So now if it breaks again, all you have to do it unscrew it it and resolder?


MW0GKX (author)2012-03-18

It does matter which wire goes to what pin as you have 2 speakers, a Left and a Right plus the ground wire(s) as incorrect connection could cause damage to the device thart they are used on.
Take a look at:
for explanation of wires, plugs etc.

rihaller (author)MW0GKX2012-03-18

You can also determine the proper wire-to-plug arrangement by using a continuity tester (or ohm meter) on the plug you cut off. Test each color for connectivity to which part of the plug tip it connects to. Then connect colors identically on the replacement plug.

Jerry999 (author)rihaller2012-03-19

The BEST reply! Thank you!
If a DIYSer can use a soldering iron properly, then he/she is fully conversant with a basic volt-continuity meter.
For one, you can't go wrong with the 'common' or ground wire. After that, just connect it as rihaller says.
As a rule, one of the wires may be intermittenttly contacting or even broken at the plug but not likely both.
Smart as most DIYSs are, use the process of elimination.

paziggie (author)MW0GKX2012-03-18

Alternatively, you could open up the previous headphones plug that you've just cut off and see which wires go to which points. Randomly soldering this to that isn't the best move when dealing with electronics - it's best to know exactly what goes where!

lsymms (author)paziggie2012-03-19

yeah, it's really not that hard to figure it out based on the old plug using a conductivity tester (most volt meters have these) unless it's shorting out. That being said if you have 3 wires and they're red white and black it's fairly certain that black is ground (long post aka the sleeve), red is right (the middle part of the plug aka the ring), white is left (the tip of the plug aka the tip). The way I remember this is to think of the red as the key to the puzzle. Red Right that's easy. Red and White? Doesn't make me think of anything in particular. Red and Black though is the standard color coding for DC batteries (cars, alkaline, etc) where red is + and black is - and - should always be ground. Red is right, black is ground, so white must be left.

rapier1 (author)MW0GKX2012-03-19

It may be possible to cause equipment damage if you connect the ground to a signal post but it's unlikely - not impossible - just unlikely. Simply swapping the left and right cannot cause damage.

canman200 (author)2012-03-18

teeth wish i had some falsies just don't work

Vaxinius (author)2012-03-18

Worth noting even a second time just how important sliding the outer enclosure onto the wire is before commencing anything else. Shot myself in the foot so many times getting excited about stripping and soldering only to realize my chronic error.

it_dont_work (author)2012-03-16

the best wire strippers for little wires is your teeth :).

Nice work! for smaller hadphones in ears and ear buds the wires are usualy coated in plastic you need to burn off as n fyi.

+1. you should prolly feature this comment or include someting about it in the ible, as this is not something most people know, and it gave me fits when trying to splice headphone wires. Often times you can't even tell it's on there.

I will second your nomination for a featured comment. Burning off the plastic was the best discovery I ever made when repairing headphones. Also, I have yet to find a tool that is better than my teeth for stripping tiny wires.

tinyweasel (author)2012-03-18

My speaker system has a broken jack, but the wires in it are weird and I can't find instructions on how to fix it anywhere.

aks (author)2012-03-18

A good guide if there isn't a break in the cord. I had a chewed up cord from my dog and just tried replacing the jack. Only to find out that it was chewed up almost near the driver.

To save myself from future hassles, I just soldered a 3.5mm female jack inside, tons of glue gun glue. So no more worrying about broken cords or plugs. :D

blanchae (author)2012-03-18

Just beware that some headphones like Sony's have very flexible extremely small gauge wires that have the copper wire meshed in a plastic. You have to burn the cloth off with a match. It is very difficult to solder. Another thing to be aware is the size of the jack body. I fixed my daughter's headphones and used a fancy metal jack that had a larger housing then the original and it interfered with her iPod jacket and wouldn't allow it to be inserted completely.

astroboy907 (author)2012-03-17

What do you use for the photo backgrounds in this ible? Its a really nice background!!!!

Anders303 (author)2012-03-17

I just broke my 150$ AKG headset, now i can fix it! THANKS!

nickmccullough (author)2012-03-17

Very nice, simple instructable!

My brother had similar problems with a few different pairs of headphones, but instead of replacing just the jack I replaced the whole cord, either way nice work:)

Kozz (author)2012-03-16

Nicely done, simple, and great photos!

Now I have to cross my fingers that I encounter this same problem so that I can buy a real wire strippers, not that useless $0.99USD job I've got in my toolbox.

Thanks for posting this.

flat_cat63 (author)Kozz2012-03-17

No kidding, some of the best wire strippers I've used are an electric set which basically is like a pair of tweezers that you press to the insulation and it cleanly burns off the plastic. You could emulate this effect by heating a knife and pressing firmly. Food for thought.

monkeyjo (author)2012-03-16

What kind of headphones are you using??

audreyobscura (author)monkeyjo2012-03-17

they are totally cheap, and not the best quality - but they are my favorite thing ever.

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