I can has power to rebuild these earbuds?
September 16, 2007 4:45 PM   Subscribe

I keep breaking the cables and plugs of my earphones. Can I repair them myself?

I have just broken my third set of moderately pricey earbuds this year, and it's getting expensive. This time I broke the plug; the previous time I broke the cable adjacent to the plug. Would it be easy to buy new plugs and attach them to the cables? Can I do this without buying and learning how to use soldering equipment? Where can I buy the plugs from? If I need soldering stuff, what's the cheapest kit that isn't complete shit? What have I forgotten to ask about?
posted by nowonmai to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you considered a decent set of cans, such as Sennheisers, they have replaceable cords/plugs that was kevlar jacketed.
posted by iamabot at 4:57 PM on September 16, 2007

You can also get insurance for headphones for fairly cheap.
posted by sweetkid at 5:07 PM on September 16, 2007

Good jesus, "was kevlar jacketed". Nice preview :(
posted by iamabot at 5:16 PM on September 16, 2007

You can replace them— it's kind of finicky because headphones use this bizarre finely-stranded wire that's very flexible but a pain to work with. And the replacement plug won't be as small and sleek as the original molded-on plug. But replacement plugs are easy to find; I think Radio Shack even still sells them (you may be forced to buy a cell phone in order to leave the store though).

I don't know if you can get by without soldering. I think you'd end up with crackly audio.
posted by hattifattener at 7:07 PM on September 16, 2007

Radio Shack sells some remarkably respectable replacement plugs for headphones (1/8") and cellphone headsets (3/32"), and combined with a pack of their assorted heatshrink, you can do a surprisingly sturdy repair job.

For the soldering, you'll need a fine-pointed soldering iron in the 15-20 watt range, a roll of ultrathin solder, and a tub of paste flux. For the heatshrink, a small heatgun or just a butane lighter and a lot of patience will do. To repair and reinforce the ear end, hot-melt glue will work better than heatshrink.

If you have any mechanical aptitude, the procedure should be fairly obvious, so I'll just offer one "gotcha": When you look at the inside of the plug where you make connections to, picture the concentric pieces of metal layered with insulator which make up the plug, and realize that the tip contact is the farthest-back terminal. Otherwise you'll get the polarity sdrawkcab.

If that sentence didn't make a lot of sense, just grab a meter set to "continuity beep" and you'll figure it out. Don't be afraid to file the meter probes down to sharp points, by the way.
posted by Myself at 7:19 PM on September 16, 2007

When you're unplugging, pull it out by the plug, not the cables.

If you're soldering, even the cheap Radio Shack or dollar-store kit should be fine. Read a tutorial and remember to tin the soldering iron before you use it and before you unplug it and put it away.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:25 PM on September 16, 2007

Are you stepping on the cord? You might want to shorten or lengthen it so that you stop breaking them.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:36 PM on September 16, 2007

Yeah, it's easy. Did you save the broken earbuds?

If there's a part that's broken, just splice in the piece from another one with a different breakdown.

You probably won't need to solder. A wire is a wire. Cut, strip (use scissors with a light touch if you don't have wire strippers), splice, patch with some electrical (or whatever) tape with a similar colour. Most things are colour coded, otherwise, trial and error until it works, then tape it up.

If you didnt' save your broken earbuds, check out Radio Shack (they used to be much cooler and actually stock stuff instead of just cellphones and games) or if you like the speakers in the buds but the plug is broken, see if you can a dirt-cheap something with the same plug and cannibalize that.
posted by porpoise at 9:41 PM on September 16, 2007

It sounds to me like someone should be in the market for some wireless headphones. I purchased these to stop rolling over the cord with the wheel of my desk chair and they work great. :)
posted by fusinski at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2007

Thanks everyone. These are earbuds for my iPod, so decent cans with replaceable parts and wireless solutions don't help. I break each pair in a new and interesting way, but I'm blaming Apple for the most recent for moving the jack to the corner of the iPod rather than the middle. A trip to Radio Shack is in my imminent future.
posted by nowonmai at 1:43 PM on September 17, 2007

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