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I have a pair of stereo headphones, I got them on Amazon.

Now, the right headphone stops producing sound. To fix that I need to move/shake the tip of the cable (the one before that part of tip which goes inside the headphone jack on the laptop).

But as time goes, this sort of fix helps less and less. It looks that the cable is a bit broken at the place where I shake/move cable.

Is that the end of use of my headphones? Is that a reject of the device? Is there a way to fix it, for example, changing the very tip of the cable at the very end of it. Any advice on buying headphones?

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closed as off topic by BBlake, Dave M, Synetech, CharlieRB, Mokubai Jun 28 '12 at 16:52

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

That cable—or, to be more precise, its junction with the connector—is broken. This happens quite a lot with cheap headphones, but also expensive headphones might suffer from this — it all depends on how you use them and how gently you treat the cables.

Makers of expensive headphones often design them in such a way that cables can be replaced easily by just buying a new one, then clipping it back to the headphones themselves. This will cost you from $10 to $25, maybe more. It depends.

As for your headphones, if they were cheap, you basically have two three options:

  • Try and see if Amazon replaces the headphones under warranty. This however depends on your local customer laws and how old the headphones are (and, if they show any kind of damage).

  • Buy a new pair. It's probably not worth the repair costs.

  • Find a friend who can solder new cables on, or fix the existing connection. You can buy replacement connectors for sure, then it's just a matter of attaching them to the cables again.

When shopping for headphones, check other customer reviews and see if they had problems with the connectors. For example, I have a pair of Shure headphones (in-ears) that are known for their weak cables. I literally had to buy a new cable every 6 months or so. My new Ultimate Ears have been working for more than a year though.

Finally, know how to treat your cables. Don't pull on the cable. Pull on the connector itself. And never wrap the cable too tightly.

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Yeah, I just had some Sennheiser MX 580s go on me for the same reason... For some reason, Sony earbuds tend to be the most robust. –  DragonLord Jun 28 '12 at 14:17
    
The third option should really be the first one. Other than that excellent answer you bring up a lot of good points. I have UEs and AKG K240 studios not only because they sound good but because of the ease cable replacement. –  에이바 Jun 28 '12 at 14:21
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I've had the very same problem - chopping off the end of the cable, stripping the cover burning the ends of the wires with a VERY hot flame to remove the coating on them, and soldiering them to a new connector should do the trick.

Geek's Law of electronics holds here - If the headphones look like you can beat someone with it, and they'll be more hurt than you are, they're good ;). See if you can get a set with a full metal 3.5mm plug, as opposed to plastic.

Complete instructions with pictures here

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+1 for the link in case the OP really wants to go ahead and do it :P –  slhck Jun 28 '12 at 14:19
    
If the wires dont look strong enough to support 2Kg or 5 pounds of butter.. Its a poor design... 5 lb pull test is the industry standard for wire joint reliability. –  Tony Stewart Jun 28 '12 at 17:53
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added** The trick is not in the plug material but the cable plug sheath interface a.k.a. strain relief. Ideally it should be as stiff as the plug on exit and gradually be as flexible as the cable when it tapers off in about 20x cable diam. Very few consumer products meet this design spec and thats why they fail so often at the cable adapter interface. Its called impedance matching in transmission line theory and the same applies to electro-mechanical cables systems. Fix by solder is only temporary. **

Cables now use stranded wires twisted that are net the size of a human hair but slightly stronger like multi-filament fishing line, but nto that strong. ( read as > a.w.g. 40 strands)

THus they are extremely unreliable for rugged use. THis applies to all mouse cables near the mouse tail, thin USB cables at either end, all microphone cables near the wiggled or yanked end, power plugs & jacks AND headphone cable plugs and connections to headset. Note some USB plugs & cables are very robust.. Logitech's are NOT.

The fix is extreme delecate insulation strip, solder repair and heat shrink with any 15W iron 50/50 solder and heatshrink tubing, not electrical tape.

(Electronics parts stores sell heatshink tubing by cut lengths and it shrinks to 50% of original size.. Multiple layers adds durability so choose size accordingly. Ugly solutions include gob of PL-400 construction adhesive ( in pump tubes) around plug to wire exit for several inches (tapered) and allow to set once in a functional reliable position and allow to dry hard over a week. this may be durable stuff but ugly and extend life 25~50% depending on how bad it is.

Long term.. Look to adding your own heatshrink jackets to all 3.5 mm plugs in future at both plug and headset end. Most are poorly designed in China and do not account for the brittle nature of copper and many radial flexes and pull fatigue.

As a rule of thumb imagine the cable radius should not be smaller than 10x the wire thickness. For industrial ruggedness, consumers need to appreciate the flexibility of modern light thin cables but also their fragility. THat's why I add additional STRAIN RELEIF or stiff jacket material at any transition from rigid plug to flexible wire. THis supports a gradual change in bend radius and reduces copper fatigue enough to double the life. To make it last forever, consider adding spiral wrap to make it bulkier and eliminate copper fatigue and never yank the plug by the cable. Copper is not much stronger than hair in the same diameter.

Most cable jackets are flexible PVC. Durable cable jackets use polyurethane but are stiffer. Some may also be using UHV gun radiation hardened plastic for cables just as they do for automobile tires to make them durable. A 5 pound pull test tells me if there is any strain (techono-geek term for stretchyness) then the cable jacket is not protecting the copper wire inside from Stress. You want the jacket to resist stretch or flexibility more than the copper wire can withstand as copper is malleable but after a few flexes becomes brittle, which is why they went to smaller multiple strands, which then made it more sensitive to stretch fatigue.

Sorry only recommendation are inexpensive fatigue free clear sounding good bass "Smokin' buds" from SkullCandy.com with lifetime warranty avail at your local Radio Shack or equiv.

HTH's

Tony

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Just soldering them dosen't work - there's a thin layer of insulation per EACH strand, which is a royal pain . I do like the idea of additional heat shrink though. I add that and hot glue anywhere it seems appropriate. –  Journeyman Geek Jun 28 '12 at 14:48
    
There's a thin layer of insulation on each strand that you can quickly remove with a flame. –  Rob Jun 28 '12 at 16:47
    
Its not that . it sjust when it's done according to that description it is no better than new which has a design fault. Read strain relief comments on my thread. –  Tony Stewart Jun 28 '12 at 17:49
    
Is there a way to add heat shrink tubing before the cable breaks? If the tubing is big enough to side over the connector, it usually won't shrink enough to grasp the cable. I go through a lot of headphones and I won't buy any expensive ones if the cables are going to fail in a few months. –  Joe Aug 27 '12 at 19:24
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