Sleeving Earphone / Earbud Cords with Paracord

Picture of Sleeving Earphone / Earbud Cords with Paracord
Sleeve your earphone/earbuds with lightweight paracord so that they are less likely to come out tangled after removing them from your pocket.

This is a great mod to try if you want to enhance cheap earbuds/earphones or your cord is already broken somewhere (hopefully at the plug end, because it's usually difficult to figure out how to take apart the in-ear units if no one has already documented the procedure).

Essentially, to proceed with this mod involves re-making the Y-junction where the common cord splits left and right. Having to cut and rejoin wires possibly degrades audio quality¹. It's likely that you'll notice one of the binaural output signals being noticeably weaker, especially as you lower the volume on your audio source, but this condition is common on cheap headsets to start, so this is why I do not recommend you try this on expensive gear and fail to like the results.

However, it's possible to not introduce more points of electrical resistance, by choosing to redo the existing solder points at either end, if you willing to perform a more laborious rebuild.

As another caveat, depending on how discriminating you are about your listening experience with in-ear headsets, this mod might not be worth it. Paracord, being made of rigid nylon, will audibly and crisply chafe (therefore transferring this sound to your ears), but the use of a clip should reduce this by keeping it from sliding against the sides of your face and any hard fabric you may be wearing.

See the last step of this ible for more notes.
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Thanks for this instructable - what a great idea. I had this pair of Bose/earbuds with the black/white cable, notorious for crumbling off. In this case the cable itself was still working and I didn't want to risk re-soldering but instead I just sewed a strip of cloth around (beforehand I supported open segments of wire with electrical tape, sewed a thicker strip then cut it down). It isn't as beautiful as yours but it feels great and prevented a risky reconstruction of this complex cable (this cable has 5+ wires).



Anderson Pooper made it!1 year ago

Snapped my ear phone wire. Good opportunity to upgrade instead of just fix them.

RedJerk51 year ago
Instead of clipping the wire to your shirt, you could run the wire down the inside of your shirt.
chinnerz2 years ago
Awesome man! I ended up doing this to mine this week.
How did you get the paracord around that big end plug.
I want to order nice cable and sheath them but the cord diameter has got me worried about getting it on at all.
These headphones came with a 3m long cable and a 6.5mm jack, the first step for me was to cut the cable down to 1.5m and attach a 3.5mm jack. I added the cord while the jack was off the cord.
Good luck with your project!
JellyWoo3 years ago
Very cool idea. What diameter paracord did you use?
there's only one diameter of paracord. if you think standard paracord is a bit too thick (1/8 in) then you can try tether or hammer cord, which is (3/32 in), you can get both at countycomm, or any army/navy surplus store or website
Stonewall4 years ago
I sleeve cables all the time for work and have found the best way to terminate the ends of the sleeving is to use adhesive lined heat shrink. I use 3:1 ratio heatshrink, select a size that is just large enough to fit on or you can strech it a bit if needed with some long needle nose pliers. This way you get a nice tight fitting heat shrink and the sleeving is bonded to the wire when you overlap it.
Another easy way to do this is to push the paracord onto a straw and bunch it up slightly then pass the wire through the straw and push the paracord off the straw onto the wire once you reached the end of the wire... if that makes any sense...
This is a really cool idea. I like it a lot. I want to try this out and see if I can do it as well. I got most of the tools/materials and I had to order the others. I ordered the rest of the tools, heat exchangers, some tubing and more during the process of getting the tools so that's always a plus. Thanks again!
im_tux4 years ago
you can actually fully submerge headphones in distilled water and then clean the paracord... as long as you let them dry well they still work... I really like the idea of the shrink tubeing.... and if you want the headphones to not react to the paracord filtering the wind, try wrapping them in electrical tape before sleeving them... thats the only solution i have
John Frum4 years ago
Or you could save yourself a lot of time and effort by getting a pair that already has a cloth or nylon cord, such as the Lenntek Sonix or Sonix 3.
Pimpalicous4 years ago
Man, threading my ipod wires through the rope was a pain. Also i figured out why they were shorter then you had expected. The rope bunches as you thread it through, people may need to grab one end and pull the roper so it expands over the cord. Mine ended up to be about half the length of what i had expected. Nice Tut.
Spokehedz4 years ago
"Having to cut and rejoin wires degrades audio quality." If you use high-quality silver solder, you will notice less of this effect. also, keeping all wires the same length and taking your time with the soldering will also help a lot.
I find this hard to believe. Sure 60/40 solder has about six times the resistivity of copper but the joint is so small and the currents so low that the power loss should be unnoticeable (in a properly wetted and mechanically secured joint). I have repaired many headphones with tin/lead solder and have never noticed a reduction in sound quality. Maybe I just don't have golden ears?
dyril (author)  Vermin4 years ago
Consider my recent soldering of a new stereo jack to my audio player, I guess my soldering skills have improved vastly. I didn't know of using flux/cleaning of the tip until years later, so the quality drop should indeed be little if you're soldering correctly.
if you have to ask, then clearly you do not. JUST KIDDING! I have only worked with audio very little, and I do not claim to be any sort of expert on the issue. With that said, my friends who are into audio (the kind of guys who buy the $500 power cable for their vacuum-tube amp) SWEAR that using silver solder lends to better sound. I use it only because they said so, and since a small tube of ball solder with gel flux will last me forever for the small amount of audio work I do from time to time. I do know that the reason his channels drop out on one side is because one channel is higher impedance than the other--which is tricky to get right, because of the incredibly fine solder work that is required. in short, no. I don't know if the silver solder really does work that well, but when you are using such a small amount--why not use the 'good stuff'?
zoneykid4 years ago Has nylon cable sleeving by the foot and other DIY audio cable stuff. Also from what i understand, you could also just buy a new 1/8th" mini-plug and solder to that to retain audio quality.
dyril (author)  zoneykid4 years ago
This suggestion is feasible if your original cord is of the "zip" type for sleeving each of Left and Right after separating the pair (assuming the original Y-junction could be cut away), and then sleeving both at once through the common sleeve portion (which could be trickier than one rubbery cord given a tendency to twist/bulge), so those are the implications of this approach.
Hello Kitty4 years ago
Really cool - now just to get my hands on some paracord! 5***** (don't you love your sansa c200? :)
dyril (author)  Hello Kitty4 years ago
I love my Rockbox'd sansa c240 so much that I'm sick of having to resolder the left channel's terminal of the SMT stereo jack :[ Maybe another instructable comes if I manage to more permanently fix that somehow...
Spokehedz dyril4 years ago
nothing like soldering the headphone wires directly to the contacts, and using epoxy to secure the wire to the opening left by the jack. 100% trouble free audio since.
dyril (author)  Spokehedz4 years ago
Since I was using the OEM earbuds for some time and disliked having to repair those so often (the cords were so weak), I ruled that out. I tend to favor having options, so I fixed it by replacing the jack (and posted that as another instructable! ;)
Spokehedz dyril4 years ago
I bought some really expensive earcandy buds for cheap with a broken connector... while it was shipping to me the jack on my player broke... two birds with one stone and all that. :D
Ooooh, could you do an Instructable on that? I've known for awhile that is what's wrong with mine, but was too afraid to mess with it. Pretty please with a cherry on top?????
I must say "The Perfectionist " Awesome. I tried to pull this long time back but couldn't finish it. and This guide shows me I should get back to work again.
bowmaster4 years ago
Dang, these look really nice. I need to do this.
benhudson4 years ago
Nice :) When I get around to putting silver cables on my Koss Portapros (buy low, mod high :D ) I'll probably do this as well.
hijinks4 years ago
You could always use shrink tube at the Y-junction it should keep the para cord together.
dyril (author)  hijinks4 years ago
On a prototype where I joined the ends with superglue, before covering with heat shrink alone, it failed. When I use my cord, it is prone to tugging by accidental snags.
rimar20004 years ago
Very good idea. My wife's headphones always get tangled, I will propose this method. Isn't possible to do that without cutting the cable? Maybe using thicker paracord...
dyril (author)  rimar20004 years ago
You could unsolder the wire at the speakers, but it's painful to figure out how to take apart the plastic when there's so many different models of headsets out there; I'd check if there's an existing guide for dismantling. There are surely some on this site. Also, I always assumed paracord only came in nearly one size, from all of the lanyardwork photos I've seen.
bADiTCH4 years ago
OMG! This is brilliant, I remember my field headset when I was in the service was like this. I can't believe it never clicked in my head. Great job! I'm working on one with white paracord and clear heat shrink tubing.
power4 years ago
aha,time to do this on my earphones :D
any ideas on how to do this with out cutting my headphons cause im on my last pair that still works. thanks also this is really awesome
bojopopo4 years ago
these are awesome!!! i want to make some white ones for my ipod
biometod4 years ago
Thanks. good staff
sammyBoy4 years ago
Nice instructable and a GREAT idea. Doing this with my favourite headphones, wish me luck!
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