Interconnects, IC for short, are the cables that go between your player and another device with an input jack – a car stereo, home stereo, or a portable headphone amp. The problem with the latter of those setups is that the amp is often directly under the player and so you really only need 2cm of cable to make the connection, but they don’t make cables that short. As a result, a lot of people drag around long cables that are just inthe way. There’s no need to. Read on for a guide on how to make your own tiny bridge-interconnect.
Parts and equipment
First and foremost you need two plugs that look like the one to the right. You might never have seen one before as they aren’t sold separately, so you have to get them from other plugs. Most stock earbud cables have plugs like this inside and in the video below you’ll see my pry two of them from a $1.41 cable so it should be an easy task no matter where in the world you live.
Secondly you need soldering equipment, a little bit of wire and something to cover the finished interconnect with. There are a hundred ways of covering it so please see the section at the end of the article to find ideas for how you want to do it.
The video shows you how to solder the interconnect itself, which is a pretty straight forward process. You should take a bit more time when doing this for yourself than I did in the video, use insulated wires and measure the length a bit better etc. Also there are a few times in the video where my hands go off screen, that’s simply to de-insulate the wires which I do with my teeth so nothing important.
There are a lot of ways to covering the finished cable up after you’ve soldered it (and tested it). Here are some examples of ways that I’ve used myself and some by our headphone guru DFKT and forum moderator WalkGood. You might have other methods that are easier or work better, so just use your imagination.
If you have a hot glue gun that’s the easiest way of making a casing, but it’s not the best looking one. Try to find some hot glue that gets harder than normal hot glue when applied, that way it won’t appear so rubbery. Epoxy putty is another way to go which will also give you a clear casing, but more expensive and harder to come by than hot glue.
Heatshrink tubing is another easy way of doing the casing, but is often ahrd to get to look good because of the angles involved in such a cable. If you do it right it might work and you could also use electrical tape, but frankly I’d suggest another method of covering your IC.
Those of you that know me know my love for wood so of course I had to make a wooden cover for these interconnects as well. If you have a router and a heavy duty sander of some sort (belt sander preferably) it’s a simple task. Use the router to carve a hole for the entire IC to slide into (watch the depth and length), cut it out and sand it down as close as you dare. Put some glue into the hole with the IC and let it dry. You might be able to use a drill instead of a router but it might be messy.
WalkGood used a method for his IC involving high density foam formed to act as a casing. It’s an easy way to do it that requires very few tools, and you could also use foam as a base and apply coating on top to make it stiffer.
Fimo model clay
This is a method I picked up at head-fi which actually work
s extremely well and is my recommended method from now on. Fimo model clay is basically model clay that you cook in the oven for 30 minutes on 110°C/230°F and it turns into something best described as hard rubber. Great for sanding down to look nice (I only used rough sand paper in the picture so with some effort you’ll make it look a lot better). Fimo clay is cheap and you can get it anywhere you live from eBay (or local stores depending on where you live). It’s cheap and very easy to use.
Cutting the size even more
There is a way of making the ICs even smaller (down to just 3-4 mm sticking out of the headphone port), but it’s not an easy task and is not recommended for people who are new to soldering and general tinkering. Basically if you cut off most of the soldering parts on top of the plug you will be able to disassemble the jack plug itself into three parts : a pin (left channel) a thing tube (right channel) and a bigger T shaped tube (the ground channel). Cut off the inner pin and solder a thing wire directly to it and cover it with heatshrink to avoid a short circuit. The wire, soldering point and heatshrink combined have to be as thing as the plastic around the pin was to begin with to be able to slide into the middle tube again.
The middle tube itself need to be long enough to leave a bit of space to solder to on the outside (see pictures) while at the same time not touch the ground channel. The ground channel wire is simply soldered to the small disc on the back (you should sand this down to get it disc shaped like in the pics, or you won’t save much space doing this. After the first plug is soldered, remember you have to thread on both tubes and the heatshrink onto the left wire before soldering it to the second left channel pin. Then assemble the second plug and solder the two remaining wires to it.
The pics below show the process of doing this and again I have to stress that this isn’t by any means easy. The parts are so small and you have so small margins of error with the soldering (especially on the left pins where the solder point is inside the plug) that you should not attempt this if you don’t know what you’re doing. Also, while the pics show a flexible IC that I made it’s perfectly possible to make a solid IC like the ones above using this method.
Making a small interconnect like this is very easy if you have some soldering know-how or know someone who do. It saves you from dragging around cables that are too big and it looks great. It also helps your player and amp sit together more tightly as you get a firm bridge between them instead of two jacks with a loose cable in between.