FIX DAMAGED HEADPHONES
Francis D'sa | 30 November 2011
FIX DAMAGED HEADPHONES
Here is a small guide to help you fix your favorite headphones, which might have been damaged due to wire stretching or audio jack issues.
Whether you’re an audiophile or somebody who listens to music on-the-go, your headphones may stop working or work only partially over prolonged use. We’ve put together a simple guide on how to get those headphones up and running once again.
Firstly, you’ll require a soldering iron, some solder wire and another pair headphones which you don't intend to use. The reason we would require another pair of headphones or earphones is to make use of the wires and the connector in case your expensive headphones have a bad wire or connector, thus needing replacement. Needless to say, other tools like screwdrivers, wire strippers and a sharp blade or knife will definitely come in handy. So once you’ve collected the materials required, get your favorite pair of headphones ready and start with finding the cause of the faulty connection.
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 in no time.
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 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.
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 them apart might just break the internals or the case itself. Hence, it’s better to be careful while handling such headphones.
Disassembling the Headphones
Once you’ve gotten into the inside of the headphones, check if the existing wire has come loose. If it has, a simple soldering might just do the trick. In our case, it seemed like the wire had worn out over time, so we decided to change the wire completely. Here is where we needed the other pair of unused headphones for transplanting its wires to the Koss set.
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. Headphone 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 of the headphones.
Now take the wires from the other headphone. Using a wire stripper, cutter or a plain knife, 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.
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 that is done, coat the scraped ends with solder. This process is called tinning of copper.
Once you're done, it is time to solder the wires to the terminals, but do this carefully as the last thing you want is your plastic casing to melt away. If you are not confident with soldering process, 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 them back into their original state.
If you cannot hear any audio from the speakers even though you have done 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 have 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.