Whether you’re an audiophile or somebody who listens to music on the go, the chances that your headphones have stopped working, or are partially working are extremely high. We’ve put together a few steps on how to get those pair of expensive headphones up and running.
Firstly, you’ll require a soldering iron, some solder wire and a pair of headphones which are old, cheap or simply unused due to their bad quality. The reason we would require another headphone or earphone is to make use of the wires and the connector in case your expensive and loved headphones have a bad wire or connector, which needs replacement. Needless to say, other tools like screwdrivers, wire strippers and a sharp blade or knife will definitely come handy. So once you’ve assimilated the materials required, get your favourite pair of headphones ready and start with finding the cause of the faulty connection.
Some headphones, like this one, might be difficult to open as the parts are fused together
Faults may be:
- Due to breaks, bends or stretches in the wire(s).
- Problems at the connector end due to constant use.
- At the entry point where the cable meets the headphone driver.
This headphone consists of a single wire that goes to both the channels and care should be taken while disassembling it
Identify the area of the fault. If there’s a break in the wire, it’s best to replace the whole wire from your headphones with a new one or taken from another pair. In case there are problems at the connector end, the solution is to cut the wire, buy another connector (most electronic shops sell it for less than ten rupees) and solder the wires to the new connector. Thirdly, in most cases, sound is audible over only one side of the headphones as the soldering wears off with time or the wires have given way. Due to this, the functionality of the headphones is drastically reduced, but with a few simple methods mentioned below, you’ll get the sound back from both channels within no time.
Headphones like the one above have two wires coming out of both channels and hence repairing them is a little easier
For our workshop, we took our faulty ‘Koss Porta Pro’ headphones and upon diagnosis, realized that the fault lay at the point where the cable met the headphone driver. But here’s the important bit of information you need to keep in mind. You need to identify the smartest possible way of prying your headphones open. In most cases, the drivers are usually concealed in a frame which is either glued together, fused as one piece, have clamps or simply screwed together. Therefore, we would suggest that you carefully examine the headphones and the wiring before attempting to open them. In case you find the drivers are fused inside a case, you might need to cut open the frame. If needed, get some help from someone who knows a bit of electronics.
Old headphone wires can come in handy
On our Koss headphones, we found that it had a small plastic cap covering the audio driver’s connectors that needed to be flipped apart with a screwdriver. A few have the second channel routed through the head band and hence, there will be a bit more of opening up required to get to the soldering bit. For others, there are separate wires entering both the drivers on either side and the task will be a little easier. Some in-ear headphones do have a strong adhesive hold and trying to take it apart might just break the internals or the case itself. Hence it’s better to be careful while handling such earphones.
Disassembling the headphones
Once you’ve gotten into the inside of the headphone, check if the existing wire has come loose or not. If it has, then a simple soldering might just do the trick for you. In our case, it seemed like the wire had worn out over time and hence we decided to change the wire completely. Here is where we needed the other pair of cheap, old or unused headphones for transplanting its wires to our expensive headphones. Cut out the older worn out wires and discard them. Do note the polarities of the wires before cutting them as you might need to restore it later using the new wires. Headphones manufacturers sometimes make a marking on the terminals with either ‘+’ or ‘-‘signs, or simply mark them with two colors. Usually, headphones don’t need wiring polarity as a compulsory connection and hence you can safely connect any polarity to any end.
We required a screwdriver to remove the part that covers the audio drivers and soldering
After finding a way inside, check if the wire soldering has become loose
The faulty/ worn out wire needs to be replaced
Now take the wires from the other headphone. Using a wire stripper, cutter or a plain knife and strip the wire sleeve by around half an inch to reveal the two internal wires. Here is the part you need to be very careful about: headphones use a very delicate pair of wire cores. While some have a mesh of 10 to 20 strands for each wire, others might have a single strand only.
If the wiring needs to be replaced, take an old pair of headphones and replace the wires
You'll find two wires after cutting off the main shield of the new wire
Soldering the wires
These strands of wires are always coated with a layer of lacquer to prevent a short circuit. This lacquer needs to be scraped off before soldering it to the terminal. To do this, use a very sharp blade or knife and very carefully and delicately scrape off the lacquer from the wire strands. If you apply too much pressure, the wire will break and you will end up with a shorter wire. Once done, coat the scraped ends with solder (this process is called tinning of copper).
Desolder the older wire and solder the newer one
Soldering is a simple art, but if you're unsure, you can get it done at your local electrical shop
Once done, it is time to solder the wires to the terminals, but do it carefully as the last thing you want is your plastic casing to melt away. If you are not confident with soldering, we would advise taking help from someone who knows this job. It would be safer than realizing later that you destroyed your expensive headphones.
Now that you have soldered the wires to the drivers, it is time to check if the music’s back on before re-assembling the headphones. If it works, you can now reverse the opening technique you used on the headphones to put it back into its original state. If you cannot hear any audio from the speakers even though you have done a proper soldering, it is time for fault finding. If you know how to use a multi-meter, it is time to bring it in use here. Check the connectivity between the main audio jack and the driver’s terminals to check if the wire and the soldering is a perfect joint. You might need to check the drivers too. If the driver itself is faulty, you might just need to discard the headphones completely as repairing a driver is next to impossible, unless an expert looks into the matter.
So we've repaired the Koss headphones and got a free combo of self-satisfaction and awesome music
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