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We have all seen the instructables that take an existing pair of ear buds with in line remote and hack them with a 1/8" jack so you can use your favorite set of headphones while maintaining the mic and remote. While that is a great and easy hack you are left with 2 problems. For one your stuck with an extra 2 feet or more of wire to contend with. Secondly you still have that tiny remote that can be difficult for some people to operate and almost unusable with gloves. With that remote being in the middle of 6 feet of cable its also hard to keep track of and get to. 

In this Instructable we'll take a look at the inner workings of the in line remote. We will then create a larger remote that will fit inside of an Altoids Smalls tin. 

Materials Needed:
  • Expendable or broken set of iPhone/ iPod Touch Ear Buds with Remote
  • Altoids Smalls tin
  • 3 small push buttons
  • 1/8" stereo jack
  • small Perfboard
  • pair of right angle headers
  • small rubber grommet 
Tools Needed:
  • Soldering iron
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Razor blade
  • Small torch or lighter
  • Sanding block with 150 grip sand paper
  • Jeweler's file set.

Step 1: Inside the Remote

First we need to take our razor blade and carfully pry apart the case around the remote. Here is what we find on the inside of a set of iPhone/iPod Touch compatible ear buds with remote. I've labeled as many parts as i could without the use of a microscope. I've also labeled the TRRS jack. Only the Ground and Control/Mic wires are used by the remote. 

After hours of research and experimenting, with my limit knowledge, i have no idea how it all works. What i could find online seams to indicate that the circuit board in the remote triggers the iPhone/iPod into excepting various signals between the Ground and Control/Mic wires. I do know that the Play/Pause/Skip button shorts the Control/Mic wire to Ground. But if you connect a TRRS jack up to the phone, start up some music, and short the Control/Mic wire to the Ground wire, nothing happens. But if you short those wire at the remote you will trigger the iPod to ply/pause/skip. As for how the circuit triggers volume control i have no idea.

Here is what i do know. When the headphones are plugged in there is about 1.9V DC on the Control/Mic and Ground wires. When the cable is not connected to anything there is about 0.87 Ohms on the wires. When the Volume + button is pressed the resistance drops to 0.85 Ohms. When the Volume - is pressed the resistance drops to 0.86 Ohms. That doesn't really mean much since there is more going on there then a couple of resistors. From what i can make out there is 1 transistor on the board and an IC with 6 leads. 

So to keep things simple we will used the existing board and just extend the buttons on the board to our larger push buttons. 

Step 2: Laying Out the Perfboard

Before we jump into soldering things together we need to lay out how we want everything to be connected and how it will fit into the Altoids Smalls tin. The first thing we want to do is trim down our perfboard to fit inside the tin. Just use your wire cutters nip away parts of the board till it fits. You may also want to use your sanding black with 150 grit sand paper to smooth out the edges for a better fit. 

We need to desolder the remote circuit board from the ear buds. Be sure to make a note of which contacts are the ground and control. Also make a note of which wires from the ear buds where soldered to those contacts. Don't just go off my pictures. Mine came from a pair of Sony ear buds and your's may be oriented differently. Just know which one is ground and which one is the control. 

To help make it easier to connect the circuit to the perfboard we'll use a pair of right angle headers soldered to the ground and control points. After solding the header glue them securely to the board. The SMD traces are very small and will rip off the board very easily. Now we'll remove the spacer to allow the circuit to sit as close to the perfboard as possible. 

Now we can lay out the components and see how they will fit in the tin. Make sure you have enough room for the 1/8" stereo jack to fit. When we do the final assembly the board will be raised up from the bottom of the tin so the buttons can protrude through the top. 

Now we very carefully desolder the contact pads from the board so we can solder wires that will run to our push buttons. Using a peice of ribbon cable we very carefully solder the wires to the button contacts. The common trace for all the buttons leads to the control wire. With the wires in place we'll glue them down so we don't rip the traces off the board. 

Step 3: Wiring and Soldering

Now we are ready to get things soldered into place and run our wires. First we'll solder the circuit board into place. Then we will solder the buttons onto the board. Next we'll use a 1/16" drill bit to widen 4 of the holes in the perfboard to pass the wired through. Matching each wire to there buttons we now solder them in place. Unfortunately in the picture i have the Volume+ and Volume- reversed. fix this i'll round off the corners of the other end of the board and mount the board in the opposite direction. Which will now place the Play/Pause/Skip button on the left side rather then the right. 

Now before we can connect the TRRS and 1/8" stereo jacks we need to prepare the Altoids Smalls tin.

Step 4: Preparing the Altoids Smalls Tin

First we need to drill the holes to allow the TRRS wire and the 1/8" Stereo Jack to pass through and mount to the case. For the 1/8" Stereo Jack we'll use a 1/4" drill bit to drill the hole. We want the jack to sit close to bottom of the tin and be centered along the side of the tin. Since the top will overlap the hole we need to cut a notch in the top. The notch will have to be larger then the hole to accommodate the jacks mounting nut. To make the notch you'll need a rounded file from your jeweler's file set. 

For the TRRS wire you will need a small rubber grommet to protect the wire from the sharp edges of the tin. So you drill bit selection will be based on that grommet. For me i used an 11/64" drill bit and my round jeweler's file to clean up the edges. Then we can pop the grommet in place. 

Now we need to measure out where the button holes will go. Then using a 9/64" bit we can drill out the hole. Since its hard to get the line up of the holes just right you will want to test fit the buttons into the holes and use your files to make adjustments as needed.

I came to realize it would be best to mount the board to the top of the tin. But the board was in the way of the tin closing. So we need to trim some more off the sides. I trimmed off 2 rows worth on the hing side and trimmed 1 row off the opposite side. I also trimmed some off the top. This leaves plenty of clearance for the tin to close and room to secure the board to the tin with Hot Glue.  

If you like to have a good finished product then now is the time to paint your box. 

Step 5: Final Assembly

With the paint dry we can now put everything together. First we need to take the ear buds we destroyed and cut the TRRS plug off. Be sure to leave a good 6 inches or more of the wire. Cut it to the length you want the remote to be from your iPhone/iPod. Thread the wire through the grommet leaving a couple of inches so you can solder the wires to the board and the top can be left open. Tie an overhand not in the wire so it won't get pulled out of the Grommet. 

Now we need to strip the wires and go back to our notes where we marked which wire goes where. As with most ear buds the wires have a very thin plastic coating on them rather then rubber insulation. You can use a lighter or small torch to help burn the plastic off. Be carefull the wires are thin enough a common lighter can melt the. Some time the residue left behind needs to be scraped off. After cleaning the wires off give them a bit of solder.You may want to use a Multi meter to verify which wire goes to which part of the TRRS plug. Refer back to step 1 for the picture of the TRRS plug and which rings go to what. Now we solder the ground and control wires to the remote circuit. Next we will solder the right and left channel to the 1/8" stereo jack as well as the ground. 

Now we can mount the  1/8 in stereo jack and Glue the board into the top. Close it all up and your ready to rock with your favorite headphones.
I have the same headphones!

About This Instructable

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Bio: I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none. I like to tweak, mod and improvise whenever possible!
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