Thursday, 19 August 2010

Which is better, fixing something or throwing it ?

I like music, who doesn't ? (I'm sure someone somewhere doesn't) but I don't really get the chance to listen to music that much, at least not on my stereo, which hasn't really been used for years, probably due to the volume the thing is capable of :-)
I have some old pc speakers in the shed that I plug my mp3 player into, this is good if I'm doing something repetitive, like wood turning, removing the wood until you have what you want can take some time, so music helps pass the time, just lately AC/DC has been my preference.

If however I'm not in the shed I don't really have a choice but to use my mp3 player with some headphones, I don't have anything fancy, but they put out good sound (which is the important thing) but for some reason I keep breaking them, and it's always where the jack plugs into the mp3 player, probably how I put it in my pocket or something like.

I did have a set of headphones that had an in-line volume control, these are good to have because if someone tries to talk to you, or you need to talk to someone it's easier to just turn the volume right down, rather than ferreting about in pockets for small music players, and because I broke my set that had the in-line volume control I was a little stumped, I didn't want to pay loads for a new set (I got mine on offer) so I got a cheap set and decided to frankenstein me some headphones :-)

Yes I could have just thrown them out and got a new set, or gone for something like this - headphone volume control (opens in new window) but that's just adding to the rubbish and all I needed to do was chop and change what I had a little, I kept the leftovers, pretty sure they will come in handy at some point.

So this is what I did, basically I took the damaged set of headphones and cracked open the volume control.

You need some tools to do this, soldering iron,solder, a knife or flat headed screw driver to open the volume control, if your soldering on the kitchen table use a bit of scrap wood, pliers and a sharp knife or wire strippers.

Here's a picture of what I used -

The stuff.

I cut the good headphones in half, all I needed was a length of wire with the jack on the end (I could have just bought a new jack for the other headphones as well, but it seemed easier this way)
Then I cracked open the volume control unit.

Here's what it looked like inside - 

The gubbins.

As you can see it's pretty simple inside, so then I de-soldered the damaged section, and took the plastic casing and the small black plastic grommet, I planned to use the casing on the new cord to give it some more strength, the grommet was need to make sure the new lead was held securely in the volume controller.

Casing and grommet - 

Casing and grommet.

Next thing was to thread the casing onto the new lead, this took a little longer than I expected.

Threading the casing - 

This took longer than I thought it would.

Once this was done I then set about soldering the new lead onto the volume controller. Now if you haven't ever messed around with headphone wire before then you may find this helpful. I think they do this for all headphones, perhaps not really cheap ones ? but there's a coating on each of the wires and a kind of thread running through each one as well, this has caused me problems in the past and the best way I've found to deal with it is to burn it away with a lighter or such like, but be careful because if you heat the wires too much they sometimes loose colour, this may cause further problems when it comes to soldering, you can also scrape the coating off with a sharp knife (Stanley type blade) 

The wires and thread - 

Not the best picture, but you can sort of see the thread.

So to the soldering, I always find I need three sometimes four hands when I'm soldering, should probably make some kind of vice type system, anyway the contact on the volume controller are quite small, so if you have a finer tip for your iron use it, it will make a difference.

The contacts - 

If you have glasses, wear them.

I got my lovely wife to take a picture of me soldering, luckily pictures don't show the swearing I did as I toasted my finger tips with my soldering iron :-(

Soldering - 

Finger toasting.

Now when you solder small terminals make sure you don't join terminals with the solder, or things don't work properly, and when you have finished soldering don't put it all back together just yet, test it all first, there's nothing more frustrating than finding all you hard work needs to be undone because something went wrong.

Testing music is a preference, I found AC/DC to be adequate for my testing -

Let's rock ! :-)

If everything is working as it should, both left and right ears are working then you can go ahead and stick it all back together safe in the knowledge that you saved money, didn't add anything to the rubbish and you are clever because you did fixing :-) so if you have something that's broke why not see if you can fix it before you retire it to the bin.

Thanks for reading.

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