Don't Throw Away Bad Head Phones! Fix Them.




About: i feel armed with a hot glue gun and butane soldering iron. . . and completely lost without my gerber and surefire flashlight. i'm a theatre techie on hiatus.

my headphones almost always break in the same place. instead of chucking them and shelling out $10 or $20 bucks for a new pair, i bought a few small pieces and fixed my old pair. it's not too hard if you have some time.


Step 1: Gathering Supplies

these are the tools i had near me.

it's completely possible for this to be done with alternative tools. i've heard of people using fingernail clippers to work with wires, and when i don't have strippers around i use the wire cutters on my multi-tool.

-heat shrink
-new 1/8" jack
-soldering iron
-wire strippers

(also, later on i discover a decent knife was very handy.)

Step 2: Off With the Old

the connection inside the molded jacket is what seems to break most often on my headphones.

so i snipped off the connector as close to the molded jacket as possible (you could snip off more if you want a shorter distance between your music player and headphones. yay, customizable!)

Step 3: Strip the Wires

split the two sets of wires from each other, separating them might be easier if you cut them a little bit with a knife first.

the strip the insulation back. i only have about a 1/4" off here, i ended up stripping it further, to about a 1/2".

Step 4: Don't Forget!

before you get much further (and you could've done this before the last step) don't forget to put all the connector back pieces in place. (the back, and any heat shrink you plan to use.)

the last thing you'll want is to complete the soldering only to have to take it apart because you forgot to put the back on.

if you do a lot of these projects you're bound to forget the back. it usually only takes one time though, and then you'll not forget it again.

Step 5: Tinning

sorry a couple of these pictures are kind of blurry.

a great trick for soldering with small delicate pieces is to tin everything first.

there are actually four wires. a copper and green in one set, and a copper and red in the other set.
all of the wires have an enameled insulation on them. i scraped at it carefully with a knife.

to tin you just add a small coat of solder to all the surfaces you intend to connect.

(when you go to solder them together you no longer need to add the solder, just touch the two pieces together with heat and hold them till they stick.)

Step 6: Soldered Connectors

here you can see a better shot of the four wires.

the soldered part of the picture still isn't really clear, but the notation might help.

again, with everything tinned, i just had to hold the wires in place and touch them with the soldering iron till the solder from both sides (wire and contact) melded together.

at this point, if you wanted to double check your work, you could plug the connector into a player to make sure all your soldered points are solid.

Step 7: Put the Back On

if everything checks out, move the back into place.

Step 8: Secure It.1

you might notice there is a little play and jiggle in the back of the connection.

there are a number of way to alleviate this. i used a thin bit of heat shrink to bulk up the size of the insulation inside the metal spring back.

Step 9: Secure It.2

for even more security, i added a larger piece of heat shrink to the outside of that metal coil. electrical tape would work as well.

if you have extra headphone cord to work with you could take it one step further. a sound tech friend of mine would do this to all his clear com headphones. wrap the cord forward toward the connector then back to the headphones (making a flattened 's' shape) and wrap with electrical tape. it really adds a lot of strain relief.

(to shrink the heat shrink, you could use a heat gun, you could wave a lighter underneath- but make sure you don't melt it, or you could use the heat exhaust on the side of a butane soldering iron.)

the end result isn't as slick looking as the manufactured ones, but it does give you a real sense of pride. for instance, after checking my newly fixed headphones out, i paraded around the living room announcing, "I am a GENIUS!" to anyone who might have been in earshot.



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    28 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 9

    dude, thank you. even though it would have cost me juwt $20 for my JVC headphones to replace, doing this because of your instructable made it priceless.

    what i was trying to do was re-solder the old broken head-jack because i thought that was the problem. it was impossible to get to it without getting tremendously angry and just ripping it apart lol. i didn't even think about buying a new top because i thought it be more complicated. this was way more simpler than i thought! I had the same feeling as you did in the end! XD thanks again!


    7 years ago on Step 9

    What is the New piece called so i know what to google for?


    8 years ago on Step 9

    Wow... In the end this looks pretty decent... Nice job!
    Just fixed my own headphones couple of days ago and I really wish there would have been some heatshrink around. Right earphonecord was partially disconnected, cause: cord was on the floor, I rolled my seat on it and when I lifted my headphones... This action prodused one angry human being and lots of newly discovered curse words because of one little piece of wire. About an hour after when I discovered my soldering supplies the job was almost done; reconnecting wire to the speaker was easier than i thought, thanks to Seinheiser for making some of it's products easy-to-dismantle and to put back together...
    ANYHOW (babbling like my aunts), heatshrink added (like you did) on wire-to-earphone connection point would have made my repair outcome much nicer looking. Your instructable reminded to buy this godly stuff next time when given a chance. Insulating tape meld hot with lighter made it tough to break again but this cruel outlook makes the baby-Jesus cry...

    Steve Potman

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very clean job. It was done very well and looks to be quality. This is a really really good idea. I have to give you a lot of credit for this. I just recently got heat exchangers and heat shrink so this will be a good use for them as well. Thanks again and good luck to you.


    9 years ago on Step 6

     Yes, Which part does the earth connect to? The largest bit?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

    sorry for the late reply. . . the ground/ earth/ shield gets connected to the largest bit. 


    9 years ago on Step 9

     I am going to do this right now =) I just went down a brought a new audio connector for it, Too bad i don't have any heat shrink


    9 years ago on Introduction

     I hope this works for me, i've gone thru 4 pairs of earphones in a month, im starting to think my ipod is shorting them out, hope all goes well.


    9 years ago on Introduction




    Thank you for the tutorial. It hadn't occurred to me to replace the mini jack....durr.

    I managed to figure out which cable went where by dissecting the old mini-jack. With my Steal Series Sound 5HC head phones:

    The connector in the centre of the jack is the Red cable, the connector directly opposite is the Blue cable and the larger of the three connectors is the Ground.

    I wouldn't assume this is the same for everyone. All I can advise is you dissect the old jack and compare it to the cables you have.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    erm could u provide a diagram for the soldering bit having trouble figuring out which wire goes where

    One last tip: if you use the heat shrink, tape up the end of the headphone jack (the side that goes in the mp3 player). This will keep the rubber on there from melting. I used black electrical tape, which worked good except that I needed to wipe off some of the black residue when I removed the tape.

    I'm still amazed this actually worked. I'd like to add what I learned though. In my case, I didn't buy a replacement jack, I just used the old one. I cut the headphone cord at the jack base, then took apart the jack until it was just the end. Then, I saudered the wires onto the jack. It looked awful, but when I plugged it in it actually worked! Note: simply touching the wires to the appropriate spot on the jack didn't work, you'll need to sauder the wires onto the jack. Lastly, if you use the heat shrink tubing, you might want to slip them onto the wire before saudering, just in case they won't fit after the jack is on. Great instructible! I'll never throw a pair of headphones away again!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    i live in Toronto, ON. Where can I get replacement jacks? Our "'Radio Shack is now called the The Source by Circuit City doesn't have them. Any suggestions? Preferably locally so i don't have to pay for shipping or wait :)


    10 years ago on Step 6

    The notation didn't help. It would've been nice for you to have mentioned what wires to solder to what part of the jack.


    10 years ago on Step 9

    I'm gonna try this DIY, because my in-ear have died, but I have some other headphones with just the connector damaged, so, maybe tomorrow I could start with this one...

    DIY Dave

    10 years ago on Introduction

    How do you know if it is a problem with the jack or something else? How much does the jack you used cost?

    2 replies
    kazaamDIY Dave

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    diy dave. . .

    it's sort of a process of elimination.

    both the right and left side were going in and out simultaneously. (if it was only one side i would jiggle the cable going to it to see if it it went in and out. and then i could narrow it to just one earbud.) i sort of 'gently' twisted the cable and check it for nicks and such, and the only time it got better or worse was when i jiggled it right at the bend in the old jack.

    then i tried a different set of headphone on my player to see if it was the player's jack. . . they worked fine. . . and as a final bit, i tested the sketchy headphones on a different player and had the same problem with them. i got them to go in and out by fussing with the cable right at the jack.

    the one i bought from radio shack. . . just under $4, and i went for a higher grade one. . . so there were definitely cheaper ones.

    1/8 jack


    Actually that looks far slicker than most headphones, the connector does anyway, be a bit bulky for some items but cool nonetheless Anotehr good trick to prolong the life is to add a thin piece of heat shrink or tape for an inch or so after the larger casing, this make bending a bit less strainful on the inner cables so they live for a lot longer, I tape all of my headphones when I get them and since starting that they've all died from blowin drivers or damage via standing on them...