Intro: Headphone Hack
Tired of throwing away nice headphones because the cord wears out? Or maybe you are tired of replacing the plug on the end? This is a fix that will help you headphones last for years to come (in theory).
Some High-end headphones (such as Sennheiser) have a connector on the earphone instead of a fixed wire that breaks down after rigorous use. I thought that was a great feature due to my past experience with the cheaper variety. So I started looking at some of the old headphones I had laying around.
My son has been practicing making the Gordian Knot with his headphones wires for years. Here is an example of a pair of his headphones I found from a few years ago. He used to go through headphones pretty quickly. He does much better and his last pair he has kept pretty decent for almost a year. Maybe it was because he bought his last pair for himself?
Sometimes to save a bit of money I would change out the jack when it would go bad. This last time I tried something a bit different that you might find on some higher-end headphones (granted his latest pair were only about $14, but they are JVC and pretty well designed). So I put a female jack on one of the earphones and routed the other ear over the band to the jack. I also converted a pair that had the wires all coming out one side, that is what I will demonstrate here.
Only time will tell how this will hold up. I'm sure with a few tries I will improve on the design.
In theory when the patch cord wears out we can just replace it. Or maybe even get one of these tangle resistant cords from ThinkGeek.
My prediction is that the jack itself will wear out or perhaps the wire over the band will snag on something.
Let's see how much more use I can get out of these now that they have been hacked.
Plastic model glue
Multimeter or circuit tester for checking continuity. Since you are using used parts you want to make sure the section of wire you have will make solid connections. I also use the multimeter to identify the tabs on my jack.
nice pair of worn out headphones (The best have enough room to add a jack inside; even better is a pair that the wires all come out from only one earphone instead of both).
spare headphone jack (tiny surface mount jack from an old mp3 player works best).
Double ended (male/male) patch cord.
If you have headphones with the wires coming out both phones you will need some electrical tape. Or if you can figure out how to get shrink tubing over the wire on the band that would be amazing.
Step 1: Find Your Parts
The female jack I repurposed from an old mp3 player. It was a surface mount component which is more compact than most of the parts you can buy at a hobby parts place. This project costed me no additional money because everything was used junk that most people would ordinarily throw in a landfill. That is unless you count the patch cord (of which I have 5 or 6 laying around). If you want to make your own patch cord then all you will need is some headphone wire and a couple new male headphone jacks.
For this demonstration I used an old pair of headphones that had the wires all conveniently coming out from one earphone. The wires from the other earphone are already built inside the headband.
If you use a pair that has wires coming from both phones then you will have to take the wire from a good section of your headphone cord and repurpose it to go over the headphone band and down to the other phone to be soldered to the jack as I did with a blue pair. As you can see from the result you have little loops that stick out when you adjust the size of the headphones. You also have tape on the band which can come loose and may catch lint along the edge. Needless to say after hacking both sets of headphones, I prefer the headphones that have the wires from one earphone. After reading this Instructable you will understand why.
I do show quite a few pictures because I want this to be clear enough that anyone can do this and save lots of money and maybe help put an end to our disposable society. Why can't they just build things to last? Because too many people will just keep buying their cheap crap. They now intentionally engineer things "built to break" so you will keep digging money out of your pocket and hand it over to them.
Step 2: Disassemble the Earphone
You want to disassemble the earphone with the cord coming out. Carefully pull the ear pad out of the gap around the earphone. This can be tricky. Don't stretch it too much or it won't stay one when you put it all back together. This actually went easier that I thought. These are pretty good quality ear pads.
Next you will find the cover is secured by tabs. You will have to carefully push the tabs back (without breaking them) and pop the cover off the encasement.
After that is removed the actual earphone should fall right out.
carefully asses the wires packed into the case. Where the wires exit the case is what you will trim and solder to your new jack.
Cut only the cord that exits the case. You can snip it on both sides of the knot and remove the bits.
Then you carefully trim off a small portion of the casing so you have your three bare wires (though they are not actually bare as the colored wires have a thin insulating coating on them).
This pair of headphone was so much easier to modify than the other pair. Here I only had to contend with one ground wire (bear copper wire), a left channel wire (blue) and a right channel wire (red). With the other headphones I had to wire two ground wires to the ground on the jack.
Step 4: Get Your Jack Ready
I desoldered this jack from the old mp3 player board. It was fairly simple to do. I put a plug in the jack for leverage. Then I touched the soldering iron one at a time to the four metal tabs mounted to the surface of the board. As I did I applied light pressure using the plug as a lever to pop the part from the board. It took a couple times touching each tab but it eventually came loose. Don't be too forceful or you will break the part. One of the tabs popped out when I desoldered the part but it easily snapped back into it's slot.
If it wasn't already obvious enough to tell which tab was which I went ahead and tested the part for continuity just to be sure. To do this I used a headphone jack that I wired myself just for this purpose. This way I could easily map the wire that goes to the tip (left), the one to the middle (right) and the ground.
To test for continuity you set a multimeter so that when you touch the probes together the meter moves. Touch one probe to the tip of the jack and the other probe to the wires until you find the wire that move the meter. Repeat for all parts of the jack. When you know which wires go where you put the plug into the socket and test which wires correspond to each tab.
Step 5: Drill a Bigger Hole
Next measure the size of your jack so you can choose the correct drill bit.
Then drill out a hole for the new jack.
Be carefully you don't cut any wires when you drill. All wires need to be clear of where you will be drilling your hole.
Make sure you have a place where you can actually fit the jack snuggly and yet still be able to put the headphone back together perfectly without bulging. You may or may not be able to accommodate the jack with the hole that the wire originally went through. If your headphones are too small this project won't even work (at least not and still look very nice). The bigger the headphones the easier this will be.
Step 6: Fit in Your New Jack
I had to get a bit creative to fit this part in place. The more tightly and secure you fit this part in place, the longer it is likely to last.
I carefully cut out a rectangular place to fit the part.
Next I made some spacers to precisely lock that part in position. I cut some plastic bits from some old electronics casing.
Then I glued everything in position with modeling glue.
The main concern was that I had the exact room I needed to put the earphone overtop of the jack and perfectly snap everything back together.
Step 7: Solder the Connections
Next I put a dab of flux on the end of the wires and burnt the coating off the tips. I also manage to leave a dab of solder on the end as well.
You may want to test the wires for continuity between the new tip and the connection on the earphone.
Step 8: Reassemble the Earphone
Snap everything back together and put the ear pad back in place.
The only complication I had was when I plugged my patch cord into the jack it wasn't quite flush so I didn't get a solid connection. To fix this I trimmed away a bit more plastic around the hole and it fit perfectly.
Step 9: Conclusion
There you have it! Plug in your patch cord and enjoy your music!