Reterminating the stock Sennheiser HD800 cable

Discussion in 'DIY' started by smithj, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. smithj

    smithj Acquaintance

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    I'm looking to reterminate the stock HD800 cable and I don't think it shouldn't be too difficult. Basically cut the TRS jack off then solder a 4 pin XLR jack where the TRS jack used to be. The one thing I'm curious about are reports of some plastic (?) strands placed inbetween the individual wire strands. If it is truly as much as a problem as everyone claims it is, what is the best way of removing these strands without damaging the wire itself in the process?
     
  2. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    It has been a while since I cut open a stock HD800 cable, but most likely those strands can be burned away with a flame, a solder pot, or possibly even ignored if you get good adhesion at your joint with them still in place.
     
  3. smithj

    smithj Acquaintance

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    Cheers, a lighter seemed to do the trick. Since there isn't a whole lot of information regarding re-terminating the Sennheiser HD800 cable, I figure I should write up something so someone googling for results might find this post:
    • Despite the relative chunkiness of the cable, 90% of the cable bulk is basically nothing but cable insulation surrounding each wire pair and anti-microphonic rubber tubes placed tightly next to the wire. The actual wire itself seems to be nothing greater than 26 AWG, real delicate stuff that normal tricks don't work too well with like using scissors to remove insulation.
    • The rubber insulation surrounding each channel pair is difficult to cut with scissors so I opted to stretch it out then cut straight down the insulation, splitting it in half. I used nail clippers (and very gentle pressure) to remove the insulation around the 26 AWG wires.
    • My Sennheiser HD800 is extremely old so Sennheiser may have changed the wire configuration. Either way, a digital multimeter confirmed milosz's solution on Head-Fi to be correct.
    • My soldering iron is a real old piece of shit so I opted for a lighter to burn the plastic strands that are packed together with the wires. Fraggler is right that you can probably just ignore the strands and just solder how you would normally.
    Overall: only a little bit daunting because everyone makes it sound like a huge pain in the ass. Literally all you need are nail clippers and its no more difficult to wiring your own XLR cables. Doing this saves like $200 and you also get a 4 pin XLR to TRS adapter (which I'm using right now until my Mjolnir 2 arrives).
     
  4. johnjen

    johnjen Doesn’t want to be here but keeps posting anyways

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    This is a 'must do' kinda mod for any decent set of headphones in my opinion.
    It makes them far more adaptable, AND it allows other mods to be easily applied as well.

    A way good thing in my book.

    JJ
     
  5. ibzrg1570

    ibzrg1570 Facebook Friend

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    I decided to convert the single-ended cable of my HD800S to 4-pin XLR with a TRS pigtail adapter because I'm lazy and don't want to constantly switch cables while moving between setups at meets. Prior to this the only experience I had with DIY electronics was putting together a Bottlehead Crack. Despite my lack of familiarity with DIY cabling and not knowing what the fuck I'm doing in this hobby in general, I wanted to share with the community so other complete noobs can decide if this is something they'd be interested in undertaking. Any constructive criticism from more experienced DIY-ers would be appreciated.

    [​IMG]

    Before getting started, first consider why you're doing this in the first place. Read Marv's post on single-ended vs balanced and decide if this is something you really need to bother with at all. Do some research on your headphone to see if other people have already re-terminated their cables successfully and have posted any useful details on the internal cable wiring. Also, paying someone else who's more experienced to make a cable for you might be expensive initially, but it's far cheaper than replacing an entire headphone if you royally fuck something up. With that out of the way, here's what you'll need.
    • Headphone with balanced cabling (there's more steps and less room for error if your headphone only has cabling going out of a single cup, I'm personally not comfortable trying this anytime soon)
    • Male and female 4-pin XLR connectors (only male if you're not making a pigtail; XLR is the most universal balanced connector type, but you can use any connector that has at least 4 contacts)
    • Rosin core solder, soldering iron, flux
    • Wire cutters
    • Wire strippers
    • X-acto knife (for removing cable sleeving and scoring wire sleeves that are too fine gauge for your wire strippers)
    • Multimeter
    • Heat shrink tubing (optional)
    • Masking tape (optional; but probably a good idea)
    • Helping hand tool (optional; for holding wires in place, the masking tape can work here too)

    First thing you'll need to do (and probably the scariest step) is to cut your cable. If you're making a pigtail TRS adaptor, give yourself some buffer in case you mess up. Your XLR plugs may also be heavy, so a little slack doesn't hurt. The steps to work on either end are the same. If you already have a working 4-pin XLR cable for your headphone, I would start with the pigtail, so you can easily check your work.

    Once you've cut your cable, attach the boot (tapered end) of your XLR plug and shrink wrap if you're using it. If you forget to do this, you'll need to unsolder everything and start over.

    [​IMG]

    Once the boot and heat shrink are on, pull back the outer sleeve about an inch (if your cable is braided, use masking tape to keep it from fraying while you're working on it). Balanced cables have 4 connections (L+, L-, R+, R-) plus a grounded cable shield. Pull the ground shielding away and twist them together to form a wire. Remove any cloth shielding. Strip the other 4 wires back about 0.5 cm and remove any cloth shielding. Now you need to identify which wire corresponds to each of the 4 connections. This is where things can get tricky.

    [​IMG]

    The L+ and R+ wires should ideally be colored differently to help distinguish between the two channels, and the L- and R- wires should be paired up with their positive counterparts. If not, you'll need to check the signal at the headphone to be sure, which might be challenging if your headphone has non-removable cables. If you do have unique colored sleeving on the internal wires, you can just use your TRS plug to check.

    [​IMG]

    TRS plugs are always wired in the same way: Left = Tip, Right = Ring, Ground = Sleeve. When going from balanced at the headphone to single-ended at the plug, the negative wires from both channels are joined with the cable shield at the sleeve, with the positive wires go to the other terminals. Use your multimeter to check which one is L+ and R+.

    Now that you know the channel and polarity of each of your 4 connectors, it's time to attach them to the XLR insert (the part with the pins/terminals). XLR inserts conveniently have marked and numbered terminals that mirror each other between male and female ends. L+ goes to terminal 1 on the male XLR, and it also goes to terminal 1 on the female XLR, but the position of terminal 1 will be on the other side if you're looking at both connectors head on. To be absolutely safe, always refer to the numbers marked next to the terminals.

    [​IMG]

    Tin your wires and the XLR terminals. Starting from terminal 1, solder your L+ wire, then L- to terminal 2, R+ to terminal 3, R- to terminal 4, and the wire you made from the ground cable shielding to the ground terminal on the XLR shell. If you attached heat shrink earlier, move it up and start heating.

    Once your wires are all attached and your heat shrink is sufficiently shrunk, attach the chuck (plastic collar) to the cable and the entire assembly into the housing (non-tapered end that goes to your amp). Slide up the boot over the heat shrink and screw it into the housing.
    Diagram from Neutrik here if I'm not being clear: http://www.neutrik.com/zoolu-website/media/download/123/Assembly+Instruction+-+XLR+XX+Series
    Be careful not to twist the outer sleeving of the cable too much while screwing in the boot. Your balanced cable is done!

    [​IMG]

    A couple thoughts on my own build and lessons learned:
    • I didn't realize how thin the internal wires on the HD800 cable were, the cable is reinforced with rubber tubing for a faux-beefy feel, while the actual wires were very difficult to strip. I lightly scored the sleeves with an X-acto knife and ripped the rest off my thumbnail, but kept pulling off a few strands of the wire every time. I could have done a little more research here so I could have known about this going in, but I'm not sure if there's a better way to strip fine gauge wires.
    • I didn't realize that the internal wires had cloth shielding until I started working on my second connector, I just thought something was up with my soldering iron when things were getting charred while tinning the wires. By the time I noticed what was actually happening, I had already twisted the wires prior to tinning and couldn't get the cloth to separate anymore. Check what your wires are made of carefully with good lighting and maybe a magnifying glass on your helping hand tool.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2016
  6. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Great writeup! Did the same to my HD600 and HD800 cable when I got my Rag. Bet writing this took longer than the actual process itself.
     
  7. ibzrg1570

    ibzrg1570 Facebook Friend

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    Maybe true for the next time I do this, but I think you're underestimating the extent of my noobness. I probably spent 3 hours total with 2 hours allocated to the lessons learned. :confused:
     
  8. LauriCular

    LauriCular Acquaintance

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    Well, tin my terminals! I'm making up a cable later on so I'll try that - it's never occurred to me.
     
  9. ibzrg1570

    ibzrg1570 Facebook Friend

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    Yeah I've found it makes a huge difference when you're new to soldering.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  10. Decomo

    Decomo Facebook Friend

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    Thank you so much for the write Up. I understand it took quite bit of your precious time to prepare and write this up. I will definitely refer this when I build my own XLR cable. :) Thank you again.
     
  11. Sharkhunter

    Sharkhunter Always on the hunt.

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    Thank you for the write up. I am planning to re-terminate my hd800 cable to add a xlr adapter. I do find the images missing here.
     
  12. Robin Guo

    Robin Guo Rando

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    I'm planning to do the same and this thread seems to be the most detailed guidance with pictures that I can find throughout the internet. Well Done!! Thank you so much for sharing!
     
  13. Scubadude

    Scubadude Almost "Made"

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    Bringing this thread back from the dead to ask is anyone knows how to open / disassemble the stock HD800 headphone plugs? I have a cable with perished rubber sheaths above the Y-split. I want to make it shorter and determinate with 3.5mm on the amp end bit I need to shorten and reterminate the headphone end as well to get rid of the bad section.
     
  14. johnjen

    johnjen Doesn’t want to be here but keeps posting anyways

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    From my experience those tiny connectors don't come apart well at all.
    It's 'best' to replace them with aftermarket ones if you want to rebuild the cable yourself.

    JJ
     
  15. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    You should be able to cut off the connectors at the top of the rubber boot, then unscrew the bottom piece. I don't know if they glued anything shut, though. The connectors are fiddly, but should be manageable if you have a little bit of experience. Only the new Eidolic connectors really address the issues with them.
     

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