Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mini Project: Headphone Modification

I recently acquired a pair of Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones as a door prize at a conference. When I took them home, I decided that I really like their rotating earcup design and I was surprised to discover that their sound is noticeably better than my ancient, beat up Sony MDR-V150 headphones. However, I have two complaints with the ZX100's:
  1. The cord. It's too short (1 meter vs 2 meters), feels cheap and plasticky, and has a 90 degree plug. In short, I want my old cord installed on my new headphones.
  2. For some unfathomable reason, Sony has added large plastic nubs to the ZX100 headphones on the surface of the drivers. They can easily be felt through the ear pads. In my testing, I found that these nubs create pressure, fatigue, and even pain after wearing them for a while. I need headphones I can wear all day long - these nubs are unacceptable!
My old headphones are falling apart, but the cord is in great shape. Instead of creating my own cord (a project in itself), I'll use my old headphone cord to replace the cruddy cord on the MRD-ZX100's. A little disassembly and soldering does the trick. Just be careful to not switch right and left, or reverse the polarity on the drivers. Since I replaced a Sony cable with another Sony cable, the color scheme and wiring was the same, which made soldering easier.
Disassembling the ZX100 headphones

Donor headphones (V150)

Target headphones (ZX100)

To remove the annoying plastic nubs, I used a Dremel with a drum sander bit and a little patience...
Painful plastic nubs
Nubs removed by Dremel

I'm really happy with the end result. My custom headphones look stock, but have the best of both worlds: improved sound and folding design of the ZX100's with the longer, better cable and flat driver surface of the V150's.

The entire project cost me $0, took less than an hour to accomplish, and I love that I have stealth custom headphones that look, feel, and sound wonderful.
Final product: looks stock, but my complaints are gone!