How To Make a Tiny Interconnect

icavatar How To Make a Tiny Interconnect

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

plug How To Make a Tiny Interconnect

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.

Soldering

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.

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Casings

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.

Hot glue

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.

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Heatshrink

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.

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Wood

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.

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Foam

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.

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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.

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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.

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In conclusion

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.

25 Comments

jjrosaria on May 28, 2009 3:36 AM

nice write up captain.. :) I might take one of these methods when making new interconnects :) also spelling error on the first line on heatsink..

Andreas Ødegård on May 28, 2009 7:20 AM

@jjrosaria Thanks, fixed :)

Antonio on May 28, 2009 9:37 AM

Pardon my stupidity. I assume you don’t cook the clay with the interconnect inside, but how do you get it inside once the clay has finished cooking?

Tom on May 28, 2009 3:49 PM

can someone tell me why you would want to interconnect 2 mp3 players in the first place?? i dont get it, what does that do?

vytman on May 28, 2009 4:03 PM

Just a question, shouldn’t the sansa clip be connected with the usb port?

Vis on May 28, 2009 4:12 PM

I was wondering about cooking the clay too…

trikon000 on May 28, 2009 4:31 PM

Is the SMT resistor needed? If so, what is the rating.

Chris on May 28, 2009 4:54 PM

@Tom, he’s not interconnecting two mp3 players. He’s connecting a player with an AMP, for improved sound.

Vladimir on May 28, 2009 5:04 PM

What amp is shown in the pictures? Looks like a FiiO E5. If so, how do you like it? I was thinking of buying it.

Alex on May 29, 2009 5:52 AM

How MUCH improved is the sound by the amp? I mean I hadn’t listened to one yet, but to lug around a brick like that instead of the slim tiny size of typical mp3 players, it got to be a difference of day and night for ppl to do it?

Martin Sägmüller on May 29, 2009 7:51 AM

@trikon000 – The SMT resistor is just a kind of hardware pan/balance for my imbalanced ears, for players that don’t have pan/balance of their own. It’s ~40 Ohm, to make the right channel ~3dB quieter, so the sound is centered for my (broken) ears. You probably won’t need something like that.

skimhitz on May 29, 2009 3:09 PM

Am I missing something here? The first time I have ever heard of these headphone amps is from this site, and I have a hard time imagining them being used by anyone other than a very small niche market. I mean I’m all for good sound quality, and I’m not questioning that these headphones amps improve some aspect of the music (I mean at the size of a brick and for hundreds of dollars, it damn well better). But really, I think it’s ridiculous to take away so much portability and practicality from an mp3 player for the sake of marginally better sound quality.If you set yourself up with a a top notch mp3 player and top notch heaphones, then I think that’s enough. I’ll leave the quest for perfect sound to my home stereo, because it sits in a cabinet all day long.

brooklynlou on May 29, 2009 5:08 PM

Hi skimhitz. If you listen to music on your ear buds, you don’t need the amps. Unfortunately most mp3 players just don’t have the power to get the most out of the better quality headphones headphones. So, if you want to use high end headphones with an mp3 player, you need an amp. As for price, the amps can cost as low as $20 (Boostaroo) or my fave the PA2V2 for $60).

Drive-In-Freak on June 8, 2009 8:30 PM

That’s a great way to break the jacks on your pmp and amp.With such a configuration one bump the wrong way and the solder connections could easily break off of the board.

Andreas Ødegård on June 9, 2009 12:25 AM

@Drive-In-FreakThat’s completely wrong. As long as the two devices sit together with something (rubber band, poster tack) so you cant break it by pulling the amp and player apart, this connector will be a lot more gentle to the jack than a cable, because it sticks out less and theres no cable to be yanked. Basic physics tell you that the shorter something sticks out, the less the force applied will be due to the reduced level effect. When you also remove the no1 reason for broken jacks – yanked cables – youre left with a much safer setup.

Drive-In-Freak on June 13, 2009 12:38 PM

I understand where you are coming from, and I’m sorry to come at you so negatively.I’ve been an electric repair tech that works exclusively on audio equipment (pro, commercial audio, pa, guitar amps and consumer goods..both tube and solid state) for a little over 20 years.Most of the jack problems I’ve run across are do to side impact and fatigue. That’s why so many headphone and other cords have an “L” shaped plug on them today (although this is starting to change do to the ill conceived jack on an iPhone).There is more surface aria to impact as well as a lack of strain relief (especially the plugs that are bonded together with wood, or such). A decent cable (not some thick stiff jumper with huge plugs on it bought from Rat Shack ect.) would be more flexable.

Scooter on June 29, 2009 3:37 AM

This article is interesting for me because I’m trying to fix a pair of Sennheiser PX100 cans that have a broken plug. I’m trying to figure out how to solder on a new one.Any tips for that? I’m guessing it’s pretty tricky and fiddly because there’s two channels and also two earth wires.(and please don’t tell me to just buy another pair – they’re nearly US$100 here in South Korea)

Andreas Ødegård on June 29, 2009 12:52 PM

@Scooter: It’s not tricky at all. You can use some methods from this tutorial, but I suggest you check some of my other tutorials on my blog: http://andreasodegard.com/2009/05/tutorials-how-to-fix-audio-jacks/There you’ll find videos that explain how to fix jacks specificallty as well as tools to find out whats the left/right channel. Two ground wires doesnt matter, ground is ground, just mix them together into one.

Scooter on June 30, 2009 9:17 AM

Cool, thanks heaps for that, Andreas. I might try the splicing method – looks a little easier.

Scooter on July 26, 2009 3:11 AM

Well dude, I finally got around to soldering up the Sennheiser PX100 phones today. It was a little messier than in your video tutorial, and it took me a lot longer, but the phones are working fine. I didn’t use heatshrink because I couldn’t find any here in Korea (don’t know the Korean word for “heatshrink”), so I’ve still gotta insulate the wires with insulation tape.But all in all, happy as Larry. So thanks heaps for the help.S

otter on August 9, 2009 3:27 PM

Is there any specific type of wire that should be used to connect the two plugs?

Andreas Ødegård on August 10, 2009 12:08 AM

@otter any wire you can solder will do

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