Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cord cutter

What do you buy a tech geek, who just buys gift-priced items throughout the year, for their Birthday? I just had a birthday, and I have no idea how my wife can find something that I don't already have.  It's not like I'm going to wait 2 months to buy a Roku or Shoes just because its temporally near my birthday. In contrast, a big gift wouldn't be a big surprise since everyone should coordinate something big (I've been burned by that, but that's another post).

This years gift was most fortunately by-chance. At a yard sale for some kids clothes, I stumbled upon a pair of Sennheiser HD-280 PRO Headphones. I had forgotten that I was on the lookout for new headphones, but seeing them there reminded me. The model number sounded really familiar too from my research. My mom taught me how to conduct myself at a yard sale, and jumping onto your phone to do research should be avoided (we wouldn't want to show our interest too much). A little flippant negotiation and I walked away with them for $3. They retailed for $150 when I was looking, but they seem to be down to $99 now.

Just getting a deal like that is like a present, but also getting nice replacement cans was the cherry on top. I used them for a little while in Neverwinter and with some FLAC files, then I quickly realized that I couldn't go back. They're great. There was one problem, the 1/8" plug was flakey. I tried putting a 1/4" collar around it, a complex set of rubber bands, and a few other things, but it was really sensitive to any movement. The solution was to replace the cord. The first option was to buy the replacement cord directly from Sennheiser for $30. That's not cheap, but given how little I paid for them, it's very reasonable. But what about when the cat chews on the cord? Or my daughter practices her scissor skills? I had just gone to Maker Faire, and wasn't going to let this opportunity to permanently fix them slip me by.

I modded them with a 1/8" jack, so that I could replace the cable in the future really easily. The Dr Dre Beats Headphones takes this approach and consequently has made a market for 1/8" to 1/8" cords just for headphones. I was little scared of taking them apart, doing some gutting out with a Dremil and performing some soldering. But, what the hell, they were only $3. Luckily the Sennheiser cord actually can detach and uses standard headers that I had laying around.

I had planned on ordering from Amazon and crossing my fingers that the jack would fit, but it occurred to me to check Radioshack and amazingly they had the part and it was in stock. That meant I could pick one up on my way home and get started right away. It came together really fast and I had it done just before 9pm. I used a closed-circuit panel mount plug, which sat really nicely after some plastics was drilled out and looked like it was originally there. I think they turned out really well. Future replacement cords can now just be bought from monoprice for a few bucks. I now also have the possibility of buying a cord with control buttons that I can use it with my phone.

I highly recommend attending Maker Faire, if there's one in your area. I left with some motivation and eventually granted some satisfaction from "making" something.