IRecoil - IPhone Retractable Headphones

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Introduction: IRecoil - IPhone Retractable Headphones

About: Daniel Bauen breathes new life into objects that have met their untimely demise in the junk pile.

The iPhone headphones are great, with their built in mic and music control, but everytime I pulled them out of my pocket I had a big tangled knot that took a while to undo. I've seen the 3rd party headphones that have the retracting mechanism, but there wasn't a set available for the iPhone even a few months after it's release. So, using the rectractable USB cable from my old treo, I created a retractable iPhone headset. Maybe there's a third party one available now, but I haven't checked because this works great.

There's still a short length between the split and the earbuds that doesn't get pulled in, but I haven't had problems with that tangling.

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Step 1: Parts You Will Need

You will need:

1. A retractable cable of some sort. There are many different types available, and most will probably work. I used a treo 650 sync cable. The cable is a flat type, but the headphone cables fit in there just fine.
NOTE: There are lots of different types of retracting cable assemblies, and some may work much better then others, so this may require some experimentation. Make sure that the headphone cables are small enough to fit through the guides. Also, the whole cable length needs to be able to fit within the retractor when retracted. Ideally, it would work best salvaging the retractor from a crappy pair of retractable headphones.

2. Tangled rats nest of an iPhone headset / headphones.

3. Small phillips screwdriver.

4. Steady hands and patience.

Step 2: Seperating the Halves

1. Remove the brand sticker, under which you will find a screw holding everything together.

2. Unscrew the screw, holding the 2 halves together to make sure they don't fly apart.

3. Remove the screw side cover. Be Careful not to lose the tiny ball bearing that acts as the latching mechanism to keep the cable extended. If you lose this, the headphones will not stay extended.

4. Put the ball bearing in a safe location.

Step 3: Taking It Apart

1. The spring under the plastic rotating center hub which the cable is wrapped around is slightly wound up. Be careful to prevent it from shooting out when lifting up the hub.

2. Take note of how the old cable was routed through the hub. You will want to route the headphone cables the same way.

3. Remove the old cable from the hub.

4. You should be left with some parts that look like the picture.

Step 4: Insert the Headphone Cable in the Hub

1. Fold the cable halfway between the audio connector, and the Y split. This fold will be the retraction center, which will be placed inside the hub.

2. Insert the headphone cable center into the hub the same way that the other cable was routed.

Step 5: Re-Assemble the Retraction Mechanism

With the headphone wire in the hub, re-assemble the parts in the reverse order.
1. The spring has to go through the slot in the center axle.

2. I wound the spring up fairly tightly before placing the wires through the guides, such that I would be assembling it in an extended state.

3. Carefully place the ball bearing in the track.

4. Place the top cover with the screw hole back on.

5. Screw the 2 halves back together.

6. Test out the retraction to see how well it works. It should retract all the way to the audio connector. If not, then you may need to remove the top cover again, and wind it a little tighter. Although, you do want the spring pull to be weak when it's fully retracted.

Step 6: Finished!

Now you will actually be able to answer calls in time without having to untangle the headphones.

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    71 Comments

    Hi, has anyone found a place where you can buy just the retractor? I already salvaged one from a broken mouse but I have plenty of small cables that I would like to put a retractor on. So do you have any idea where I could buy a bunch of them? Buying 10 treo cables just to disassemble them does not sound too smart :( Bye, Emme

    10 replies

    Try DollarTree. They've had retractable headphones in pink, blue & white for at least a year, in their electronics section. For that price ($1) you could buy as many as you need and remove the cheap cords.

    Are you sure that they have them? I called 3 stores last night and they all said that they didn't have that sort. So either they're too stupid, lazy, or just don't have them haha.

    Hi, when I made my post last July they had had them in several locations for over 6 mo. I haven't seen them lately, but they've had several different Belkin ipod/iPhone accessories for only a $1. I found a slim leather iPhone cover that I saw in another store for $29! Good luck!

    Never mind, it turns out they do have them, a BUNCH actually! So everybody head on to dollar tree! I went to look for myself. And you're right, they even have retractable headphones sold there, but then again, they're a dollar so they're sooo TERRIBLE!But the real problem is that most of them are only up to 30 inches, and most headphones(good ones) are much longer, like bose and shure with thicker cables that won't fit. I got 4 for experimentation and the cables and retracter really aren't met to be together

    Isn't most of the quality of the headphones in the speakers themselves? If you can solder in good quality speakers into the poor quality headphones then all would be good. (except you cant show off your BOSE anymore.)

    Thanks... if only I didn't live in EU... and they don't ship there. Are you aware of any online shop that sells similar stuff? Anyway, I'll try and ask a friend of mine that's going to the US this summer.

    If you are in UK you should try the £ stores. They have exactly what you would find in a Dollar Store

    Cheap small measuring tapes may work.

    You can get PLENTY on Ebay. Just search retractor cable and you'll find prices from .99-1.43! it's basically a dollar each cable but the 43c is the shipping. Hope this helped!

    Hi, Try www.dealextreme.com, they have retractable headphones or retractable internet cables that could provide retractors.

    The spring inside is a metal band & I just sliced my finger open :-( Nothing serious but does anyone know where to buy an actual retractable iphone headphone? I'd pay for it rather than slicing more of my digits :-)

    1 reply

    The whole point is that actual retractable earbuds cost like 200 bucks

    At least in the retractable device I took apart, if you look on the top part of the middle section (the hub where you inserted the wires to begin with), there appears to be some grooves. When I placed the ball bearing there, it seemed to work... until at one point I lost the ball bearing.

    It may just be me but the instructions for putting everything back together wasn't clear... What I found works best (after already losing the ball bearing) is to wind up the spring tightly with the wires not wrapped around the hub... Then by letting the spring unwind, the wires would naturally wind up around the hub. Then I can place the cover (and place the ball bearing)...

    Where can i buy retractable USB thingii in order to make a retractable head phone. This is a cool instructable..and i have commented nicely..

    1 reply

    Stores that carry electronics equipment usually have them.

    where the ball bearing has to be??
    could u put and ilustrative pic?? please...

    Yep. I lost the ball bearing too (FML). I even took it apart in a bag in the hopes that when the spring exploded I would catch the ball. No such luck. Next time the whole thing goes in a ziplock bag to get taken apart.
    Has anyone found a DIY replacement ball bearing?

    Thanks for posting this! I had a wonky retractable USB cable and never having seen one before I thought the screw might be too tight to auto retract. So I loosened it. And it fell apart.

    I am now going to hunt every inch of floorboard with a big magnet to see if I can find the ball bearing, but at least I know how to put it back thanks to this picture.