Chris Metcalf

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." - Robert Heinlein



How-To - Repairing Faulty Headphones

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posted: August 7th 2007

Welcome Lifehackers! Looks like another one of my posts has been lucky enough to be featured on Lifehacker! Very cool. I hope you enjoy my how-to.

About a year ago I picked up a pair of Shure E2C headphones. Well worth their somewhat expensive price, I use them all the time. They provide a ton of isolation, so they’re great on the bus and when flying.

But, in my experience, the actual headphone plug leaves a lot to be desired. Within about 8 months of regular use, I started getting the traditional crappy connection problems you get with cheaper headphones. After a few months of constantly trying to tweak the connector in order to get a good connection, I finally decided to replace the connector myself.

Final Product

The final product was quite impressive. For more details, read on.

Step 1: Acquire supplies

Obviously you’ll need a pair of faulty headphones. And a new connector. I picked up a gold-plated 1/8" connector from Radio Shack for about $3.99. I could have bought the standard chrome one for a buck or two cheaper, but in this situation, “bling” is worth a few extra bucks.

Bling

Step 2: Strip off old connector

First step is to remove the old crappy connector and strip it down to it’s bare wires.

Stripping!

Strip off the main cover for an inch or so, and then strip the individual wires. They will be incredibly tiny. This is where it pays to be really good at soldering. I won’t elaborate, but I’m not that good at soldering.

Step 3: Solder on the new connector

Now solder on the new connector. This is where reading becomes important.

Soldering

According to Wikipedia, the three connections on a headphone jack are as follows:

  1. The “Tip” (the end of the connector), which handles the left stereo channel. For me this was the blue wire, which I connected to the shortest terminal.
  2. The “Ring” (the first segment of the connector), which handles the right stereo channel. This was the red wire, which I connected to the middle terminal.
  3. The “Sleeve” (the second segment of the connector), which is the common ground. For my headphones, this was the conductor with no insulation on it. This was the wire with no insulation, and it connected to the ground terminal.

It may or may not take you some experimentation to figure out what wire is which channel in your headphones. Once you figure it out, solder or screw the connections down to each channel.

Step 4: Reinforce the connection

This step actually came later for me. At first I just soldered up the connections and used the plastic sleeve that came with the connector, but after a week or two my connection was flakier than the original. The tiny wires were moving around too much within the connector. So I re-soldered my connections and then encased the whole deal within a protective layer of cheap two-part epoxy.

Epoxy

Afterwards I waited for the epoxy to dry, and then shaved it down small enough to fit into the screw-on connector.

I’m very happy with the final results. After the epoxy modification, I’ve got a connector that is rock-solid and as good if not better sounding than the original jack. And I get tons of great compliments on how cool the “bling” connector is.

Final Results

There you go. About $5 and less than an hour’s work to save a $100 pair of headphones. I hope you find this as helpful as me.


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