O.K. Let's do this! Time to recable a Sony MH1 earphone...
Disclaimer: i'm not responsible if you get hurt following this tutorial. Use caution when soldering and working with tools.
*A huge thanks to sfwalcer and ZMF for all their help in getting this process down!
You'll need some basic tools, such as:
- MH1 earphone
- a soldering iron
- vice or helping hands for soldering
- 26awg wire
- 3.5mm audio connector
- butane lighter or heat gun
- electrical tape
Here's my small workbench
I like to have a few work lights clamped around the work area and bounced off the wall with one direct light. This gives good visibility while you work. So let's jump right in.
Start by protecting the first earpiece you take apart with tape. I used electrical tape the first time, but pliers will easily scratch the housing through the tape. For the second pair, I used thicker gorilla tape over electrical tape. I still got a few small scratches, but it was better. This will take some experimenting to get apart without scratches. It is small, and you need a good tight grip on the housing.
So wrap some tape around the housing, but not around the stress relief rubber portion.
Next, hold the housing tightly in place using a pair of pliers over the protective tape. You want a good solid grip, but try not to squeeze tighter than necessary to avoid as many scratches as possible.
In your other hand, use something like these end-cutter pliers on the stress relief portion. You don't want to clamp on the stress relief like this though:
You want to get the fine edge of the end cutters in the groove between the housing and the stress relief as much as possible to avoid damaging the stress relief.
Now start gently with a good grip and hold onto each plier and pull them straight apart from each other. I find that very gently twisting them back and forth while pulling them apart helps break the seal of the glue or bond. Be very careful here and slowly increase the pulling strength while wiggling them back and forth as though you were trying to snap a stick in two, but very very slightly and very gently. You're simply trying to break the adhesive bond and pull the tabs out.
If everything goes well, you should end up pulling the housing off like this:
And the driver should remain in the stress relief like so:
You don't want to pull them apart to quickly or forcefully, because you might rip the wires off of the driver terminals. If this removes the tiny contacts as well, the MH1 is no good. You want to separate them intact, so you end up with the driver still connected to the wires like this:
If you pull them apart and the driver remains in the housing, you can try to gently wiggle it out while pulling on the wires, but not hard enough to pull the wires off the board. Otherwise, just continue with the process anyway, but the soldering will be a bit more difficult as the terminals will be slightly harder to reach.
Here is an exploded view of the earphone:
You can see the gold curved contacts on the circuit board:
Here is each earpiece taken apart:
I don't have photos for the next step, but you want to place it in a vice or helping hands like this:
And then use a soldering iron to desolder the stock wires from the driver terminals. If you're not familiar with soldering, check out some videos online to learn the basics. It's pretty simple IF you have a decent soldering iron. I wouldn't attempt fine soldering with a walmart special soldering iron. You will only get frustrated and buy another soldering iron later.
Now, simply tin your soldering iron lightly, hold a wire an inch or two from the driver with one hand and touch the soldering iron to the wire/contact with your other hand. It should only take a second to heat up enough to melt, and you can gently pull it off the contact with your hand holding the wire. Removing the wires this way prevents any damage to the terminal contacts.
Next you can prepare and measure the wire for your earphone. I took the length of the longest side of the stock MH1 cable, from the connector tip to the earpiece top end and added a few inches to both sides for error correction, stripping the wires, etc. Once you measure this length, you need to cut four separate wires this long.
Start by removing any remaining materials from within the stress relief and routing two wires through each. I recommend leaving the stress relief closer to the end you will solder onto the drivers like so:
Next, strip a small portion of the wire ends. 1/4" or so is plenty. Place the four stripped wires into the vice or helping hands, stripped ends sticking out to work on. Tin your soldering iron and then place it under each wire while placing solder on the top of the wire. Let the soldering iron heat the wire from below so the solder above is absorbed into the wire, thus tinning the wire. Don't let it collect too much solder and glob on. Simply tin the wire so it changes to a shiny color and no more. This is important when you go to solder the wire to the driver. The wire ends should look like this:
Next, use the pliers and create a right angle bend in the tinned wire ends. The end-most part of the wire after the bend should be pretty small. This is going to join with the driver contact, which is very small. It should look similar to this:
Next, place the driver body into a vice and very lightly (just a dab or two) tin your soldering iron. The goal here is going to be to join the already tinned wire to the already pre-soldered terminal contact. You'll want a small pointy soldering iron tip if possible.
Hold the wire in one hand close to the end (don't get burned), and then press it against the contact so the bent end is lying flat on the metal solder of the contact. Now gently press the tinned soldering iron to the wire so that it is pressing the wire into the contact. You should be able to get the idea from the photos below. It should melt pretty quickly and the wire should join with the existing contact solder. Remove the soldering iron and make sure to hold the wire in place for a few second until it cools. Give it a very, very gentle tug to make sure it is secured on the contact.
When finished, it should look similar to this:
Believe it or not, you can now test your driver. Simply strip the other end of the two wires connected to the driver. Grab an unused 3.5mm connector and simply wrap the stripped wire ends to the connector. The positive wire should go to the tip or ring (doesn't matter which) and the negative wire should go to the sleeve.
For the actual recabling, to identify the positive and negative terminals, hold the driver so the circuit board is facing you with the glued portion at the bottom. The left contact is the negative side and the right contact is the positive side. Remember this. It is critical.
Just wrap the wire to the connector enough that it makes decent contact. You can even press it against the connector contacts with your hand if you need to. Plug the connector into a music player and play some music. Hold the driver up to your ear and you should be able to hear music playing properly if it worked.
Now that you know your soldering payed off and everything works, you can feed the wire through the stress relief and pull the driver closer to the stress relief opening. As it gets closer gently work the wire and driver so that it sits in the stress relief fully, as seen here:
Next, you can reattach the housing. Make sure the filter and foam are still in place and didn't fall out. With the housing back on the driver, slide the stress relief into the housing carefully and press them together firmly. If you were able to take them apart without much damage, you can now lay the housing with the filter facing downwards on a flat surface and press the stress relief down into the housing firmly. It should snap into place and lock like this:
If the tabs were damaged taking it apart, you can use superglue carefully (just a bit) on the stress relief where it goes into the housing and alternatively secure them with heatshrink afterwards if you choose. You can also test the audio again if you want at this point just in case.
Lastly, for stability, strength and sound quality, I like to inject superglue into the stress relief. Be sure to inject the exact same amount into each earpiece's stress relief to match the bass response as closely as possible. Also, be sure to only use enough to fill the stress relief without risking getting glue into the driver area. I use a small loctite super glue with a narrow pointy tip. Once I apply the glue, I hold the wires straight and centered where they exit the stress relief, and then wait for a minute for it to set. Let it dry for however long the glue requires. After it dries you can continue. This step is important, because although it might last with proper care, the only thing preventing the wire from being pulled off the driver is the solder. With the wire routed through the stress relief and the super glue in place, it adds a good amount of strength to the connection.
Now for the fun part. Twisting and braiding.
Start by anchoring the earpiece in a vice like so (rubber sides help prevent scratching):
Next you can start twisting the wires for the upper cable portion. Again, I used the MH1's longer side as a reference and twisted the wires to that length between the earpiece and the y-split.
To twist them nicely, start by pulling the wires over and away from each other to get a nice close first twist. Then for each twist simply pass the wires over each other and then gently pull them outwards equally. You don't want this to be too tight or it won't be very flexible. It should look something like this:
Repeat this on the other earpiece to a matching length. For nice aesthetics, I twist the wires in opposite directions on each earpiece.
Now for a few CRITICAL parts... DO NOT FORGET THESE STEPS!
Hold the wires together (all four) and slide the heatshrink that you will use for the cord lock over the entire bundle of wires and up to the earpieces. Next, slide the heatshrink you will use for the y-split over the group of wires as well and up to where the twisted wires end (where the split will be).
At this point you need to make sure you mark the wires as left and right channels with their corresponding -/+ polarity. I simply tie an overhand knot at the very bottom loose end of the cables. I make up some scheme where one knot is the left channel positive and two knots is the right channel positive, with the two remaining wires having no knots, both being ground. The ground wires will be joined at the end, so it doesn't matter which channel ground it is. This is critical though, because if you forget, there is no easy way to determine which is + and - to wire the connector properly. Use whatever means necessary to identify the wires at the loose ends. You may also want to match the driver channel (left/right) to the marking on the stress relief (L/R). The actual drivers are identical, and it doesn't matter which one is left or right, as long as they are wired as such.
Cut a very very small strip of electric tape maybe 1/8" at most. As small as you can easily manage and wrap around the wires. Cut the strip of tape in a length that will wrap around the wire bundle two or three times. Now, hold everything taught and make sure the earpieces line up perfectly with each other and keep the wire straight together and then grasp the point at which the twisting ends and you wish to create the y-split. Now wrap the tape around the wires taught and hold everything together at the y-split with one hand and slide the heatshrink over the tape evenly centered. You want this heatshrink to be slightly larger than the width of the tape, so the two ends will extend slightly past the tape. This is where the split will be, and after heatshrinking the edges will grasp around the tape and prevent the heatshrink from ever loosening and sliding.
Be as precise as possible and make sure the two twisted wires are twisted nicely right up to the point where they enter the heatshrink. Next hold the wire horizontally and your hand a few inches from the centered heatshrink, without losing its place on the y-split area. Then take your lighter or heat gun and start heating up the heatshrink. I use a lighter and wave the lighter back and forth at least 6" away. I slowly move the lighter closer and continue waving it back and forth until the heatshrink starts to tighten up and shrink around the wires slowly. Once the heatshrink is tightly around all of the wires don't overdo it, you don't want to melt or char the wire jacket.
Let it cool for at least 20 seconds .You can blow on it if want to speed up the cooling process.
Next you want to place this newly heat shrunk y-split in a vice or helping hands and start braiding the lower section of the wire:
I use a simple four strand round braid. I'll try to describe it as best as possible, but you can look for tutorials online if needed.
Hold the four wires laid in a flat configuration. You can do the process over or under, it doesn't matter. I start by taking the leftmost wire and passing it over the second and third wire. Then wrap it over and around the third wire and then back underneath the third wire so that it ends up between the second and third wire. Then do the exact same thing with the rightmost wire going the opposite direction and keep alternating each side over and over. That's it.
It should like something like this as you do it:
Once the braid reaches the length you desire, I like to wrap some electrical tape around the end of the braid where the connector will go. Now you're ready to finish the cable. You can strip and tin the wires as you did earlier. I like to make sure to either mark the wires with a sharpie marker using dashes to indicate channels or create different bends in the tinned wire ends to keep track of which wire is which. You could also just connect the wires to the connector terminals one by one as you strip them. Just make sure you connect them properly.
The ground wires go to the larger sleeve of the connector. The left channel + wire goes to the tip connector (the terminal contact that usually comes out of the middle of the back of the connector). The right channel + wire goes to the ring of the connector (usually the terminal contact coming out of the side of the back of the connector). This can be tricky to get the braid right up to where the connector ends. You can strip a small section of the wires and then re-braid up to the stripped end again if needed. It should look like this:
And bent if needed:
Once these are all in place, slide them past where the braid ends and run the stripped ends of the wires into the connector terminals as described above. Then tin your soldering iron and solder the tinned wires to the connector terminals. You should place the soldering iron so the it wedges between the wire and the connector terminal and makes contact with both equally. When it heats add some solder between them. As it heats up and melts, the solder should flow into the gap and bond the two, and then you can then remove the soldering iron and make sure things cool and that the soldering joint looks smooth and shiny. If it looks dull and messy you may want to redo it.
A shiny smooth solder joint is a good connection. There should be a smooth connection between the solder and the wire. It shouldn't look like the solder is pressing against the wire, but instead bonded with the wire.
You may need to use some solder cutters or something similar to remove any small bulky solder from the bottom of the ground sleeve otherwise it won't screw together properly. It should look like this:
Next, slide the small heatshrink piece up so that it covers the wires where the clamp will grab them. This is important, because you don't want the clamp to break into the wires and cause problems, and it also adds pulling strength to the connector in case it gets snagged and yanked, as the clamp can more tightly grab the wires if the heatshrink is around them.
Then heat the heatshrink with the lighter, as before, to snug it up around the wires in place as seen in the photo. If you get the heatshrink with the right length and position you can either have the heatshrinkn not be visible outside of the connector, or you can have a bit protruding to act as a small stress relief depending on the flexibility of your heatshrink (thin walled heatshrink works for this, thick walled or adhesive heatshrink is a bit stiff for this). I try to get the heatshrink to line up as closely as possible to the exit hole of the connector with a very small amount protruding if any. I find it looks the most professional.
With a neutrik connector, to make this step easier, I like to use a pair of small pliers to bend the very very tip of the arrow shaped side of the clamp. This makes it bend into place easier. After bending the tip, use the pliers to clamp it down against the wire heatshrink. If you position the pliers well you can get it to fold down nicely and then repeat on the opposite side to close the clamp all the way.
Don't put a crazy amount of force onto the clamp, but make sure it is nice and tight and snug, so that if the wires are pulled the heatshrink takes the strain instead of the soldered contacts.
Slide the plastic protector over the terminals:
Slide the back of the connector over the plastic protector and screw it to the tip:
And now you have a recabled MH1! Test it out and enjoy some music for all your efforts!
Here is the finished product:
Here is the braid spacing that I prefer. This gives the wire a nice soft, flexible feel.
And a finished black recable as well:
If you have any questions or comments please let me know below.
And check out my video headphone reviews as well at www.youtube.com/dentreviews